Saturday, 28 January 2017

Nothing But Net

The Coors Light NHL Skills Competition went from Staples Center in Los Angeles tonight - from this point forward, referred to only as the Skills Competition - and it was a bit of a yawner. It never quite has fund the traction it once had when there were legitimate rivalries between certain players - MacInnis vs Iafrate, Gretzky vs Lemieux, and so on. With players performing at extremely high levels in all aspects of the game, there really isn't any handful of players whose skill level alone blows you away. But that doesn't mean you won't see someone do something spectacular.

Arizona's Mike Smith is 11-13-5 with a 2.85 GAA and a .917 save percentage for the lowly Coyotes this season. Arizona needed a representative so that every team had at least one player at the All-Star Game, but that selection probably shouldn't be questioned after what Smith did in the Honda Four Line Challenge. Tasked with scoring a five-hole goal from 200-feet away, Smith took some time in lining up his shot.
You heard Craig Simpson on the Sportsnet coverage mention how much the puck curled back towards the five-hole target before going in. That alone would make it an extremely skillful shot. To me, the flip that Smith uses is the real story here as the puck travels to center ice end over end before falling flat on the ice and curling into the net. If that puck skips in any way by catching an edge, the curl wouldn't have the factor it did. Mike Smith has scored a goal in the NHL, but that might have been the most accurate shot he's ever taken in his career!

The other highlight involves a goaltender who was beaten cleanly. Carey Price doesn't give up many goals in the NHL season, and he was certainly on his game at the Skills Competition. It looked like he might shutout the Pacific Division's shooters in the shootout portion of the event, but one player had other ideas as Kesler broke in on Price.
Ryker Kesler broke in on the NHL netminder and went backhand-forehand-five-hole on Price to get the Pacific Division on the board. Ryan might want to take notes on that move in case Anaheim meets Montreal in the Stanley Cup Final as Ryker beat Price cleanly on the shot! In all seriousness, how cool is that moment for the Keslers? On top of that, Carey Price deserves some credit for making Ryker's night while Sidney Crosby gave the little Kesler phenom a tap on the skates with his stick as he returned to dad. Class acts all the way around for the NHL players.

In the end, the Atlantic Division won the Skills Competition and chose to play the Metropolitan Division in the second game in tomorrow's NHL All-Star Game. If Price plays as well as he did tonight, it may not matter who the Atlantic Division plays as he was on his game for this event. Sidney Crosby won the most accurate shooter event, Shea Weber is now a three-time defending champion in the hardest shot event, and we had a couple of highlight-reel moments from the event.

Mission accomplished for the NHL, I guess.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

No comments: