While the All-Star Game may not be the most exciting event on the NHL schedule, the Skills Competition is always good for a few fun moments. This year the format has changed, if only slightly, and there could be some new and exciting things to watch.
The teams will be selected tonight, but once the remaining 36 skaters are divided into Team Foligno and Team Toews, it’s only a matter of time before one team or the other gets the nod as the Skills Competition favorite. But regardless of the rosters, it’s never too early to look at a few things to watch when the NHL’s best and brightest hit the ice for a bit of fun.
5. Goaltenders going for goals
This year’s NHL All-Star Skills competition will, for the first time in several years, include the goalie goal competition as part of the skills relay. The relay, which will include the traditional events like puck control, stick-handling, and passing, brings the added bit of flare to the event. The last time it appeared in the skills competition was in 2008’s exhibition in Atlanta. In years prior, the Goalie Goals competition was a standalone event.
4. Stamkos could own the shootout
In the years of the Skills Competition’s current format, there have been four different winners of the Elimination Shootout.
First, it was Dion Phaneuf in 2008, as hard as that may be to believe. Then, Shane Doan in 2009. Corey Perry won the 2011 event, which Steven Stamkos followed up with a win in 2012. Stamkos, if competing in the event, stands a chance at being the first back-to-back winner of the event. His prowess was on display in the OHL’s event back during his time in junior, and there’s no doubt he’s got the ability to become the event’s first reigning, defending champion.
3. Ovechkin back in the prop game
If he wants to, there’s no question that Alex Ovechkin can get back into the Breakaway Challenge and try his hand at breaking Patrick Kane’s record 47 percent of the fan vote. Super Kane was great, but was there anything better than Ovechkin rocking the tilley hat and shades?
If Ovechkin takes part in this part of the competition, it would definitely challenge to be the best part of the evening.
2. Consecutive record breakers?
For 12 seasons, Mike Gartner’s record as the NHL’s fastest skater in the Skills Competition stood. Gartner’s 13.386 lap of the rink didn’t fall, even when challenged by players like Marian Gaborik, Andrew Cogliano, and Michael Grabner. Last season, however, New York Ranger’s speedster Carl Hagelin finally toppled Gartner’s seemingly unbeatable record, and with the speed of today’s players, it wouldn’t be crazy to see the record fall once more.
1. New hardest shot king
In the last five All-Star Games, Zdeno Chara has been present. After an injury sidelined ‘Big Z’ early in 2014-15, it made it near impossible to warrant his return to the game. As such, there will be a new champion of the hardest shot competition, but we’re hoping to see more than just that – we’re hoping to see a new record breaker.
In 2012, Chara unleashed a 107.0 MPH goalie nightmare of a slap shot, and there are a few potential candidates to dethrone the Bruins captain. Among them, Nashville’s Shea Weber is obviously the most likely candidate, and you can be sure he’ll be taking part in the competition, but Winnipeg’s Dustin Byfuglien might be a sneaky pick.