St. Louis Blues

2020 NHL All-Star Skills: Winners, fun moments, Hertl as Bieber

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All-Star Skills competitions bring about memorable moments in plenty of years. Yet, when Tomas Hertl donned a Justin Bieber mask, fans received something truly unusual: nightmare fuel.

Luckily, that (honestly chilling) vision was just one memorable image from the 2020 NHL All-Star Skills competition. Let’s go over the events, winners, and other fun stuff.

Keeping the St. Louis (and surrounding areas) faithful happy

(Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)

Ryan O'Reilly rocked a Chiefs helmet during warm-ups, while Jordan Binnington also supported the Super Bowl-bound team. The Chiefs did the Blues a solid during their Stanley Cup run, so why not pay it forward? Most importantly: it looked funny.

Matthew Tkachuk also went for a cheap pop from the St. Louis crowd by taking off his jersey to reveal St. Louis Cardinals garb during the Shooting Stars competition.

The greatest fan service came during appearances by big names of old. Wayne Gretzky — announced, accurately if amusingly, as a former Blue — really kicked things off. Brett Hull took a shot during the Shooting Stars event, and Keith Tkachuk also joined in alongside Matthew and Brady Tkachuk.

Personally, though, the best moment of all of those cameos came when Al MacInnis showed that he could still provide one of the hardest shots of any human.

Dude is 56. Allegedly.

Shea Weber ended up reclaiming his Hardest Shot title, while Patrick Kane won Shooting Stars.

Hertl wears the Bieber mask, creates nightmare fuel

As great as Hertl was at playing off of Jordan Binnington’s feud/friendly wager with Jordan Binnington (the Blues can fill you in on that), the actual execution of the mask makes me think of Michael Myers. You know, the creepy-masked slasher movie villain guilty of untold fictional executions in the “Halloween” series.

It’s still funny stuff, so enjoy the video above. Just maybe don’t let those images of Hertl as Bieber sink into your soul.

*Shudders*

Hertl explained after the Skills competition that the mask slipped, which made it difficult for him to put a decent shot on Binnington. That slip might also explain why it made it look like Bieber was the face for the rebooted “Shape,” which would make Bieber the next William Shatner.

Anyway, Binnington made that save, and also made the St. Louis crowd happy by winning save relay with 10 saves.

Binnington also got to chirp “Biebs,” saying he expected more. Nicely done.

Who won 2020 NHL All-Star Skills events, including Elite Women’s 3-on-3

So, the strangeness was mostly contained in those moments above. Granted, the Shooting Stars seems like it needs some fine-tuning, and I personally prefer styrofoam or otherwise breakable targets to the digital ones in this year’s accuracy competition.

But beyond those quibbles, the rest of the action was straightforward enough that we can breeze through the winners in one convenient spot.

Winners of Elite 3-on-3 Women’s Hockey: Canada 2-1

Hardest Shot: Shea Weber (106.5 mph)

Fastest Skater: Mathew Barzal (13.175 seconds) upset Connor McDavid (13.215)

Accuracy Shooting: Jaccob Slavin (9.505 seconds)

Save Streak: Jordan Binnington (10 saves)

Shooting Stars: Patrick Kane (22, then 2 in tiebreaker)

Itching for more All-Star Skills fun? Check out the 2019 edition.

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

Patrick Kane beats Mitch Marner in tiebreaker to win first Shooting Stars event

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To jeers from the St. Louis faithful, Patrick Kane won the first rendition of the “Shooting Stars” competition at the 2020 NHL All-Star Skills Event.

Now, the crowd wasn’t booing just because Kane plays for the Blues’ rival Blackhawks in the Central Division. Some might have been grumbling because of some rules confusion. In particular, shooters going for 10 points often felt like they hit the mark, only to realize that they were foiled by the arc. That happened most dramatically when Mitch Marner thought he hit 10 during the tiebreaker round against Kane (and Ryan O'Reilly?). Once it was clear Marner got nothing, Kane pulled off the equivalent to getting a field goal to win in NFL overtime.

