I will be the first to admit it that I had high expectations and elevated hopes for the hype surrounding this year's version of the Skills Competition, and I'll also be the first to admit that I was once again disappointed with the outcome.
I must admit though, the most pleasant surprise came from the YoungStars game. That game was fast paced, 3-on-3, and loaded with action from players who actually cared as opposed to last year's brutal waste of time.
That about does it though for what impressed me.
The new "Obstacle Course" that kicked things off sucked, and I couldn't wait for it to end. It seemed as though the cameramen had no previous indication of what was going to happen in that event, and it made it hard enough to follow. At least Markov did well in his portion of that challenge...
The fastest skater was loaded with technical problems that saw the slowest skater of the East (Brian Campbell) qualify with the fastest time because it was the only REGISTERED time, so that kind of ruined it.
The "Elimination Round" was fun for one reason: Dion Phaneuf. He was the ONLY scorer for the West, and had to face 3 qualifiers from the East in the elimination round... and he wound up being the only scorer of that, too, to win the event.
The YoungStars game was excellent in my opinion, but I am still disappointed at the fact that David Clarkson was chosen to be there instead of Andrei Kostitsyn. I know that sounds biased, but who is David Clarkson anyways? He sure did shut me up though with a goal on the first shot for the Eastern YoungStars....but still, I'd rather have seen A.K. 46.
The Shooting Accuracy challenge was alright. Tomas Kaberle went 4-for-4 in round 1 and 8-for-9 overall, as he defeated Jason Arnott in a 1-on-1 showdown. I guess this will get Leaf Nation upset, as Kaberle proved he can shoot like the best of them, but refuses to when it comes to an actual Leafs game.
The Hardest Shot competition offered a pleasant surprise as Vinny Lecavalier registered 101.9 m/ph, but was not able to hold off big Zdeno Chara and his 103.1 m/ph shot. I had chosen Lacavalier to pull the upset even before the competition started, and it literally came down to the last shooter and the last shot to screw me over.
And then there was 1... the over-hyped, massive FLOP of a "Breakaway Challenge".
Not only were most of the shooters VERY DISAPPOINTING in their choice of trick-shots, but a certain goalie that I'm embarassed to call out decided to ruin things further by challenging a certain player nearly halfway to the blueline, and pokechecking him on both occasions. WHAT WAS THAT ABOUT, EVGENI?!?!? Oops, I let the cat out of the bag... Seriously, Nabby...I always speak so highly of you, why did you go and take the BREAKAWAY CHALLENGE so seriously?
All jokes aside though, Nabby's gaffe wasn't what ruined the event; the shooters ruined the event.
They seemed to not care about dazzling the crowd with ridiculous out-of-the-box type moves, as we all expected to see. For what reason I'll never know, but apparently Gary Bettman was quoted as saying "They (the shooters) weren't adequately prepared, they'll be better next year."
They better be, because the Montreal crowd is going to boo them out of the country if not.
A good way to start would be to look back at Ovechkin and Gaborik's attempts. Ovechkin tried dazzling the crowd with some high-level-of-difficulty tricks, which wound up winning him the event, while Gaborik was the only shooter who made use of the area behind the net (legal for this event). The shots on the 2k previews were all individually better than what we saw from our stars, which is a disappointment in itself. And was it just me, or do the 2k games look absolutely AWFUL compared to the EA Sports hockey games? I wouldn't even take 2k's game as a gift.
All in all, what it comes down to is basically the same old story: All-Star weekend is a disappointment, year after year after year. It has its moments, but not enough moments to make the event memorable. To me, this year's memorable moments for the skills competition are: Iginla missing the net on a slapshot, Nabby pokechecking St. Louis, who for sure is furious, and Chris Pronger falling down while tyring to ruin Corey Perry's interview, and laughing so hard that he couldn't even get back up.
Are any of those memories even skills?
And that's why the Skills Competiton was a miss.
Let me know what you thought about it!