The pressure was on for Nashville Predators Captain Shea Weber on Saturday night at the 2015 NHL All-Star Skills Competition. On Friday, several fellow All-Stars predicted Weber would register the fastest shot the next day, and the blueliner did not disappoint.
Making his fourth-straight appearance at the event dedicated to displaying NHLers all-world talents, Weber stepped up to the plate in a big way. On his second of two attempts on the night, the Preds defenseman hit 108.5 mph to easily win the competition.
“There were certainly some nerves, especially after you sit around for a couple hours and you’re thinking about it,” Weber said. “It’s really nice to win. There were a couple of guys that I thought had a shot this year, like [Jets defenseman Dustin] Byfuglien for example. [Capitals forward Alex Ovechkin] obviously blasted one too, so you never know until you see the number.”
The Predators leading point-getter for a D-man, Weber won his first Hardest Shot Competition by beating out Byfuglien, Ovechkin, Lightning forward Steven Stamkos, and four others. Ovechkin was the only other competitor to break 100 mph, and on the final attempt of the night, Weber clinched the win by nearly seven ticks on the radar gun.
“It was awesome to see,” Preds and Team Toews teammate Filip Forsberg said. “He kind of fanned on the first one, but still it was over 100 miles per hour and he didn’t even hit the net. You knew it was just a matter of time before he would take it.”
Possessing one of the game’s fiercest clappers, Weber’s slap shot was heavily praised by the All-Stars that saw it on display only a few feet away. The D-man had finished in second place all three of the previous times he’d competed in the event, but his slapper on Saturday became the second-fastest ever recorded and gave the Predator the win.
“Playing with him in Sochi [for the Winter Olympics], you know it’s something special when he can’t even shoot it as hard as he could so he doesn’t hurt the goalies or his teammates,” Islanders forward John Tavares said. “I’ve never had that problem. It’s really amazing to see how heavy his shot it...I’m just glad I didn’t have to block that shot [tonight].”
“Weber hitting almost 109 miles per hour, that was something.” Nashville and Team Toews Head Coach Peter Laviolette said. “Maybe we should use him on the power play...He was good, you could tell it brought energy right into the building and certainly we were all proud as Preds family. It was a good showing by our club tonight.”
Forsberg’s First Appearance:
Forsberg also represented Nashville at the Skills Competition skating in the Team Relay alongside Weber for Team Toews. The rookie flew through the stickhandling portion of the relay, weaving in and out of more than a half dozen obstacles; all with the puck glued to his stick.
“My stickhandling might not have been where I wanted a few seasons ago, but I’ve kept working on it and it’s been going well this year,” Forsberg said.
Overall, the rookie rated the outing a very fun and profitable one.
“It was a good experience just to laugh with the guys and see the older players showing off with their skill and their personalities,” Forsberg said. “[Blue Jackets forward Ryan Johansen] bringing that kid out there in the shootout was really funny. It was a great night for sure.”
The rookie also took part in one of the NHL’s new technology initiatives by mounting a GoPro camera to his helmet for the relay. Although it didn’t seem to slow down his fluid stickhandling moves, the forward said it did add a bit to his nerves.
“I was just trying not to fall over,” Forsberg said with a smile. “It was pretty heavy. [Panthers defenseman Aaron] Ekblad had it for a skate, and I think that was even tougher for him. I was just trying to keep my head up and not fall down.”
On the other end of the ice, but still for Team Toews, Weber went 2-for-2 on long range one timers, another portion of the relay.