Savard, Chara ready for NHL skills Saturday
|01.20.09 at 7:49 pm ET|
Chara will attempt to win his third consecutive Cisco NHL Hardest Shot Competition, and perhaps improve on his competition-winning slapshot of 103.2 mph last season. Savard will take part in the McDonald’s NHL Accuracy Shooting Contest along with fellow superstars such as Ilya Kovalchuk, Mike Modano, Evgeni Malkin, Dany Heatley and Jarome Iginla.
Here’s the release from the NHL:
Who do you think has the hardest shot, Zdeno Chara or Sheldon Souray?
The NHL will let those two hulking defensemen figure it out on their own Saturday night in Montreal, but don’t be surprised if Vinny Lecavalier, Mike Komisarek, Shea Weber or Mark Streit crash the party.
All six players will be firing away for the title as the NHL’s most lethal shooter in the Cisco NHL Hardest Shot competition, one of six events that will take place Saturday night at the Bell Centre as part of the 2009 Honda/NHL SuperSkills.
The NHL announced the rosters for the Cisco NHL Hardest Shot, Bridgestone NHL Fastest Skater and McDonalds NHL Accuracy Shooting competitions Tuesday afternoon. The roster for the NHL YoungStars Game presented by Upper Deck and Scotiabank NHL Fan Fav Breakaway Challenge were announced earlier. All 42 All-Stars, meanwhile, take part in the Gatorade NHL Elimination Shootout, the closing event of the SuperSkills.
With Souray sidelined last season, Lecavalier gave Chara a run for the title in the Hardest Shot competition. His top blast was 101.9 mph, which led the competition for a while. Chara, however, unloaded a 103.2 mph blast to win it.
Souray, though, proved during the Oilers’ 2009 skills competition earlier this month that he will definitely be Chara’s toughest competition in Montreal.
Souray registered a stunning 106.7 mph rocket off his stick. At the time, the Oilers’ announcers were saying it was an unofficial record for hardest shot ever in such a competition. Chad Kilger apparently registered a 106.6 blast in another team-sanctioned competition.
The hardest shot ever in the NHL SuperSkills came off of Al Iafrate’s stick in 1993. The Washington Capitals defenseman unloaded a 105.2 mph blast at the Montreal Forum.
Souray will try to not only beat that record, but take the title away from Chara, who is going for his third in a row. However, do not sleep on the competition.
Weber has a loud and lethal shot, one that has helped him to 14 goals this season, the most among all defenseman. Komisarek is not a scorer, but when he puts his 6-foot-4, 240-pound body behind a slap shot, he can rip it pretty good.
Streit is known more for his shiftiness and speed, but he’s been the Islanders’ point man on the power play and his shot is both hard and accurate.
“It’s a pretty foolproof event,” Souray said. “It’s not the puck handling. Your margin for error is pretty low so I feel more comfortable doing that than anything.”
Before Souray and Chara duel in the Hardest Shot, the speed burners will open the Honda/NHL SuperSkills evening. Philadelphia forward Jeff Carter figured he would be invited to participate in the Fastest Skater competition because it best served him, and he got what he expected.
Carter will go against New Jersey’s Zach Parise, Chicago’s Brian Campbell and Florida’s Jay Bouwmeester in the event in which the players will complete one full lap around the ice. Last season it was a sprint from goal line to blue line. Since the event’s inception in 1992, Scott Niedermayer is the only defenseman to have taken home the title. He did it twice, first in 1998 with a time of 13.560 and again in 2004 with a time of 13.783.
Bouwmeester or Campbell could win it this season as both are known speed burners with an easy glide and long stride. Carter’s long legs give him an advantage and Parise doesn’t necessarily have breakaway speed, but he can seriously move once he gets going.
They’ll all be chasing Mike Gartner’s record time of 13.386, a mark he set in 1996. Gartner was a two-time winner of this event. Campbell finished second behind Shawn Horcoff last season.
The second event of the night could very well provide the seminal moment of NHL All-Star Weekend in Montreal. It’s the Breakaway Challenge with five known danglers in the running and fans texting in their votes for their favorite move.
Alex Ovechkin is back to defend his title, but he’ll have a tough crop to beat in Ryan Getzlaf, Alex Kovalev, Sidney Crosby and Patrick Kane. This event is all about imagination. It’s supposed to be a spectacle and the best part about it is the fans will determine the winner via text messages. If you don’t like one move, don’t vote for it. If you are infatuated with another, put your muscle behind it.
“We have some good guys in it this year,” Ovechkin said. “I want to see what Kovalev will do. Of course I like Russians, but he has some sick moves. And he is at home, with his fans.”
Following the Scotiabank NHL Fan Fav Breakaway Challenge is the revamped YoungStars Game presented by Upper Deck. It’s a game of 3-on-3 pitting 10 of the best sophomores in the League against 10 of the best rookies. Seventeen former players who participated in the YoungStars Game have gone on to play in the NHL All-Star Game. Thirteen of them will be in Montreal, including Kane, who played in last year’s game.
“It’s a fun experience,” Kane said of the YoungStars Game. “You sit in the locker room with the best players in the world. I had a great time last year.”
While the YoungStars Game is being played, the voting for the Breakaway Challenge will be conducted. Once the YoungStars Game is complete, the winner of the Breakaway Challenge will be revealed. McDonalds NHL Accuracy Shooting will come after the announcement. This competition is always something to marvel at as it is a lesson in concentration, a test of nerves, and, of course, accuracy.
Tomas Kaberle knows all about it. The Toronto defenseman won last year’s competition by hitting all four targets in as many shots, becoming only the fourth player to manage such a feat. That’s some serious focus.
Kaberle is back to defend his title, this year going against known snipers Jonathan Toews, Ilya Kovalchuk, Jarome Iginla, Dany Heatley, Marc Savard, Mike Modano and Evgeni Malkin, who could have easily been in the Hardest Shot, as well. Iginla will actually be trying to reclaim his title. He shared this title with Markus Naslund in 2002 by hitting the target on four of six shots.
When all the targets are down, Souray, Chara, Lecavalier, Streit, Weber and Komisarek will take center stage in the Hardest Shot.
The final event of the night is the Elimination Shootout. All 36 all-star skaters and six goalies will be competing. Just picture the end of a hockey practice, with skaters flying in on the goalies, one after another, trying to one-up each other in a pseudo-shootout competition. That’s basically what this is, but it’s 36 all-stars and it will be televised across the world.
Here’s the video from last season NHL hardest shot competition: