(Photo: NHL Facebook)

The NHL All-Star Skills Competition got off to a fast start with a record-breaking speed skate and ended with a landslide win from the east.

First-time participant and first-heat skater Dylan Larkin, F, Detroit Red Wings, 19, broke a 20-year-old record set by Mike Gartner for the NHL’s fastest skater competition.

Larkin challenged Roman Josi, D, Nashville Predators, initially, winning with a time of 12.894 compared to Josi’s 13.527. After finishing the challenge with the fastest time against the West’s Dustin Byfuglien, D, Winnipeg Jets, Matt Duchene, F, Colorado Avalanche, and Taylor Hall, F, Edmonton Oilers as well as his fellow East’s Erik Karlsson, D, Ottawa Senators, Brandon Saad, F, Columbus Blue Jackets, and Kris Letang, D, Pittsburgh Penguins.

For a bonus point, Larkin took a full lap–and even slowing stride for an awkward corner–finished in 13.172 seconds about two-tenths of a second faster than the record held for two decades.

 


“Was I even born yet?” Larkin asked about Gartner’s record.
He wasn’t. It looked like this.

Larkin set the stage for the East. And, in the next event, the All-Stars from both divisions happily performed upon it.

NHL Breakaway Challenge

The Breakaway Challenge was the only event where fans chose the winner. Participants had two chances each–no traditional rules–to win fan favor on a breakaway attempt. They needn’t even score a goal. Fans would then use Twitter to vote in their favorite.

With Matt Duchene, F, Colorado Avalanche, and James Neal, F, Nashville Predators for the West, there were cowboy hats and sticks that acted like puck lassos, hidden second pucks, and the guest appearance of country star Dierks Bentley (a surprisingly good shot). Brent Burns, D, San Jose Sharks even brought two kids, a spare goaltender, and a Star Wars/Chewbacca theme in for his two tries. His efforts earned him second place.

Brandon Saad, F, Columbus Blue Jackets, added to the event thanks to a Twitter fan vote-in was joined in the East by Evgeny Kuznetsov, F, Washington Capitals, and P.K. Subban, D, Montreal Canadiens.

Saad went wide right, flipped and bounced the puck on his stick, then knocked it down with his glove and shot it softly five-hole. In fact, it looked like the Eastern Conference players were sticking with breakaway talent alone as Subban, too, bounced the puck on his stick down the ice before sending it over his shoulder to his back skate where he’d kick it up and try to knock the puck in with a swing.

In the second round, though, Subban stole the show by proving that impressions are the highest form of flattery.

 


With Twitter fan votes tallied, he took in 31% of the #BreakawayChallenge votes.

“It’s a tribute to Jags and the great career he’s had so far,” Subban said. “He’s got great hair. He’s a good looking guy. That’s where it starts.
“Obviously he’s one of the best players of all time.”

Veteran player and fellow All-Star Jaromir Jagr, F, Florida Panthers, couldn’t help but interject.

“I’m just mad my mother didn’t tell me I have a brother,” he said.”

 


This was likely a fan favorite event, even if it only brought one point to the winning team. Accuracy shooting came next–giving each team the chance for a point per duo-matchup and a bonus for the participant with the fastest time.

Accuracy Shooting

Patrick Kane, F, Chicago Blackhawks, last year’s winner with four targets on six shots in 13.329 seconds, was up first, to a thunderous roar of boos from the home crowd (despite him also representing the West). But, this year, with a couple goalposts and other misses, it took him a full 20 seconds. He was up against the East’s John Tavares, F, New York Islanders, who hit all four targets in 12.294 seconds.

Kane’s teammates Joe Pavelski, F, San Jose Sharks and Corey Perry, F, Anaheim Ducks each won their slots–with Pavelski clocking out in 14.088 versus East’s Patrice Bergeron, F, Boston Bruins‘ 23.362 seconds and Perry hitting 13.771 seconds to Claude Giroux, F, Philadelphia Flyers‘ 17.254 seconds. They earned two points for the West.

Evgeni Malkin, F, Pittsburgh Penguins clocked 16.179 for the East, while Jamie Benn, F, Dallas Stars trailed by about half a second, giving the East another point.

Drew Doughty, D, Los Angeles Kings and Vladimir Tarasenko, F, St. Louis Blues passed for the West and Nicklas Backstrom, F, Washington Capitals and Jaromir Jagr, F, Florida Panthers passed for the East.

With Tavares achieving the quickest time, Team East gained a bonus point for a 3-2 lead in the accuracy challenge. But, in the Skills Challenge Relay, the Western Conference would earn its first “win.”

 

Skills Challenge Relay

Three points were available with the very complex relay. This timed event had five challenges–one-timers, with three shooters and one passer per team; passing, with one passer per team; puck control, with one skater per team; stick-handling, with one skater per team; and goalie goals, with one goalie per team. There were two relays–one for righties and one for lefties.

