San Jose hosted the 64th annual rendition of the NHL All-Star weekend; the 4th time the game was played in the 3-on-3 format. It was a fun weekend full of laughs, festivities and little effort. A weekend where fans have the chance to interact with the players on and off the ice, and get to experience the lighter side of the game. There was an oddity this year, as after Canadiens netminder, Carey Price, said he wasn’t going to be participating, he was replaced by Andrei Vasilevsky of the Tampa Bay Lightning. However, this meant that there was no representative from the Habs of Montreal. It’s a wonder why a player could not have taken Avalanche forward, Nathan MacKinnon’s spot for the weekend festivities.
Media Day – Thursday January 24, 2019
The weekend started on Thursday with Media Day, where Kid reporter, Wyatt Ross, stole the show for the second year in a row. His highlights consisted of asking Patrick Kane, “how does it feel to be the oldest player on your team?” and trying to get Claude Giroux to get him on the ice for the All-Star game. It was a funny segment on for media day, and for the guys he did interview, they got a good chuckle.
All in all, there wasn’t much said that was outside the safe realm of the typical hockey player responses. Therefore, having Wyatt out there making the guys laugh was a needed part of a day that was otherwise very boring.
All-Star Skills Competition – Friday January 25, 2019
Bridgestone NHL Fastest Skater
Eight players, including U.S. Women’s National Team’s, Kendall Coyne, participated in the fastest skater competition to kick off the night in San Jose. She was just under a second off the winner of the competition, Connor McDavid, and even beating Arizona Coyote forward, Clayton Keller. This will certainly go down as a historic moment for women’s hockey, breaking a barrier of at least the speed aspect of the women’s hockey game.
Connor McDavid took home his record 3rd straight title for this event. Although, there was never much doubt in anyone’s mind once Nathan MacKinnon had declared he had an injury and would not be competing throughout the weekend. McDavid took him a win in this event, which has to be seen in his eyes as a little bit of a bright spot because of how the Oilers have looked lately, and how they are shaping up to be in the next few years (another rebuild).
Original Prediction: Connor McDavid, Edmonton Oilers
Winner: Connor McDavid, Edmonton Oilers
Gatorade NHL Puck Control
An event that demonstrates a player’s puck handling and the players ability to handle a puck through a small agility course. With so many players in the league having elite puck handling skill, this would turn out to see who could finish the final gate course at the fastest. Seven out of the eight competing players had times under 36 seconds. However, the defending champion, Johnny Hockey, would prove to be the winner once again, finishing the course in 27.045 seconds to regain his trophy.
I thought that Elias Petterson would have more luck with this challenge, however, he finished in last place with a time of 43.622 seconds. Patrick Kane (28.611) went first and until Gaudreau went, he looked poised to win the competition.
Original Prediction: Patrick Kane, Chicago Blackhawks
Winner: Johnny Gaudreau, Calgary Flames
Ticketmaster NHL Save Streak
An event that takes a look at the breakaway skills of the goalies. Allowing a single division to take breakaway opportunities until all the players have shot. If a save streak is still in progress once all players have had the opportunity to shoot, the streak is now in “sudden death” mode. Going from top to bottom of the list until a player scores a goal to beat the streak.
Last year, Marc-Andre Fleury stole the show, stopping 14 shots in a row and winning the event. This year, Andrei Vasilevsky who stopped 8 eight in a row, looked poised to take the win. However, the oldest goalie in the competition, Henrik Lundqvist, stole the show. After allowing a goal with one player left on the board, the King took control. He proceeded to stop 12 breakaways in a row, winning the event and $25,000.
Original Prediction: Andrei Vasilevsky, Tampa Bay Lightning
Winner: Henrik Lundqvist, New York Rangers
Enterprise NHL Premier Passer
This was the event that stumped Drew Doughty last year. To most fans of hockey, it was good to see a guy like Doughty (1:47.415) lose a competition. However, there were two players who had more trouble than him this year... Erik Karlsson (1:58.824) and Mikko Rantanen (2:17.379).
This year, Leon Draisaitl (Pacific Division, Last Man In) won the event with a time of 1:09.088, which was almost 30 seconds slower than last year’s winner, Alex Pietrangelo. This proved to be a tough challenge for all competitors... except the woman who demonstrated the event, Brianna Decker, another player from the U.S. National Woman’s Hockey Team. She completed the event in an official time of 1:12.013... just 3 seconds slower than the winner.
