COLUMBUS, Ohio — Jonathan Toews was beaten. No, not just beaten, but humiliated — at the hands of a man who was once one of his closest friends, no less. His face dour, his voice low, Toews stood in front of his locker stall and assumed all the blame. After all, it was his name on the lopsided scoreboard. It was his loss. His shame.
Easily one of the toughest nights of his career.
“It’s up there,” he said. “I’m front and center. I’ll take the blame. The things I could have done to make a difference that I couldn’t do. I let Kaner get the best of me, and I think that maybe had a trickle effect throughout our locker room.”
All right, so he actually was smiling broadly as he said that. And it was only a goofy skills competition, one that Patrick and and Team Nick Foligno beat Team Toews 25-19, a score that didn’t reflect how comically one-sided the affair was.
“Hot start, got out to a 10-1 lead,” Kane said. “Nice to have bragging rights, especially after the draft last night.”
For Toews, that head-to-head loss to Kane in the shooting accuracy competition stung just a wee bit. Toews nailed the first three targets in quick succession, but took too long to nail the fourth. Kane won the event with a time of 13.529 seconds. Toews took 16.307.
“We’re always competitive with each other in all aspects of the game and tonight, again, I let him get the best of me,” Toews said with a chuckle that had just a tinge of exasperation in it. “I had the chance to take it from him, and it just slipped away. It happens.”
It was all fun and games on Saturday night at Nationwide Arena. The highlight was Shea Weber’s 108.5-mph slap shot in the hardest shot competition, three-tenths of a mile slower than Zdeno Chara’s all-time record. Red Wings coach Mike Babcock said at the Olympics last year that he doesn’t allow his best players to play on the penalty kill against the Nashville Predators out of respect — and fear — for Weber’s slapper.
“It’s not right,” Dustin Byfuglien said. “Guys have to get hit with that thing. It’s amazing.”
Jonathan Drouin was the fastest skater and hometown favorite Ryan Johansen won the fan voting on the breakaway challenge.
“I’m just trying to enjoy the whole thing,” said first-time All-Star Brent Seabrook, who lost to Alex Ovechkin in his round of the hardest-shot competition (101.4 to 98.6). “Tonight was fun. I’ve been enjoying a lot of time with my son and him being around. I was talking to my wife and he liked the mascot [hockey] game out there earlier. It’s pretty cool to be able to have a kid and be able to share it here with them, my family and everybody.”
Duncan Keith said it’s a welcome chance to loosen up during the grind of a long season.
“It’s always been a time to have fun, enjoy yourself, and get to know some of the guys on different teams,” he said. “We’ve got to play against one another so many times throughout the year that you can develop, I don’t want to say hate, but develop that rivalry between different teams. So it’s nice to have that different setting here this weekend, just a relaxed atmosphere.”
Toews, meanwhile, can only hope he hasn’t lost his team just yet. But after this brutal loss, his seat is getting warm.
“I hope not,” he said with a grin. “I got one more day. Hopefully I can hang on for dear life and rally the troops tomorrow night.”