With December beginning today, the NHL decided to name its three stars for the month of November: Sidney Crosby, Carey Price and Dustin Byfuglien. It’s pretty difficult to argue with those three choices, but let’s take a look at the kind of month enjoyed by each player. Here are some of our observations along with some lines from the league’s press release
(You have to enjoy the symmetry that comes from naming one forward, one defenseman and a goalie, by the way.)
First star: Crosby
Say what you will about Crosby; it’s understandable to get slightly annoyed by the hype. (A Canadian magazine naming him “Newsmaker of the Year” does seem to be a bit strong.) Yet you cannot deny that the young star delivers about as much as one can ask him to.
In the case of November, he scored almost two points per game.
Crosby led all players last month with 26 points (12 goals, 14 assists) in 14 games, taking first place in the NHL scoring race and lifting the Penguins (16-8-2) to a first-place tie with the Philadelphia Flyers in the Atlantic Division. Crosby finished the month with an active 13-game point streak, the longest in the NHL this season and the third-longest of his career, helping the Penguins reel off seven consecutive victories.
A lot of goalies had great runs during November, but the league chose Price because of his overall body of work. Marc-Andre Fleury and Ondrej Pavelec (among others) put together great two week spans here and there, but Price made the biggest impact over the entire month.
Price posted an 8-4-0 record, 1.59 goals-against average, .952 save percentage and three shutouts in 12 games, backstopping the Canadiens (15-8-1) to a five-point lead atop the Northeast Division. Price faced more shots than any goaltender in November (392) and allowed one goal or fewer in six of his final nine starts of the month, highlighted by a 41-save performance in a 3-0 victory over the Philadelphia Flyers Nov. 16.
After attracting criticism from many corners of the hockey world for moving the beefy former Blackhawk back to his original spot on the blueline, Byfuglien and the Atlanta Thrashers look like they might get the last laugh. His 10 goals and 27 points lead NHL defensemen, but check out his productivity in terms of November.
Byfuglien led all defensemen in scoring with 17 points (six goals, 11 assists) in 14 games and posted a +9 rating, helping the Thrashers (13-9-3) climb to sixth place in the Eastern Conference standings. Two of his goals were game-winners, bringing his season total to a League-leading five. Byfuglien closed the month with a flourish, scoring the game-winning goal plus three assists and a +2 rating in a 4-1 win over the Boston Bruins Nov. 28 and notching the game-tying goal late in the third period and drawing an assist on Anthony Stewart’s overtime goal in a 4-3 win at Colorado Nov. 30, extending the Thrashers’ winning streak to six games.