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The Tufts Daily
Where you read it first | Tuesday, March 5, 2024

The Wraparound: NHL's stars shine in Vegas

Hi! Welcome to "The Wraparound," the professional hockey column of The Tufts Daily. Whether you’re a diehard NHL fan or someone who likes the occasional diving save, you’re in the right place. Every Thursday, I’ll recap what’s going on around the National Hockey League — scores, stats, standings, trades — while adding some of my own thoughts and opinions toward the end. Let’s get right to it!

This inaugural piece comes at no better time, with the NHL temporarily hitting the brakes on the season to celebrate the league’s top players. Yes, this past weekend was the 2022 NHL All-Star Game, a two-day affair of skills challenges and three-on-three play taking place in hockey’s newest success story: Las Vegas, Nev. 

Friday night’s Skills Competition was largely reminiscent of those held in recent years. Tampa Bay defenseman Victor Hedman won Hardest Shot with a 103.2 mph scorcher (although 5.6 less than record-holding Zdeno Chara’s). Sebastian Aho, the do-it-all Finnish phenom, came out on top for Shooting Accuracy, hitting all four targets in that many tries. Blues young forward Jordan Kyrou upset the lightning-quick Connor McDavid to win Fastest Skater. 

In an atmosphere like Vegas, though, the NHL had to jazz up the activities. Eight players battled it out in front of the Fountains of Bellagio, smashing pucks onto floating targets. No event fed into the crowd more than the Breakaway Challenge — a let-loose, theatrical audition for a varied celebrity panel — headlined by Trevor Zegras’ blindfolded, puck-on-a-string act.

These events were just the prelude to the actual All-Star Game on Saturday afternoon, centered around a three-on-three format in place since the 2015–2016 season. Former first overall pick Jack Hughes potted two goals to lift the Metropolitan Division over the Pacific, and Blackhawks winger Alex DeBrincat tallied three points to down the Atlantic Division and set up an intriguing Metro vs. Central final. Ultimately, it was the eastern squad coming out on top (and getting to split a $1 million prize), with Flyers' captain Claude Giroux claiming All-Star MVP. 

A few other thoughts and inklings from around the league:

  1. Judging by coach and player interviews, the All-Star Game should be in Vegas every year.
  2. We’re still three months out from the postseason, but the Eastern Conference’s playoff teams look just about set. The gap between eighth place Washington and ninth place Detroit is 13 points, and it will take a spectacular second half from one of the bottom feeders to displace the current crowd.
  3. The (gulp) 8–30–7 Montreal Canadiens are on pace to be the worst team in the salary cap era fresh off a Cinderella-story Stanley Cup Final run.
  4. The Arizona Coyotes are bad at hockey — but what’s worse is having no place to play it. Until their new building in Tempe is built, the plan is to host games in the 5,000-seat capacity (no, a digit was not forgotten) Arizona State University arena. The current smallest NHL arena, Winnipeg’s Canada Life Center, holds more than triple that. 

Enjoy the action this week!