Originally posted on Red Light District Hockey | Last updated 3/5/12
With the trade deadline having come and gone, it is now time to focus on the NHL stretch run. It is at this time, you will see players and teams take their games to new levels while at the same time, see clubs fall out of the race to get into the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
With that in mind, let's get rolling with our "The Week Ahead" segment here at RLD Hockey.
Three Stars of The Week 1) Ryan Miller, Buffalo Sabres Much like how Stamkos has lead the Lightning to big wins over the course of the week, Buffalo Sabres' netminder Ryan Miller has done just that for his hockey club. Miller won three games, picked up two consecutive shutouts, stopped 114 of 117 shots faced and has gotten his club back into the postseason hunt. 2) Steven Stamkos, Tampa Bay Lightning There are two words to describe why the Tampa Bay Lightning are back in the playoff hunt in the Eastern Conference: Steven Stamkos. Stamkos, 22, had seven points this week on four goals and three assists. Stamkos leads the league with 47 goals and 80 points. If he continues to play this way, he may just get the Lightning into the postseason. 3) Jaroslav Halak, St. Louis Blues The St. Louis Blues are one of the few teams in the NHL to have two number one netminders. As it turns out, the one who is supposed to be the No. 1 guy all along has got his game back into top form. Jaroslav Halak won three games last week, stopped 60 of 64 shots and has helped keep the Blues near the very top of the standings in both the Central Division and Western Conference.
Three Players to Keep an Eye On - Rick Nash, Columbus Blue Jackets The one player who was really expected to be dealt at the deadline in a blockbuster deal never ended up being dealt and is now stuck with the Columbus Blue Jackets for the remainder of the season. With that said, Rick Nash's play has not slowed down one bit. In fact, this past week Nash scored three goals and assisted on another for four points. On the season, Nash now has 24 goals and 23 assists for 47 points.
This week, Nash and the rest of the Blue Jackets will take on the Coyotes, Kings and Blues (twice).
- Erik Karlsson, Ottawa Senators There is no doubt that come the end of the season, Ottawa Senators' defenseman Erik Karlsson is going to be a Norris Trophy candidate. This past week, Karlsson continued to show that by picking up six points. In 65 games, Karlsson, 21, is scoring at a point-per-game pace with 15 goals and 51 assists for 66 points.
This week, Karlsson and the Senators will take on the Lightning, Rangers and Sabres.
- Tim Thomas, Boston Bruins With the status of backup netminder Tuuka Rask unknown, it will more than likely be on the shoulders of starting netminder Tim Thomas to carry the Bruins the rest of the way. In 44 games this season, Thomas, 37, is 27-14-0 with a 2.24 GAA, a .928 save percentage and four shutouts. Not bad for a goaltender that will be 38 years old come the postseason, eh?
This week, Thomas and the Bruins will take on the Maple Leafs, Sabres, Capitals and Penguins.
Two Teams to Watch - Washington Capitals If you would have said at the start of the season that there would be a chance that the Washington Capitals might not make the playoffs, many would have probably said you are crazy. However, the Capitals are currently out of the playoff picture and sit ninth in the Eastern Conference with 69 points. The team has been inconsistent all season long and it has hurt them up to this point.
This week, the Capitals will look to right the ship against the Hurricanes, Lightning, Bruins and Maple Leafs.
- Toronto Maple Leafs With a new coach in town in Randy Carlyle, the Toronto Maple Leafs will need to start winning hockey games if they want to get into the postseason for the first time since 2004. The team got off to a good start under Carlyle when they beat the Montreal Canadiens on Saturday night with a 3-1 victory. They were disciplined on defense and got timely saves from netminder Jonas Gustavsson, something they will need more of in the last five weeks of the regular season.
This week, the Leafs will take on the Bruins, Penguins, Flyers and Capitals.
Game of the Week Saturday, March 10 -- Detroit @ Nashville There is nothing better in hockey than when two division rivals and conference powerhouses go at it. This will be the case on Saturday when the Detroit Red Wings travel to Nashville to take on the Predators. Both clubs are in the top five in the National Hockey League and are separated by just six points in the Central Division. It should be a dandy of a hockey game.
Other Games to Keep an Eye On Monday, March 5 Buffalo @ Winnipeg Tuesday, March 6 Boston @ Toronto NY Rangers @ New Jersey Detroit @ Philadelphia Chicago @ St. Louis Wednesday, March 7 Toronto @ Pittsburgh Thursday, March 8 Buffalo @ Boston Tampa Bay @ Washington Friday, March 9 NY Rangers @ Chicago Los Angeles @ Detroit Saturday, March 10 Washington @ Boston Detroit @ Nashville Sunday, March 11 Boston @ Pittsburgh Philadelphia @ New Jersey Los Angeles @ Chicago
Photo credit: Getty Images
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