Monday, January 31, 2011

NHL All-Star Weekend: The Best Yet?

The 2011 All-Star Game was one to remember.
     Don't get me wrong, in this new era of the NHL, there is no Gretzky, there is no Lemieux, there is no Orr, and there is no Howe. The NHL has a new face of all-stars led by Alexander Ovechkin, Sidney Crosby, Eric Staal, Nick Lidstrom, and many more. After last years all-star hiatus, due to the 2010 Winter Olympic Games, the NHL All-Star Weekend resumed this year in Raleigh, North Carolina. In plan for the weekend was a fantasy draft, a skills competition, and a high scoring all-star game

     Although three top stars in Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, and Jarome Iginla all missed the fun weekend of events, that didn't mean that the rest of the country didn't enjoy the festivities. In fact, the players,fans, and NHL were very happy with the replacements, including the youngest NHL All-Star ever at just 18 years, rookie point leader, Jeff Skinner.

Staal and Lidstrom were the
Captains of the two teams.
     This year the NHL decided to spice up the weekend and do something that had never been done before in any Major League Sports "All-Star Weekend". The NHL decided to have a Fantasy Draft to decide the teams, instead of the traditional East vs West format. The two captains were Eric Staal, the best player on the hosting team, and Nick Listrom who was voted by the all-stars to run a team. Staal's assistant captains were Ryan Kessler and Mike Green while Lidstrom's assistant captains were Martin St. Louis and Patrick Kane.

With the 1st pick in the draft: Cam Ward
The Draft:
     The first NHL All-Star Fantasy Draft was held on Friday night in Raleigh, North Carolina. After the puck flip, Eric Staal got the 1st pick and selected his boy, Cam Ward who plays goalie on their team, the Carolina Hurricanes. To respond to that pick, Team Lidstrom selected Martin St. Louis' teammate, Steven Stamkos. Team Staal then took Mike Green's teammate, the Great Eight, Alexander Ovechkin. Team Lidstrom answered with Patrick Kane's boy, Duncan Keith.

     There were a few strict rules that applied to the Draft. The Goalies had to be gone by round 10 and the Defenseman by round 15, so the captains couldn't cheat the system and take the best forwards.
     The final captain of team Staal, Ryan Kesler then had a very interesting pick. He would take one of the Sedin Brothers. Henrik and Daniel have always played on the same team, and have dominated ever since they were young. In the NHL draft Daniel was taken one pick before Henrik, and the result was the same. Dan went to Team Staal while Henrik went to Team Lidstrom.

     The rest of the draft went pretty casual. Some highlights of the draft were Eric Staal, stalling to draft his brother and instead of taking his brother, Marc, he took Marc's teammate and goalie Henrik Lundqvist. Fortunately, no worries for Mama Staal because Marc was chosen on Eric's next pick. The next highlight was Patrick Kane, refusing to draft his teammate and captain of the Chicago Blawkhawks, Jonathan Toews. Kane started off by saying he was taking "his boy" so Toews started to stand up, but Kane took Duncan Keith. Then Team Staal said they were taking someone from Chicago, only to be Patrick Sharp. Finally, Kane was forced to take Toews by his other teammates.

     As for the end of the All-Star Draft, the youngest NHL All-Star, Jeff Skinner, was taken by Staal to make a team of three hurricanes. Also David Backes of the St. Louis Blues, claimed that if he was taken last, he would fight the other captain who didn't take him. Team Staal quickly chose him after he made that comment. And as for the last pick, it went to Toronto Maple Leaf Phil Kessel. Shocker: a Maple Leaf comes in last. Good for Kessel, he got $20,000 donation in his name to any charity, and also a brand new car.

     The NHL rookies were also split into teams and then flipped a puck to see what team they wanted to be a part of. Taylor Hall, who was captain of one rookie squad, one the coin toss over Logan Couture, and selected to be on Team Staal making Couture and his team play for Team Lidstrom.

After winning in 09 with this
ridiculous jersey, Ovi
Repeated in 2011
The Skills Competition:
     The Skills competition were played on Saturday Night.  Team Staal would face Team Lidstrom, and each team would elect players to compete to win various events. All events had to have at least 1 rookie participate.

     The first event was the fastest skater. Here the team elected six players on each team, one being a goalie, one being a rookie, and four forwards or defenseman. Goalies Tim Thomas and Cam Ward faced off, and Cam Ward won due to Tim Thomas losing balance and falling over. Also in one round Duncan Keith was forced to skate against Kris Letang backwards, Letang got the better of that one. Next the rookies dueled and New York Islander Michaell Grabner defeated Taylor Hall and then ended up getting the best time total. Team Staal would win that round gaining most of the eight points, that were offered.

