The NHL named its three stars for the month of January today, with Boston Bruins forward Patrice Bergeron getting the top nod, Phoenix Coyotes Keith Yandle receiving the second star and Nashville Predators goalie Pekka Rinne earning the third star.
Here are summaries of the months for those three players, combining notes from the league’s press release with our own observations.
First star: Bergeron
I was going to write that the Boston Bruins center is grabbing a contract year by the horns, but Bergeron signed a three-year, $15 million deal in October to avoid that drama. His hot streak and the improvements he’s shown over the last few seasons must be a nice bright side for concussion victims to look at. Perhaps Marc Savard can look to his fellow teammate and centerman as inspiration in his dark times?
Bergeron led all NHL scorers with 17 points (eight goals, nine assists) and posted a +13 rating in 14 games, helping the Bruins (28-15-7) hit the All-Star break first in the Northeast Division. Highlighting Bergeron’s month was a streak of four consecutive games with multiple points, beginning with a pair of goals and +2 rating in a 3-2 overtime loss to the Montreal Canadiens Jan. 8.
Second star: Yandle
The Coyotes defenseman received a much-deserved All-Star nod. One can assume that his hot start in 2011 didn’t hurt matters for the underrated blueliner.
Yandle also tallied 17 points, tallying three goals and 14 assists, and posted a +9 rating in 14 games as the Coyotes (25-17-9) went 8-4-2 in January, climbing to sixth place in the Western Conference. Yandle tallied points in 11 of 14 games, closing the month with a nine-game point streak — the League’s longest active streak at the All-Star break.
Third star: Rinne
If you set out to construct a list of the most underrated goalies in the NHL, Rinne may very well rank first. Sure, he plays behind a great defensive system in Nashville, but he’s still putting up world-class numbers. The best part is that he succeeded in some tough situations in January.
Rinne started 11 of the Predators’ 13 games in January, tying for first in the NHL in wins (eight), ranking first in goals-against average (1.71) and second in save percentage (.947). He allowed just a single goal five times. Rinne kicked off 2011 by winning seven of his first eight games, four of which came on the road; the team played only three home games during January, a franchise low for home games in a month.