WINNIPEG, MB - The 2018 NHL All-Star Weekend has come to a close. With a full 48 hours of activities for players, fans and coaches alike, the action-packed festivities in Tampa Bay surely exceeded the expectations of many.
With a re-vamped skills competition on Saturday night, the 44 players selected to play for their respective NHL divisions were put to the test. With six challenges, viewers had the opportunity to witness history as Connor McDavid won the fastest skater competition for the second year in a row – an NHL first.
St. Louis’ Alex Pietrangelo proved victorious in the passing challenge, while Marc-Andre Fleury cleaned up the save streak. Alex Ovechkin won the hardest shot competition, Johnny Gaudreau came out on top in the puck control relay, while rookie Brock Boeser dismantled all five targets in 11 seconds to attain the accuracy shooting title – the first NHL rookie to ever accomplish this feat.
Boeser’s success carried over to Sunday in which he and his Pacific Division teammates – including Fleury, McDavid, Gaudreau, Mike Smith, James Neal, Brent Burns, Drew Doughty, Oliver Ekman-Larsson, Rickard Rakell and Anze Kopitar – put together an effort worthy of a crown in the three-on-three All-Star tournament.
Beginning with a 5-2 victory over Blake Wheeler, Connor Hellebuyck and the Central Division, the Pacific Division’s squad booked their ticket to the finals against the Atlantic Division – winners of the Eastern Conference showdown.
The championship game of All-Star Sunday saw the representatives of the host, Tampa Bay Lightning drop the close contest, 5-2. With goals from Boeser, Gaudreau, Doughty and Rakell (2), the Pacific squad walked away with the All-Star Game bragging rights, and $100,000 as victors.
The productive weekend for Brock Boeser continued as he was awarded a car as the All-Star Game MVP – once again, yet another NHL first as a rookie. In all, Boeser picked up a $212,500 entry-level bonus as weekend MVP, $100,000 for serving as a player on the winning team, and another $25,000 for winning the accuracy shooting contest.
For Winnipeg’s first-time representatives, Connor Hellebuyck and Blake Wheeler, the weekend couldn’t have gone by any smoother.
“It was a great event – something you always watch growing up, so to take part in it was a ton of fun,” said the Jets’ captain. “I think they got a good venue out here and it was a bunch of fun for the fans – probably not so much for the goalies. It was a good time.”
“I had a blast out there,” said Winnipeg’s netminder. “I would have definitely liked to win that one, but I think we brought the intensity and the fans really enjoyed it. You have to remember, these guys are All-Stars and they’re here for a reason. I’ll give them this win, but that’s the last they’re going to get from me this year!”
Highlighting Sunday’s action was an offside coaches challenge, a signature Wes McCauley review call, a Nikita Kucherov ‘no move’ goal, an All-American mock goal celebration, the first three-on-three All-Star Game hat trick – celebrated by the throwing of helmets, a cheeky recently suspended Brad Marchand blowing kisses to the booing fans, an attempted empty-net goalie goal, and a double reverse tick-tack-toe two-on-one goal.
Along with the announcement that Patrik Laine and the Winnipeg Jets will be facing off against Sasha Barkov and the Florida Panthers in Finland for two regular season games this coming November, it was also made known that the 2019 All-Star Weekend has been awarded to the Western Conference city of San Jose.
With the participating players travelling home and returning to their respective teams on Monday, Wheeler, Hellebuyck and the Winnipeg Jets will look to keep their hot streak alive when they host the first-place team, and All-Star Weekend host, Tampa Bay Lightning on Tuesday from Bell MTS Place. Action gets underway at 7:00 P.M. and can be seen live on TSN3.
Carter Brooks, Manitoba Post