It’s Sunday, which means it’s time for THN’s Three Stars of the Week. This week, we saw dominating performances from the Florida Panthers and Boston Bruins, and that’s reflected in our choices for the three best NHLers of this past week. Let’s get right to it. In reverse order:
3. Jonathan Huberdeau. Florida: As we noted earlier this week, Huberdeau is leading the Panthers to new heights, and his individual numbers are as impressive as Florida’s play as a team: in their three games of this past week, Florida has seen Huberdeau produce five assists and seven points, and he’s done it averaging only 16:25 of ice time. But even then, Huberdeau has demonstrated what an all-around elite game he’s built for himself, as he plays on both Panthers special teams and has an impact in virtually every element of the game. Florida is a clear frontrunner to win what would be its first Stanley Cup championship, in no small part because of what Huberdeau brings to the table. At age 28, he’s at his peak, and the Panthers are counting their blessings to have him on their side.
2. Brad Marchand, Boston: The often-controversial Bruins winger has netted five goals and 10 points in 4 game this week, helping Boston to close the gap between their current fourth-place spot in the Atlantic Division and the first-through-third-place teams (Florida, Tampa Bay and Toronto). The Bruins are now only five points behind the Maple Leafs for third place, and Boston has a game in hand on Toronto, and they’ll need more production from Marchand and his first-line linemates, center Patrice Bergeron and winger David Pastrnak. The good news is that line almost always delivers, and fans, media and opponents underestimate them at their peril.
1. Marc-Andre Fleury, Chicago: The Blackhawks are still very much a longshot to make the playoffs, and Fleury is in the final season of his contract – and he’s making himself a very-attractive trade option for teams seeking a first-rate netminder. This past week, Fleury went 3-0-0, with a 1.32 goals-against average, a .957 save percentage, and one shutout (his third of this season). No goaltender was better than the 37-year-old. He would make an excellent 1A/1B option with Tristan Jarry on his former team in Pittsburgh, or he could help out an Oilers franchise desperate for consistently solid play from their goalies. The Hawks need to move him and get something in return. The way Fleury is playing, there might even be a bidding war for his services. There’s lots left in his tank, and some team is going to benefit from paying a significant price to acquire him.