By Adam Hess
NASHVILLE – This weekend, I was at the NHL All-Star Game, covering the events for SB Nation’s Second City Hockey. I was able to take part in the Media Day on Friday, attend both the Skills Competition on Saturday and 3-on-3 All-Star Tournament on Sunday. I spoke with Patrick Kane, former Blackhawk Brandon Saad, and All-Star MVP John Scott, among others.
There were a few key takeaways from the weekend that I felt deserved discussion but didn’t quite warrant full write-ups or I already wrote up for SCH. You can check out those articles I wrote for that site, but here are some other musings from the weekend.
Saad on the ‘Hawks
Brandon Saad was asked quite a bit about his time with the Blackhawks and how that contributed to his career success. He had high praises for former linemates Jonathan Toews and Marian Hossa.
“To be a young guy and be around those type of players that teach you the right habits, and how to conduct yourself on and off the ice, it’s been huge for my career. It’s something I’m still learning, but those are two special guys right there.”
The Blackhawks have clearly missed having Saad on their top line to flank Toews and Hossa. The duo has struggled to generate strong chemistry with another player on their line.
Meanwhile Saad has played well in Columbus. He leads the Blue Jackets in points with 35 through 50 games this year.
Kane and Scott have a good time together
Patrick Kane and John Scott are known to be good friends. Scott has a reputation as a good locker room guy, and the two became friends when Scott was with the Blackhawks in 2011-12. This weekend, their friendship was on display as they went back-and-forth giving each other a hard time.
During Friday’s Media Day, Scott joked that Kane should stay away from him because “I don’t like him.” Saturday night at the Skills Competition, Scott laughed in Kane’s face after the Nashville crowd showered him with loud, raucous booing.
In my opinion, the best moment of the weekend between the two came in the Western Conference All-Star game, when Scott laid Kane out with a big hit at center ice. Scott then took the puck on a breakaway, only to be stopped. Kane went the other way and scored, and then the two “fought.” It was a fake fight – they just dropped the gloves and wrestled a bit – but it was funny nonetheless.
The two were clearly having a good time this weekend, and it was awesome to watch.
Players love the 3-on-3 format
The biggest takeaway from the weekend was how much the players clearly enjoyed the new 3-on-3 tournament format to the All-Star Game. It was evident right away that the players were taking pride in these games. They were playing hard and playing to win.
There were a few key moments of play that stick out in my mind that made it evident the players were enjoying themselves and wanting to win. At one point Ryan O’Reilly of the Buffalo Sabres was forechecking so hard that he chased an opponent behind the net. I watched O’Reilly prepare to lay a big hit on the player before remembering he was in the All-Star Game and holding up.
Another came from Ottawa’s Erik Karlsson. With a minute left in the championship game and the Atlantic Division down 1-0, the puck was headed toward the blue-line and out of the zone, with no one there to keep it in. Karlsson went into an all-out sprint to beat the puck to the blue line and kept it in to keep play alive. That kind of effort is something we haven’t seen in the All-Star game in years.
Some players even said that they enjoyed the format so much that they’d like to see it applied in some way to Saturday night’s events as well, perhaps in place of some of the Skills Competition events. The NHL could make the tournament a bit of a two-day deal, so long as it doesn’t get over complicated like the AHL All-Star Game was.