01.23.07

New NHL, Same Boring Skills Competition

Posted in Hockey at 11:43 pm by

Andy McDonald skating away from the boredom

Only through the magic of photography could Anaheim Duck Andy McDonald’s (above) victory in the fastest skater competition seem interesting. The announcers on Versus enjoyed guessing the relative times of the skaters, since the computerized timing system was out of commission and a stopwatch had to be used. Eddie Olczyk correctly determined that McDonald was slightly faster than his peers, but it’s unclear whether he won a $25 gift certificate to Chili’s for this achievement.

Jason Blake is charging at Crosby with a pike (off camera)

Sidney Crosby, the NHL’s leading scorer and pitchman (pictured alongside Alexander Ovechkin, who attempted to draft Crosby), helped win an absolutely meaningless points battle for the Eastern Conference with a victory in the individual shootout. Though Crosby didn’t benefit from the new streamlined uniforms, which make their official debut in Wednesday’s all-star game, his new baby mullet scored major points with Barry Melrose.

Though the skills competition lacks even the worn-out spectacle of the slam-dunk competition (a round per all-star with former cocaine aficionado Bob Probert might liven things up a bit), it still beats the NHL YoungStars game. Kostya Kennedy calls it “dull and miscast”:

The YoungStars play 4-on-4, for three, 10-minute periods. In others words, a pretend game. Everybody skates around formlessly — and unenergetically. “The game was more slow-moving than I expected,” said Ryan Getzlaf, a YoungStar from the Ducks. Guys fire shots and pass the puck sloppily while defensemen occasionally wave their sticks in benign protest.

The score this time wound up at 9-8. That’s 17 goals in 30 minutes. All of them scarcely contested, none of them memorable. No one was expecting a hard-checking affair but a little intensity would have been nice, might have stopped the audible snoring rising up from section 117.

Do you feel like you just played a hockey game? I asked the gently perspiring Penguins forward Ryan Whitney a few minutes after the East’s win? “No,” he said. “More like a summer practice or a shinny or something.”

If the YoungStars game is brought back next year, the least that the NHL could do is replace the overworked goaltenders with shooter tutors.

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