Courtesy of NHL.com’s Adam Kimelman
Alexander Ovechkin has scored 190 goals in his first four NHL seasons, but the loudest ovation he’s ever gotten may be for one on which he whiffed.
It was during the Breakaway Challenge at last year’s All-Star Game skills contest. Ovechkin was tailor made for the event, which debuted last year, and he didn’t disappoint. Ovechkin dribbled the puck like a basketball on the end of his stick, smacked it high in the air, spun around while the puck came down and took a mighty baseball swing.
That he hit nothing but air meant little to the fans and judges, who voted him the winner. This year, the shootersâ€™ task will be to impress in-arena fans and those watching on television across North America, who will determine the winner by voting via text message for the player whose performance they deem most astounding.
“He was going for style points,” said Chris Osgood, the goalie who faced Ovechkin last year. “He had some great moves.”
Ovechkin will bring his magic bag of breakaway tricks to the 2009 Scotiabank NHL Fan Fav Breakaway Challenge as part of the 2009 Honda/NHL All-Star SuperSkills Competition in Montreal on Saturday, Jan. 24 at Bell Centre.
Some of the NHL’s best have signed on to try to take the title away from him. Anaheim’s Ryan Getzlaf, who Ovechkin topped in last year’s final, returns for another shot. Joining him will be the Penguins’ Sidney Crosby, who’s been known to score a highlight goal or two in his time in the League, plus the hometown favorite, the Canadiens’ Alex Kovalev, and Chicago super soph Patrick Kane..
“I want to defend this title,” said Ovechkin. “It’s a pretty cool title. I’m happy I have it.”
Each shooter will get one minute to work his magic and wow the Bell Centre crowd and viewers around North America (7 p.m. ET, RDS, CBC, VERSUS). Upon taking possession of the puck, a shooter can go anywhere he wants in the offensive zone and make as many attempts as he desires within that minute to complete a routine that ends with a shot at the net. When each shooter has taken his turn, the polls will open and the fans will have their say.
Crosby, Getzlaf, Kovalev and Kane already are working on their routines and wracking their brains to come up with moves neither their competitors nor their fans have seen. Theyâ€™ve allowed NHL cameras to capture glimpses of their preparations, but are planning to pull off some surprises, especially Ovechkin.
Recently during a video shoot following his practicing for the event, Ovechkin threw down the gauntlet for anyone trying to take his title.
â€œRight now, Iâ€™m going to show you my old trick,â€ Ovechkin said before performing the puck-flipping, spin-o-rama swat that won last year’s competition. â€œBut I have one more trick that probably I donâ€™t want to show you right now. Youâ€™ll have to wait for the All-Star Game.â€
The Scotiabank Fan Fav NHL Breakaway Challenge will be the second event on the six-competition card that comprises Honda/NHL SuperSkills on NHL All-Star Weekend 2009 in Montreal. The evening will begin with four of the Leagueâ€™s blazers competing in the Bridgestone NHL Fastest Skater.
Following the Breakaway Challenge, the Leagueâ€™s top rookies will take on its best sophomores in the NHL YoungStars Game presented by Upper Deck. At the conclusion of that wide-open, non-stop game of three-on-three, the 2009 winner of the Breakaway Challenge will be crowned. The McDonaldâ€™s Accuracy Shooting and Cisco Hardest Shot then will test the All-Starsâ€™ ability to pick corners and blast away.
The evening will come to a rousing end with all 36 NHL All-Star skaters and all six goalies competing in the Gatorade NHL Elimination Shootout — the NHL All-Star version of the score-and-stay-alive game with which youth hockey players throughout the world traditionally end their practices.