October’s three stars: Steve Stamkos, Tim Thomas and Chris Stewart

The NHL handed out its three stars award for the month of October, with Tampa Bay Lightning forward Steve Stamkos, Boston Bruins goalie Tim Thomas and Colorado Avalanche winger Chris Stewart earning the honor.

It’s tough to say if the NHL made the right call in choosing Stamkos over Thomas, considering the fact that the Boston Bruins goalie went on the kind of run that literally might not be topped for years (if not a decade). Still, the league made the right choices, even if the order is debatable.

Let’s take a look at each player’s outstanding month of play, with some help from the league’s press release and a pithy comment or too to boot.

1. Steve Stamkos

Stamkos led all players in scoring with 19 points (nine goals, 10 assists) in 10 games as the Lightning (7-2-1) finished October with the top record in the Eastern Conference for the first time in franchise history. The 20-year-old Markham, Ontario native, who last season became the third-youngest player in NHL history to claim the League’s goal-scoring title with 51, tallied points in nine of 10 games, highlighted by five multiple-point performances and a pair of game-winning goals. He also ranked among the League leaders in plus-minus, tying for second overall with a +9 rating.

His 23.7 percent shooting percentage indicates that he might have been a little lucky at times last month. Indeed, a near-goal-per-game pace is probably too much to expect from the sniper who looks like an ’80s teen comedy villain, but he has a fantastic chance to top his great 51-goal mark from last season.

Stamkos also has plenty of financial justification for continuing to play well. After all, his entry-level contract expires after this season; could he earn a Sidney Crosby-type salary by remaining dominant for the rest of 2010-11?

2. Tim Thomas

Thomas won each of his six starts in October, posting a League-leading 0.50 goals-against average, .984 save percentage and three shutouts. He allowed one goal or fewer in each appearance, becoming the first Bruins goaltender to start the season 6-0-0 since Hockey Hall of Famer Cecil ‘Tiny’ Thompson in 1937-38.

Read all about the amazing six-game start for Thomas right here.

3. Chris Stewart

It was a pretty good month for both of the Stewart brothers (Anthony Stewart of the Atlanta Thrashers also played quite well), but Chris really took the cake. Here is a little bit more about the budding power forward’s amazing month via the league’s press release.

Stewart ranked second behind Stamkos in October scoring, posting 16 points (nine goals, seven assists) in 11 games. He also tied for the League lead with three game-winning goals, helping the Avalanche (6-4-1) claim first place in the Northwest Division.

Anyway, those are the league’s choices for the best three players for the month of October. Do you have any quibbles with those choices? Let us know if you would have chosen someone else in the comments.

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    Ducks deny rally, end Penguins’ winning streak

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    When Ondrej Kase cashed in on another breakaway opportunity for the Ducks to make it 4-1 in the second period, it looked like that goal would be icing on the cake for Anaheim. Even if it would be especially pretty frosting.

    Instead, that stylish goal ended up being critical, as the Pittsburgh Penguins nearly rallied in the third period to at least send Wednesday’s game to overtime. John Gibson ended up holding down the fort, and with an empty-netter in the dying seconds, the Ducks ended up beating the Penguins 5-3.

    You could call it a game of periods and close calls.

    The Penguins entered the first intermission thanks to a 1-0 Evgeni Malkin goal, but the Ducks dominated the middle frame with their first four-goal period of 2017-18. The Penguins’ prolific power play helped them stay in the game (2-for-4, with both goals coming during that third-period comeback bid), but the rally fell short. Pittsburgh’s winning streak ended at four victories.

    Some bounces went both ways, as Antoine Vermette nearly scored for the Ducks while Carl Hagelin suffered a near-miss. So maybe those missed opportunities cancel each other out?

    From the Ducks’ perspective, this is the latest argument in favor of this team being a threat now that key pieces have returned to the lineup. This win begins what they hope is a successful five-game homestand, as Anaheim still needs to battle for its own playoff hopes.

