This is why the draft is exciting. There's a lot of activity, you get all these people in one place. It's a time of great hope for our league. We see these great young players coming in - every guy we draft we think is going to play even it though a lot of them never do - and everyone gets to stand up and hug their mom. It's cool, the draft is cool.
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.
Steve Mason respects Alex Ovechkin’s one-timer enough that the assumption the blast was coming drew the Flyers goaltender all the way out of his crease, leaving an empty-net for Matt Niskanen to tap home a simple tally.
Lack was on to something, too, because later in the same game Ovechkin scored his 1,000th point, he blasted home a shot from the newly minted OviZoid. But don’t go thinking Ovechkin isn’t aware that he’s often firing from the same position on the ice, and don’t assume that the ‘Great 8’ isn’t a cerebral enough player to use that against opposition netminders.
Early in the third period of Sunday’s meeting with the Philadelphia Flyers, the Capitals were breaking up ice on a 2-on-1 with Ovechkin as the apparent triggerman for a pass from Nicklas Backstrom. As Ovechkin opened up his body and a pass came across, he wound up like he was going to lay another blast on goal from the OviZoid, but instead of releasing the one-timer, Ovechkin tapped a one-timed pass into the middle of the ice for the easiest non-empty net goal Washington blueliner Matt Niskanen will ever score:
There’s committing to a save, there’s overcommitting to a sniper’s shot and then there’s whatever Ovechkin made Flyers netminder Steve Mason do on that play. The assumption that Ovechkin wouldn’t pass up the opportunity to rifle a one-timer on goal was enough to literally yank Mason all the way out of his crease. That’s a special kind of respect given to a player’s shooting ability.
The marker was Niskanen’s third of the year, which would be followed only minutes later by his fourth of the campaign, but neither tally would really matter all that much in the grand scheme of things. Niskanen’s goals, the third and fourth of the night for Washington, were simply the icing on the cake in a 5-0 victory over Philadelphia.
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.
Joe Thornton hit the showers early on Saturday night, getting tagged with a major and game misconduct for a spear on Blues center Paul Stastny. Officials made the right call, too.
Joe Thornton has never been all that afraid of mixing it up or using some stick work here and there to let opponents know he’s going to be in their face all night, but even the most wily of veterans can have their best attempt at a sneakily dirty play backfire. That’s exactly what happened midway through the Sharks’ Saturday meeting with the St. Louis Blues.
Shortly after the midway point of the second period, Thornton got mixed up with Blues center Paul Stastny, who delivered a subtle hack to the upper thigh of Thornton. As retaliation, Thornton used his stick blade as a pitchfork and dropped a slight stab into the gut area of Stastny, causing him to buckle and stumble before he got back to his feet.
At the time the play happened, it was hard to tell exactly what referees were about to tag Thornton for, but the eagle-eyed officials picked up the spear and they came down hard on Thornton for his transgression. He was handed a major penalty for spearing and given the gate:
The more rough and tumble of hockey fans may look at the play and scoff at Thornton getting handed both a major and game misconduct for a spear that really didn’t look all that bad, but by the letter of the law, the officials got it right.
Rule 62 pertains to spearing, and the penalties handed out for Thornton’s actions fit the crime. According to rule 62.3, a major penalty is handed out to any player who spears an opponent and makes contact, with rule 62.5 indicating that any major penalty for spearing is to be paired with a game misconduct. The only thing that would have saved Thornton in this instance — aside from, you know, not spearing Stastny — would have been if he missed Stastny with the stick. A spearing attempt that misses an opponent can be met with a double minor.
While there’s no certainty that Thornton will receive a fine for spearing Stastny, he has opened himself up to potential supplemental discipline. He has only a minor history with the Department of Player Safety over the past several seasons, with the lone incident coincidentally occurring against St. Louis. Thornton received a two-game ban for a hit on Blues winger David Perron back in November 2010.