The Edmonton Oilers are officially on their All-Star break and will not play again until Tuesday February 7 when they start a four-game road trip against the Detroit Red Wings. That will be a full nine days in between games which will give the team some time to heal any bumps and bruises for the final 32-game stretch of season. The All-Star Skills Competition will be held this Friday at 5 pm MST and the All-Star Game itself is Saturday at 1 pm MST. Both events are available to watch on Sportsnet.
New Skills Events
There will be three new skills events this year two of which, the Enterprise NHL Splash Shot and Chipotle NHL Pitch ‘n Puck, will be held outside capitalizing on the beautiful balmy weather Florida has to offer in February (I’m not jealous, you are). The Discover Tendy Tandem will feature eight goalies working in tandems, one taking shots the other in net. The shooting goalie will take shots from a designated spot and earn three points if the shot goes in a hole or two points for hitting an in-net target. The other goalie will then face one, two, or three shootout attempts depending on the number of points earned from the shooting goalie.
The Splash Shot will be held on a beach at Fort Lauderdale (jealousy intensifies) and will feature eight players on four teams of two. Players will have to hit all targets before attempting to dunk their opponents in a dunk tank. The winner will be the first to dunk their opponent.
The Pitch ‘n Puck will have players combine their hockey and golf skills on a par four hole featuring an island green. Yeah but do they have any outdoor rinks in Florida? Six players will compete and the winner will be the one who sinks the puck/ball with the fewest hockey and golf shots.
The faster skater, hardest shot, breakaway challenge and accuracy shooting will also take place. The winner of each event will win a $30,000.00 cash prize. Joining the skills comps will be five women hockey players and Roberto Luongo will be a celebrity goalie in the breakaway challenge.
Connor McDavid will not be competing in the fastest skater comp however has interest in accuracy shooting.
The one event I wish the NHL would try is who is the fastest skater with a puck. Basically like the faster skater event except they have to do it with a puck on their stick. I’m curious to see just how much carrying the puck slows down NHL players.
All-Star Game History:
The first official NHL All-Star game was held in 1947 and would feature the Stanley Cup Champions facing off against All-Stars from the other teams. They kept this format until 1969 when they changed it to Eastern Conference versus Western Conference. However in 1951 and 1952 the game would feature players from American based teams vs Canadian based teams. The 1962 game would be the first time an MVP would be named, Eddie Shack from the Maple Leafs. It’s also worth noting the game was played at the beginning of the season until 1966–67 when they moved it to the middle of the season as a marketing tool to potential expansion cities.
The 1975 All-Star game was the first to feature the Wales Conference vs the Campbell Conference as the league had expanded to four divisions. In 1979 the NHL changed the format to a three game series featuring NHL All-Stars vs the Soviet Union’s best players. The Soviets would win the series 2–1 winning the third game 6–0. 1985 would be the first time fans could vote players to the game and also the first time honorary captains were named. 1987 would see another All-Stars vs Soviets however this time it was only two games which were split.
The 41st All-Star game in 1990 was the introduction of the skills competition. From 1998–2003, the game would feature North American players vs the World as a marketing tool for the first Olympics featuring NHL players. The 1995, 2005, and 2006 games were canceled due to NHL lockouts. In 2010 the game was postponed in favour of the Olympics. The 2013 game was again canceled because of the CBA and the shortened season and again in 2014 because of the Olympics. 2015 would be the last game to feature 5 on 5 the format changed in 2016 to the now popular 3v3 tournament. Two more All-Star games would be canceled because of the pandemic from 2020–2021, finally returning last year in Las Vegas.
All-Star game records:
Youngest Player: Jeff Skinner, 18 years, 8 months, 14 days, 2011
Oldest Player: Gordie Howe, 51 years, 10 months, 5 days, 1980
Most Games Played: 23, Gordie Howe
Most Goals: 13, Wayne Gretzky, 18 games; Mario Lemieux, 10 games
Most Assists: 16, Joe Sakic, 12 games
Most Points: 25, Wayne Gretzky, 13 goals, 12 assists, 18 games
Most Power Play Goals: 6, Gordie Howe
Most Penalty Minutes: 25, Gordie Howe
My most memorable moment:
I don’t know why but Owen Nolan in the 1997 game stands out to me the most. He had a breakaway in the third period and called his shot before going top corner against Hall of Fame Dominik Hasek. That goal also completed his hat trick after he scored two goals in a record time of eight seconds against another Hall of Fame goalie Martin Brodeur in the second period.
