The Breakaway Challenge is no more, but the often ridiculous event at the skills competition offered up some fantastic moments and great laughs. Take a look back at the five best attempts.
The highlight of the NBA’s all-star weekend, almost without fail, is the Slam Dunk Contest. The event has delivered moments like Michael Jordan’s foul line dunk, Vince Carter’s forearm in the rim jam and last season’s phenomenal showdown between Aaron Gordon and Zach LaVine.
It would only make sense then that the NHL would try its hand at imitating the event, creating the Breakaway Challenge as its version of the dunk competition. The goal was simple: wow the crowd with incredible displays of puckhandling or win them over with props and creativity. Most players went for the latter, and it’s been one of the more ridiculous and comical events at the all-star weekend over the past six skills competitions.
However, after its six-season run as one of the weekend’s events, the NHL has decided to do away with the Breakaway Challenge, according to Sportsnet’s Nick Kypreos. The news only a couple of weeks before the league is set to head to Los Angeles for the All-Star Game and is at least a slight indication that some new competitions could be part of the format.
With the Breakaway Challenge no more, though, let’s take a look back at five of the very best and most memorable moments from the contest:
5. Johansen gets some help, but Voracek one-ups him
Ryan Johansen had the Columbus crowd in the palm of his hands by using an Ohio State jersey as a prop, and he really got the crowd on its feet by getting a youngster to help bury a shot. It was a great moment, for sure, but Jakub Voracek really got the crowd laughing by stealing Johansen’s idea with the help of another kid on hand: diminutive Flames star Johnny Gaudreau.
4. Ovechkin is the new Captain Canada
If this is the end of the Breakaway Challenge for good, then Alex Ovechkin will go down as the greatest participant the competition has ever had. He won the first ever event in 2008 and with the chance to defend his crown in 2009, he pulled out all the stops, getting a hand from fellow countryman Evgeni Malkin and endearing himself to the Montreal crowd with an interesting choice of headwear.
3. The transformation of Burns
It almost doesn’t matter which team you support when it comes to Brent Burns. He’s an absolute stud on the blueline for the Sharks, he’s one of the most exciting players in the game, he’s got a unique love of animals and he has a Harry Potter tattoo. That last one will only please a certain generation of fan, but it’s indicative of the personality he brings. Burns also isn’t afraid to make light of his grizzled appearance, and he pulled off the perfect gag at the 2016 All-Star Game.
2. SuperKane takes center stage in Ottawa
Ovechkin was the king of the Breakaway Challenge for three straight All-Star Games, and it took a superhuman performance by Patrick Kane for someone to finally take the crown from the ‘Great 8.’ Kane went prop heavy with his attempts, but the clever use of an “exploding” puck was really the topper.
1. Subban pays tribute to greatness
As he continues his career well into his 40s, Jaromir Jagr’s status as one of the game’s most beloved players grows, and that seemingly goes for both players and fans alike. So, how do you win over an entire crowd and one of the greatest players the game has ever seen in one breakaway attempt? Well, you throw on a mullet, a Jagr jersey, some Cooperalls and cap it off with a salute.
Ryan Callahan’s battle back from a hip injury cost him eight games to start the season, put him out of action for all of December and is now threatening to cost him a significant chunk of the second half of the campaign.
In the off-season, the Ryan Callahan got the bad news that the surgery to repair a hip labral tear would keep him on the shelf for five months. That meant missing the World Cup of Hockey, sitting out the start of the campaign and not making his way back into the lineup until the end of October.
But no one would have expected that Callahan’s issues with his hip would get quite this bad.
After returning to action for the Lightning’s final game of October, Callahan suited up for the next 14 games, but with his injury flaring up, he was forced to sit out the next 15 games, missing more than a month of action. He finally got back into action to for Tampa Bay’s first game of 2017, but less than a week later Callahan was back on the sideline and the Lightning don’t expect him back anytime soon. It was announced that the “nagging lower-body injury” would force Callahan out for another four weeks.
Asked about the injury, Lightning coach Jon Cooper was open about the situation, admitting there was “lot’s of concern” about Callahan’s health at the moment.
“Everybody knows who follows our team what a gamer he is, his passion to play and to help our team, especially when things haven't gone as well as we'd have hoped,” Cooper said, per TampaBayLightning.com. “For him to get in for (three) games and have to be out with some lingering effects with some past issues he's had, it's killing the kid. So, you feel for him. We're missing an emotional leader. It's tough all the way around.”
And there is no doubt concern for Callahan, who now has played only 18 games this season and could potentially play less than half the campaign by the time he gets back into action. The only good news in all of this, if you can call it that, is that the four weeks Callahan is out will likely include the weeklong break the Lightning get in mid-February. That will give him ample opportunity to heal up without the worry of missing action.
More than the short-term, though, the Lightning have to be worried about what Callahan’s injury could mean for the future. Since coming over to Tampa Bay in a blockbuster deal at the 2014 trade deadline, Callahan hasn’t had to miss much time at all. All told, he has been sidelined for just 14 games over the past two seasons. However, with his current ailment persisting for roughly seven months post-surgery, there has to be some worry that the next three seasons of his contract could be awfully tough to get through.
