This is THN.com’s Three Stars of the Week feature, in which we pick out the NHL’s best performers of the past seven days. Straightforward enough for you, no? Let’s get to it:
3. Sidney Crosby, Pittsburgh Penguins
Crosby generated three goals and seven points in three games for the rebounding Penguins this past week. Five of his points in that span were at even strength, and with a total of nine goals and 23 points in 18 games this season, the 35-year-old is on pace to beat his totals (31 goals, 84 points in 69 games) from the 2021-22 campaign.
As usual, Crosby is the straw that stirs the drink for the Pens, and that’s reflected in their record: in the six games this year when Crosby did not have at least one point, Pittsburgh had a mark of 0-4-2 (with both overtime losses coming at the hands of the Montreal Canadiens). When Crosby has two points or more in a single game – something that’s also happened six times this season – the Penguins are 5-1-0. There’s a connection/causality there, we’d suggest.
In a young man’s NHL, Crosby is defying Father Time and helping the Pens overcome a terrible stretch and get themselves back in a playoff position in the Metropolitan Division. Crosby may now be on the back nine of his staggering pro hockey career, but he’s still putting the extra-nice finish on it and giving us yet another reason to appreciate his consistently-astonishing on-ice feats.
2. Andrei Vasilevskiy, Tampa Bay Lightning
Earlier this month, we noted the early-season struggles of the Lightning’s defense and goalie situation. This week, Vasilevskiy answered back, posting a 3-0-0 record, a 1.97 goals-against average and a .936 save percentage. The 28-year-old’s team-high salary cap hit of $9.5 million, and his all-world play in the Bolts’ successes have created a high bar for him to clear each season, but it’s not as easy as snapping one’s fingers and elevating your game just like that. It’s a process, and this is why Tampa management wasn’t overly worried at Vasilevsky’s subpar play at the start of the year.
Vasilevskiy is a key reason the Lightning are on a four-game win streak, and his individual numbers this season (2.87 GAA, .909 SP) are headed in the right direction. So long as he’s this dependable, the Bolts should provide him with more than enough offense for Tampa to continue surging up the Atlantic Division standings.
1. Mikhail Sergachev, Tampa Bay Lightning
The Lightning’s strong play of late also is because of the contributions from Sergachev, who had a league-best six assists and eight points in four games this week.
The 24-year-old defenseman also was in the top 15 in average minutes in that span, with an average of 25:10. That’s an improvement on Sergachev’s season total average of ice time (23:59), and Tampa Bay coach Jon Cooper clearly trusts the Russian blueliner as much as he does perennial Norris Trophy candidate Victor Hedman. Sergachev is doing his part to make Cooper look great.
With 14 assists and 18 points in 18 games this season, Sergachev is a bargain at his current $4.8 million salary. But he doesn’t have to worry about playing in an end-of-contract-year, as he signed an eight-year, $68-million extension in July.
The Russian is an integral component of the Bolts’ game plan, he’s earned the confidence of his teammates and Tampa Bay fans, and he’s just entering his prime. Sergachev and Hedman give the Lightning arguably the NHL’s best one-two punch of top D-men, and Sergachev showed this week how effective he can be at both ends of the ice.