With back-to-back hat tricks, plus two more goals to boot, Nashville’s Filip Forsberg was today named the NHL’s first star of the week.
Chicago’s Jonathan Toews and Calgary’s Johnny Gaudreau were the second and third stars, respectively.
But Forsberg was a slam dunk for the top honor. After getting off to a slow start this season, the 22-year-old winger now has 24 goals — and, more importantly, his Predators have a seven-point playoff cushion.
The Preds went 3-0-1 last week, which included back-to-back wins over two tough opponents, Washington and Edmonton, over the weekend.
With three goals Thursday against Colorado, Forsberg became the first player since Alex Burrows in 2010 to register back-to-back hat tricks.
It’s been quite a month for the Chicago Blackhawks.
The Blackhawks on Sunday concluded their schedule for the month of February with a 4-2 victory over the St. Louis Blues, and their recent surge over the last few weeks has put them right into the thick of the fight for first place in the Central Division.
They now trail Minnesota by only a single point, although the Wild — they were busy Sunday, acquiring Martin Hanzal from Arizona — still have three games in hand.
Still, the Blackhawks are heating up ahead of Wednesday’s trade deadline. They have now won nine times in their last 10 games and that includes a pair of victories against Minnesota. The fight for this division is basically now solely between these two teams.
Meanwhile, the Blues had enjoyed instant success after making their coaching change at the beginning of this month. But they have now lost three straight and on Tuesday will play Connor McDavid and an Edmonton Oilers team that is looking to remain in contention for the Pacific Division lead.
The Blues, who fell behind early and then fought back to tie the game before the deciding Artem Anisimov goal, still hold a wild card spot, but they sit only three points above the L.A. Kings for that final spot.
Anisimov scored the winner for Chicago. He buried a beautiful cross-ice pass from Artemi Panarin late in the third period to give the Blackhawks the lead. Patrick Kane had a two-point night while logging more than 21 minutes of ice time — more than any other Chicago forward.
The Chicago Blackhawks’ two biggest names (Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane) scored the first two goals against the St. Louis Blues on Sunday. It’s fitting that Duncan Keith, the third big core player, hit a milestone in the process.
By assisting on Kane’s goal, Keith collected the 500th point of his already-impressive NHL career.
This currently places him at 89 goals, 411 assists and 500 points in 895 games … with some time to beef up his totals on Sunday.
You can see him get his 500th point in the video above.
The prettier of the two plays was likely the passing clinic Chicago put on with Toews finishing the play. Enjoy that impressive display in the video below:
Keith’s assist could end up being important in this one, as the Blues recently made it 2-1 before the end of the first period. Tune into the game on NBCSN and follow the livestream here.
Huge game in the Atlantic Division on Sunday night when the Florida Panthers host the Ottawa Senators in a classic four-point game.
The Senators enter the night tied with Boston for second place in the division with 70 points and four points ahead of the Panthers. Florida will be turning back to James Reimer for the start as he gets the call for the third time in the past four games as Roberto Luongo takes a back seat for the moment.
On Sunday, Luongo told George Richards of the Miami Herald that is the way it should be at the moment.
“Right now I don’t deserve to be playing,” Luongo told Richards. “That’s the bottom line. For me, everything is about the team and us winning games. James Reimer gives us a better chance to win every night than I am. Until I figure my [game] out this is the way it should go I think.”
Luongo has surrendered at least three goals in eight of his past 10 appearances, while Reimer is carrying a .927 save percentage in the month of February.
The Senators will go with Craig Anderson on Sunday night.
Elsewhere on Sunday…
— In the early games it was Tuukka Rask vs. Kari Lehtonen in the Boston Bruins-Dallas Stars, while Brian Elliott went against Eddie Lack in the Calgary Flames vs. Carolina Hurricanes game.
— Cam Talbot makes his league-leading 56th start of the season for the Edmonton Oilers when they take on the Nashville Predators. No word yet from the Predators on their starter.
— Big game in the Metropolitan Division when the Columbus Blue Jackets visit the New York Rangers. Sergei Bobrovsky goes against Henrik Lundqvist in one heck of a goaltending matchup.
— With Corey Crawford under the weather Scott Darling will start for the Chicago Blackhawks when they host the St. Louis Blues on NBCSN. Jake Allen will go start the Blues.
— Louis Domingue will start for the Arizona Coyotes when they host the Buffalo Sabres. No word yet from the Sabres on their starting goalie, but the team did call up Linus Ullmark from the AHL before the game.
The second game on the NBC Networks today features a Central Division rivalry when the St. Louis Blues pay a visit to the Chicago Blackhawks.
Puck drop is at 7:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN, or on our Live Stream.
It will also be the second Star Sunday broadcast of the day, with this one featuring Blues forward Vladimir Tarasenko and Blackhawks forward Jonathan Toews.
From the minute he arrived in the NHL Tarasenko has been one of the league’s most electrifying players and is currently on pace for what would be his third consecutive season with at least 37 goals with an outside shot at his second consecutive 40-goal season.
Toews, meanwhile, is doing his part to erase a miserable first half of the season offensively by completely taking over for the Blackhawks in recent weeks. Entering Sunday’s game Toews is on a scoring surge that has seen him record 23 points in the past 15 games. That is more offense than he created in his first 37 games of the season.
As a team, the Blackhawks are simply crushing any opponent that gets in their way right now with wins in eight of their past nine games thanks to an offense that is scoring at least four goals every game during that stretch.
It’s a big game for both teams when it comes to the playoff picture.
For the Blues, winners of seven out of 10 under new coach Mike Yeo, they have a chance to put a little distance between themselves and the rest of the pack in Western Conference wild card race if they can pick up a win. They enter the game three points up on the Los Angeles Kings.
The Blackhawks are still trying to keep pace with the Minnesota Wild for the top spot in the Central Division, entering the day three points back.
Chicago will be without a pretty significant member of its defense on Sunday night when Niklas Hjalmarsson misses the game due to an upper body injury. He had to exit their game against Arizona on Thursday night in the first period. He is currently listed as day-to-day. With Hjalmarsson out Michal Rozsival will draw back in to the lineup after scoring his first goal of the season on Thursday.