by Lisa McRitchie on 01/14/12 at 11:00 PM ET
This may not be the best time for an Oilers skills competition. After all, the team has only won a single game so far this year (2012) and is on pace for a third straight bottom five finish. The team is crippled by injuries and the team’s management and coaching staff are being questioned for every move they do and don’t make. On the other hand, maybe this is the best time for a little Saturday afternoon inter-squad competition.
The NHL Skills Competitions are a great way for fans to see their favourite players up close and personal. For many children this may be their only opportunity to sit in the lower bowl, so close to NHL action. So much entertainment goes along with the $10 cost of admission which will go towards the Edmonton Oilers Community Foundation and the NHLPA’s Goals and Dreams Fund.
It was a crowd of 7,134 fans who took part in this fan favourite event and for those who were unable to attend, the Oilers have put together the event’s highlights.
It was countryman against countryman in two instances of the puck control relay. Czechs Ladislav Smid and Ales Hemsky faced off against each other, with Smid narrowly beating out the center of Oilers media trade talk. Smid could have had a larger margin over Hemsky had he not crossed the finish line backwards, taunting team white.
Swedes Anton Lander and Magnus Paajarvi faced off against each other, and although it was difficult to determine the victor Paajarvi knocked over a pylon while Lander missed one entirely. And so, the win was given to Paajarvi.
The fastest skater competition was one that had an unexpected victor; Ben Eager with a time of 13.58s. Hall came in second with 13.97s but the most interesting story behind the fastest skater competition was Eager saying he stepped in for Paajarvi (Maggie) who had a sore foot. It seems nagging injuries may keep rearing their ugly heads. Paajarvi took a hard shot off of his foot Friday night in a game against the Anaheim Ducks. While Paajarvi may have felt good enough to participate in the skills competition he may have felt that team blue would stand a better chance if someone else took part in the race.
The hardest shot competition has not been the same since Sheldon Souray has not been with the team. This year, the winner was the team’s giant Andy Sutton. Sutton’s 102 mph slap shot draws into question why Sutton is not quarterbacking the team’s power play. Sutton’s response is that he is too old, but with nothing to lose through the final stretch of the season, it would be great to see Sutton out there once in a while.
Sam Gagner won the most accurate shooter competition hitting all four targets with only five shots. Gagner’s point totals have increased drastically through the past few games versus the beginning of the season and perhaps his increased accuracy has much to do with those numbers.
Theo Peckham was perhaps the biggest surprise of the day as the defenceman won the King of the Shootout Competition, scoring on Nikolai Khabibulin in both attempts. You do often see moves in skills competitions that you wouldn’t see in regular NHL games, but that is often just another fun aspect of skills competitions.
For a complete rundown of the afternoon’s event and full videos from each competition, turn to Ryan Dittrick’s recap on the Edmonton Oilers’ site.
Taylor Hall and Sam Gagner have a new celebration which will very likely never catch on. In case you can’t tell it’s Mario Kart:
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Lisa McRitchie is a fairly new writer, online at least, but makes up for inexperience with passion for the game of hockey and memories of Mrs. Leskiw’s English AP class; who knew they would pay off one day.
Oil Patch focuses on the Edmonton Oilers, the Edmonton Oil Kings, The Oklahoma City Barons and Team Canada Hockey with game coverage, news updates, speculation and interviews.
Although the Oilers have had a difficult past decade… or three, here at Oil Patch, the future looks bright.
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