All-Star weekend kicks off in earnest tonight with the annual SuperSkills competition and YoungStars Game. Scott Burnside and Joy Russo are checking in from the festivities in Montreal.
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Russo (9:15 p.m. ET): Good luck finding that phone!
Burnside (9:14 p.m. ET): Joy, it's been a pleasure.
Russo (9:12 p.m. ET): Thanks for proving my point, my friend. I know you're sad to see this Skills competition come to an end.
Burnside (9:10 p.m. ET): This is a harsh competition. If you don't score, you have to go to the dressing room (and feel shame).
Russo (9:09 p.m. ET): No, you're not. Deep, deep, deep, deep, deep down, you're a teddy bear.
Burnside (9:07 p.m. ET): Just noticed that a lot of the guys in the breakaway competition have their kids down on the bench with them. That's nice. See, I'm not so heartless.
Burnside (9:05 p.m. ET): It's pretty much a rule that you have to use the descriptor "hulking" or "giant" or "monstrous" when talking about Chara.
Russo (9 p.m. ET): It's a great win for Chara and Right to Play. But should we be shocked the biggest dude in the event won?
Burnside (8:59 p.m. ET): I feel like Scrooge after the ghost of Christmas future, full of love and warm fuzzies for the skills competition. Zdeno Chara just won with a new record 105.4 mph and he put the Right to Play toque right on. He even got a cheer from the Montreal crowd.
Burnside (8:58 p.m. ET): You're making me feel positively Scrooge-like.
Russo (8:53 p.m. ET): By the way, puckheads, Burnside is still campaigning in the press box that Vinny Lecavalier should be wearing a habs jersey during the SuperSkills competition.
Russo (8:51 p.m. ET): Yes, Chara will be donning a Right to Play hat during the event.
And by the way, is there anything you like about being here tonight? Besides the hot dogs, cookies and being cell phone-less?
Burnside (8:50 p.m. ET):He knows how to work a crowd. Hardest shot competition up next. Talked to Mike Komisarek from Montreal yesterday and he said he just hopes he doesn't miss the net. I may have erred earlier in this session when I said watching players skate in a circle was compelling stuff. It has nothing on pounding an unsuspecting puck into an empty net.
But I just had a chat with Mark Brender, great guy and former columnist/writer for The Hockey News. He now works for Right to Play, the great world-wide charity that helps kids in impoverished communities. He said he's nervous because the winner of the hardest shot competition gets somewhere in the neighborhood of $24,000 for his charity. Zdeno Chara is a supporter of Right to Play and so Brender is hoping he brings the big lumber.
Burnside (8:48 p.m. ET): It's a Russian sweep. Malkin wins it. Could this be foreshadowing for the Olympics?
Russo (8:47 p.m. ET): They did, and Evgeni Malkin won. His reaction, quite simply, "I love Montreal."
Burnside (8:46 p.m. ET): Oh my goodness, we're going to overtime. Dany Heatley and Evgeni Malkin. It just doesn't get any better than this. I hope they have enough targets.
Russo (8:45 p.m. ET): Like Gerry Cheevers in the old-school mask?
Burnside (8:42 p.m. ET): I hope whoever found my phone voted for Martin St. Louis. The accuracy competition is in full swing. I know McDonalds is a sponsor, but they should have put goalies' faces on those Styrofoam targets.
Russo (8:36 p.m. ET): I will not let you bring me down, Burnside. Never!
By the way, CBC's Elliotte Friedman just interviewed Ovechkin, who was just named winner (via text message from fans) of the breakaway challenge. Ovechkin said he texted and voted for Steven Stamkos.
Burnside (8:33 p.m. ET): Do you really remember what any of those guys ever did in a skills competition? If so that is more than a little scary.
Russo (8:31 p.m. ET): Accuracy shooting. Ahh, memories of Ray Bourque and Mark Messier and Jeremy Roenick are flooding back.
Burnside (8:31 p.m. ET): Well, anticipation is at a fever pitch here at the Bell Centre as the skills competition is set to resume.
Russo (8:25 p..m ET): And Blake Wheeler got "MVP" honors. And his live postgame interview drew more boos from the Montreal crowd.
Burnside (8:24 p.m. ET): And so, another YoungStars Game is in the books. They've even got a trophy. Go figure.
Burnside (8:23 p.m. ET): Yes. They've scheduled it that early so the chances of anyone stumbling into the rink and seeing that grisly display and being permanently scarred from the image is minimized.
Russo (8:20 p.m. ET): Are you referencing the NHL media game tomorrow morning at ... 6 a.m.?!
Burnside (8:19 p.m. ET): I didn't check the Vegas line on this game, but the rookies are hanging a beating on the sophomores. The stink of shame will hang heavy in the sophomore dressing room. There'll be a bag skate for sure tomorrow.
Russo (8:15 p.m. ET): I wonder what the over/under was on this one.
Burnside (8:14 p.m. ET): The final period. They call this the most exciting six minutes in sports. Well, not really.
Burnside (8:13 p.m. ET): Yes, he's a solid young man even if this season hasn't gone the way many thought it would.
Russo (8:09 p.m. ET): Stamkos just scored for the rookies. He seemed to take all of the questions of his status with the Lightning in stride this week, no?
Burnside (8:07 p.m. ET): You are a trained observer. See, Ovechkin does get it. I remember he showed up the draft last year to hang out with the Caps' draft picks.
Russo (8:07 p.m. ET): While the rest of the All-Stars are in the locker room, Ovechkin and Ilya Kovalchuk are watching from one of the benches.
