As in any sport, All-Star weekend for the NHL is about celebrating the biggest names and most accomplished players in hockey. The opening of tonight’s skills competition, though, was decided by its two least-recognizable participants.
Team Alfredsson took the early lead in the skills challenge by winning the Fastest Skater event 4-2. In the deciding race, New York Rangers winger Carl Hagelin won the competition by defeating fellow rookie Colin Greening of the hometown Ottawa Senators.
The format of the competition required that Team Alfredsson and Team Chara each include one rookie representative to race against each other. Still, with marquee stars like Phil Kessel and Marian Hossa in the running, few would’ve predicted that the first-year players would each post their teams’ fastest time.
The initial heat between Greening and Hagelin went to the Ottawa center by the slimmest of margins, officially a .03-second difference. In the rematch, though, Hagelin won by a comparatively decisive 0.9 seconds.
The resulting two-point lead for Team Alfredsson is bigger than it looks, considering that no event in the skills competition has more points up for grabs than the six that were scored in the Fastest Skater portion. It’s entirely possible that the narrow defeat suffered by Greening will give his Ottawa teammate the margin he needs to get a team victory over Zdeno Chara’s squad tonight.
Team Chara might have fared even worse in this contest if Keith Yandle of the Coyotes hadn’t lost his footing in the far turn of his heat, giving Toronto’s Kessel an easy (0.5 second) win.