Sunday, January 30, 2011

Lundqvist Nearly Pitches Shutout In Elimination Shootout

Last night in the NHL SuperSkills the New York Rangers were well represented having Derek Stepan, Marc Staal and Henrik Lundqvist all involved in the competition.  While Staal and Stepan would have their moments in the spotlight, it was Lundqvist who once again demonstrated why he is one of if not the best goaltender in the world during the night’s final event. Typically the performances in the shootout for Henrik get the Rangers the extra point, but on this night they would seal the victory for Team Staal.
During the concluding Elimination Shootout, Lundqvist would turn aside nine of 10 shooters he faced, which would rank him atop the standings for all of the six participating goaltenders.  The only player who would find an answer for Lundqvist on this night was Tampa Bay's Martin St. Louis, who beat the Rangers goalie with a backhand. 
That Henrik put on this kind of performance is no surprise to Rangers fans who have the pleasure of watching him over the past six seasons.  Lundqvist is second all-time in shootout wins (33) and has stopped a remarkable 160/211 (75.8%) career attempts in the format.  
Other than Martin St. Louis, the only player who had a great chance to score on Henrik was his teammate Derek Stepan.  Stepan beat Lundqvist cleanly with his deke to the forehand side, but he would hit the crossbar as he tried to lift it over his down goalie.

Paired with Lundqvist on Team Staal, Marc Staal would be stopped by Team Lidstrom goalie Jonas Hiller in the first round of the Elimination Shootout. Staal would also compete in the Fastest Skater event to open the festivities.  In that competition, Staal would be matched up against Colorado Avalanche forward Matt Duchene as the final skaters in the first round.  Staal was clearly the underdog in the pairing and then during his lap the timer for Staal malfunctioned, so no time was ever shown.  Duchene was clearly the winner and his time was 14.779 seconds.
Marc Staal would also participate in the Skills Challenge relay event on the evening.  The multi-player event which tested the All-Stars in a vast array of hockey skills would see Staal on a team with Kris Letang, Mike Green, Claude Giroux, Jamie McBain, David Backes, and Jeff Skinner.  The role for Stepan in the event was that of stickhandling through a series of pucks and overall he did fine, but there were a couple of hiccups.  Overall this group would end up with the worst time of the four groups at 2:34.
The only other event that saw a Rangers player participate was the Accuracy Shooting Competition in which Derek Stepan competed.  Stepan would compete head-to-head against Logan Couture of the San Jose Sharks.  Couture is currently considered one of the top two in the Calder trophy race.  In the event both Couture and Stepan would break all four targets, but Couture would do it in a faster time and earn Team Staal a point for winning the round. 
While Derek Stepan has no more hockey to participate in during the weekend, Marc Staal and Henrik Lundqvist will suit up for Team Staal in this afternoon’s All-Star game.  No word yet on who Marc will partner with on defense or what period Henrik will play, but one expects both to represent the Rangers proudly as they always do.