NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Given that the standard set in the past few All-Star Games could not have been lower, you had to expect the new 3-on-3 tourney would augment the spectacle.
But it did so even more than expected.
That was especially true in the final game, with $1 million hanging as a carrot for the players; a 1-0 Pacific Division victory over the Atlantic Division displayed more bite than we've seen in a long time in this event.
"When you have guys that want to win and are competitive hockey players, you want to go out and perform, and you don't want to look bad," Corey Perry of the Anaheim Ducks said after scoring the championship game's lone goal.
Even the two semifinal games, while not quite as intense as the final, were a step up from previous years.
"A lot more open space. A lot more intensity as far as guys trying when they had the puck. I think it's definitely a step in the right direction. I think we wanted to come out and make sure we were a little more intense than last year. I think it was a job well done by the players."
Indeed, it didn't look like a game played in slow motion, as last year's disgrace of a contest in Columbus did at times. There was more pace in Sunday's games.
The 3-on-3 format put the onus on the players to try harder out of sheer pride.
"There's a lot of room, a lot of guys can use their speed; you have to give it as much as you can if not you're going to get embarrassed a little bit. So it was pretty cool," Giroux said.
"Yeah, better," Seguin said. "These type of things, it's really hard to put expectations on it. You don't know what the speed's going to be like. But I think a 3-on-3 format, if you're not trying you're going to be pinpointed, so I think everyone was definitely trying."
The format was a one-year agreement between the NHL and NHL Players' Association, so now we'll await how the players want to proceed. There is no question the league will want to keep it, but the NHLPA needs to get feedback from the players to make sure they didn't find it too taxing.
But I would be shocked if the same format wasn't back on display next year in Los Angeles.
It's been a mighty long time since the NHL All-Star Game didn't take an absolute pounding for the display on the ice.
This year's event was a winner.