Predicting the All-Star game winner
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Now, onto this year’s game, which division do people think will win the game? Here are the rosters of every team. The fan-favourites look to be Pacific Division as Edmonton has three representatives at the game: Connor McDavid, Leon Draisaitl, and Stuart Skinner. If the Pacific wins the game, lots of credit will surely go to the Oilers’ trio.
F Sidney Crosby, PIT
F Johnny Gaudreau, CBJ
F Kevin Hayes, PHI
F Jack Hughes, NJD
F Brock Nelson, NYI
F Alex Ovechkin, WSH
F Artemi Panarin, NYR
F Andrei Svechnikov, CAR
D Adam Fox, NYR
G Igor Shesterkin, NYR
G Ilya Sorokin, NYI
Coach: Rod Brind’Amour, Carolina Huricanes
This division features two of the biggest names in the NHL over the last 20 years in Sidney Crosby and Alex Ovechkin. Both perennial All-Stars and future Hall of Famers. It will be interesting to see these two on the ice at the same time. Also worth noting is that this team only has one defencman so there will be three forwards on the ice about half of the time. This team also has Artemi Panarin who has been a top level player for a few years now. I think it’s fair to say this team has the most experience with those three in the line up.
F Aleksander Barkov FLA
F Nikita Kucherov, TBL
F Dylan Larkin, DET
F Mitchell Marner, TOR
F David Pastrnak, BOS
F Nick Suzuki, MTL
F Tage Thompson, BUF
F Brady Tkachuk, OTT
F Matthew Tkachuk, FLA
G Andrei Vasilevskiy, TBL
G Linus Ullmark, BOS
+ replaced TOR F Auston Matthews (injury)
Coach: Jim Montgomery, Boston Bruins
The big news from the Atlantic is the recent injury to Auston Matthews as he will be out for three weeks with a sprained knee. He has been replaced by Aleksander Barkov which makes sense in one aspect as the Panthers are hosting the festivities this year. I can also understand any frustration from Maple Leaf fans who believe William Nylander should have went as he is having a better statistical season. Maybe they should have found a defenceman to replace Matthews as this team has none! They do however have two goalies with 25 and 22 wins respectively and plenty of high power offence. Certainly will be an interesting team to watch and see how they cope without any defenders.
F Kirill Kaprizov, MIN
F Clayton Keller, ARI
F Nathan MacKinnon, COL
F Mikko Rantanen, COL
F Jason Robertson, DAL
F Vladimir Tarasenko, STL
D Seth Jones, CHI
D Cale Makar, COL
D Josh Morrissey, WPG
G Connor Hellebuyck, WPG
G Juuse Saros, NSH
Coach: Peter DeBoer, Dallas Stars
The Central team has the most balance with three defencemen and six forwards so it is possible for this group to roll the same three lines all tournament and always have a defender out there. This is also the only team that can run a line with all three players from the same team with MacKinnon, Rantanen and Makar from the reigning Stanly Cup Champion, Colorado Avalanche.
F Matty Beniers, SEA
F Leon Draisaitl, EDM
F Kevin Fiala, LAK
F Bo Horvat, VAN
F Nazem Kadri, CGY
F Connor McDavid, EDM
F Elias Pettersson, VAN
F Troy Terry, ANA
D Erik Karlsson, SJS
G Stuart Skinner, EDM
G Logan Thompson, VGK
Coach: Bruce Cassidy, Las Vegas Golden Knights
The Pacific features the top two NHL points leaders in McDavid and Draisaitl and two rookies goalies! Both goalies have not played more than 25 games in a season prior to this year and are Calder Trophy eligible. So it is quite remarkable that two rookie goalies will play as no rookie goalie has ever made it to the All-Star game. This team also only has one defenceman Erik Karlsson who is having a resurgence this season after a couple of major ankle injuries the past few years. I have a feeling he will see plenty of ice time with #97 & #29. There is also the possibility we see McDavid or Draisaitl line up at defence and help out teammate Skinner when Karlsson is not on the ice.
Normally I don’t have too much interest in All-Star weekend however I would like to see the two new outdoor skills comps. The 3v3 tournament also has piqued my interest. Mostly because of the three Oilers going but also each team has a slightly different composition and it will be interesting to see what strategies they use.
Photo by Brett Holmes/Icon Sportswire