Original Prediction: Erik Karlsson, San Jose Sharks
Winner: Leon Draisaitl, Edmonton Oilers
SAP NHL Hardest Shot
This competition is usually dominated by a big defenceman that is known for their big blast from the point. A player like Zdeno Chara or Shea Weber. However, this year’s winner is overshadowed on the Capitals powerplay by Alex Ovechkin. John Carlson is typically taking quick snap shots for a tip chance in front or feeding the beast on the left faceoff circle.
John Carlson had a big first shot of 102.8 mph... more than two seconds faster than the next closest competitor in Seth Jones. There are a few out there that believe the NHL should follow suit to the NBA skills competition, as they invite non-all-stars to compete in the skills competition to allow for the best players in those certain skills to compete. Imagine a hardest shot competition with Shea Weber and Zdeno Chara.
Original Prediction: Steven Stamkos, Tampa Bay Lightning
Winner: John Carlson, Washington Capitals
Honda NHL Accuracy Shooting
This was arguably the most disappointing event of the evening. I really miss the exploding Styrofoam targets of years past... it takes away from some of the excitement in hitting the targets. I also dislike the fact that there are now five targets and they light up for only 2-3 seconds at a time. I believe they should keep it in a historically accurate manner and have 4 targets that are all lit up until each target is hit.
David Pastrnak was the winner of this event, starting off the event with a time of 11.309 seconds. Auston Matthews struggled the most, as I believe he was trying to go too quickly. Gone are the days of Ray Bourque getting passes from Joe Sakic and Mario Lemieux and burying 4 targets deep into the cage in 4 shots.
Original Prediction: Auston Matthews, Toronto Maple Leafs
Winner: David Pastrnak, Boston Bruins
Skills Competition Recap
I think the skills competition is a successful and fun event as it is, however, I do believe there could be a few changes to the participants. I had mentioned before that the NHL could follow the NBA way of inviting a few players to participate in certain skills events. This could mean the following could compete in specific events. Fastest Skater; Kasperi Kapanen – TOR, Brayden Point – TBL and Dylan Larkin – DET. Hardest Shot; Zdeno Chara – BOS, Shea Weber – MTL and Rasmus Ristolainen – BUF.
All-Star Game(s) – Saturday January 26, 2019
Central Division All-Stars (10) vs Pacific Division All-Stars (4)
The Central Division completely dominated this game from start to finish, beating up on John Gibson for 7 goals in the first 10-minute period. The only time the Pacific got anything going was when the Central let the hometown Sharks have a few breakaways to get the crowd into the game. This was the Central Division’s first win in the new 3-on-3 format. Landeskog (3G, 1A), Kane (2G, 1A) and Rantanen (2G, 1A) led the way for the Central in this game. Meanwhile, Karlsson, Burns and Pavelski each had 2 points in this one for the home crowd.
Metropolitan Division All-Stars (7) vs Atlantic Division All-Stars (4)
The Metropolitan Division played a tough defensive style 3-on-3 game, surrendering just 20 shots throughout the course of the game. Lundqvist and Holtby both stood on their heads to preserve a 7-4 win over the Atlantic Division. Sidney Crosby led the way for the Metro, scoring two goals and adding a helper. For the Atlantic, John Tavares and David Pastrnak each had two points. The line of Kucherov, Matthews and Chabot really struggled... none of whom registered a point in this game.
Metropolitan Division All-Stars (10) vs Central Division All-Stars (5)
The Metropolitan Division had a 5-0 lead after the first period, only allowing 6 shots over the course of the 10 minutes. Lundqvist had a first period shutout, while the Metro players really put on the pressure offensively and defensively, outworking the Central at both ends of the ice. This allowed for a wide open second period, where the Metro came away with a 10-5 victory to win $1,000,000. The line of Sidney Crosby (2G, 3A), Mathew Barzal (2G, 3A) and Kris Letang (1G, 2A) was the difference in this game, combining for 5 goals and 13 points. For the Central, Landeskog, O’Reilly and Rantanen all walked away with 3 points in the game. MacKinnon called an untimely goalie pull, allowing Cam Atkinson to bury an easy breakaway clapper from 5 feet out. It was later revealed that MacKinnon was trying to let Rinne play with a player stick... Rinne was having no part in that request.
NHL All-Star Game MVP – Sidney Crosby, Pittsburgh Penguins
After sitting out the skill competition due to illness, Crosby looked like his normal self throughout the two games, compiling 4 goals and 4 assists. He looked like the same Sidney Crosby many have grown to respect and idolize as an elite player in the NHL. From wicked tips, to shots from his off-wing, Crosby looked as good as he ever has in an all-star game, taking home his first ever MVP honour. He took home a brand new, 2019 Honda Passport Elite, as prize for being named a much-deserved NHL All-Star Game MVP.