That has to be a worry for Lightning GM Steve Yzerman, too. It wouldn’t be too tough a criticism to call the Callahan contract one that the Lightning wish they could get out from under because of the term and salary remaining for a player who has become a fixture in middle-to-bottom half of the lineup but is out-earning all but Ben Bishop and Steven Stamkos this season. And with three years at $5.8-million per remaining, the contract could provide a significant roadblock when it comes to inking some of the free agents Tampa Bay will have to deal with in the near future, including Ondrej Palat, Tyler Johnson and Jonathan Drouin.
A healthy Callahan gives the Lightning more options when it comes to making their roster work, even if that means finding creative ways to maneuver around the salary cap due to his hefty contract. But if the injury continues to haunt him, putting him in and out of the lineup for the next few seasons, that’s the worst-case scenario for everyone.
The Chicago Blackhawks superstar is climbing up the scoring charts again and his ability to beguile goaltenders with his intentions is helping him get there
Don't look now, but Patrick Kane is gunning for another Art Ross Trophy. The Chicago Blackhawks superstar has 10 points in his past six games and currently sits just behind Edmonton wunderkind Connor McDavid for the NHL scoring lead.
The Blackhawks just dropped a 3-2 contest to Minnesota (no shame there; the Wild are a heavy outfit), but Kane was a terror, throwing two goals past Vezina favorite Devan Dubnyk. What's most interesting about Kane's attack is how he put the shots past Dubnyk. Here's the first one, which admittedly, probably came with some luck:
OK, Kane's not an evil genius for knuckling one under Dubnyk because the puck was rolling, but let's go to the second goal for a better example of his craftiness:
There we go. Firing a rocket that Dubnyk clearly wasn't prepared for, and doing so amidst a bunch of skates when most shooters would have pulled the puck out of the fray first. Few players are as confident as Kane is with the puck and that's a weapon he uses to exploit goaltenders time and again. Historically, just look back to the most famous goal he ever scored, the overtime Stanley Cup game-winner against Philadelphia – as we've all seen countless times, Kane was basically the only person in the arena who knew the puck had gone in. Interesting side note – Colorado's Matt Duchene once told me that he knew the puck had gone in right away because he had been studying the older Kane and seen the trick once before. But for those of us who aren't elite hockey players, Kane's maneuvers are consistently quite impressive.
In an era where goal-scoring is at a premium, there's a reason why Kane has still been successful and his obfuscation is a big part of it. Same goes for Connor McDavid, Sidney Crosby and Auston Matthews – they're thinking about offense on a different level from mere mortals. On the other end of the spectrum, you still have a couple of elite scorers who can overpower netminders with their shots: Patrik Laine and Alex Ovechkin, who are currently tied in both goals and points, which I believe is a nice bit of cosmic alignment.
Last year, Kane won the scoring crown with 106 points and he was the only NHLer to hit triple digits. Right now, no one is on pace to break 100, though Crosby is in the ballpark if he has a hot second half. Defensive schemes and excellent goaltenders are suppressing offense right now, but at least we still have a few artists like Kane working on the assembly line.
Canadiens winger Andrew Shaw was booted from Saturday’s game against the New York Rangers for a blindside hit on Jesper Fast. Shaw was playing in his first game after missing nearly a month due to a concussion.
Andrew Shaw made his return to the Montreal Canadiens’ lineup Saturday night after spending the past 14 games on the sideline with a concussion, and less than 17 minutes into his first period of play in nearly a month, Shaw found himself hitting the showers early.
Shaw earned himself the boot from Saturday’s game with the Rangers late for a highly questionable hit on Jesper Fast as he was exiting New York’s zone. Shortly after Fast moved the puck up ice, Shaw approached from the right wing, cut hard towards Fast and drove clean through Rangers winger. The hit sent Fast crashing hard to the ice, and Shaw was chased down by New York’s J.T. Miller, who dropped the gloves in defense of Fast.
With only minutes remaining in the period, Shaw headed to the dressing room as a result of the fight, but the officials ensured that his night was over by handing a major for interference and a game misconduct:
The hit by Shaw is definitely one the league will be taking a look at, but it’s unlikely the hit warrants supplemental discipline. Despite the fact it’s a blindside blow and one that came far later than it should have, Shaw appears to have caught Fast squarely on the shoulder. The result of the hit was unfortunate, to be sure, but that alone won’t make the hit worthy of a suspension for Shaw. In addition, the league may very well rule that Shaw’s punishment of a major penalty and what amounts to two-thirds of a game with the misconduct will suffice.
Even with all of that, though, it wouldn’t be shocking if someone from the league reaches out to Shaw, at the very least. He hasn’t been in the good books with the league almost from the outset of the season. In his very first game in a Canadiens uniform during the pre-season, Shaw landed himself a three-game pre-season ban for a hit from behind and upon returning to the lineup found himself again the target of suspension chatter for a slew foot in his regular season debut. The league reviewed the play, but no discipline was handed out beyond the match penalty Shaw was given.
When he’s been making headlines for the right reasons, Shaw, 25, has been exactly as advertised for the Canadiens. He has six goals and 15 points in 29 games and has been an agitator in the middle of the lineup.