Monday, January 27, 2020

Weekend power rankings: Counting down the best and worst from All-Star weekend

I’ll get the spoiler out of the way early: the rankings aren’t changing this week. It wouldn’t make sense since over half of the league’s teams didn’t play at all last week and most of the ones that did only had one game. There just wasn’t much meaningful NHL action to pay attention to.

Instead, all eyes were on All-Star weekend. With that in mind, let’s offer up a special All-Star themed top and bottom five from St. Louis before we get to the week’s regular rankings.

The good

5. The “Shooting Stars” contest, in theory: I’m constantly criticizing the NHL for being too conservative and afraid to try new things, so I have to give them credit for at least giving this a shot. These types of Dude Perfect-style trick shots are huge with young fans, and there was the potential for some fun viral moments. No risk, no reward, so here’s to the league for giving it a try.

4. All those Blues cameos: It was cool to see Wayne Gretzky and Bernie Federko, the Brett Hull appearance was well done, and I was even on board with the Al MacInnis thing. Does anyone believe that a 50-something retiree taking half a windup with a wooden stick could hit 101.4 on a radar gun that wasn’t even turned on? Of course not. (And how funny was it when they forgot to turn them back on for Seth Jones?) But we can embrace a little kayfabe on that one, and it was fun to see all these old faces. The only piece missing was Mike Keenan showing up and trading everyone.

3. Matthew Tkachuk: He was a local story, he kind of backchecked once or twice, he tried some crazy moves and just seemed to be enjoying himself. And the running subplot with him and Leon Draisaitl was fun too.

2. The women’s 3-on-3: It was an important moment, giving fans (especially young girls) a chance to see some of the best women on the planet in a showcase game. But even beyond that, it was just good hockey, with the players going hard and generating plenty of chances while the goalies kept the score from getting silly. And more importantly, they reminded us that it is possible to take the ice on All-Star weekend and try.

1. Laila: You rock, kid. And you’re a better announcer than half the full-time guys.

Honorable mentions: Blues fans trying to figure out what to do with Patrick Kane, Dom going 9-0, Alex Letang, Quinn Hughes, the Tomas Hertl/Justin Bieber thing that at least tried to be funny, all the mascot stuff except for this, a final that was close down to the end and even looked vaguely competitive for a shift or two.

The bad

5. The “Shooting Stars” contest, in execution: Way too complicated, way too many targets and too many cases of players seeming to hit the 10-pointer only to find out that it didn’t count for reasons that were never explained. The fact that players got together and decided not to bother trying for the best scores didn’t help. There’s something here worth keeping, so here’s hoping the league finds a way to make this work better and tries again next year.

4. Mic’d up goalies: We try this every year, and it never, ever works. This time around, we had Jacob Markstrom ignoring (or not hearing) the questions, then dropping an f-bomb on live TV. The player interviews between events are always awkward enough, let’s not push our luck with the goalies.

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