OTTAWA, ON - JANUARY 28: Steven Stamkos #91 of the Tampa Bay Lightning and team Alfredsson scores a goal past goalie Tim Thomas #30 of the Boston Bruins and team Chara during the Tim Hortons NHL Elimination Shoot Out (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
I've never been very interested in the NHL All-Star Weekend. It always seems so commercialized and over-hyped and then the score always ends up being like 42-41 or something equally ridiculous, which says to me that the goalies get hosed in this deal. Not much fun for me, generally.
Also it tends to come at the point in the season when I have the least amount of will to watch non-meaningful hockey. I always get tired around the midpoint of the season. I can't even imagine how it is for the guys who have to play hurt and stay focused and never get a break. It's a grind. The All-Star break generally has been a time for me to do something else for a while.
So this is my first year to actually pay attention to the thing. And really, it's a little...um...odd, don't you think? If I were trying to get someone to understand why hockey is the best sport on earth, I don't think I'd use the All-Star festivities as a teaching tool. Nonetheless, for advanced students of the NHL, there are some things to learn from this shebang.
Things I learned from watching the Skills Competition and the All-Star Game:
- Some people who I didn't think were awesome may, in fact, be awesome. Now I know that essentially, this is a big ol' festival of NHL awesomeness and the league and the networks probably go to great lengths to hide non-awesomeness from view. But some genuine and spontaneous moments managed to survive the corporate purge anyway:
- Scott Hartnell plugging HartnellDown.com, a website that tracks how many times he's fallen this season. He gives money to charity for every fall. (You can also buy related merchandise, with the money going to the Hartnell Down Foundation.) He's still a pest, though.
- Carey Price's "no-look" save in the Breakaway Challenge. He used the reflection in the glass to make a stop on Sean Couturier. He used. The Reflection. In. The Glass. Damn. Also, he's a talker. He was mic'd up in the second period of the game, and I learned I'd rather listen to him than any of the broadcast crew.
- Jamie Benn. Seriously. Who knew? Well, I'm sure Stars fans knew, but the rest of us? Clueless. I feel a little dumb, actually. Benn hit all four targets in the Accuracy Challenge in 13.5 seconds and then again in just over 10 seconds in the final round. Then in the Skills Relay, he popped in three of three shots from the bottom of the faceoff circle. All of this just two weeks after an emergency appendectomy.
- Some people that I already thought were awesome are really and truly awesome. These people include Henrik Lundqvist and Jonathan Quick. These two goalies showed why people talk about them all the time. Lundqvist's split save on Malkin in the Shootout Elimination Challenge was stunning, and Quick's glove work got the announcers all hot and bothered, although I liked his stick work better. Pavel Datsyuk and Craig Smith pwned the puck-control part of the relay challenge. And Carl Hagelin is very, very fast.
- It's really hard to stop Steven Stamkos from scoring when he's "on" in a shootout. After having a frustrating time in the Accuracy Challenge and the Skills Relay, Stamkos apparently went to the basement and turned on the Guy Boucher Lightning Hyperdrive(TM) for the Shootout Elimination Challenge. Hmm. Maybe he really should be put in the shootout more, even though he hasn't done all that great over the long haul. As the video shows:
Meanwhile, Stammer's ASG weekend blog can be found at the Lightning website.
- Goalie races are fun. They should do that more. Like maybe in place of shootouts. That would be hilarious. P.S. Neither Jon Quick nor Jimmy Howard are very fast, racing-wise.
- I guess I prefer spontaneous goofiness to the planned goofiness in the Goofball-- I mean, Breakaway Challenge. Patrick Kane as Superman and What's His Face's whatever-the-hell-that-was were the highlights for a lot of folks. I could take or leave them, myself. Although I do find it hilarious that Corey @#$% Perry has a tiny stick in his pants.
- Great hair doesn't win hockey games. There. I've shocked you, haven't I? Team Alfredsson has some of the best hair in the league. Team Chara has some of the worst. Team Alfredsson dominated the Skills Competition but Team Chara dominated the game.
- Even the best and most funnest of hockey events can be ruined with proper attention to the wrong details by the television crew. Analysis? Really? It's pretend! Get over yourselves, NBCSN. You're still just Versus, you know. And while we're on the subject, camera swooping does not make for more interesting visuals. It just makes for swoopier visuals. Finally, that Skills Relay part of the broadcast? It took me three rounds just to figure out what was going on.
- Pierre McGuire is annoying in every format. Pierre: Stop touching the guys you interview. And quit sucking up. And just don't ask them about their contracts, period. John: I'm in on those "Shut Up, Pierre" T-shirts.