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Stu Cowan: Snowstorm doesn t stop Canadiens from showing off skills

Stu Cowan: Snowstorm doesn t stop Canadiens from showing off skills
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On a day when Montreal’s because of neige, the Canadiens players and more than 10,000 fans made their way to the Bell Centre through a snowstorm and temperatures around minus 20 for the skills event.

Paul Byron, who lives on the South Shore and grew up in Ottawa, handled the snowstorm like a true Canadian, packing his family into his SUV and leaving early for the drive to the Bell Centre before winning the fastest-skater competition. The other event winners were Tomas Tatar for shooting accuracy, Shea Weber for hardest shot and Joel Armia for long-distance shooting accuracy.

“It wasn’t too bad,” Byron said about the drive to the Bell Centre, adding he left home around 9 a.m. for the 11 a.m. Skills Competition. “Drove my car in four-by-four, went slow, took my time. I certainly doubled up the time compared to normal, but you kind of knew that this morning. Just grabbed a coffee, put on some good music and just relaxed. I got a big SUV for the family with snow tires, so I wasn’t too worried today.”

Byron admitted he was a little worried about the fastest-skater event, facing the pressure of being a huge favourite. Byron won with a lap around the ice timed in 13.68 seconds, beating Matthew Peca (14.062), Victor Mete (14.175) and Brett Kulak (14.891).

Près de 12 000 partisans ont bravé la météo pour assister au Concours d’habiletés aujourd’hui. 17 000 billets avaient été émis.

Close to 12,000 fans braved the weather and showed up for today’s Skills Competition. 17,000 tickets had been distributed for the event.

“I was pretty heavily favoured there,” Byron said. “I don’t know what the Vegas odds were for me, but when I saw the times I said: Oh, I better get going here. It was my first time ever doing a lap like that. I wasn’t sure how to take the corners, but it went pretty well otherwise.”

Things went very well for Tatar in the shooting-accuracy event — in fact, he was perfect. Players had 15 seconds to shoot at targets located in the four corners of the net and Tatar needed only four shots and 8.4 seconds to get the job done, beating out Michael Chaput (3-for-4), Brendan Gallagher (2-for-4), Kenny Agostino (1-for-4) and Charles Hudon (0-for-4).

“I’ve never tried it before,” Tatar said about the event. “It was the first time for me. I was pretty nervous what was going to happen out there. It’s not easy. I wasn’t really sure if I was going to be making it, but I was fortunate enough.”

Paul Byron wins fastest skater event at #Habs Skills competition, completing lap of rink in 13.68 seconds to beat out Matthew Peca (14.062), Victor Mete (14.175) and Brett Kulak (14.891) #HabsIO pic.twitter.com/vvPSpjnktI

Weber was the heavy favourite in the hardest-shot competition and didn’t disappoint, winning with a blast of 103 miles per hour. But it wasn’t as easy as expected for Weber, who barely edged out Jeff Petry’s 102-mph blast. Other players in the event were Karl Alzner (97 mph), Mike Reilly (94 mph), Nicolas Deslauriers (92 mph) and Jordie Benn (91 mph).

“Yes and no,” Byron said when asked if he was surprised by Petry’s performance. “You’ve seen him shoot pretty hard in the game. He can really rip it and in those competitions you always got to hit the right spot to get a good time and 102 is certainly pretty hard and to get it that close to Shea is pretty impressive.”

Not surprisingly Shea Weber wins hardest-shot event at #Habs Skills Competition with a blast of 103 mph, followed by Jeff Petry (102), Karl Alzner (97), Mike Reilly (94), Nicolas Deslauriers (92) and Jordie Benn (91). #HabsIO pic.twitter.com/DugAwfMXKl

Armia was impressive in the long-distance shooting-accuracy event, winning with a total of eight points on shots at a variety of targets on and off the ice. Armia was able to edge out Max Domi, Phillip Danault, Jesperi Kotkaniemi and Artturi Lehkonen, who all had seven points, while Jonathan Drouin finished last with five points.

Not surprisingly, the Canadiens players had some friendly wagers on who would win the events.

“Not for the fastest skater,” Byron said with a grin. “No one wanted that one. But I know for the hardest shot there might have been some internal betting on it. I’m not quite aware what the terms were (most likely who would finish second), but I know they were all pretty curious to see who would win aside from Shea.”

Tomas Tatar wins shooting accuracy event at #Habs Skills Competition hitting all four targets with only four shots. Players had 15 seconds to shoot. Other results: Michael Chaput (3-4), Brendan Gallagher (2-4), Kenny Agostino (1-4) Charles Hudon (0-4). #HabsIO pic.twitter.com/hLQ9jiOOBB

Deslauriers was smiling in the locker room afterward, boasting that all his picks ended up being winners. Deslauriers said he wasn’t nervous after Petry posted his 102-mph shot, which Weber was only able to tie on his first of two attempts before delivering his winning blast.

“We knew Petey had a bomb, but Shea only needed 102.1 to win,” Deslaurier said with a smile. “So he got enough at 103.”

Quite a few of the players had their children sitting on the bench during the Skills Competition and Byron’s two young kids were in the locker room with him afterward when the media entered.

“It was cool,” Byron said. “It’s a good day to spend with your family. You get in the grind of the season, there’s a lot of days when you don’t see them when you’re on the road, you’re playing games. To share that experience, have them on the bench, they get to see me skate as fast as I can. It was pretty cool.”
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