On a night where "Superman" made a cameo appearance, it was the Bunyan-esque legend of Boston Bruins defenseman Zdeno Chara that grew a little taller as the NHL stars came out to show off their talents at the 2012 NHL Skills Competition.
Chara has owned the Hardest Shot competition since he first took part in it, with this year’s event at ScotiaBank Place in Ottawa, Ontario exceeding Chara’s prior, lofty accomplishments. The towering rearguard bested his record of 105.9 miles per hour that he set at last year’s Skills Competition – not just once, but for all of his attempts on this night. In the end, Chara set a new record of 108.8 miles per hour. His closest competitor, Nashville Predators defenseman Shea Weber, actually broke Chara’s previous record with a shot registering 106 miles per hour. But it is a testament to Chara’s dominance that Weber’s impressive showing failed to break Chara’s stranglehold on this event.
As a whole, this year’s Skills Competition once again appeared to be a hit with the fans as the NHL players provided the aforementioned feats of strength combined with skill and a bit of showmanship.
Most of the showmanship came during the Breakaway Challenge, a free-form event where the shooter has the freedom to make almost any move in an attempt to beat the goaltender one-on-one.
With perennial showman Alex Ovechkin not taking part in this year’s All-Star festivities, it fell to others to provide the creativity that has become Ovechkin’s trademark.
Chicago Blackhawks forward Patrick Kane provided the fans with some laughs with the help of his Blackhawks teammate, Marian Hossa. As Kane was preparing to take his second shot, Hossa skated over to affix a red Superman cape around Kane’s neck. Kane then proceeded to skate in on goaltender Brian Elliott, flopped to his belly as if he were Superman flying through the air, then managed to stickhandle and score on Elliott while on his stomach.
Kane came back on his next shot with another surprise as he wound up for a slapshot in between the faceoff circles, only to have the puck explode on impact.
Not to be outdone, Anaheim Ducks forward Corey Perry provided his own twist, scoring a goal off of a lacrosse-style move on his first shot, then producing a mini hockey stick on his final shot that drew some laughs from the crowd.
In the end, the fans voted Kane the winner of the Breakaway Challenge, with Kane and Perry perhaps setting the bar a little higher for future events.
Another revelation on the night came in the Accuracy Shooting event, which was won by Dallas Stars forward, Jamie Benn. Benn had just had his appendix removed not long before All-Star Weekend, so his participation came as a bit of a surprise given that turn of events. But Benn bested Philadelphia Flyers rookie Matt Read by picking off the four targets in 10.20 seconds.
The Skills Challenge Relay event was won by Team Alfredsson, with the second Alfredsson group turning in the top time of two minutes and eight seconds.
The other event won by Team Alfredsson was the Elimination Shoot Out competition. Tampa Bay Lightning forward and the NHL’s leading goal-scorer, Steven Stamkos, was the last man standing as Buffalo Sabres forward Jason Pominville was not able to beat Detroit Red Wings goaltender Jimmy Howard, thereby handing the event to Stamkos.
On the night, Team Alfredsson took an easy Skills Competition win from Team Chara as the "home" team took a 21-12 points win over Chara’s squad.