This week’s edition of the NHL Three Stars of the Week had that special playoff flavor to it and Sabres forward Thomas Vanek led the way as the number one star of the week. Vanek helped the Sabres into the playoffs this past week and had a pair of three point games. Vanek’s hat trick against Tampa Bay and his game winning goal along with two assists against Philadelphia helped put the Sabres into the playoffs. Vanek sat out against Columbus in their season finale. Two games and six points is pretty sexy nonetheless and now Vanek will lead the Sabres against the Flyers in the postseason. The Flyers will be hoping he got all that scoring out of his system last week.
Vincent Lecavalier finished the week with four goals and an assist while leading the Lightning to the fifth seed in the East and helping Tampa Bay go 2-1-0 on the week. Lecavalier is the Lightning captain and his scoring has picked up at the right time of year. He’s not the 100 points per season Vinny anymore, but his work in support of Martin St. Louis and Steve Stamkos is solid and they’re hoping that his Stanley Cup experience can help them go deep in the playoffs.
Dan Ellis may not be the guy that Ducks fans expected to help them secure the fourth seed in the Western Conference, but they’re happy he did. Ellis’ week going 2-0-0 with a 1.21 goals against average and a .964 save percentage in three appearances last week helped him land as the third star of the week. Ellis now heads into the playoffs looking like he might just be their starter against his former team in Nashville. With Ray Emery hobbled and Jonas Hiller slow in returning to form from vertigo, Ellis could very well be the man in goal. He’ll need to be strong to put up with Nashville in the playoffs.
Raanta rewards Rangers for starts over Lundqvist by blanking Blackhawks
If someone told you that the New York Rangers started a goalie on back-to-back nights, and that goalie wasn’t Henrik Lundqvist, you’d probably wonder if he was hurt or retired.
Nope. It just so happens that Antti Raanta is playing at an incredibly high level, Alain Vigneault noticed, and that decision paid dividends on Friday night. Raanta won both nights of a back-to-back, allowing a single goal (with the Rangers protecting him, being that he only needed to stop 43 of 44 shots during that span).
Raanta and the Rangers blanked the Chicago Blackhawks with a 1-0 overtime win, at least briefly climbing to first place in the massively competitive Metro Division:
1. Rangers – 39 points in 29 games played
2. Penguins- 37 points in 27 GP
3. Blue Jackets – 36 points in 25 GP
4. Capitals – 35 points in 26 GP
5. Flyers – 35 points in 29 GP
Nick Holden ended up scoring the only goal of the game:
Meanwhile, the Blackhawks lost but at least salvaged a standings point and it seems like Patrick Kane is OK after this injury scare:
Raanta improved to 7-1-0 on the season, allowing two goals or less in all but one of his appearances so far this season. That’s the kind of work you’d expect to see if you’re going sit a guy who’s, you know, a living legend.
Blue Jackets remain in thick of things in Metro on tough night for Red Wings
As the Columbus Blue Jackets keep rolling, the Detroit Red Wings are probably just happy to get Friday behind them.
For the second straight game, the Blue Jackets beat their opponent 4-1.
They’re now on a five-game winning streak, and like the climbing St. Louis Blues, things look great if you go back a little further. They’re 10-1-2 in their last 13 games and 13-2-3 since November began.
The New Jersey Devils have been incredibly difficult to beat at home. Lately, the St. Louis Blues have been on a roll just about anywhere.
On Friday night, the Blues were the hotter team, handing the Devils their first home loss in regulation in 2016-17. And it wasn’t particularly close, with St. Louis winning 4-1.
It’s a convenient time to note that the Blues rank among the hottest teams in the NHL. Most recently, they’re 5-1-1 in their last seven games, but they’ve been especially impressive since they flirted with .500 at 7-6-3. Beginning with a 4-1 win against the Buffalo Sabres on Nov. 15, the Blues are on a 8-2-1 tear.
This leaves them second in the Central with a 16-8-4 record.
That’s impressive stuff.
This 4-1 win was quite the showcase for Robby Fabbri and Vladimir Tarasenko, in particular. Tarasenko collected three assists while Fabbri scored two goals on Friday night. His second goal was particularly slick:
The Blues are right in saying that this was a pretty fitting opportunity to drop a “Holy Jumpin.”
Minnesota Wild goalie Devan Dubnyk has been the most difficult goalies to score against this season. Leave it to a high-level player like Leon Draisaitl to make it look this, well, “easy.”
Draisaitl scored his 13th goal of 2016-17 by capping this pretty give-and-go play with Benoit Pouliot. You can see the frustration from Dubnyk at the end of the tally, as if he was saying “How was I supposed to stop that?” (though probably with more colorful language).
Draisaitl came into Friday with five goals and three assists in his last five games, so he’s been almost unstoppable lately.