Three Stars of the Week
1. Alexander Ovechkin (Washington Capitals)
I predicted that Ovi was going to break out a couple weeks ago, and now the world is seeing what was expected: Alex Ovechkin with his confidence and toothless swagger is back. Ovi is now tied with Steven Stamkos for the league lead in goals, courtesy of his obscene seven…SEVEN…goals in the past calendar week. Just wow. In four games against the Hurricanes, Panthers, Islanders, and Lightning, Ovechkin netted seven goals (including one hat trick) and two assists. Two goals came on the lethal power play, and both assists did too. I’d be scared of the Capitals right now if I were in the Southeast Division.
2. Nicklas Backstrom (Washington Capitals)
Somebody has to be contributing to all of Ovechkin’s goals on the Capitals. Backstrom had one of the more memorable weeks in the NHL without scoring a goal. He managed nine…NINE…assists in four games this past week, just absolute insanity. It might be the only number that is more crazy than Ovechkin’s goals. Backstrom now has 34 assists on the season, good for third best in the league. The long-awaited breakout of Backstrom may finally be coming alongside Ovechkin. The two could make themselves prominent into June this year.
3. Henrik Lundqvist (New York Rangers)
The defending Vezina Trophy winner is once again proving his individual value to the New York Rangers. Lundqvist has single-handedly kept the Rangers in games this season, none more prevalent than his work against the Carolina Hurricanes this past week in which he made 40+ saves while only allowing one goal. The Rangers are starting to find their form after letting go of superstar Marian Gaborik, and Lundqvist will need to continue to come up huge for the Rangers to have Cup aspirations this year. Lundqvist had the lowest Goals Against Average rating of all goalies this past week who made at least three starts with a 1.22.
Eastern Conference Team of the Week
I don’t know if there is much more I can say about the Capitals during this past week. Washington won all four of its games in convincing fashion, scoring fourteen goals in the week. Half of the team’s goals came from superstar Alexander Ovechkin who is proving to be a challenge to Tampa Bay’s Stamkos for the scoring title (see above). The Capitals, in winning four in a row, have boosted their league leading power play to a 25.2% conversion rate, two full percentage points higher than the second best team in the league, the Flyers. This week, the Capitals will hope to increase their lead in the Southeast Division over the Jets with games against the Canadiens and division foes Carolina and Tampa Bay at home.
Western Conference Team of the Week
When I picked the St. Louis Blues to win the Western Conference earlier this year, I expected them to play like they had this last week. The Blues dethroned three playoff teams this last week, and also the up-and-coming Blue Jackets en route to a perfect week. The Blues, behind the always-steady goaltending from Brian Elliot and rookie Jake Allen knocked off the Minnesota Wild, Chicago Blackhawks in a shootout, and Detroit Red Wings. The Blues currently hold the seventh playoff seed in the Western Conference, and staying out of the eight seed is so important, to avoid playing Chicago in the first round, although Anaheim is no easy task either. The Blues will look forward to continuing their hot play against the Predators, Wild, and Blue Jackets on the road, and against the Blackhawks at home.
Three Games to Watch this Week (Eastern Times)
Detroit Red Wings @ Chicago Blackhawks – Friday April 12, 8:30 p.m.
Tampa Bay Lightning @ Washington Capitals – Saturday April 13, 7:00 p.m.
Anaheim Ducks @ Los Angeles Kings – Saturday April 13, 11:00 p.m.