Burnside (8:06 p.m. ET): You're being cruel, Joy, knowing full well that I cannot find my cell phone at this moment. Bless James Neal of Dallas, who just nudged Marc Staal (or was it Brandon Dubinsky?) into the boards. It wasn't quite Pete Rose, but it was nice to actually see a play that resembled a hockey play.
Russo (8:02 p.m. ET): Are you going to text your breakaway challenge winner before you go? Who's your winner?
Burnside (8:01 p.m. ET): Well, Carey Price just made a nice save, so the crowd showed a spasm of life, but I may have to revise my opinion of this. It's hard to have this kind of exhibition without it all looking more than a little lifeless. It's obvious they don't want to hurt each other or get hurt themselves, which is fine, but it doesn't do much for the energy level on the ice or in the stands. Blessedly the first period is over. Think I'll get another hot dog.
Russo (7:57 p.m. ET): OK, for the most part, the crowd is dead right now.
Russo (7:56 p.m. ET): Blast you, Burnside, for putting "Footloose" in my head now.
Burnside (7:55 p.m. ET): I actually like the idea of the YoungStars. Had a chance to talk to Mikkel Boedker of the Phoenix Coyotes the other day. He was sitting next to Michael Frolik of the Florida Panthers. Boedker played junior hockey last year in Kitchener for Pete DeBoer, who happens to be Frolik's new head coach in Florida. Don't know if either of them has met Kevin Bacon, but it's a kind of two degrees of separation kind of thing. Or not.
Russo (7:50 p.m. ET): Normally, I'd look forward to Boston's Milan Lucic hitting anything that moved, but he missed the event due to injury. But your boy David Setoguchi is here.
Burnside (7:48 p.m. ET): Good point. No knock on Crosby, but going back to my earlier point, it's not really his style. He'd do it if he was asked and he'd be diligent about it, but you're right Joy, it wouldn't be pretty.
OK, YoungStars are next. This year, it's sophomores versus rookies, which we hope will provide a modicum of drama compared to the grisly effort we saw two years ago in Dallas. As for last year in Atlanta, I can't even conjure up a memory from the YoungStars effort. Must have repressed it.
Russo (7:46 p.m. ET): Yes, donning some Elvis-like sunglasses and a floppy hat with a Canadian flag on top of it, he played it up for the Bell Centre crowd. I think this competition will do wonders for Russian Olympic team relations. Could you imagine Sidney Crosby doing that stunt?
Burnside (7:43 p.m. ET): Now if there's one guy who truly gets it, not just All-Star, but it all, it's Ovechkin. Cool that he co-opted supposed arch-enemy Evgeni Malkin to help with some props for his final shot. That was fun.
Russo (7:42 p.m. ET): He survived unscathed, but he didn't bring it for the hometown crowd. Steven Stamkos finished with a sliding shot. Ovie up next.
Burnside (7:40 p.m. ET): I just hope Alexei Kovalev doesn't fracture his orbital bone trying to head the puck like a soccer ball.
Russo (7:39 p.m. ET): True ... but you want to see them have some fun. I don't think there's anything wrong with seeing them loosen up a little bit.
Burnside (7:37 p.m. ET): Joy, watching Patrick Kane try and spice things up, I think I get why this event is doomed to fail. It's because it runs contrary to what hockey players are all about. In general (and exclude Sean Avery from this group), they shun the spotlight and decline to be self-promoters.
Russo (7:36 p.m. ET): Patrick Kane just used the butt-end of his stick to shoot the puck. Uhh ...
Burnside (7:35 p.m. ET): I've been unable to sleep the entire weekend wondering which trickster will come up with the most amazing trick shot. And you're right, my money's on Ovechkin. So, too, are the fans' money as they've started chanting Ovie. Or was it Kovy, as in Alexei Kovalev?
Russo (7:32 p.m. ET): Hot dogs, chips, wings ... you're off to a great start sir. Of course, there's the poutine. The local dish with fries, cheese curd and gravy does wonders for cholesterol. Now, Scott, I want you to embrace this All-Star experience the best you can. The breakaway challenge is up and Alex Ovechkin, I predict, will show us the moves.
Burnside (7:29 p.m. ET): Sorry for my absence there, Joy. I ate another world-famous grilled hot dog. How's that All-Star diet going? Yikes. Ah, the fastest skater competition. Nothing gets the blood going like watching guys skate around in a circle. They should have to jump over something, like an open flame or some quicksand or something. Andrew Cogliano from Edmonton just won it. Oil Nation will be so proud.
Joy Russo (7:25 p.m. ET): Geez, that would have gotten the crowd going ... but what number would Lecavalier have worn? We all know No. 4 here was raised to the rafters for Montreal great Jean Beliveau. And we were talking earlier today about the potential playoff matchups and how great they can be. Boston-Montreal in a later round, Boston-Pittsburgh or Washington-Pittsburgh in the first round. By the way, the new HD scoreboard here is sick. It's huge!
Scott Burnside (7:22 p.m. ET): Joy, I think Lecavalier should have had some fun and shown up wearing a Habs jersey. How much fun would that have been? Great, too, that Hab fans never forget, as there was a smattering of boos for Shane Doan, who was, a couple of years ago, accused of uttering an anti-French comment to a Francophone official. Plenty of boos, too, for the Boston Bruins here, Zdeno Chara, Marc Savard and Tim Thomas.
Joy Russo (7:20 p.m. ET): Well, we're here in Montreal for the SuperSkills competition sir, and we just got through an, um, interesting musical number, and then the spirited team introductions. If you weren't watching at home, puckheads, the Montreal crowd gave a huge ovation for hometown boy Vincent Lecavalier. Hmm, anyone think the Lightning captain will be traded here before his no-movement clause kicks in in July? Hmmmmmm.