ATLANTA -- Zdeno Chara
got a mulligan, and he made the most of it.
His first attempt in Saturday night’s Hardest Shot Competition, which Chara admits didn’t feel right off his composite stick, never registered on the speed meter. So he still had his two attempts to beat Vinny Lecavalier’s leading 101.9 mph blast.
He needed them both, but the Boston Bruins’ hulking captain did successfully defend his title as the League’s hardest shooter by unleashing a 103.1 mph rocket on the final shot of the event during the Dodge/NHL SuperSkills competition.
The East received two goals for the Hardest Shot Competition because it averaged a winning 100.1 mph per attempt. The goals gave them an 8-5 overall lead, enough to clinch the SuperSkills competition before the highly-anticipated Breakaway Challenge.
”It does (feel good to defend the title) because there is a lot of pressure and guys really want to win that event,” Chara said. “It’s probably one of the most exciting events at the All-Star (festivities). So, yeah, it’s good.”
After Chara registered 101.4 on his first shot, a full mile-per-hour faster than his winning blast last year in Dallas, Lecavalier figured his 101.9 wasn’t going to stand.
“After his first shot he got 101.4, so I said I know his next shot is going to be harder,” Lecavalier said. “It doesn’t matter. We’re on the same team and we won the event.”
Chara is the League’s largest player ever at 6-foot-9 and 250 pounds, and he put every last inch and pound into his second blast, thanks to a fast stride and his explosive legs. The key, though, was keeping the shot close to the ice.
“The first one didn’t feel really good. I went too high, but the meter didn’t give us any measurement and I got another two,” Chara said. “I knew I had to go a little lower and use more of my body. You can’t go really high. You have to keep it probably as low as 10 inches off the ice.”
Chara, though, still hasn’t come close to topping Al Iafrate’s mind-blowing 105.2 mph slapper that he ripped at the 1993 Skills Competition at The Forum in Montreal. Chara isn’t sure if he’ll ever top that one.
“I would like to, but I don’t know if it will ever be broken,” he said. “Back then they skated into the shot all the way from the red line. We have to start at the blue line. It would be nice to get it done, but it will be very hard to do it.”
Islanders goalie Rick DiPietro, who will start in net for the East in Sunday night’s All-Star Game, said he had a blast helping Mike Emrick and Ed Olczyk broadcast the event on Versus.
When Lecavalier ripped his 101.9 blast, DiPietro charged that “Vinny uses Bowflex.” However, when asked about Chara’s shot afterward, the outgoing Islanders netminder said; “I’m crazy, but I don’t think I’m that crazy to sit in net for that one.”
Neither would Chara.
“I wouldn’t put myself in a goalie’s skates,” he said. “I would probably run away.”
Contact Dan Rosen at email@example.com.