Edmonton Oilers center Connor McDavid and Washington Capitals winger Alex Ovechkin were among the winners Saturday night in the 2018 NHL All-Star Skills Competition at Amalie Arena in Tampa, Florida.
It marked the first year of a new format for the annual showcase, which features NHL All-Stars battling in a variety of skills challenges. Instead of a team contest, each individual had an opportunity to win $25,000 for finishing first in any of the six events.
Vegas Golden Knights goalie Marc-Andre Fleury, Calgary Flames winger Johnny Gaudreau, Vancouver Canucks winger Brock Boeser and St. Louis Blues defenseman Alex Pietrangelo also took home one of those bonus checks from the home of the Tampa Bay Lightning.
Fastest Skater: McDavid (13.454 seconds)
Lightning center Brayden Point gave the home fans a reason to get involved right off the bat as he posted a lightning-quick time (13.579 seconds) as the first skater.
That held up through the next six competitors until McDavid, the reigning champion in the event, stepped to the line. He narrowly edged Point to pick up his second straight win.
NHL PR passed along a note about that accomplishment:
Passing Challenge: Pietrangelo (46.610 seconds)
Pietrangelo has been one of the NHL's most undervalued performers for the past handful of seasons, which explains why this is his first All-Star appearance. So perhaps it's no surprise he won an event headlined by the likes of the Pittsburgh Penguins' Kris Letang, the Los Angeles Kings' Drew Doughty and the Lightning's Nikita Kucherov, who leads the league in points.
The Blues defender didn't just win, either. He dominated. His winning time was more than eight seconds better than the second-place finisher, Minnesota Wild center Eric Staal.
St. Louis highlighted the terrific performance:
Save Streak: Fleury (14 saves)
Fleury has been the backbone of the Golden Knights' shocking success in their debut campaign as they entered the All-Star break with 68 points, second to only Tampa Bay. He carried that winning mojo into the Skills Competition to win the new goalie contest.
The new nature of the event, which saw goaltenders face shooters from one of the league's four divisions, made it difficult to know what the winning score would be. Pekka Rinne of the Nashville Predators set the standard with 13, but the Vegas star totaled one more for the victory.
His song choice might have provided some distraction to the shooters, as Joe Smith of the Tampa Bay Times noted:
Puck Control Relay: Gaudreau (24.650 seconds)
After Point's time nearly held up through the Fastest Skater, Gaudreau went first and ultimately won the revamped Puck Control Showcase.
Only two other players, McDavid and New York Islanders center John Tavares, cracked the 30-second mark as the Flames sniper watched his time hold up with relative ease.
If Gaudreau returns to defend his title next year, he'll likely encounter a new event because the NHL's changes didn't work out well. Mike Ashmore of Trentonian joked about it:
Hardest Shot: Ovechkin (101.3 mph)
Ovechkin picked up the victory, but it represented the slowest winning shot since 2007 as he was the only shooter to crack 100 mph. In fact, his first attempt of 98.8 mph would have been enough to win in a down year for what's usually one of the most fun parts of the night.
It may just be a year of transition before a new champion is found, though. Zdeno Chara won five straight times starting in 2007 and Shea Weber followed that with three consecutive triumphs. Nobody who competed Saturday showed that type of long-term potential.
Ian Oland of the Russian Machine Never Breaks pointed out the "Great Eight" kept it light after his win:
Accuracy Shooting: Boeser (11.136 seconds)
Boeser, a top contender for the Calder Memorial Trophy as the NHL's top rookie, held his own against the likes of the Pittsburgh Penguins' Sidney Crosby, the Boston Bruins' Brad Marchand and Tampa Bay's Steven Stamkos—three of the league's best players—to win the accuracy contest.
None of those marquee names provided his closest competition, though. That came from New Jersey Devils center Brian Boyle, who finished less than five-tenths of a second behind the winner.
The Canucks provided reaction from their newest star:
He joins a group of accuracy champions that includes Crosby, Ray Bourque, Mark Messier, Peter Forsberg and Patrick Kane.