2011 NHL All Star Weekend: Team Staal Dominates Skills Competition

RALEIGH NC - JANUARY 29: Alexander Ovechkin #8 of the Washington Capitals is congratulated by Eric Staal #12 of the Carolina Hurricanes against Team Staal he wins the breakaway challenge during the Honda NHL SuperSkills competition part of 2011 NHL All-Star Weekend at the RBC Center on January 29 2011 in Raleigh North Carolina. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

Team Staal won the NHL Skills Competition over Team Lidstrom, 33-22 on Saturday night in front of a loud and rocking crowd at the RBC Center in Raleigh, NC.  The players seemed to have a good time and the crowd was really into the event as they not only cheered for their favorites, but they cheered for everyone wearing a white jersey and sometimes, even those who were wearing blue.

The loudest cheers were for the hometown boys though as the place went nuts whenever Eric Staal, Cam Ward, Jeff Skinner, and Jamie McBain's names were called.   

The introductions were very well done as the players skated through an elaborate and colorful set up on the ice.  Then the competition got started with the fastest skater event which was won by Michael Grabner

Kris Letang outskated Duncan Keith in the backwards skating race as the Pen posted a time of 16.132 seconds.  That was less than a second longer than some of the skaters who were skating forward.  Grabner's best time was 14.061.  A couple of skaters, Mike Green and Marc Staal, were over 15 seconds.

Cam Ward won the first ever goalie race challenge, but might have been a bit lucky when Tim Thomas lost his edge and fell in a corner.  Thomas was gaining fast near the end and only lost by a fraction, (18.895 to 19 seconds).  

Ward admitted in the press conference after the event that Carolina backup, Justin Peters, was a faster skater than he is.

 

During the breakaway challenge, there were several nifty moves, but few goals scored.  Fans got to text for the winner and Alex Ovechkin got 37.6% of the votes.  P.K. Subban was second with 20.3%.  Ovechkin made a nice move on his final attempt and scored on goalie, Marc-Andre Fleury, who was doing jumping jacks at one point during the showdown. 

Subban might have gotten the loudest cheers during the segment when he skated out to center ice wearing Jeff Skinner's jersey.  Apparently, this was Dan Boyle's idea and it was a good one.  Skinner said he didn't have time to think about it, but just took off his jersey and gave it to the Habs defenseman when asked.

The rookie made some nice moves, but did not score.

Team Staal was building a healthy lead at this point as they came to the Accuracy Shooting challenge.  Daniel Sedin then backed up his trash talk at the draft the previous night when he proclaimed that Team Staal had the "better twin". 

Sedin joined elite All Star company when he hit four targets on just four shots in the first round, then won the challenge when he hit four targets on five shots his next try.   Although it's a shame that he was not matched up against his brother.

Jonathan Toews heard a round of boos when he got a "do over" because he didn't hear the whistle his first try.  Patrick Sharp beat him the first go-round, but Toews got the best of him the next try. 

 

The G Series NHL Skills Relay was not as exciting as some of the other challenges, but the skills were tough.  Jamie McBain was given the passing challenge as he had to place the puck inside a little net six times.  The final three passes had to jump over an obstacle.

McBain said afterward that Staal felt he could do a good job of it because of his ability with his saucer touch passes and the defenseman ended up doing okay, even though he admitted he was nervous. 

Skinner performed the accuracy shooting for the relay.

Team Lidstrom won this event, the only one that they took this evening.

 

Next up was the hardest shot competition, probably the most popular one of the night.  The two best performers from the event in 2009,  Zdeno Chara and Shea Weber were once again the ones to beat this year. 

Weber beat Chara in the first round 104.8 to 104.1.  But in the finals, Chara got charged up, (with the help of the partisan crowd which was cheering him as he got ready), and he broke his old record with a new speed of 105.9.

The Bruin gave the RBC crowd some props after the game.  "They got me going and helped me to break the record," he said.   Will the crowd still give him some cheers when the Bruins come visit for a match on Tuesday night?

No one else broke 100 MPH except for Dustin Byfuglien, who shot the puck at 101.3 and 102.4.  Steven Stamkos also hit 101.9.    

 

The final challenge was the Discover NHL Elimination Shootout.   Each participant had a chance for a shootout and if you missed, you were eliminated.  Corey Perry ended up winning this, although Martin St. Louis had some remarkable moves and came in second.  St. Louis would turn his body and skate toward the goalie backwards, then backhand a shot at net.  He was successful twice before Cam Ward stopped him.  Perry was 3-3 on the night.

Eric Staal made his first attempt, but was stopped on number two.  Both Skinner and McBain were stopped on their first attempts. 

Brian LeBlanc took some audio of the Staal/Ward press conference after the game.

Eric Staal Cam Ward Presser after skills comp

 

I took some video in Team Staal's dressing room:

 











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