The first relay, right-handers, went to the Eastern Conference, with a finishing time of 1:38.410 compared to 2:15.371.

Relay 1

East:
One-timer right-handed
Steven Stamkos, F, Tampa Bay Lightning
Aaron Ekblad, D, Florida Panthers
Erik Karlsson, D, Ottawa Senators
One-time passer
Patrice Bergeron, F, Boston Bruins
Mini-net passer
Nicklas Backstrom, F, Washington Capitals
Puck Control
Justin Faulk, D, Carolina Hurricanes
Stick-handling
Claude Giroux, F, Philadelphia Flyers
Goalie goals
Braden Holtby, G, Washington Capitals

West
One-timer right-handed
Corey Perry, F, Anaheim Ducks
Drew Doughty, D, Los Angeles Kings
Shea Weber, D, Nashville Predators
One-time passer
Taylor Hall, F, Edmonton Oilers
Mini-net passer
Daniel Sedin, F, Vancouver Canucks
Puck control
Johnny Gaudreau, F, Calgary Flames
Stick-handling
Patrick Kane, F, Chicago Blackhawks
Goalie goals
Pekka Rinne, G, Nashville Predators

Perry narrowly missed the 45-second maximum for one-timers at the net by placing himself at a seemingly impossible angle.

But, the Western Conference looked much better in the second relay, when they finished in just 1:27.687. Their opponents were close behind with a finishing time of 1:44.446.

Relay 2

East
One-timer left-handed
Leo Komarov, F, Toronto Maple Leafs
Ryan O’Reilly, F, Buffalo Sabres
Ryan McDonagh, D, New York Rangers
One-time passer
Jaromir Jagr, F, Florida Panthers
Mini-net passer
Evgeny Kuznetsov, F, Washington Capitals
Puck control
Kris Letang, D, Pittsburgh Penguins
Stick-handling
Dylan Larkin, F, Detroit Red Wings
Goalie goals
Ben Bishop, G, Tampa Bay Lightning

West:
One-timer left-handed
Vladimir Tarasenko, F, St. Louis Blues
James Neal, F, Nashville Predators
Mark Giordano, D, Calgary Flames
One-time passer
Matt Duchene, F, Colorado Avalanche
Mini-net passer
Jamie Benn, F, Dallas Stars
Puck control
Roman Josi, D, Nashville Predators
Stick handling
Tyler Seguin, F, Dallas Stars
Goalie goals
Devan Dubnyk, G, Minnesota Wild

By finishing with the quickest time, the Western Conference lefties gave their team a bonus point. However, they still trailed 10-5.

Hardest Shot

The hardest shot contest set conferences head-to-head again in four heats. The winner of each heat earned a point with a bonus point for the player with the fastest mph register.

The East’s Aaron Ekblad, D, Florida Panthers (91.9 mph, 93.4 mph) went against Dustin Byfuglien, D, Winnipeg Jets (99.6, 99.4).
Next, Evgeni Malkin, F, Pittsburgh Penguins (97.0, 94.1 ) was paired against Tyler Seguin, F, Dallas Stars  (91.2, 95.0).
Steven Stamkos, F, Tampa Bay Lightning (98.5, 103.9) shot against fan favorite John Scott, F, Arizona Coyotes (92.6, 95.9).
Finally, P.K. Subban, D, Montreal Canadiens (102.3, 101.3) was clocked against last year’s champion Shea Weber, D, Nashville Predators (105.3, 108.1).

With a crowd chanting “one more shot,” Weber gave it another go, but hit 107.8 mph. (The record for the league is 108.8, set by Zdeno Chara in the 2012 All-Star competition.)

So, this event finished with three points for the West and two for the East–making the score 12-8 going into the shootout, where either team could take the lead.

Discover NHL Shootout

With 18 skaters and three goaltenders per team, this three-round shootout included one point for every goal and two points for the first and third pucks in each round.

Each player had 10 seconds to shoot following NHL shootout rules, and teams alternated between shots.

Round 1

East
Evgeni Malkin, F, Pittsburgh Penguins Goal, Goal
Jaromir Jagr, F, Florida Panthers XX
P.K. Subban, D, Montreal Canadiens XX
Ryan O’Reilly, F, Buffalo Sabres X
Leo Komarov, F, Toronto Maple Leafs X
Aaron Ekblad, D, Florida Panthers X
Roberto Luongo, G, Florida Panthers X

West
Captain Patrick Kane, F, Chicago Blackhawks XX
Matt Duchene, F, Colorado Avalanche X
Brent Burns, D, San Jose Sharks XX
Mark Giordano, D, Calgary Flames X
Vladimir Tarasenko, F, St. Louis Blues X
Daniel Sedin, F, Vancouver Canucks X
Devan Dubnyk, G, Minnesota Wild

