Like many of you I was glued to my television for the 2019-2020 NHL All-Star weekend. The fun started off on Friday night with the skills competition, including the Fastest Skater, Hardest Shot, Passing Accuracy, and Shooting Accuracy competitions. These vignettes are provided so that the typical NHL fan along with the average viewer can get a glimpse of the pure skill these players have in an up-close isolated view, and at speeds one can see (well, except for maybe that hardest shot). In addition to the men’s skills competition, the women’s all-star teams from Canada and the US squared off in a two-period, 3 on 3 game. Our lone Florida Panther, Jonathan Huberdeau, was included in the shooting accuracy competition, and while he did not win, he did not come in last place. All in all, the Friday night skills competition was good and provided a unique opportunity for the players from opposing teams to mingle without the threat of an imminent fight breaking out.
Phot Credit: Kim Smith 2019
The following day at 8pm the All-Star games were played featuring teams from the four divisions playing in a two-tiered tournament, with the two west conference teams squaring off and then the two east conference teams playing. The Atlantic division ended up playing against the Pacific division for the final game which provided the winning team with a $1 million pay day. The Pacific team was the big winner. Not a bad way to spend a few hours on a Saturday night. One thing stood out to me during the Central division versus the Pacific division game where Leon Draisaitl of the Edmonton Oilers scored a goal on a very nice area pass from none other than Mathew Tkacuk of the Calgary Flames. Unless you are living under a rock, you should know there is a bit of bad blood between the two teams featuring some wild hitting by Tkachuk on the Oiler’s Kack Kassian. For any of you interested in this situation there is a game tonight with Edmonton taking on the Flames in Edmonton at 10:00 PM that is sure to provide some action. Our All-Star Huberdeau did quite well during his two games on the ice. He was up to his old antics with slick passing and netted a couple of goals.
I know, you are wondering “this is all well and good and I appreciate the re-cap and all, but where is the Beak in all of this?” Well here you go: After this year’s All-Star Game and Skills Competition, I am not a big fan of the event. First things first, the All-Stars were not actually in attendance. Most or some were, but not all. Shoulda called it the Most-Stars Game or the Some-Stars Game. Some were injured (Panarin and Matthews come to mind) and some were just sitting it out (Ovechkin). Brady Tkachuk was chosen as the replacement to Auston Matthews, which seemed a bit circumspect seeing as though Aleksander Barkov was much more deserving of the invite. There seemed to be a bit of shade being thrown on Panthers social media sites due to this. However, there was an equal contingent of “it’s better if Barkov rests”.
I am not sure that we as fans really need an All-Star Game. The game or games themselves are played in the 3 versus 3 format that I have mentioned before that I cannot stand. My stance is if you don’t do it in the playoffs why must you do it during a regular season game and why do it at the All-Star Game? The answer is simple: The NHL is trying to reach out to the younger crowd and saying OK Boomer. Attention spans these days require constant scoring lest the eyes wander to that 3×5 hand held idiot box ne’er to return to the game. The day and age of the 1-0 game full of hitting and grinding and this thing called defense is quickly moving from the windshield past the side windows and into the rear-view mirror. Now a 7-6 game is becoming the trend and what better way than to open up the ice with only three per side. This format constantly yields breakaways and all but eliminates any kind of hitting. I am sorry, but I don’t like it. I still play, and even my 50, 60, 70 and 80-year old team mates still play the body, some more than others ;). It is essential to the game and I guess I am just a purist, funny thing is I am not actually a Boomer, so you’re gonna have to say, “Ok Gen-X-er”.
The skills competition was ok. Maybe except for the malfunctioning shooting accuracy LED screen. It’s funny that those old Boomer style Styrofoam discs never really malfunctioned. Shea Weber put some heat on the puck and won the hardest shot. And Connor McJesus lost his fastest skater crown to Mathew Barzal. Another amazing thing of note here is that former St. Louis Blue and 7-time hardest shot winner Al MacInnis made a brief appearance for this event and ripped a one hundred MPH blazer. With a wood stick. And I am not sure you know this but the wood sticks were not very long back in the day unlike the new-fangled carbon fiber composite jobs of today (shhhhhhh I play with a 65” long Warrior Alpha that is actually Mackenzie Weegar’s stick). So, seeing a 59 year old guy launch a 100 mph missile with an actual twig was a thing of beauty.
Getting back to the beak, I just don’t think the All-Star Game is that relevant these days. You can tell the NHL understands this and is trying desperately to get new viewers to watch. They tried to bring back the old Streaking Puck gimmick and attempted to deploy Puck and Player Tracking technology. For some of you that watch NASCAR you are familiar with the tracking technology where labels showing the driver’s names pop up on the TV with leader arrows touching and following the cars. It helps you follow the players, supposedly. They added a highlight ring around players and included stats on the screen. I admit it may have had a bit of a wow factor, but I am not interested in the players stats while he is attempting that wicked dangle or drop-n-drag move and I have never had a hard time following the puck. Once you’ve played the game or watch several games you get a feel for where the puck is or should be. There is enough time during breaks to catch up on the details including slow-motion replays and player stats. The during-play stat line and player tracking is simply unnecessary and comes across as a gimmick.
I am thinking the All-Star Game might be better placed near the end of the season like the NFL Pro Bowl. Maybe between the Conference Finals and the Stanley Cup Finals. That way the last two teams could get a week break to heal up and the eliminated teams would not have an excuse to rest players. Like the NFL the last two team’s star players would not play, but there would be ample stars from the remaining teams that it could more closely approximate an All-Star Game. I would also bring back the five on five format and let more of the NHL top players be a part of the festivities. I like the tournament style format and the Pacific vs the Central and the Atlantic vs the Metropolitan divisions could still be fit in with the 5 vs 5 format.
Well, I think I have beaten this fairly boring topic to death. And I am missing Panther hockey dearly. I will be watching the Edmonton-Calgary game tonight and will be pining for that far off Saturday at 2:00pm where the Panthers will take on the Habs in Montreal. The boys are riding a 6-game winning streak and have played some fairly exciting hockey, albeit I would like to see more 1 or 2 max goals against games. But as I said before it may be a sign of the changing times and we may have to get used to a 3.24 goals against average and a 0.898 save percentage as being the norm. Whatever the stakes we all just want to see more goals for for the Panthers.
That’s my beak for the week. Chirp, chirp peeps.
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