ATLANTA -- The NHL definitely has something with the addition of the Breakaway Challenge, but it needs a little fine tuning before next season.
But before I get any further with that, here's how the event came down to an insane ending:
After Pavel Datsyuk bored the crowd with impressive, but routine moves, that's when guys started getting creative.
On Ryan Getzlaf's first attempt, he slid the puck behind his back from the right, off the inside of his left skate to his backhand, then shot. On his next try, he skated backwards while stickhandling, put the puck between his legs (while still backwards!), spun around and wristed it. He earned a nine and three sevens.
Ilya Kovalchuk followed by first pumping up the crowd, then deflated them with a relatively boring, take the puck really wide, hold it and wrist it attempt. He fared a little bit better on the next, dropping to his knees in the high slot, stickhandling and shooting it at Manny Legace. For that, two eights and two sevens.
Marian Gaborik used the "Marik Malik" between-the-legs shot for his first move. On the second, he strung together several bits of trickery, building up speed with a huge circle before touching the puck, sprinting in on the goalie, stopping short to get Rick DiPietro sprawling, then tried to put it in with a wraparound. DiPietro managed to get back for the save. The judges liked that and handed out a nine, an eight, a seven and a six.
And then there was Ovechkin. The guy likes to score, so he made sure he accomplished that first, by skating in with a couple of quick dekes and roofing it. But it was the second that had the fans begging for more. While skating in, Ovechkin managed to pick up the puck on his stick, batted it in the air a couple of times and tried to bat it in. A swing and a miss. Still, when he got the puck on his stick and flipped it up in the air, you could just sense every body in the arena clinging to the edge of the seat.
Getzlaf and Ovechkin moved on to the final round.
All the Ducks center could think was, "what is he going to do and what do I have to do to get there?"
On Getzlaf's first attempt, he spun around and tried to pick up the puck in a lacrosse-style move and shoot it in one fell swoop, but the puck didn't stick. He picked up a nine, two eights and a seven.
"Usually I can do it," Getzlaf said. "If the pucks get wet, or your stick gets wet, it's a little tougher. There are some old guys that can do it, though. I used to watch Steve Yzerman do that move. He did it all the time in practice when I was in Calgary."
Ovechkin showed more persistence with his previous move, only this time upped the ante -- he got the puck on his stick, bounced it, flung it high into the air, threw in a spin on top if it all, swung at the puck coming down and missed again. From the judges who played pro sports -- Bill Clement, Scott Mellanby and Dominique Wilkins -- Ovechkin earned a nine. From the actor who pretends to play high school sports, an eight. (I'm taking a moment to say the guy's a fool for not giving Ovechkin a nine. Clement put it best -- for the moves Ovechkin showed, he completely surpassed the entire competition.)
"It was a baseball and a little bit of a hockey move," said Ovechkin, who revealed he never attempted to practice the moves. "I liked it, but I didn't score. I'm disappointed.
"I started thinking about it when Kovalchuk shot. I had just a little time to think what I had to do."
We're still unclear about the scoring (it wasn't the only event that had issues with numbers... we never received data for the fastest skater competition), so how the Breakaway Challenge went to a tiebreaker is unclear. But both players were probably confused as well, were just thinking a goal was necessary for a win and used basics to get a puck in the net.
And that was that.
Like I said above, this was a goal for the NHL, not a hat trick like they got from the Winter Classic. You have to believe a certain amount of luck is required for these moves to execute to perfection, so the fact that these guys can even come 99 percent to that point is impressive. Even consider the fact these guys weren't trying to execute one move correctly -- they were combining four and five motions. If Ovechkin or Getzlaf converted on either of their insane moves, you know it would have been plastered all over every highlight reel in the world.
Sharks coach Ron Wilson mentioned afterwards many of the guys who took part in the Breakaway Challenge didn't really know what the gist of it was until very recently. They didn't have time to practice moves, or even know what was allowed. (And we'll attest to that as several tweaked events didn't seem exact to their descriptions.)
Maybe goalies should serve as relatively stationary targets. Maybe you let the creativity continue until a goal is actually scored. Maybe you increase the number of attempts -- so what if it runs long? Fans aren't going to care if everything they see is as challenging as what Getzlaf and Ovechkin did this evening.
With a little tweaking, the Breakaway Challenge could produce moments that will be as memorable as this year's Winter Classic.