The NHL All-Star Weekend in Tampa, Florida, was, overall, a successful one. The 3-on-3 tournament continues to create memorable moments and competitive games. The revamped skills competition, while missing the "awe" factor of previous years, was entertaining, and actually allowed goalies to be more than props to the skaters.
And hey, Kid Rock came and went like a strong gulf breeze.
Here's the best and worst of NHL All-Star Weekend:
Best: The Brian Boyle lovefest
The New Jersey Devils forward was the beating heart of All-Star Weekend, as a late addition to the team after Taylor Hall injured his hand. Boyle, who has battled chronic myeloid leukemia since last September, was celebrated by his teammates and received roaring ovations from the Tampa Bay Lightning fans in attendance, as he played for the Bolts for three seasons.
"This is a place near and dear to my heart. These fans were tremendous to me. They still are," said Boyle, whose postgame interview on Sunday was drowned out by fans chanting his name.
Worst: Whatever that version of the national anthem was
It was weird how they aired country artist Brett Young's rehearsal of the national anth ... wait, that was the actual thing? The one that lasted so long that by the time it finished it was also the national anthem for the 2019 All-Star Game? Yikes.
Best: Brad Marchand, mega heel
fan favorite Brad Marchand 😘😂 pic.twitter.com/K2TVTC24GG— NHL on NBC (@NHLonNBCSports) January 28, 2018
The Boston Bruins' little ball of pestilence was basically Hockey Ric Flair during the NHL All-Star Game, drawing incredible heat from the Tampa fans who had already booed him all weekend. Marchand blew kisses to the crowd as it jeered his introduction; waved goodbye to the Metro Division after scoring the sixth goal in the Atlantic's 7-4 win; and, in his most memorable moment, he drew the only penalty of the day when Johnny Gaudreau tripped him and then tried to turn it into an extended power play by writhing on the ice and clutching his face with his gloves.
"I thought I sold it pretty good. They obviously didn't think so," Marchand said.
Worst: Brad Marchand being there at all
We like a heel as much as anyone, but this was absurd: He's serving a five-game suspension for concussing Marcus Johansson of the New Jersey Devils, and he's still invited to the NHL's dog and pony show?
When asked if the suspension and his All-Star Game antics might follow him around in the regular season, Marchand said: "It's been following me for 10 years. There are always guys like that in the league, and I can't change what fans think."
Best: The Pacific Division uniforms
- Greg Wyshynski (@wyshynski) January 28, 2018
Listen, haters: The white jerseys with the white pants and the white gloves, accented by the neon orange half-sleeves and socks, were sick. If P.K. Subban approves of them, then they're baller.
Oh, and for those who dared say that the Pacific Division team looked like "The Cleveland Browns On Ice" ... well, it won something. So it's clearly not the Browns.
Worst: Not enough pirates
- Sebastian Królicki (@skrolicki) January 29, 2018
Honestly, outside of Captain Karlsson and the Dread Pirate Hedman, where were all the swashbucklers? The NHL All-Star Game was held during Gasparilla, the annual pirate festival in Tampa that draws thousands, and nary a buccaneer was seen inside the arena. Arrrrrrrgh.
Best: The Seattle optimism
The NHL's expansion to Seattle took another step forward during All-Star Weekend, with word that the potential owners are expected to file a formal application as early as this week and the promise that the league's 32nd team will have the same bountiful draft rules as the Vegas Golden Knights did.
Worst: Goalie interference debate ... again
There always seems to be one issue that dominates conversation at the All-Star Game, and this year it was whether goalie interference should remain part of coach's challenge video reviews.
One point of frustration: Everyone had a different opinion on how to remedy it ... save for Connor McDavid, who shut down a question about it because he's sick of discussing it. Another point of frustration: We had these conversations the last time the NHL All-Star Game was in Tampa, in 1999.
Best: Johnny Gaudreau's puck on a string
So, what was that tied around Johnny Hockey's skates when he scored a goal in the final round? Speculation was that it was the cord from a mic he was wearing, but the Calgary Flames star cleared that up. "Jack Eichel's jersey was stretched out on the ice, and I ran into it. I didn't think it was on my skates, but then Brock [Boeser] was like 'Be careful, Johnny, be careful!' It was a weird part of the game."
Worst: Goal review in the All-Star Game
The Atlantic Division had a goal overturned by an NHL-instituted offside video review, which was a good reminder that:
There shouldn't be video reviews in the All-Star Game
There probably shouldn't be offside, either
But at least it gave us that amazing moment where Eichel and Auston Matthews both emphatically signaled "goal" after Eichel scored.
Best: Getting the U.S. women's national team involved
Hilary Knight, Meghan Duggan and Amanda Kessel demonstrated three skills competitions on Saturday night, and getting these Olympic stars involved in an NHL event like this was long overdue.
- Mark Harris (@TweetsByHarris) January 28, 2018
Worst: Not actually getting the U.S. women's national team involved
No one is asking for Amanda Kessel to take part in Hardest Shot. But Hilary Knight can snipe, and it would have been even better to have these players involved in something like shot accuracy, on equal footing with their male NHL counterparts, at least for one night.
Best: That Nikita Kucherov goal
Kucherov completed a hat trick with a "no shot" goal that beat a baffled Braden Holtby through his 5-hole.
"No one came here to watch saves anyway," lamented Holtby.
Worst: Drew Doughty's passing challenge
While the Los Angeles Kings defenseman redeemed himself with two goals on Sunday, he had a comical struggle in the skills competition as he was unable to pass a puck to a stubborn lighted target. At one point, Doughty unleashed a slap shot in frustration. He finished the challenge in 1:47.415, over a minute slower than winner Alex Pietrangelo of the St. Louis Blues (46.610).
Best: Brock Boeser
The Vancouver Canucks rookie made off like a bandit at the All-Star Game. First, he earned a $212,500 bonus just for making the team. He then earned $212,500 for being named NHL All-Star Game MVP. He won $25,000 for capturing the shot accuracy skills competition. He won a share of $1 million as a member of the victorious Pacific Division team.
Oh, and he won a car, which he might give to his sister.
All that, and the sickest flowing hair in the NHL. He probably earned a few Calder Trophy votes here, too.