Los Angeles’ Anze Kopitar, Philly’s Jakub Voracek and Pittsburgh’s Marc-Andre Fleury have been named the NHL’s three stars for the week ending Dec. 21, the league announced on Monday.
Kopitar led the NHL with nine points and eight assists in three games, helping the Kings (17-11-6, 40 points) win two of three starts to maintain a Wild Card spot in the Western Conference.
Voracek tied for second among all players with seven points (3-4—7) in four games to power the Flyers (13-14-6, 32 points) to five out of a possible eight standings points and vault into the top spot in NHL scoring.
Fleury went 3-0-0 with a 0.99 goals-against average, .971 save percentage and one shutout to help the Penguins (22-6-4, 48 points) record a trio of victories and maintain the top spot in the Eastern Conference.
For Kopitar, last week was huge as it snapped him out of a terrible scoring slump. The 27-year-old had just 13 points through his first 28 games and a 10-game goalless drought from Nov. 18 to Dec. 11.
The Pittsburgh Penguins announced that Marc-Andre Fleury tested negative for the mumps and has been cleared to play against the Colorado Avalanche. The rest of the news is murky or downright negative, however.
Backup goalie Thomas Greiss is being tested and kept in isolation. As mentioned on Wednesday, defensemen Olli Maatta and Robert Bortuzzo are also being monitored, as their results are still to be determined.
Sidney Crosby and Beau Bennett have already been confirmed to deal with the problem, so this mumps outbreak is causing serious issues for the Penguins.
We may know more about whether Crosby can play against Colorado later today:
Despite these problems, Pittsburgh beat the Tampa Bay Lightning 4-2 on Monday and hope to improve on a 20-6-4 record tonight.
Former Penguins coach Dan Bylsma was on Sportsnet’s FAN 590 radio today (audio). Among the questions he was asked: Do Pittsburgh’s Stanley Cup hopes all “come down” to how Marc-Andre Fleury performs once the playoff pressure’s on?
Bylsma, not surprisingly, suggested it’s a bit more complex than that.
“I think it’s easy to pin it on one guy and to say that’s the case,” he said. “Some of the struggles Marc had, you look back to the opening series against Philadelphia (in 2012)…no one’s going to like those numbers when you’re under .900 save percentage.
“But I don’t think you can pin that all on the goaltender and say, well, if Marc-Andre Fleury would have played better then we would have won. But that’s going to be something that happens.”
Bylsma went on to say that Fleury is “playing spectacular” right now and that the 30-year-old, who’s been roundly criticized for his .905 career save percentage in the postseason, has won in the playoffs before, helping the Penguins to a Stanley Cup title in 2009.
“You just can’t leave your goaltender out to dry,” he said. “You can’t pin it all on your goaltender and say, ‘We’re going to win if he has a .950 save percentage.'”
As for Bylsma’s coaching future? He said he’d like to be back behind an NHL bench within the next year, if not sooner.
“I’m not necessarily ready to get [back] to the game tomorrow,” he said, “but I’m certainly going to get back in at some point in time and look to be a coach again.”
An update on the mumps-infested Pittsburgh Penguins, per the club:
Sidney Crosby skated on his own before practice today at Consol Energy Center, Pittsburgh Penguins General Manager Jim Rutherford said.
Crosby has passed the infectious period for the mumps. Today was the start of his on- and off-ice preparations to return to the team.
Rutherford also announced that Marc-Andre Fleury, Robert Bortuzzo and Olli Maatta were not feeling well and were being tested for the mumps as a precaution.
All Penguins players were tested for the mumps in early December and all tested negative at that time.
Another Penguin, Beau Bennett, was diagnosed with the mumps yesterday, bringing the total of NHLers infected during the outbreak to 15, per the CP.
Ultimately, the Pittsburgh Penguins’ star players came through on Monday, while many of the Boston Bruins’ best watched on the sidelines.
Boston managed to stick with Pittsburgh even with key players like Zdeno Chara still injured, yet much like head coach Claude Julien has said, they just haven’t had much margin of error. Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin to generate Pittsburgh’s three goals, including this electrifying game-winner by Malkin:
This 3-2 overtime win gives Marc-Andre Fleury 300 career regular season victories. His agent Allan Walsh points out that he’s the third youngest goalie to hit the 300 mark.
Crosby scored a goal and two assists while Malkin finished the night with two tallies. Kris Letang collected two helpers of his own and also helped trigger the overtime winner.
The Bruins deserve credit for hanging tough, including carrying the play for chunks of time, as you can see from this Natural Stat Trick graph:
The Bruins saw two goals get disallowed through the first 40 minutes of play. The bounces frequently didn’t go Boston’s way, even though they scored two goals in less than 30 seconds.
The Bruins have now lost two games in a row. Their next game is against the Winnipeg Jets on Friday. After that, it’s a foreboding four-game road trip through the West.
Pittsburgh bounces back from two straight losses against the Islanders and will see the Toronto Maple Leafs on Wednesday.
The worst news for them was that Beau Bennett went down with an injury. He returned for a shift but it didn’t go well: