LCS Hockey: Born Again
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October 24, 2014
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Skills Primer



All-Star Weekend is upon us. Can you feel the excitement? Yeah, me neither. But it's sure gonna be great watching Sidney Crosby, Martin Brodeur, Roberto Luongo, Henrik Zetterberg… oh wait, never mind.

Even though many of the league's biggest superstars are skipping the game, the NHL has done what it can to spice up All-Star Saturday, completely revamping the Skills Competition (7PM EST Versus, CBC, RDS). The YoungStars Game has now been incorporated into the mix, and the final event will be a breakaway challenge similar to the NBA's Slam Dunk Competition.

Because if anything should be emulated, it's the thrilling Slam Dunk contest, which pits some scrubs you never heard of against some other scrubs you never heard of in a spectacle featuring lengthy delays sandwiched around repeated failed attempts to put a ball through a stationary hoop. It's great fun.

Anyway, here's the complete rundown for the 2008 All-Stars Skills Competition. Please hold your applause until all the events have been announced.


Obstacle Course
This is either the new Obstacle
Course Relay or a map of
Pickett's Charge at Gettysburg.
Tough call.

EVENT 1 – OBSTACLE COURSE RELAY
This one got completely blown up. While there are still two rounds featuring three skaters per team in each heat, this year goaltenders are also getting involved.

The race starts with one player coming out from behind the net and skating the puck through a series of colored pucks stationed in the faceoff circle. That's right, colored pucks. It's like Easter.

Once the first player makes it to the top of the circle, the second player, who's positioned at the faceoff dot outside the blue line, will attempt to make four saucer passes over a barrier and into a net along the far boards. Gary Bettman volunteered to be the barrier, but the players requested something taller.

When the fourth puck goes in the net, the third player will leap to action. He'll be positioned just inside the blue line in front of the goal. The first player will feed him four passes from the boards, with the third player trying to one-time shots at targets in the net. Really it's not confusing at all. Honest.

Once the fourth shot is taken, the third player will race to the other faceoff circle while a goaltender takes position in the high slot. The third player will then give four passes to the goaltender, who will attempt to score on the net at the opposite end of the rink.

The players will have 45 seconds to complete the course, which is about 40 seconds longer than it will take most people to realize they don't give a damn.


EVENT 2 – FASTEST SKATER
As per usual, three skaters per team compete in individual head-to-head heats. The fourth heat features the two skaters with the fastest times. But they no longer do laps. Now the participants start from the goal line and race to the far blue line. I reckon it's a safety issue. Turning the corners got dicey. Although, in a bizarre twist, participants will now be required to carry scissors. That's odd.


EVENT 3 – ELIMINATION SHOOTOUT
Six shooters and three goalies per team compete in this new shootout tournament. You have to score to advance to the next round. Things will roll until only one shooter remains. This has the potential to be the best event, especially if the same two guys keep trading goals back and forth. Of course, knowing the NHL's luck, no one will score in the first round, and that'll be that.


EVENT 4 – YOUNGSTARS GAME
Yes, the YoungStars Game is now part of the Skills Competition. And I think this is actually a swell idea. Last year's YoungStars Game was a complete debacle. It almost set hockey back more than expansion. It was dreadful. Larry King thought it was boring.

This year, they'll be playing 3-on-3 in two six-minute periods with a running clock. A faceoff will open each period, but otherwise things will keep on truckin'. If a goal is scored, the puck gets dropped behind the net, and the scoring team has to retreat back to its own zone. The same basic thing applies to offside, icing, and all other stoppages in play. All penalties will result in penalty shots. I don't know, it sounds good to me. I'm willing to give it a whirl.

EASTERN YOUNGSTARS
C - Nicklas Backstrom, Washington
C – Brandon Dubinsky, NY Rangers
RW – David Clarkson, New Jersey
LW – Milan Lucic, Boston
D – Tobias Enstrom, Atlanta
D – Kris Letang, Pittsburgh
D – Mike Lundin, Tampa Bay
D – Marc Staal, NY Rangers

WESTERN YOUNGSTARS
C – Sam Gagner, Edmonton
C – Peter Mueller, Phoenix
RW – Patrick Kane, Chicago
LW – David Perron, St. Louis
D – Alexander Edler, Vancouver
D – Erik Johnson, St. Louis
D – Jack Johnson, Los Angeles
D – Matt Niskanen, Dallas

Just looking at the rosters, I'd have to give the edge to the West. While Letang and Backstrom are the two best players, I really don't know if Lucic and Clarkson are cut out for 3-on-3 hockey. The West has nice balance throughout the lineup. Perron could put on a show.

And in case you're wondering, the goaltending chores will be handled by two of the legit All-Stars. No word yet on who it'll be.


EVENT 5 – ACCURACY SHOOTING
Nothing new to report here. It's the same as it ever was. I still haven't seen a full list of participants, but Eric Staal and Marian Hossa are scheduled to shoot for the East. They tied for the title last year, each hitting four targets on five shots.


EVENT 6 – HARDEST SHOW
Again, nothing new. Zdeno Chara won it last year with a blast of 100.4 mph, and he'll be back to defend his crown.


EVENT 7 – BREAKAWAY CHALLENGE
In the final event of the evening, three shooters and three goalies will participate from each team. Penalty shot rules don't apply. The shooter can begin his move from anywhere in the offensive zone, even from behind the net. Each shooter will get two attempts to score a highlight reel goal. I'm not sure if you're allowed props, but I'd try and use a chimp on a tricycle at some point in my routine.

But here's the best part: a panel of celebrity judges will score each attempt. And the NHL pulled out all the stops, getting George Clooney, Johnny Depp, Angelina Jolie, and Keira Knightley to serve as judges. Hold on, I'm sorry, I read the press release wrong. The judges are actually Scott Mellanby, Dominique Wilkins, Bill Clement, and Taylor Kitsch.

Yeah, don't worry, I have no idea who Taylor Kitsch is either. But who better to judge spectacular goals than a basketball player, an obscure actor, and two guys who never scored a highlight reel goal in their lives? Really, this is going to work out just fine. Don't sweat it.

But the lineup of shooters is certainly spectacular. The East is gonna go with Martin St. Louis, Ilya Kovalchuk, and Alexander Ovechkin. The West will counter with Ryan Getzlaf, Marian Gaborik, and Pavel Datsyuk. That's good stuff. Put your money on Datsyuk. I still hate the Wings.

(Sunshine) Detroit!


LCS Hockey: Born Again
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