Shooting Stars brings some fun. It also is the sort of activity where you can get a pop from the crowd by bringing in retired stars. The audience received two such treats, as Keith Tkachuk joined his ragamuffin sons Brady and Matthew Tkachuk for an attempt. Brett Hull also took to the stage on behest of Ryan O’Reilly.

People worked the crowd beyond that. As often as Matthew Tkachuk plays the role of pro wrestling villain, he drew some easy cheers by showing off a Cardinals jersey. (To be fair, Matthew spent plenty of time in the area, so he might be a “shoot” Cardinals fan, to use pro wrestling parlance.)

So … maybe this one needs some fine-tuning, but it was really fun, including strong showings from Marie-Philip Poulin and Hilary Knight. Hockey combining Dude Perfect trick shot videos with Skee-Ball seems like a winner. Now they just need to print out tickets so people can earn worthless nicknacks.

Results

Patrick Kane – 22, “2” in tiebreaker

Mitch Marner – 22, narrowly missed 10 in tiebreaker
Matthew Tkachuk – 20
Marie-Philip Poulin – 15
Hilary Knight – 14
Ryan O’Reilly – 14
David Perron – 14
Tyler Seguin – 14
David Pastrnak – 10
Brady Tkachuk – 6

PHT Time Machine: Looking back at the 1988 NHL All-Star Game in St. Louis

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Throughout the season we will be taking an occasional look back at some significant moments in NHL history. This is the PHT Time Machine. Today we look back to February 9, 1988, the most recent time the St. Louis Blues played host to the NHL All-Star Game. 

With the St. Louis Blues playing host to the NHL All-Star Game for the third time in franchise history this weekend, we wanted to take a quick look back to the most recent time they hosted it during the 1987-88 season.

It ended up being a 6-5 overtime win for the Wales Conference, a game that was highlighted by six points — including a hat trick and the game-winning goal — for Pittsburgh Penguins center Mario Lemieux.

Let’s dig into it.

The format and the uniforms

The 1987-88 season marked the return of the traditional NHL All-Star game after the league took a break during the 1986-87 season for Rendez-Vous ’87, a two-game series in Quebec that saw the NHL All-Stars play against the Soviet Union team (they split the series with the Soviets winning 8-7 on aggregate).

For 1988, it was back to the Wales Conference vs. the Campbell Conference, as it had been for the previous 11 All-Star Games.

This was also two years before the NHL’s very first All-Star skills competition, which would not be introduced until the 1990 game in Pittsburgh.

So let’s talk about the uniforms because — well — these left something to be desired. The NHL made a minor change to them by replacing the “Wales” and “Campbell” diagonal script across the front with the NHL logo. To call them bland would be an understatement. Here we see Dave Poulin, Ron Hextall, and Kjell Samuelsson modeling them before the game, sharing the exact amount of excitement these uniforms deserve.

Look at Hextall’s pads!

The beginning of the end of the Oilers’ dynasty

The Edmonton Oilers were on their way to their fourth Stanley Cup in five years and understandably had the largest presence at the game.

Glen Sather served as coach, while the Oilers had a league-high six players in the game: Wayne Gretzky, Jari Kurri, Glenn Anderson, Kevin Lowe, Mark Messier, and Grant Fuhr.

Gretzky, Kurri, Lowe, and Fuhr were starters.

But while the Oilers were still at the top of the NHL, their dynasty was starting to develop some cracks.

Defenseman Paul Coffey had been traded to Pittsburgh just a few months earlier (he started for the Wales Conference), while Gretzky would be traded to the Los Angeles Kings at the end of this season. The Oilers would still win another Stanley Cup in 1990 and play in a couple of of Campbell Conference Finals, but this season was one of the last times they were truly at the height of their power as an NHL dynasty.

