Three Maple Leafs with six combined goals fared quite well in the shooting portion of yesterday's annual team skills competition.
Francois Beauchemin uncorked a 102.2 miles-per- hour blast, Jason Blake won a freestyle shootout, while current press box denizen Rickard Wallin busted four foam targets on five shots.
More than 9,000 people were on hand at the Air Canada Centre, not long after the Leafs ended a three-game road swing by getting hammered 7-2 in Boston. With a game tonight, defenceman Ian White prefered yesterday's laid-back annual charity affair to a punishing practice that might have followed such a loss if the Leafs' schedule weren't so cluttered with games.
"There is so much hockey coming up, a bag skate is the last thing we need right now," White said. "We have to stay healthy and maintain as much energy as we can going into this crucial month."
Beauchemin knew enough to fire the puck low at the middle of the net where the temperamental speed guns in these events usually give players a break. Beauchemin was able to put eight more miles on his best shot as an Anaheim Duck.
"The guy I remember watching shoot when I was young was Stephane Richer in Montreal, with a big shot and a long stick," Beauchemin said. "There was Al Iafrate in the all-star game (at a then-record 105.2 m.p.h.)"
This was the Swede Wallin's first skills competition and he loved it.
"As a kid, I'd stand in my driveway and shoot a puck or ball," he said. "I had a piece of board to shoot off and my dad had a device with old mats set up so I wouldn't break the garage door. You can miss all targets, you can hit them all on any given day, but on the ice you don't get that amount of time in the slot. If I did, at least I know now I can hit them. It's good for the confidence in some way."
Nikolai Kulemin nipped Blake as fastest skater, completing a lap around the ACC in 14.04 seconds. Beauchemin, Jeff Finger, Luke Schenn and Mike Komisarek won the team puck-control relay. And Komisarek took the individual puck control event.
The event raised $80,000 for a team fund and the NHLPA Goals and Dreams Foundation.
Leafs' competition winners
Nikolai Kulemin 14.05 secs.
Jason Blake 14.09
Mikhail Grabovski 14.32
Christian Hanson 14.46
Wayne Primeau 14.72
F. Beauchemin 102.2 mph
Mike Komisarek 101.5
Nikolai Kulemin 98.4
Niklas Hagman 95.9
Tomas Kaberle 95.7
Rickard Wallin 4/5
Lee Stempniak 4/8
Christian Hanson 3/8
PUCK CONTROL RELAY
Schenn, Finger, Beauchemin def. Exelby, White, Kaberle
INDIVIDUAL CONTROL RELAY
Mike Komisarek def. Colton Orr
Jason Blake 28 pts.
Mikhail Grabovski 23 pts.
Matt Stajan 23 pts.
Phil Kessel 21 pts.