Three Stars of the Week
1. Alexander Ovechkin (Washington Capitals)
The league should start to worry knowing that the Capitals’ superstar is starting to score goals in head coach Adam Oates’ system. Ovechkin is one of the key reasons for the Capitals’ turn around, and it starts where Ovi knows best – in the goals department. Ovechkin netted five in the last week alone, three of which came on the power play. For the Capitals to continue their success, Ovechkin is going to need to be productive both on the power play and at even strength, which is exactly what he did over the past seven days. He also tallied three assists (one on the power play) and a plus three rating.
2.Cory Schneider (Vancouver Canucks)
The tandem of Vancouver goaltenders makes another appearance in this week’s three starts. Schneider started four games for the Canucks this week and won all four while only giving up five goals. What’s impressive is the shot numbers he had to put up with. Schneider turned away 111 shots in just four games, which helped him compile a .957 save percentage for the week. He also added a shutout against the Kings in Los Angeles, a daunting task. That accounts for a Goals Against Average of a minuscule 1.25, no big deal.
3. Nazem Kadri (Toronto Maple Leafs)
The forward most widely recognized for his brilliant shootout goals, (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ptVY0byJFzo) has cracked the top ten this week for his all around performance. In just three games against the Tampa Bay Lightning, the Buffalo Sabres, and the Boston Bruins, Kadri tallied four goals and three assists with a plus four rating. The third line center is doing all with linemates Joffrey Lupul and Nikolai Kulemin.
Eastern Conference Team of the Week
Despite dropping one game early in the week to the Eastern Conference leading Pittsburgh Penguins on the road, the Washington Capitals are the Eastern Conference team of the week. The Capitals played all four of their games on the road this week, no thanks to the March Madness festivities being held at the Verizon Center. For a team that looked down and out for the count, head coach Adam Oates has rallied his team back into the playoff hunt. Washington had two back to back key victories in Winnipeg that kept them in the division hunt, and then went into Madison Square Garden and beat the Rangers in a shootout to complete a three- game winning streak. Alex Ovechkin is playing like his former self (see above) and there is nothing to show that he is stopping anytime soon. The Southeast division is about to get a whole lot more competitive.
Western Conference Team of the Week
Although both the Vancouver Canucks and Minnesota Wild are both hot right now, the Canucks get the nod for my Western Conference team of the week because of their heavy schedule. The Canucks found ways to knock off the aforementioned Wild and the St. Louis Blues at home in a back-to-back to start the week. Then they beat the Coyotes on the road before finishing their week with another back-to-back, with two wins against the Kings in Los Angeles and the Avalanche in Colorado. None of the games went past regulation, and four of the five were one-goal games. What I see in this is a team that knows how to hold a lead and clamp down defensively when they have one, and this type of one-goal, crammed schedule wins are exactly what it takes to make a run in the playoffs.
Three Games to Watch this Week (Eastern Times)
1. Montreal Canadiens @ Boston Bruins – Wednesday March 27, 7:30 p.m.
2. Anaheim Ducks @ Chicago Blackhawks – Friday March 29, 8:30 p.m.
3. Carolina Hurricanes @ Winnipeg Jets – Saturday March 3