Twenty-three future Hall of Famers on the ice

Every All-Star is a collection of amazing talent, and this one had a ton of the game’s all-time giants, including 23 future Hall of Famers.

Al MacInnis, Jari Kurri, Luc Robitaille, Grant Fuhr, Wayne Gretzky, Glenn Anderson, Dale Hawerchuk, Mark Messier, Denis Savard, Steve Yzerman, Joe Nieuwendyk, Paul Coffey, Mario Lemieux, Denis Potvin, Michael Goulet, Ray Bourque, Mark Howe, Cam Neely, Mike Gartner, Pat LaFontaine, Larry Robinson, Peter Stastny, and Patrick Roy.

Mario Lemieux truly begins to breakout, dominates game

This was Lemieux’s fourth season in the NHL and it was already clear that there was something special about him.

He had already won the Calder Trophy as rookie of the year, won the Lester B. Pearson award in 1986, had played in two other All-Star Games, and had two top-four finishes in Hart Trophy voting. He was great. But at this point his team still stunk (trading for Coffey helped turn that around) and he was still mostly playing in Gretzky’s shadow.

But the 1987-88 season was when that all started to change.

Lemieux would go on to lead the league in goals and total points for the first time in his career, while also winning his first MVP award even though the Penguins missed the playoffs (no player on a non-playoff team has won it since).

He also completely took of the All-Star game with what was then a record-setting six points (factoring into every goal his team scored!), including a hat trick and the game-winning goal in overtime.

For more stories from the PHT Time Machine, click here.

Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.

Brady, Matthew Tkachuk ready for memorable All-Star experience

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ST. LOUIS — It was always in Brady Tkachuk’s plans to head to St. Louis to support his brother Matthew in the NHL All-Star Game. But when a wrist injury forced Auston Matthews to withdraw, the Senators forward cut short his bye week vacation in the Bahamas to join the Atlantic Division team.

“It definitely wrinkles my original plans a little bit but I’m so thankful and so happy be here in St. Louis,” Brady said during Thursday’s NHL All-Star Media Day. “Just being named an NHL All-Star is a huge honor, but getting the opportunity to share it on the ice with my brother and in the city we grew up in is going to be surreal.”

It will be one big happy family reunion in a rink where they spent so much time as kids watching their dad play for the Blues.

“We’ve probably scored 2,000 goals in that building as kids,” said Matthew. “We were here all the time, running around the locker room, probably torturing the trainers.”

“I remember so many good times like that at the rink with dad and my brother growing up,” said Brady. “We have a bunch of pictures of stuff like that and it’s crazy to think that we’ll get to make more memories like that this weekend.”

Keith Tkachuk spent nine years in St. Louis, which allowed Brady and Matthew plenty of ice time and the chance to be around NHL players. Those experiences rubbed off on the boys and it became clear to Keith’s teammates that the boys had hockey in their blood.

[MORE: NHL All-Star Game 2020: Rosters, schedule, jerseys, more]

“You could tell those two boys, from Day One, they loved the game,” said longtime Blues defenseman Al MacInnis. “They always had hockey sticks in their hands. They talked about hockey. They were students of the game as they were growing up. They would learn the history. They knew all the players.”

The experience also afforded Brady and Matthew the chance to join their dad for two of his five NHL All-Star Game appearances in 2004 and 2009.

You may have seen the picture of a six-year-old Matthew and four-year-old Brady during the 2004 festivities in Minnesota. Who knew 16 years later they’d be in the NHL and All-Stars themselves.

Getty Images

It was when the boys were a little older during the 2009 event that they started idolizing players other than Keith.

“We looked up to my dad, but I think at something like that, we were more obsessed with guys like [Patrick Kane],” Matthew said. “I remember [Alex Ovechkin] was there and [Evgeni Malkin]. All these guys were there, and those were my favorite players growing up watching.

“And so I think that once we were able to be at the age where we were fans of the game and fans of these guys, that’s where we started to appreciate a lot. We got tons of pictures. My mom always made us take pictures. It was fun to be a part of something like that, especially at the age where we could remember it.”

