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Burns: Five takeaways from All-Star Weekend in Tampa Bay

Lightning beat writer Bryan Burns recaps five of his favorite moments from the 2018 NHL All-Star Game

by Bryan Burns /

Okay, we've all had time to recover from the three-day party that was NHL All-Star Weekend 2018.

Did everyone have a good time?

Do I even need to ask?

From the Friday night concert at Curtis Hixon Waterfront Park to the red carpet walk from Cotanchobee Fort Brooke Park to AMALIE Arena, All-Star Weekend had a little something for everybody.

What will we remember most from the festivities?

Here are my main takeaways.

Video: Brian Boyle on the Tampa Bay Lightning

Never mind the fact he no longer wears the Bolts logo on his sweater, Tampa Bay fans have a soft spot in their hearts for New Jersey Devils forward Brian Boyle, who spent three seasons in Lightning blue and was a part of some of the greatest moments in Bolts history (remember his overtime game-winner against the Islanders in Game 3 of the ECF semis? The chicken dance directed at notorious instigator yet unwilling fighter Justin Abdelkader?)

Boyle had returned to AMALIE Arena previously as a member of the Toronto Maple Leafs last season following a trade deadline deal that sent him packing north and received a hero's welcome and tribute video on Lightning Vision. But after Boyle was diagnosed with a form of Leukemia prior to the 2017-18 season, you knew the outpouring of support would be immense his next time back in Tampa. That came sooner than expected when Boyle was announced as an All-Star Game replacement for injured teammate Taylor Hall.

When Boyle was first introduced to the AMALIE crowd at the All-Star Skills Competition, the former Bolt received arguably the loudest ovation of all, and chants of "Bri-an Boyle" rang down from the rafters, the big guy clearly moved by the moment.

Later that night, Boyle had this to say about the show of support from Lightning fans: "The feeling's mutual. It was tough to go. I have great memories here, great friendships. This city grabbed a hold of us."

Clearly, Brian Boyle also grabbed a hold of Lightning nation as well.

Video: Kucherov dazzles with hat trick in All-Star Game

When NHL leading scorer Nikita Kucherov struggled to complete the Passing Challenge at the Skills Competition and finished second to last, Lightning captain Steven Stamkos predicted later that night Kucherov would rebound at the next day's All-Star Game.

"No one's going to remember Kuch going first in that one or how long it took him when he scores a couple goals tomorrow," he predicted.

So, uh, Stammer, what are your thoughts on tonight's lottery numbers?

Kucherov went out for Sunday's All-Star Game and made Stamkos look like the second coming of Nostradamus, scoring three goals in the Atlantic's 7-4, come-from-behind, semifinal victory over the Metropolitan Division to put the Atlantic in the final and give the hometown fans one more look at the Lightning All-Stars before the weekend's conclusion.

And of course, who can forget the Atlantic All-Stars celebrating Kucherov's accomplishment in style by tossing their buckets onto the ice while the rest of the arena threw their hats down from the stands?

Video: MET@ATL: Kucherov completes hatty with tricky goal

I mean, really, is there a sicker way to record a hat trick at an All-Star Game than this move?

Rumors surfaced prior to the All-Star Skills Competition that nobody wanted to challenge Edmonton's Connor McDavid in the Fastest Skater event because he's so fast and players (All-Star players mind you) were afraid of looking silly.

Lightning second-year pro Brayden Point took the challenge and nearly beat the invincible McDavid.

Video: Fastest Skater: Point sets the tone early

Going first in the event, Point blazed around the rink in a blistering 13.579 seconds, setting a standard that wouldn't be topped until McDavid, going last, just nudged Point at the finish line in 13.454, winning by .125 of a second.

Point's silver medal finish was viewed pretty much as a victory by the NHL community.

"I pretty much give it a win because Connor doesn't count out there, he's that fast," Stamkos said.

Tweet from @TBLightning: Thank you, Tampa. Thank you, #Bolts fans. Thank you, @nhl.We���re proud to represent you, at #NHLAllStar and every other day. Thank you for an incredible weekend. ��������

The big winner from All-Star Weekend wasn't the Pacific Division, who downed the Atlantic in the All-Star Game Final.

It wasn't rookie Brock Boeser winning All-Star Game MVP honors.

It was Tampa Bay.

With the world's spotlight shining, the Bay Area sparkled bright, seamlessly mixing the NHL showcase with the annual Gasparilla festival, the two celebrations mingling perfectly and providing a wonderful time for everybody who took part in either event (or both).

The rest of the hockey world noticed too.

"They were fantastic," Islanders center John Tavares said of the Tampa Bay fans. "People really embraced (All-Star Weekend). They've done a great job here with their fan base, and really with the Lightning."

"Thanks for an amazing weekend," Ottawa defenseman Erik Karlsson tweeted out.

And after the final whistle at the All-Star Game, after three days of playing host to the NHL, Stamkos said: "I think we showcased our city and our community to what it is and it's a great place to live and it's a hockey town."

Well stated, Captain.

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