Blackhawks’ Patrick Kane calls Shooting Stars contest fun but ‘gimmicky’

ST. LOUIS — Patrick Kane said the newest NHL All-Star skills competition, which featured elevated players shooting pucks over the heads of fans at targets placed on the ice below, was “a little gimmicky,” even as he enjoyed winning the inaugural Shooting Stars challenge.

“I’m kind of a fan of the original drills that used to be done in the skills competition,” Kane said after Friday night’s skills event at Enterprise Center. “That’s kind of the way I grew up watching it and enjoyed that as a kid. I’m not really sure how it was received tonight. But I was up there, and I was having fun.”

Ten players, including women’s national team stars Hilary Knight (USA) and Marie-Philip Poulin (Canada), took seven shots from a platform elevated 30 feet above the playing surface in Section 123. The ice was filled with targets of different sizes and different point values. At center ice was a target, shaped like the Gateway Arch, that was worth 10 points.

Kane won the event in a three-way tiebreaker shootout with Mitch Marner of the Toronto Maple Leafs and Ryan O’Reilly of the St. Louis Blues, after all three finished with 22 points. He hit a two-pointer, and the others missed.

There wasn’t much mathematic strategy involved in the event. Kane said the players all made a deal beforehand to shoot for the 10-point target. “We kind of had a pact. We’re not just going to sauce them into the three-pointers or go for the ones in front. We’re all going to try and shoot for the arch,” he said.

But that target caused significant confusion Friday night. Shots had to land in the netting to count. Shots that hit the target and landed behind the netting inside of it didn’t count for 10 points, as David Pastrnak of the Boston Bruins was surprised to discover.

“There was a question about the 10 [pointer],” Pastrnak said after the event. “Can’t go against the referees. It was their decision. I’m pretty sure this one would count in Boston, though. Bad preparation by me. I never practiced that. Should’ve built a 30-feet-high [platform] and practiced that before All-Star. Unfortunately, I was a bad pro and didn’t do it. That way I can’t deserve a win.”

Calgary Flames star Matthew Tkachuk said he didn’t recall the targets being that small when the players did a run-through of the event Thursday.

“Today, it was tough,” he said. “You can see the winner had 22. So at 22 that means you hit two of the arches — put two in the netting — and then you probably miss the arch and you get two points. It’s hard. It’s really, really hard … but it’s fun.”

Marner also had a 10-pointer nullified by the puck landing behind the netting. He said the event was a challenge.

“We were elevated pretty high,” he said. “It was just a weird feeling. You don’t really know how much power to put into it or anything. I’m not a very good golfer.”

Despite the win, Kane said that he was actually looking forward to competing in a more traditional event like the puck-control challenge, which he just missed winning last season. But that event was one of the contests that was dropped this year.

“It was fun to win this,” Kane said. “But I think I’m a fan of the original skill stuff, like the puck-control relay, things like that.”

Other winners at the NHL All-Star skills competition included Mathew Barzal of the New York Islanders beating two-time winner Connor McDavid for fastest skater with a time of 13.175 seconds; Blues goalie Jordan Binnington, who won the save streak event with 10 consecutive saves; Carolina Hurricanes defenseman Jaccob Slavin, who won shot accuracy in 9.505 seconds; and Montreal Canadiens defenseman Shea Weber, who captured the hardest shot crown again with a top speed of 106.5 mph.

The highlight of the event was the 3-on-3 women’s game featuring American national team players taking on those from Canada. In an exciting game, the Canadians topped the U.S. 2-1.

It was an exhibition, but old emotions between the rivals lingered.

“It was a little strange after the game,” Canadian player Sarah Nurse said. “We wanted to celebrate a little bit, and we were looking across the room and we see the Americans. Sorry, guys.”

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