Nashville’s NHL All-Star weekend events started with Saturday’s Skills Competition.
The All-Star players compete for their conference across six different events: Fastest Skater, Breakaway Challenge, Accuracy Shooting, Skills Challenge Relay, Hardest Shot and the NHL Shootout.
The Pacific Division’s team captain, John Scott, was exuberantly welcomed by the players, fans and NHL commissioner Gary Bettman – despite the horrendous way that the League had treated the 6’8’’ cult-hero.
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The winning conference team from the Skills night got to decide whether to play first or second in Sunday’s All-Star tournament.
Everyone loves John Scott
The banter was flowing right from the start. As the players skated out to be announced to the crowd, Patrick Kane received his ceremonial boos from the Nashville supporters.
Scott was caught by the camera bursting with laughter at the crowd’s reaction to his good friend. The Bridgestone Arena then erupted as Scott’s name was called out:
Dylan Larkin – who is Detroit’s first rookie All-Star since Steve Yzerman – obliterated home skater Roman Josi with a 12.894 second lap, which also defeated all of the other competitors.
The 19-year-old American was then allowed to skate a whole lap of the rink to try and beat Hall of Famer Mike Gartner’s Fastest Skater record, of 13.386 seconds.
The teenage Red Wing now holds the record for the NHL’s All-Star Fastest Skater. The Eastern Conference won this competition 5-1.
This is all about coming up with the craftiest way to score. Brendan Saad came in doing keepy-ups with the puck on his stick, then dropped the puck, kicked it, and scored.
James Neal bombed in, flicked a puck up and over the net, and then sneakily dropped another one to score with, which the crowd loved after seeing the replay.
P.K. Subban did a bunch of stick keepy-ups, then kept it up with his skate, and back onto his stick before shooting the puck out of mid-air.
San Jose Sharks’ star-men Brent Burns and Joe Pavelski got their kids onto the ice to team up and score on the All-Star rink, whilst keepers Schneider and Luongo had a tactical scrap to leave the net open for the nippers.
But Subban and Burns stole the show with their second attempts. The Montreal defenseman impersonated a legendary All-Star, whilst Brent Burns ended the evolution of his mighty beard. You can see the highlights below – courtesy of the NHL:
Subban won the contest with his stellar Jaromir Jagr impersonation, giving the Eastern Conference a 6-1 lead overall.
One of the toughest skill contests of the night. Each team’s most elite snipers take it in turns to shoot at four targets in each corner of the net – very few players have ever hit all four on their first four shots.
Islanders captain John Tavares went second, after Patrick Kane shot all four in 20.000 seconds. Big JT smashed it in five shots and 12.294 seconds.
Corey Perry came close with his 13.771 seconds, as did Pavelski’s 14.088 seconds. But it was Evgeni Malkin who nearly snatched the win away from Tavares.
Geno nailed his first three shots, but then he pumped the crowd up before his fourth shot – which he rang off the bar! 16.179 seconds was the big Russian’s final time and the East increased their lead to 9-3.
Skills Challenge Relay
This event had five different elements to it. The first was three skaters shooting on net from increasingly tight angles. Second, one player had to chip-pass pucks into mini nets on the opposite side of the ice. Then someone would slalom, with a puck, around a set of cones.
After this was the stick handling, where the player had to deke a puck through a staggered set of markers; and the event was closed with the goalies shooting into the opposite net.
Four teams – two from each conference – took part in the event, and the Western conference’s second set of Mark Giordano, Neal, Vladamir Tarsenko, Jamie Benn, Josi, Tyler Seguin and Devin Dubnyk sealed the winning time of 1:27.687 minutes.
The relay‘s result gave the Western Conference their first win of the competition – making the score 10-5 to the East.
The home endured as top skaters clocked in their hardest shot. Dustin Byfuglien (99.6 mph), Aaron Ekblad (93.4 mph), Seguin (95.0 mph), Malkin (97.0 mph), John Scott (95.9 mph) and Steven Stamkos (103.9 mph) all went to set a high bench mark for the final two competitors, P.K. Subban and the hometown’s Shea Weber – winner of 2014 Hardest Shot with 108.5 mph.
Subban managed to crank the puck in at 102.3 mph, but that was no match for fan favourite Shea Weber who slapped the puck beyond the speed cameras at an incredible 108.1 mph.
The West pulled in another win to take the score to 12-8 coming into the final event
The goalies faced two minutes of continuous shootout attempts from opposition players. Players one and three in each shootout team were allocated Discover pucks – which counted as two goals.
Three rounds took place, so that all of the players would participate. The Western skaters only managed to score four goals, whilst the Eastern players tallied 20 goals. Evgeni Malkin and Patrice Bergeron both scored twice for their Conference.
Even though he didn’t score in the shootout, John Scott did manage to pull this crafty move out of his skill box:
The event ended with the Eastern Conference taking a very decisive 29-12 victory over the West. Atlantic and Metropolitan captains John Tavares and Jaromir Jagr decided to play their game first on Sunday – with 43-year-old Jagr saying it was so he could “catch the first flight home” as he chuckled.
The Skills Competition was a huge success with the fans and players, everyone had a great time.