Three Stars of the Week
1. Phil Kessel (Toronto Maple Leafs)
Toronto has been one of the surprises of the National Hockey League this season and now sit in a playoff spot after missing the postseason last year, while playing in one of the toughest divisions in the league. The veteran lethal sniper is a big reason why. Boasting a laser of a wrist shot, Kessel netted five goals and two assists in just three games played last week. One assist and one goal came on the power play, and Kessel also won the game for his team against the New York Rangers. Kessel is a huge reason why the Maple Leafs currently sit in fifth in the conference with seven games left to play.
2. Brian Elliot (St. Louis Blues)
Elliot has been an animal of a goaltender over the past two seasons for the Blues. Elliot played in three of St. Louis’s five games this past calendar week, and did not allow a goal until Sunday afternoon against the Chicago Blackhawks. Elliot had impressive shutouts against the Minnesota Wild in Minnesota and Nashville Predators in Nashville. He did suffer the loss to the Blackhawks, but then again, that’s understandable. It’s hard to believe he only has eight wins on twelve starts this season.
3. Jaromir Jagr (Boston Bruins)
Boston went out on a limb to sign the veteran forward who is making his rounds throughout the NHL after a steady career with the Penguins and Rangers. Jagr is meshing well with his new teammates, as he collected six assists in four games last week against the Hurricanes twice, the Devils, and the Islanders. Jagr now has a goal and six assists in the six games he has played for Boston, while he only had fourteen goals and twelve assists in 34 games with the Stars. Jagr’s production will be a major factor for the Bruins come playoff time.
Eastern Conference Team of the Week
Once again, the Washington Capitals have reestablished themselves as a power in the Eastern Conference. After a couple low years, the Capitals have boomed towards the top of the standings, and it comes with no surprise that the wins have come with the return of Alexander Ovechkin’s explosion of offense. Ovechkin, as of Sunday April 14, now leads the NHL with 27 goals, and with a juggernaut on the ice, it seems as if the Capitals cannot lose. The Caps won all four of their games last week to continue their seven-game winning streak. The last week featured key wins against division foes Tampa Bay (twice) and Carolina, with a win against a tough Montreal team as well. Look for increased production from the role players such as Eric Fehr and Troy Brouwer in the upcoming week in which the Caps take on the Maple Leafs, Senators, and Canadiens, in a little Canadian series.
Western Conference Team of the Week
I think it’s time for me to bite my tongue when it comes to doubting the Blackhawks like I have in recent weeks. I thought that the Blackhawks were struggling mightily against repeat teams, but Chicago has come out strong in the past week to prove me wrong. Featuring two shutouts, the Blackhawks knocked off the Nashville Predators, Minnesota Wild, Detroit Red Wings, and St. Louis Blues while riding the shoulders of goaltenders Corey Crawford and Ray Emery. The Blackhawks insane ability to score is clear in their goal differential. In the last week alone, the ‘Hawks had a +5 differential (with a shootout win) to boost their league leading differential to an absurd +49, more than double that of any other team in the conference. Wow.
Three Games to Watch this Week (Eastern Times)
Montreal Canadiens @ Pittsburgh Penguins – Wednesday April 17, 7:00 p.m.
Pittsburgh Penguins @ Boston Bruins – Friday April 19, 7:00 p.m.
New Jersey Devils @ New York Rangers – Sunday April 21, 3:00 p.m.