The NHL named its three best players for the week of December 6-12, with San Jose Sharks forward Ryane Clowe, Pittsburgh Penguins goalie Marc-Andre Fleury and Columbus Blue Jackets star Rick Nash earning the honors.
Let’s take a look at their respective weeks, with our thoughts combined with some tidbits from the NHL’s press release.
First star: Clowe
The burly forward is second on the Sharks with 28 points thanks to eight goals and 20 assists. Most interestingly, though (in my opinion), is the fact that he joins Dan Cleary as a rare NHL player from Newfoundland.
Clowe led all scorers last week with eight points (three goals, five assists) as the Sharks (15-10-4) won three of four games. Clowe tallied multiple points in each game, beginning with a pair of assists in a 5-2 victory over the Detroit Red Wings Dec. 6. He notched one goal, one assist and a shootout tally in a 5-4 victory over the Philadelphia Flyers Dec. 8, recorded two assists in a 6-3 loss to the Buffalo Sabres Dec. 9 and scored both goals, including the overtime winner, in a 2-1 win over the Chicago Blackhawks Dec. 11.
Second star: Fleury
It’s difficult to contain Fleury’s great play to one week when he’s won 11 games in a row since November 17th. You have to wonder if “MAF” is starting to encroach on Vezina Trophy nominee status with the way he’s played in the last month or so. Here are his stats from the week itself, though.
Fleury posted a 3-0-0 record, 1.67 goals-against average and .944 save percentage as the Penguins (21-8-2) extended their winning streak to 12 games. Fleury made 27 saves in a 2-1 victory over the New Jersey Devils Dec. 6, stopped 23 shots in a 5-2 victory over the Toronto Maple Leafs Dec. 8 and concluded the week by making 34 saves in a 5-2 victory over the Buffalo Sabres Dec. 11.
Third star: Nash
Much like Fleury, this isn’t the first time this season that Nash earned a star of the week award. He previously earned that mark in late November as well. Let’s take a look at the week itself from the (occasionally stubbly) face of the Columbus Blue Jackets.
Nash tallied six points (three goals, three assists) in three games, helping the Blue Jackets post a pair of victories and reach the 28-game mark with the best record in franchise history (16-11-1). Nash figured in each Columbus goal last week, starting with a last-minute, game-tying goal, an assist and a shootout tally in a 3-2 victory over the Dallas Stars Dec. 6.
Brooks Orpik‘s late hit in Game 2 on Saturday might keep him out of Monday’s contest.
At the very least, the NHL Department of Player Safety intends to discuss the matter with Orpik today, per the department’s Twitter feed.
The incident occurred early in the first period when the Capitals forward smashed into Olli Maatta. The Penguins blueliner collapsed and needed some assistance getting off the ice. He didn’t return to the game.
You can see that hit below:
“I thought it was a late hit,” Penguins coach Mike Sullivan told CSN Mid-Atlantic. “I thought it was a target to his head. I think it’s the type of hit everyone in hockey is trying to remove from the game.”
The Penguins didn’t have an update on Maatta’s condition immediately following the contest.
The Toronto Maple Leafs may have won the draft lottery, but an argument can be made that the luckiest team last night was the Winnipeg Jets.
After all, Toronto had the best odds to get the top pick, but Winnipeg jumped from sixth to second in the draft order.
“I don’t know if it has sunk in yet,” Jets GM Kevin Cheveldayoff told the Winnipeg Sun. “I was doing my scrum at the end (of the show) with the media that was here, I said at one point, ‘Moving from six to two…’ and I had to catch myself and go through the mental notes in my head that it had just really happened.”
It’s likely, though not guaranteed, that the Maple Leafs will take Auston Matthews with the first overall pick. Assuming that’s the case, moving up to the second overall pick means that Winnipeg will have the option of choosing one of the two promising Finnish forwards available: Patrik Laine or Jesse Puljujarvi.
That’s potentially a big break for Winnipeg, especially after this campaign where the Jets went from making the playoffs for the first time since relocating to posting a 35-39-8 record. Through five campaigns in Winnipeg, the Jets have missed the playoffs four times.
The last time this franchise drafted this high was back when the then Atlanta Thrashers took Kari Lehtonen with the second overall pick in 2002. That was the final year in a string of four straight drafts where the Thrashers always had the first or second selection. The previous three years they took Patrik Stefan (1999), Dany Heatley (2000), and Ilya Kovalchuk (2001).
Related: Shanahan: Leafs earned No. 1 pick ‘the hard way’
After the Eastern Conference Game 2s played out on Saturday, we’re getting the Western Conference set today. You can watch the action via NBC Sports Group’s television and digital platforms.
Here’s a quick overview of where specifically you can watch the contests:
St. Louis at Dallas (3:00 p.m. ET)
If you want to watch the game on television, NBC is the channel to do that. If you want to stream the game with the NBC Sports Live Extra app, click here.
Nashville at San Jose (8:00 p.m. ET)
The game will be televised on NBCSN. You can also stream the contest by clicking here.
Here’s some relevant pregame reading material:
With Eaves injured, Nichushkin will play for Stars in Game 2
Hitchcock, Blues know they need to slow down the Stars … but can they?
Sharks swarm in the third period, take down Predators in Game 1
Speed, skill help Stars score late victory to take series lead over Blues
The Pittsburgh Penguins have spoken out against a late, high hit that Washington Capitals defenseman Brooks Orpik threw on Olli Maatta early in the first period of an eventful Game 2 on Saturday.
Maatta left and didn’t return. He played only 31 seconds, and the Penguins were reduced to five defensemen for a large portion of the game. Orpik was given a minor penalty on the play, but the league’s Department of Player Safety may see it differently.
The hit occurred well after Maatta had gotten rid of the puck. He struggled on his way to the dressing room for further evaluation.
Based on multiple reports, Orpik wasn’t made available to the media following the game, which went to the Penguins as they earned the split on the road.
But the Penguins have taken issue with the hit.
“I thought it was a late hit,” said Penguins coach Mike Sullivan, as per CSN Mid-Atlantic. “I thought it was a target to his head. I think it’s the type of hit everyone in hockey is trying to remove from the game.”