HARDEST SHOT — NOT
Big Buff’s best blast too slow
COLUMBUS — Dustin Byfuglien can bring it — just ask any of his Winnipeg Jets teammates or National Hockey League rivals who stand in front of the net trying to tip or block one of his howitzers from the point.
But even the Jets mammoth defenceman had to tip his hat to Shea Weber of the Nashville Predators, who won Saturday night’s Hardest Shot Competition at the NHL All- Stars Skills Competition.
Weber hit 108.5 miles per hour on his shot. Byfuglien topped out at 97.3
“It’s not right. There’s guys that got to get hit with that thing,” said Byfuglien, grinning. “It’s amazing. It’s something you work on.
“I knew I’d really have to bring it. Maybe I’ll push for next time.”
Byfuglien was one of four shooters selected for Team Foligno in the hardest shot event, including Alex Ovechkin of the Washington Capitals, Brent Burns of the San Jose Sharks and Tampa Bay Lightning star Steven Stamkos.
Weber, representing Team Toews, missed the net on his first attempt but — in the last shot of the event — unleashed his fury. Weber estimated the hardest he had shot before was in the 106-range.
“I knew I could at least shoot that hard in the past, so it’s tough,” said Weber. “But I really hadn’t done it. We didn’t do it last year, obviously, because of the Olympics. You don’t do that in games and I don’t practise it in practice, so it’s such a weird thing to do. The nerves obviously showed on the first one when I put it in the corner.”
FYI, the record in the event it 108.8, set by Zdeno Chara of the Boston Bruins in 2012.
Asked if the hardest shot is the marquee event of the skills competition, Toews offered his insight.
“Well, I think it’s cool because you hear players at any level when they get the chance to test their shots they want to compare themselves to the all-time greats, the (Al) MacInnises and the (Al) Iafrates and the Charas,” said Toews. “And tonight, Weber. Some of us don’t ever want to know the answers to that. So we’ll just hide behind whatever veil there is and let it remain a mystery, I guess.”
But back to Byfuglien... the veteran defenceman rarely spends a day at the rink without smiling a gazillion times. And Saturday night was no different. His highlight?
“Just being a part of all this, the group of guys in here, and enjoying everything,” he said. “It’s fun. It’s the whole thing. It’s the experience... the lockerroom, being outside, family. It’s good to be a part of everything.”
Byfuglien also participated in the shootout competition, the night’s final event, beating Jaroslav Halak of the New York Islanders on a nifty backhand. When it was suggested his goal might help him convince Jets coach Paul Maurice to give him regular opportunities in the real shootout, Byfuglien smiled.
“Yeah. I’ll always throw it out there when I feel like it,” he said. “It’s not my specialty, but knowing I had a little more time and it’s more for fun, I thought I’d try a nice little move and see what happens.”
The weekend wraps up today with the all-star game. Byfuglien isn’t sure who he’ll be paired with defensively. Then, again, that doesn’t really matter. His goal for the weekend finale is simple.
“Just to have fun,” said Byfuglien. “I mean, we’ve got to grind throughout the year. Just to be on the ice catching passes from some different players makes the game fun. I’m going to enjoy it.”
Winnipeg Jets defenceman Dustin Byfuglien leans into one during the hardest shot event during the NHL All- Star skills competition in Columbus Saturday. Buff’s side, Team Foligno, won the overall competition.
Ottawa Senators’ Mike Hoffman rounds the pylons during a heat in the fastest skater competition (above). TV viewers caught some cool angles thanks to a camera mounted on St. Louis goalie Brian Elliot (top left), while Columbus Blue Jacket Ryan Johansen...