    The next event was the Breakaway Challenge. Here each team chose three skaters (one being a rookie) and a goalie to compete in a fun styled contest, where the fans voted on the coolest goal. Alex Ovechkin was the two time reigning champ, and won again after pulling off some sweet moves. By far though, the player that gained the fans at the RBC Center the most, was Montreal Canadiens rookie, P.K. Subban. Subban put on Jefff Skinners jersey and pulled off an awesome shot, but only to be saved by the goalie. Subban placed second, and again Team Staal won the majority of the points.

    The Accuracy Shooting contest was up next. In this event the teams chose six skaters, one being a rookie, and also two passers. The objective was to snipe four targets in the goal before your opponent could. Convtrevsy sparked when Jonathan Toews lost, but claimed that he never heard the whistle. His opponent and teammate in the NHl Patrick Sharp, went a perfect four for four. In the rematch, Toews went perfect and won the round. In the finals of the competition, Dan Sedin of team Staal beat Patrick Kane and ended up going 8-9 in his two rounds of shooting. Once again, Team Stall victorious.

     In the next event, the Relay, the teams were broken down into two sub teams of eight. Each team had onerookie and seven all-stars. Each player had their own event and the team with the fastest time won. In the first event, a passer would pass the puck to three players where each player needed to drill three shots in to advance to the next shooter. They shot from the Blue Line which was the farthest, a medium shot, and short shot on a crazy angle off to the side. All Shots must be one-timers. After that came the passing. A player must pass the puck into six mini goals only about a foot wide. They consisted of a short, medium, and far shot, and after the first three, the next three were had to be lifted over an obstacle. Then two players had to work on puck handling, one skater circled in and out of cones, and then was followed by another skater who had to handle the puck, in and out of a line. The event is ended with an accuracy shooter who must hit four targets.

   The event was won by Team Lidsrom. Their team consisted of Oliver Ekman-Larsson doing the passing to Lidsrom, Richards, and Louis Ericksson. Next Henrik Sedin went almost perfect on the passing. Martin St. Louis skated around the cones, followed by Matt Duchene who puck slalomed around the obstacles. Finally, Jon Toews ended it with the accuracy shooting, and Team Ldistrom picked up its first win. They finished in 2:09 Team Staal still led total though 21-11.

Chara holds the NHL record
for Hardest shot!
    The next event was highly anticipated, the Hardest Shot. Zdeno Chara has won the last two events, and holds the record for the hardest shot. Many thought that Shea Weber of team Lidstrom might had been able to surpass Chara. In the first round, Weber did beat Chara and posted a shot in the 103 MPH range. Chara got the better of Weber in the finals and shot a new record, 105.9 MPH. He helped give team Staal another victory going into the last event.

    The last event was the shootout, which everyone participated in. It was simple, each goal is a point, you keep shooting until you miss, and at the end whoever has the highest amount won. It was dominated by the goalies and only Corey Perry advanced to round three. Team Staal won again and ended up winning the whole competition 33-22.

Goal, team Staal went up 5-4 after a goal
from Sharp
The Game:
     Team Lidstrom, went into this game with a different mentality and ended up getting the win when it mattered. Team Stall did jump out to an early 4-0 lead though in only the first five minutes. Quick enough though, the game was tied at four, at the end of the first.
     In the second period. Team Staal would go back up 6-4 only to have Team Lidstrom go up 7-6 after goals from Danny Briere, Anze Kopitar, and Steven Stamkos. Shea Weber had three assist at this point and ended up with four on the day.
     In the third period, Staal and Letang helped regain the lead putting them up 8-7, but Team Lidstrom would score three straight goals by Briere again, St. Louis, and Toews. Rick Nash would bring the lead closer to Team Staal but Louis Ericksson put in an empty net goal to put Team Lidstrom up 11-9.

    With a minute left, Eric Staal got a goal and narrowed it down to 11-10. His team had another chance to win the game with about ten seconds but were denied by Tim Thomas. Team Lidstrom won 11-10.

    For the first time ever, a penatly shot was awarded after Alex Ovechkin threw his stick at the puck when Matt Duchene had a breakaway. Duchene was denied by Henrik Lundqvist. Patrick Sharp was awarded the MVP after scoring one goal and having two assist. The fans vote on the winner.
     Anyways, The NHL All-Star Weekend was one to remember and it was a lot of fun for the players and fans. Hopefully we will see more fantasy drafts in the future.

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