Now here they are as All-Stars, playing in an event with Kane and two of their dad’s former teammates, Alex Pietrangelo and T.J. Oshie. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for the Tkachuks and they’re going to enjoy it as much as they can.

“Honestly, I don’t think we’ve ever talked about this,” Brady said. “It’s just crazy how it’s worked out. I think Matthew and I are just going into it just to have as much fun as we can.”

The 2020 NHL All-Star Skills Competition will take place on Friday, Jan. 24 (8 p.m. ET, NBCSN) and the 2020 NHL All-Star Game will be on Saturday, Jan. 25 (8 p.m. ET, NBC).

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Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

With champs and the experience, Central driving force of ASG

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If experience matters, the Central Division will have an edge at the NHL All-Star Game Saturday night in St. Louis.

Only two of its 11 players, winger David Perron and Jordan Binnington of the St. Louis Blues, are playing in this event for the first time. This squad features six players who have played in three or more All-Star Games.

Each of its selected players is expected to play at Enterprise Center, led by captain Nathan MacKinnon of the Colorado Avalanche and Chicago Blackhawks winger Patrick Kane.

The other division teams include multiple substitutions and one fill-in coach, with Arizona Coyotes coach Rick Tocchet taking over the Pacific Division team from fired Vegas Golden Knights coach Gerard Gallant.

The Central squad will also feature a home-ice advantage while deploying four Blues, including defenseman Alex Pietrangelo and center Ryan O'Reilly. Blues coach Craig Berube is at its helm.

“You want to come home, be the champion, especially in our building,” O’Reilly said. “There’s four of us. The feeling kind of rises. Let’s give the fans what they want. They want to see our division be the strongest division.”

On the down side for the Central team, neither goaltender comes into this competition on a roll. Binnington has a 3.57 goals-against average and an .865 save percentage in six January starts while Winnipeg Jets netminder Connor Hellebuyck is 3-5-1 this month with a 3.29 GAA and .898 percentage.

On-ice chemistry could also give the Pacific squad an edge. Tocchet can ride the dynamic duo of Edmonton Oilers forwards Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl.

“I’ll talk to a couple of guys to see who they want to play with, but I’m sure Draisaitl and McDavid, I’ll stay out of their way on that one.” Tocchet said.

He can also feature forward/defenseman teammate combinations with Matthew Tkachuk and Mark Giordano of the Calgary Flames and Elias Pettersson with Quinn Hughes of the Vancouver Canucks.

“I like to play something for competition, not for nothing,” Tocchet said. “I don’t want players to get hurt. I think you have to have competitive juices in there. I’m not sure that you want 3-on-0s going back and forth. Maybe 2-on-1s, that’s fine. But not 3-on-0.”

The Metropolitan Division suffered the most casualties for this game. Washington Capitals winger Alex Ovechkin opted not to play and forwards Artemi Panarin (New York Rangers), Jake Guentzel (Pittsburgh Penguins) and Kyle Palmieri (New Jersey Devils) bowed out due to injuries.

Also missing from the Metropolitan squad due to injuries are defenseman Dougie Hamilton (Carolina Hurricanes) and goaltender Joonas Korpisalo (Columbus Blue Jackets).

“It’s tough to look at a team and say, ‘Oh, they’re a little bit weaker’ or anything like that,” O’Reilly said. “You have the elite of the elite. It’s going to be tough.”

The Atlantic Division team lost Toronto Maple Leafs center Auston Matthews to a wrist injury. Ottawa Senator forward Brady Tkachuk replaced Matthews, who is tied for second in the NHL with 34 goals this season.

“You want to compete out there and participate,” said Matthews, who came to St. Louis to participate in off-ice activities. “Getting a couple of extra days to heal and rest is important, but I think it was also important for me to be here. It’s a big honor to be selected for the All-Star Game.”