If it’s Sunday, it’s time for THN’s Three Stars of the week. Here are the league's three most outstanding players from the past seven days:
3. Aleksander Barkov, Florida. The Panthers have been one of the most competitive teams in the league in no small part due to the phenomenal play of Barkov. The centerman had three goals and five points in four games this week, and Barkov pulled to within one point of winger Jonathan Huberdeau (who also had a terrific week, with one goal and five points) for the team lead.
Barkov has put up nine of his ten total points at even-strength, a positive development for a Panthers team that can defend well – their 1.89 goals-against average puts them third in the NHL in that category – and that can generate plenty of offense, too. Indeed, in Florida’s first eight games, they scored at least four goals seven times. That’s in large part due to Barkov. The Panthers are at their most dangerous when he is setting the pace, and Barkov did that this week.
2. Jacob Markstrom, Calgary: One of the biggest reasons for the Flames’ early-season success is the play of Markstrom, who won games against the New York Rangers, Pittsburgh Penguins and Philadelphia Flyers this week, stopping all but one of the 94 shots he faced in those games. The 31-year-old Swedish goaltender currently is on a two-game shutout streak, and in six appearances this season, he’s already tied his career-best shutout total of three games (set last season with the Flames).
Markstrom has benefitted from above-average efforts from Calgary’s defense, and great coaching from Darryl Sutter, and after this week’s production, you get the strong sense Markstrom is going to set a new personal best for shutouts sometime soon. He wasn’t good enough last season (like the grand majority of his Flames teammates), but Markstrom is going about making amends the right way – by outperforming his opponents on a regular basis.
1. Roman Josi, Nashville: Josi has been among the cream of the NHL’s crop in all-around play by a defenseman for many years now, and in three games this week, the veteran amassed five assists and six points, while averaging more than 24 minutes of ice time per game. The Predators won all three games they played this week, and Josi played an instrumental role in each of them.
Many hockey analysts (this one included) didn’t have much faith in Nashville this season, but after a small stumble to start the season, the Preds are competitive and troublesome to opponents. They’ll need just as much of a contribution from Josi in the immediate future, as they’re about to kick off a six-game road trip that will take them to Calgary, Edmonton, Dallas and St. Louis. If Josi continues his high level of play, the Predators have a chance to win any of those four games, as well as the games they’ll play against Chicago and Vancouver on this road swing. But this week, Josi gave them all he could, and it showed.