Takeaways from NHL All-Star Weekend

Saint Louis, Missouri hosted the NHL All-Star Game this past weekend. I came away from it thinking that it was a successful showpiece event. It was great to see an appearance from many faces from the past that have donned a Blues sweater. Wayne Gretzky kicked off the skills competition Friday by welcoming the fans in attendance. Later Al McGinnis showed that he still could strike his stick on a puck fast. He clocked in at 100.4 miles per hour prior to the hardest shot. Brett Hull, who won Stanley Cups with Dallas and Detroit toward the latter end of his career was also at Enterprise Center.

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The first event in the skills competition was the Fastest Skater. I was very surprised that Mathew Barzal of the New York Islanders was able to put in a better time on the night than Connor McDavid of the Edmonton Oilers. McDavid had won this form of discipline numerous times, but to me, he looked slow coming out of the gates and it showed on the stopwatch. Connor and his teammate Leon Draisaitl are the top two in points accumulated this season, as Edmonton is in a very tightly contested Pacific Division. First place Vancouver all the way down to Vegas, the second wild-card is separated by one point, so that is something to keep an eye on all the way to mid-April.

Meanwhile, it was no shock that Shea Weber, once of the Nashville Predators, now with the Montreal Canadiens captured the hardest shot title. Though Andrei Vasilevskiy did not win the Save Streak contest, I think he will have a great stretch run as the season winds down. The Tampa Bay Lightning, despite their surprising exit in last year’s playoffs, is going to be trouble for the East.

Jordan Binnington, who helped Saint Louis celebrate a Stanley Cup, made ten saves in a row to get the arena amped up for the local team. The Blues are at the head of the class in the Central. T.J. Oshie, who used to play in Missouri, is part of the success that the Capitals enjoy as Washington has the most points in the league. I remember his amazing shootout performance in Russia in 2014 when he turned into T.J. Sochi to lead the USA to a victory at the Winter Olympic Games.

Hilary Knight participated in the Shooting Stars not long after representing the USA in the Women’s Elite three-on-three versus Canada. She totaled fourteen points in the first edition of the format where players were high above ice level shooting from a platform to hit targets on the ice. Marie-Philip Poulin also partook from team Canada, whose side beat the Stars and Stripes 2-1.

Matthew Tkachuk of the Calgary Flames played to the home crowd with a Yadier Molina Cardinals jersey. His dad, Keith spent time in his day with the Coyotes and Blues. The telecast showed him in a photo in an All-Star game which he participated in and Matthew and Brady when they were younger, so that was neat.

In the end, Patrick Kane of the Chicago Blackhawks won the competition, which was not a popular win. The rivalry between the Blues and Blackhawks is very strong. I recall as a teenager attending a game between the sides since part of my family resides in Saint Louis, and when Chicago scored, there was a full section of fans in red that stood up and cheered. The Blues won the game, but hearing the groans reminded me of that fierce rivalry.

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As for Saturday night, the format of the four divisions between the Metropolitan, Atlantic, Central, and Pacific continued as it has been for years, where two divisions play one another in two separate games in two ten-minute periods. The winners of those two semifinal games played each other for a lot of prize money.

Though the Central Division consisted of many players on the Blues, they could not beat the Pacific side while the Atlantic Division took their semifinal. Tomas Hertl of the San Jose Sharks scored one, and I thought with his great semifinal performance would win MVP, but David Pasternak of the Atlantic Division ended up winning game honors and a vehicle. David has been excellent in the first half of the season, but I would have taken Hertl on Saturday since his team won. The season resumes Monday and it should be a lot of fun.

What are your feelings about NHL All-Star Weekend? Leave a comment below.

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Follow Michael on Twitter @MJBolesta2.

Works cited: NBC and NBCSN broadcasts, NBC Sports, SportsNet, and NHL YouTube channels

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