7 Takeaways From 2017's NHL All-Star Weekend

© Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports 2017 NHL All-Star Game

The 2017 NHL All-Star weekend was packed with incredible skills, impressive displays and, as always, cute All-Star kids.

The league opted to remove the fan-favorite Breakaway Challenge from the Skills Competition, which usually left fans with season-long smiles after witnessing Superman and Chewbacca cameos, as well as mini-sticks, Jaromir Jagr impersonations and blindfolded goalies in recent years.

The anything-goes shootout was replaced with the ‘Four Line Challenge,’ which called upon each division taking two shots from both blue lines, center ice and the far goal line in attempt to put a shot in one of the four corners of the net, or five-hole, exceptions included. The Challenge was rather dull, but was saved from the first takeaway of the weekend.

Here are our top takeaways and memorable moments from the 2017 NHL All-Star weekend:

Mike Smith’s 188-foot goal

The lone Arizona Coyotes All-Star pick, goaltender Mike Smith, scored an unbelievable end-to-end shot, almost making the exclusion of the Breakaway Challenge worth it.

The video basically speaks for itself, but it’s slightly more impressive to know Smith is also one of just 11 goalies to ever score a goal in a regulation NHL game, which he did against the Detroit Red Wings in 2013.

And, in case you hadn’t noticed, Smith’s goal is nearly dead center of the net and appears that it would have also made it through the NHL’s five-hole that Smith sniped on Saturday.

Bo Horvat: a true all-star

The Cory Schneider trade is finally paying high dividends for the Vancouver Canucks. In 2013, the Canucks had two goalies fighting for the starter’s job and surprisingly opted to move Schneider, which fetched them New Jersey’s ninth-overall pick in the 2013 draft.

The Canucks used that pick to select London Knights standout center Bo Horvat. The 21-year-old took the job of scoring the name "Schneider" out of Vancouver fans’ minds seriously.

In his third NHL season, he’s doing just that. With 14 goals and 32 points through 50 games, which is good enough to share the team lead with captain Henrik Sedin, who just reached 1,000 career points.

Horvat has been a highlight for Vancouver, which sits sixth in the Pacific Division. He fit right in at the All-Star weekend, too, scoring two goals and two assists in two games with his Pacific teammates.

Sidney Crosby is still the cream of the crop

If the Pittsburgh Penguins are going to win back-to-back Stanley Cups, it’s almost certainly going to come from the play of Sidney Crosby. That’s no knock on Evgeni Malkin, Phil Kessel or Kris Letang, but rather homage to the Pittsburgh captain.

After missing the first six games with a concussion, Crosby’s return was remarkable, scoring 17 goals and 27 points in his first 20 games, failing to record a point in just three of them.

The 29-year-old future Hall of Famer won the Accuracy Shooting contest, firing five shots at four targets in just 10 seconds. He then scored in the final shootout, using his two-point puck to cap the Atlantic Division’s win over the Pacific.

He then captained the Metropolitan Division to tournament victory and the $1 million prize.

Connor McDavid shows off his flashy feet

BREAKING NEWS: Connor McDavid is fast.

McDavid holds the record for the second-fastest lap in NHL history (13.310 sec.), second only to the Red Wings’ Dylan Larkin (13.172 sec.), who broke Mike Gartner’s 20-year-old record (13.386 sec.) at last year’s All-Star weekend.

There’s a lot of controversy over the record, with most arguing Dylan Larkin was given a running start last year before the clock began. Larkin modestly provided his own insight on Twitter following McDavid’s impressive lap.

McDavid reportedly asked for a running start, but was rejected by the NHL. With the outcry of inconsistency toward the NHL, you’d think they could have at least got the fastest skater challenge right.

Perhaps Larkin and McDavid will eventually cross paths at the same All-Star weekend and a head-to-head race can be obliged. Until then, people will take their sides.

Will there be an Ilya Bryzgalov comeback?

Bryzgalov arrived at the All-Star weekend as a reporter for The Player’s Tribune, joking around with countrymen Alex Ovechkin, Vladimir Tarasenko and Sergei Bobrovsky, but was also asking the hard questions, mostly, “Is a hotdog a sandwich?”

In a roundtable talk before the tournament began Sunday evening, Bryzgalov again hinted at an NHL return and had clearly kept his 6-foot-3, 213-pound frame in shape.

Last June, news surfaced that goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov was eyeing a return to the NHL. True or not, Bryzgalov never did sign a contract for this season.

Bryzgalov, 36, would have been the second oldest goalie to strap on the pads this year, behind only Roberto Luongo, who remains highly effective for the Florida Panthers.

The Russian netminder won a Stanley Cup with the Anaheim Ducks in 2007 and was then traded to the Phoenix Coyotes early into the 2007-08 season, where he spent most of his career as the starter.

He sports a modest career record of 221-162-30-24 (W-L-OTL/SOL-T) and career numbers of .912 SV%, 2.58 GAA and 34 SO. His numbers are slightly inflated however, due to the last stretch of his career where struggled in Edmonton Minnesota and an eight-game return to Anaheim.

Patrik Laine’s display of power

Rookie Patrik Laine continues to show there’s little he can’t do, which now includes challenging Shea Weber’s slap shot power.

Weber, 31, shot 108.1 mph last year and was looking to shoot even faster this time around. He wasn’t able to, but his speed of 102.8 mph was still enough to earn him his third-consecutive Hardest Shot title.

Laine, 18, is still maturing into his own body, which is scary considering he posted a 101.7 mph slapshot, good enough to finish second to only Weber, which is more than impressive. He beat out eight other shooters, which included Norris frontrunner Brent Burns, who shot 97.7 mph.

The Finn was the second overall pick in June and was taking part in his first NHL All-Star weekend. Laine missed eight games with a concussion, but picked up right where he left off upon his return to the lineup. 

He leads 40 points lead all rookies and he is just one goal back from the rookie lead of 23, held by fellow All-Star Auston Matthews.

Nikita Kucherov’s surreptitious speed

Nikita Kucherov has continued to grow his offensive game for the Tampa Bay Lightning.

Still just 23, the Russian sniper has been a playoff force the past few seasons but is now finding a way play playoff hockey regularly and is being rewarded for it.

He’s on pace to establish a new career high in each offensive category with 19 goals, 25 assists and 44 points through 43 games, even after missing seven games.

Kucherov continues to impress and displayed noteworthy speed that he hasn’t really shown before. That’s not to say he’s slow by any means, but his time of 13.160 seconds in the Fastest Skater event was second to only the above mentioned McDavid.

Speed and talent are two of the biggest aspects of the NHL nowadays and Kucherov’s ability to contain both will help the Tampa Bay Lightning grow its game.

He’s been a bright spot of Tampa Bay’s forgettable 2016-17 season.

​What were your favorite moments from the 2017 NHL All-Star weekend? Sound off in the comments below or weigh in on Facebook and Twitter!

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