Round 2

East
Patrice Bergeron, F, Boston Bruins Goal Goal
Nicklas Backstrom, F, Washington Capitals Goal, X
Steven Stamkos, F, Tampa Bay Lightning Goal
Evgeny Kuznetsov, F, Washington Capitals X
Ryan McDonagh, D, New York Rangers Goal
Justin Faulk, D, Carolina Hurricanes Goal
Braden Holtby, G, Washington Capitals

West
Joe Pavelski, F, San Jose Sharks Goal, X
Taylor Hall, F, Edmonton Oilers X
Jamie Benn, , Dallas Stars X
James Neal, F , Nashville Predators X
Johnny Gaudreau, F , Calgary Flames X
Dustin Byfuglien, D , Winnipeg Jets X
John Gibson, G, Anaheim Ducks X

 

Round 3

East
Claude Giroux, F, Philadelphia Flyers Goal, X
Dylan Larkin, F, Detroit Red Wings Goal, Goal
Captain John Tavares, F, New York Islanders X
Kris Letang, D, Pittsburgh Penguins X
Erik Karlsson, D, Ottawa Senators X
Brandon Saad, F, Columbus Blue Jackets X
Cory Schneider, G, New Jersey Devils X

West
Captain John Scott, F, Arizona Coyotes X X
Shea Weber, D, Nashville Predators X, X
Tyler Seguin, F, Dallas Stars Goal X
Corey Perry, F, Anaheim Ducks X, X
Drew Doughty, D, Los Angeles Kings X
Roman Josi, D, Nashville Predators X
Pekka Rinne, G, Nashville Predators

Even with this great move, Scott couldn’t get one past Schneider.

 


The East scored 17 here to the West’s four, for a final score of 29-12 favoring the Eastern Conference.

What’s ahead

The victory gave them the choice of playing first or second in the three-on-three All-Star tourney Sunday afternoon. Eastern Conference captains chose to play first.

“If we lose, I can take an earlier flight,” Jagr said.

The Atlantic Division will take on the Metropolitan Division first tomorrow, followed by the Central Division and Pacific Division. The winners of each will play in the final of the three-on-three matchups for a $1 million prize.

As for the new format, most players are looking forward to a different style of play.

“I think it will be fun,” Kane said. “We’ve got a lot of skill out here.”

 

In Nashville, fan fair events continue from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. Sunday with an NHL fan pass, which allows access to:

  • NHL Mascots and mascot activities
  • A photo with the Stanley Cup
  • An NHL Trophy Showcase, including the Hart, Vezina, Norris, and others
  • Meet-and-greet past and present hockey legends
  • NHL player Q&A at the NHL Fan Fair Theater
  • Visit the “Hockey in the State of Tennessee” Hall of Fame exhibit
  • Test shooting accuracy in the Bridgestone Shootout
  • Live music performances nightly
  • Create-your-own Upper Deck trading card
  • Test your hockey skills in the Honda All-Star skills zone
  • Collect rare hockey memorabilia
  • Take kids to the McDonald’s Kid’s Zone
  • Lace up on the outdoor ice rink constructed for the All-Star Weekend

Price (Single Day)
$20 Adult
$15 Children (Ages 3 to 12)
$15 Seniors (Ages 65 and over)
$15 College/Military (must show ID at entrance)
Children 2 and under: Free

 



To watch

The finalized rosters will take part in a three-on-three format, three-game tournament at 4 p.m. CT Sunday, Jan. 31 at Bridgestone Arena. The winners of the first two games–Atlantic vs. Metropolitan, then Central vs. Pacific–will face off for a $1 million prize. This will be televised on NBCSN in the U.S. and Sportsnet and TVA Sports in Canada.

 

 

Carly Mullady grew up needing to know more about icing than its deliciousness on cupcakes. She's the lone daughter of four children, with a father who was among the last cut from the Midwest tryouts for the 1980 Miracle on Ice Olympic team. And she knows very little matches the thrill that happens from puck-drop to handshakes. A rink didn’t return to her hometown until she was gone, but she’s been able to see two younger brothers on the ice. She's their feistiest fan. Her other hockey loyalty lies with the Blackhawks--whether it's meant seeing games for $8 with student IDs when the Madhouse didn’t have much of a temper at all, or dancing to Chelsea Dagger at standing room only--there’s something magical about a roaring anthem, the Indianhead sweater, and the Original Six. A former journalist and current editor, she carries a penchant for excitement (and maybe even fighting) with a resume that includes working for Chicago-area newspapers, and television, including The Jerry Springer Show, as well as NBCUniversal in New York. After East Coast living and a return to the Chicago area, the new Mrs. is giving Graceland a go with her Southern Gent, who now shares her adoration of the game, and their rescue dog, Doc Holliday. Other interests include Cubs, Bears, Illini, Crimson Tide, Pumpkin Spice Lattes, baking a mean pineapple upside-down cake, Kate Spade accessories, and a properly coordinated cardigan for every ensemble.

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