The Eastern Conference defeated the Western Conference in the 2016 Honda NHL All-Star Skills Competition yesterday with a little bit of help from the Devils’ Cory Schneider.
The East dominated in almost all categories, including the “Fastest Skater,” winning 5-1; the “Breakaway Challenge,” winning 1-0; the “Accuracy Shooting,” winning 3-2; and the “NHL Shootout,” winning 17-4. The West won the “Skills Challenge Relay,” 2-1 and the “Hardest Shot,” 3-2.
The “NHL Shootout” was where goalies got to shine. In three rounds of two minutes, shooters would take turns skating in and peppering the goalies (Roberto Luongo of the Panthers, Braden Holtby of the Capitals and Schneider) with shots. There was also a special Discover Card puck that was worth two points instead of the usual one point for a game puck, if scored with.
Eastern goalies allowed only two goals on 28 shots. Luongo was a perfect nine-for-nine. The East won the Skills Competition by a total of 29-12, allowing their captains (Jaromir Jagr of the Panthers – Atlantic Division and John Tavares of the Islanders – Metropolitan Division) to choose whether they wanted to play their game in the first or second period of Sunday’s three-on-three mini tournament at Bridgestone Arena in Nashville. They chose to go first. The Western Conference (Central versus Pacific Divisions) will go on in the second twenty minutes.
Things took a little while to get warmed up, as Evgeni Malkin of the Penguins was the only player to score in the first round, which featured 18 shots, according to NHL.com. This was the round where Luongo was perfect. Cory went on in the third round and faced John Scott (formerly of the Arizona Coyotes, now with the St. John’s IceCaps, the AHL affiliate of the Canadiens [he went to the game, as he was voted in as captain of the Pacific Division by the fans]), Shea Weber of the host Predators, Tyler Seguin of the Stars, Corey Perry of the Ducks, Drew Doughty of the Kings and Roman Josi also of the Predators. He let in one goal to Seguin. Holtby let in the other to Joe Pavelski of the San Jose Sharks.
Overall a good showing not just for Schneider, but for all three of the East’s goaltenders in general, as they all came through for their Conference. All-Star games and competitions have, historically, not been kind to goalies, as the emphasis is on offense and scoring, but they held their own here.
Another note from the All-Star festivities saw Schneider debut new pads which feature crossed guitars when the pads are closed. Schneider said that he will likely only wear them for the All-Star weekend and will auction them off for charity or a good cause afterwards.