LOS ANGELES – When Brent Burns was told about the rink-length shots at the new Four-Line Challenge event at the NHL All-Star Skills Competition, he was chill about it.
“We’ll have Smitty doing that, eh?” said Burns, in reference to his Pacific Division All-Star teammate Mike Smith of the Arizona Coyotes. “Best puck-handling goalie. Handles it better than most of the ‘D.’”
The San Jose Sharks defenseman proved prophetic: Standing on the goal line, Smith sunk the puck through the small open five-hole of a board in front of the opposite goal, sending Staples Center into wild cheers as the Pacific won the event on Saturday night.
There are fans that can’t do that from the red line during intermission Score-O, and Smith nailed it from across the ice with a goalie stick.
There were four shooters from each divisional NHL All-Star team. One shot from the near blue line, one from the center red line, one from the far blue line and then one the opposite goal line. They each took two shots at the net, which had different areas for the pucks to target. The location of each shot carried a different amount of points for the team.
In the final stage, goal line-to-goal-line, teams could swap out a shooter with a goalie, and if that goalie shot the puck home through the small five-hole it meant 20 points for their team.
As Smith pointed out after the event, the Pacific was already ahead entering the event, thanks to a three-point top-corner shot from Burns from the red line. Washington Capitals goalie Braden Holtby missed on both of his shots, trying to give the Metro the win.
Was it a successful event? Eh, it had some long stretches of tedium. But the Smith goal, frankly, made it worth it. A couple of rules tweaks and this event could work at the next All-Star Game.