It’s Sunday, and you know what that means – it’s time for THN’s Three Stars of the Week.
Below, we recognize the NHL’s very best performers of the past seven days. It doesn’t matter what position they play; so long as they’re outstanding in their own way, they’ll merit consideration to be honored. Let’s get down to business.
3. Nick Schmaltz, Arizona: There hasn’t been very much for the Coyotes to be excited about this season, but they’ve won four of their past six games, and two games in a row, including victories over Colorado and Ottawa. And Schmaltz has led the way for them on offense, generating three goals and eight points in three games – the most points of any NHLer this week. In his most recent game, against the Sens, the 26-year-old Schmaltz scored twice and added a whopping five assists. His stats this season – 14 goals and 33 points in 36 games – have him on pace to match his career-best numbers total of 21 goals, which he set as a Chicago Blackhawk in 2017-18. That should please the Coyotes, who signed him to a seven-year, $40.95-million contract extension in 2019.
2. Vitek Vanecek, Washington: The Capitals have had some well-chronicled problems with their goaltending, but this week, Vanecek gave them a top-notch performance, winning two of three games, including a shutout win over the mighty Carolina Hurricanes, and posting a .964 save percentage and a 1.13 goals-against average. The 23-year-old Czech now has three shutouts this season – one more than he had in 24 games with the Caps last year – and he has every opportunity to prevent Washington from casting him aside and looking for netminding help on the trade market.
1. Jeremy Swayman, Boston: The 23-year-old Bruins goaltender was a key reason why Boston won all three games he appeared in this week, posting a sparkling .936 SP, a 1.95 G.A.A., and one shutout (against the L.A. Kings). The Anchorage, Alaska native has appeared in 23 games – one more than he did in his first NHL season, last year – and he has three shutouts (one more than he had last season), a 2.03 G.A.A. and a .927 SP this year. Many Bruins fans were worried that the retirement of star goalie Tuukka Rask would leave Boston with a gaping hole in their blueprint to win, but Swayman is proving those fears to be ill-founded. He doesn’t have the best defense corps in the league in front of him, but he’s showing he can step up and steal games all on his own. He’s now won six straight games and looks more confident each day.