RALEIGH, N.C. -- When it comes to big booming shots, Boston Bruins defenseman Zdeno Chara proves that Big Z stands for ztrong. Very ztrong.
At the 2009 All-Star weekend in Montreal, he broke Al Iafrate's 16-year-old record with a scorching 105.4-mph shot. Two years later, Chara pushed speed limits again, clocking in a 105.9-mph slapshot at the SuperSkills event at the RBC Center on Saturday night. It was the highlight of a revamped show, which included two completely new events and several additions to old favorites, providing fans nearly three hours of fancy skating, shooting, passing, falling -- and plenty of standing around. (Truth be told, two hours really would've sufficed.)
In the end, though, Carolina Hurricanes captain Eric Staal led his All-Stars to a resounding win over Detroit Red Wings captain Nicklas Lidstrom's team in the prelude to Sunday's 58th NHL All-Star Game. But this weekend isn't really about winners (Have you heard the reception for Carolina Hurricanes rookie Jeff Skinner? It approaches Bieber proportions) or losers (last-man-standing Phil Kessel). It's all about the show, about getting the fans out of their seats, which they did for Chara, that massive tower of power. The 6-foot-9 defenseman, now three-time reigning champion of the Hardest Shot contest, got a standing ovation from the crowd for his record breaker, his first of the final round and third attempt overall.
After Chara's first two attempts in the preliminary round, measly 104.1- and 103.7-mph efforts, some may have thought about crowning a new master blaster in Nashville Predators defenseman Shea Weber, who registered speeds of 104.6 mph and 104.8 mph in preliminaries. But in the final, when the two big guns met again, it came together for Big Z.
"Right away when I skated into it, I knew I was getting a good flow and coming with good speed," Chara said. "As soon as I took the swing, I felt that this is good and ... I just have to place it well. Once I turned and saw it was 105.9 mph, I realized it was almost perfect. The first two times, I was trying even harder than my third one, but sometimes, you try so hard, it's not going perfectly because of whatever -- you're standing there, you're cold or trying to get the flow [going]."
Iafrate's record of 105.2 mph stood for 16 years before Chara took it down ... twice ... and in the last two SuperSkills competitions. It begs the question of just how far the record can be pushed in the future.
"The limit's always going to get pushed," Chara says. "It's just the nature of the business. Records are meant to be broken. ... Who knows? It could go all the way to 110 mph. It's really the technology of the sticks and players getting stronger and bigger. The record could be pushed anywhere."
And Chara will always be one of those pushing it. "He's a driven and focused guy," said Bruins rookie Tyler Seguin, who also took part in the Hardest Shot and put up a respectable 97.1. "It's not like that power came to him overnight. He's worked hard for that."
Can the 18-year-old forward imagine what it'd be like to launch one at 105.9 mph?
"Yeah, it's called a dream because it's never happening [for me]," Seguin said.
There were plenty of other highlights from the night's events. A quick rundown of the five most memorable: