After backstopping the Coyotes to their first-ever division title, Mike Smith has been named the NHL’s first star for the final week of the regular season.
Smith started his week in style with a shutout win over the Blue Jackets, stopping all 54 shots faced to set an NHL record for most saves in a shutout performance. That also extended his shutout streak, which came to an end against the Blues on Friday in a 4-1 Coyotes win. Undeterred, Smith bounced back to stop 23 of 24 shots against Minnesota in the season finale — all told, he’s now stopped 188 of his last 190 shots faced.
“He’s embraced the No. 1 goaltender role with our team and he’s played excellent,” coach Dave Tippett said. “He had a few games there where he was basically willing us into the playoffs. His game is top-notch right now. Hopefully it goes into the playoffs and that continues.”
Second star went to Tampa Bay sniper Steve Stamkos, who on Saturday became just the 20th player in NHL history to hit the 60-goal plateau. He scored two in the final 1:03 of win over Washington, including the game-winner, then notched single goals against both Toronto and Winnipeg to reach the magic mark.
Third star went to Pittsburgh’s Sidney Crosby. The Penguins captain had three multi-point efforts in four games last week and scored the game-winning goals against both the Bruins and the Flyers. In just 22 games this season, Crosby finished with 8 goals and 37 points. Six of those goals came in his last nine games.
For the fifth time this season, Pittsburgh Penguins center Evgeni Malkin has been named one of the NHL’s stars of the week.
This week, Malkin was named first star (his second such honor — he’s also received a second and two thirds) after scoring nine points in four games, keeping the Pens within one point of first in the Eastern Conference. Malkin did the majority of his damage with a five-point effort (2G-3A) in an 8-4 win over Winnipeg, followed up by scoring twice in a 5-1 win over Nashville (he also scored two points in a 5-2 win over New Jersey).
The 2008-09 scoring champ how leads the NHL with 46G-51A-97PTS and could be the league’s lone 100-point scorer on the season.
Second star went to Buffalo’s Ryan Miller. The former Vezina winner led the NHL with four wins while posting a 1.26 GAA and .956 save percentage as the Sabres drew even with Washington for the eighth and final playoff spot in the East. Miller stopped 24 of 27 shots in a 7-3 win over Tampa Bay, recorded his career-high sixth shutout against Montreal (34 saves), stopped 26 of 27 against the Rangers and then 24 of 25 against the Wild. With one more win Miller will hit 30 for the season, marking his seventh consecutive season of 30 wins or more.
Third star went to Washington’s Alex Ovechkin. He led the league with six goals as the Caps earned six of a possible eight points to stay ever-so-slightly ahead in the Eastern Conference playoff chase. As a result, Ovi is now tied for fourth in the NHL with 36 goals and has scored in five straight contests, one of his best stretches of the season.
It’s Ilya Bryzgalov’s universe.
The rest of us are just living in it.
For the second consecutive week, the Philadelphia Flyers goalie was named the NHL’s first star — this time after posting a 3-0-1 record while allowing just six goals, pushing the Flyers to within three points of the Eastern Conference-leading Rangers.
“He’s got his swagger back,” Flyers defenseman Nicklas Grossmann told NHL.com. “He’s been real good. This is the way we need him to play.”
Bryzgalov is the first player this season to be named First Star in back-to-back weeks.
Second star went to another oft-scrutinized goalie — Chicago’s Corey Crawford. Despite starting the week bolted to the pine, he notched three wins for the red-hot Blackhawks while allowing just three goals. Crawford came off the bench to relieve an ineffective Ray Emery (three goals on six shots) against St. Louis last Tuesday, backstopping the ‘Hawks to a 4-3 comeback win. He then proceeded to register victories over Dallas and Washington, pushing Chicago within four points of Nashville for fourth place in the West.
Speaking of Nashville, third star of the week went to Predators forward Martin Erat. He had 2G-5A-7PTS as the Preds went 2-1-1 last week, including being in on three goals in Tuesday’s big 5-4 win over Phoenix. The 30-year-old Czech now has 18G-38A-56PTS this year, one point shy of a career high set in 2006-07 and 1007-08.