    The Penguins can’t ruminate on this loss for very long. They head to Los Angeles to face what must be a frustrated Kings team (four straight defeats, only two wins in their last eight games) on Thursday, with little reason to expect any mercy.

    This last stretch of wins improved the Penguins’ outlook, but dropping games in back-to-back nights could make things tense again in a hurry. You can check out that Penguins – Kings game on NBCSN Thursday.

    James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

    Willie O’Ree celebrates 60th anniversary of debut with Bruins

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    BOSTON (AP) Hockey pioneer Willie O’Ree was honored in Boston on Wednesday on the 60th anniversary of the Bruins forward breaking the NHL’s color barrier.

    At a news conference at the TD Garden before the Bruins game against the Montreal Canadiens, Mayor Marty Walsh declared Jan. 18, 2018 to be “Willie O’Ree Day”. O’Ree made his debut in 1958 during a 3-0 victory against the Canadiens at the Forum in Montreal.

    Walsh called O’Ree a Boston legend who changed the city for the better and thanked him for his courage. As part of the celebration, the city dedicated a new street hockey rink in the Allston-Brighton neighborhood to be known as Willie O’Ree Rink.

    A native of Canada, O’Ree, 82, had four goals and 10 assists in 45 games over parts of two NHL seasons. He spent a total of 21 years in pro hockey.

    For the past two decades, O’Ree has served as the NHL’s Diversity Ambassador, spreading the message that hockey is for everyone.

    More AP NHL hockey at https://apnews.com/tag/NHLhockey

    Bruins cruise vs. Canadiens in Julien’s return to Boston

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    Don’t blame Claude Julien if Wednesday made him think of better times, and not just because it was his welcome back night in Boston.

    Coming into this one, it was a tale of two teams going in opposite directions, and the teams stuck to their scripts. The Boston Bruins remain red-hot with a 4-1 win, while the Montreal Canadiens are mired in mediocrity .. or worse?

    When you’re as disappointing as the Canadiens have been, plenty of things are going wrong. It was a weak start even with a 1-0 lead and 1-1 first period in mind, and it obviously didn’t get any better.

    Nights like these have to sting for Julien, a coach known for his sophisticated systems and eye for defensive detail.

    There are questions about Max Pacioretty possibly being trade bait. People wonder if Jonathan Drouin or Alex Galchenyuk fit as centers, or if neither work that way. Yet, these performances make you realize that as exasperated as management must be, they may also appreciate more specific distractions.

    Because, frankly, this was a team … non-effort.

    Then again, the Bruins are a red-hot squad, so maybe they shine an especially harsh light on the Habs’ haplessness?

    Boston generated a 32-22 shots on goal advantage in this one, with multiple contributors stepping up. Big guns came through (Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak were among the goal scorers, Patrice Bergeron collected two assists), while David Backes and others added to the fun.

    It was the kind of effort Julien would have been very happy with, if it didn’t come at his expense.

    James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

    WATCH LIVE: Pittsburgh Penguins at Anaheim Ducks

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    CLICK HERE TO WATCH LIVE

    PROJECTED LINEUPS

    Pittsburgh Penguins

    Dominik SimonSidney Crosby — Daniel Sprong

    Carl HagelinEvgeni MalkinPatric Hornqvist

    Conor ShearyJake GuentzelPhil Kessel

    Tom KuhnhacklRiley SheahanRyan Reaves

    Brian DumoulinKris Letang

    Olli MaattaJustin Schultz

    Matt HunwickJamie Oleksiak

    Starting goalie: Tristan Jarry

    [NHL on NBCSN doubleheader: Canadiens vs. Bruins; Penguins vs. Ducks]

    Ducks

    Rickard RakellRyan GetzlafCorey Perry

    Derek GrantRyan KeslerJakob Silfverberg

    Nick RitchieAdam HenriqueOndrej Kase

    Chris WagnerAntoine VermetteJ.T. Brown

    Cam FowlerKevin Bieksa

    Hampus LindholmJosh Manson

    Francois BeaucheminBrandon Montour

    Starting goalie: John Gibson