Three Stars of the Week
1. Joffrey Lupul (Toronto Maple Leafs)
An offensive explosion from the Maple Leafs’ forward earns Lupul the top star this week. Lupul played in four games over the past week and led the league in goals over the past seven days with five. Most impressive about the five goals is that three of them turned out to be game winners, and three were also from the power play. Lupul won three of the four games for the Maple Leafs, essentially. It should also be noted that Lupul had four assists on the week, and a +4 rating to complete one of the best weeks the league has seen in 2013.
2. Antti Niemi (San Jose Sharks)
Although the Sharks’ season has not been what many expected from them, the returning goaltender Niemi has been an absolute workhorse for the team, and this past week was no different. Niemi won all four of his team’s games while giving up only five goals total. He tallied two shutouts over the Anaheim Ducks (one of my playoff picks) and the always-consistent Detroit Red Wings. Niemi faced 100 shots over four games and kept his Goals Against Average at a 1.22. He also registered a save percentage of .952.
3. Taylor Hall (Edmonton Oilers)
The NHL’s team of the future is starting to bloom courtesy of the play of their three consecutive first overall draft picks. Taylor Hall, the first of the three, had a brilliant week last week tallying five goals of his own in four games. He also added three assists, but he only gets the third start because three of his goals came from a single game. Hall had an excellent +5 rating during the past week, too. With five games in the upcoming week against weak teams like the Calgary Flames, expect Hall’s offensive numbers to continue trending upward.
Eastern Conference Team of the Week
The team of the week once again is awarded to the NHL’s longest current winning streak at 15 straight games. The Penguins just keep on rolling, however this isn’t coming without a speed bump. Potential Hart Trophy winner Sidney Crosby has just gone down with a broken jaw and will most certainly miss the remainder of the season and maybe some of the playoffs. But, for the past week, the Penguins made the lack of their star center work, winning their three games at home against the Canadiens, Jets, and Islanders, while not giving up a goal. This can be accredited to the efforts of goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury. There is no more dominant team in hockey right now than the Penguins, but that all could change with the injury to Crosby. Keep a close eye on the Penguins games against the Sabres and Rangers next week to see how they can adjust.
Western Conference Team of the Week
The San Jose Sharks are hot, and have won four straight games to complete their perfect week. The Sharks took down my cup favorite, the Anaheim Ducks, in a home-and-home impressively, outscoring them nine to three in the two games, and then disposed of the Red Wings and Coyotes at the end of the week. The Sharks are enjoying a little home stand, with seven of their eight games being played at home, their lone road game being against the Ducks. The Sharks will play four at home next week against the Canucks, Wild, Flames, and Stars and will try and get back into the running for the Pacific Division, where they sit in third place, eleven points behind the division-leading Ducks.
Three Games to Watch this Week (Eastern Times)
Minnesota Wild @ San Jose Sharks – Wednesday April 3, 10:30 p.m.
St. Louis Blues @ Chicago Blackhawks – Thursday April 4, 8:30p.m.
Boston Bruins @ Montreal Canadiens – Saturday April 6, 7:00 p.m.