If it’s Sunday, it’s time for THN’s Three NHL Stars of the week. Once again, we’ve scoured the league for its top performers of the past seven days. Here they are, in reverse order:
3. Michael Matheson, Penguins: Pittsburgh’s veteran defenseman led all D-men in goals this past week, with three goals and six points in three games. All of Matheson’s goals came at even-strength, and he generated all that offense in only an average of 18:11 of ice time per game. The 27-year-old now has six goals and 18 points in 37 games with the Pens this season, topping his total of five goals and 16 points in 44 GP last year. He may not have the upper-end elite offensive game of some of his peers, but make no mistake - Pittsburgh needs his contributions to continue to keep pace with the best teams in the Metropolitan Division.
2. Darcy Kuemper, Avalanche: It took Kuemper a little while to adjust to playing on a new team this season, but the 31-year-old has settled in nicely, and in three GP this week, he posted a 2-0-0 record along with a sterling 1.61 goals-against average and a .952 save percentage. It’s true the high-octane Avs provide Kuemper with great offensive support, but also has to live up to the pressures that come with tending net for a true Stanley Cup frontrunner like Colorado. Kuemper now has a 19-5-1 record this season, along with a 2.63 G.A.A. and a .913 SP. The Avs may trade for a more proven backup to Kuemper, but he’s probably going to be given the reins, for better or worse, as the Avalanche’s starter the rest of the season. At the moment, it appears to be for better.
1. Chris Kreider, Rangers: The Rangers have risen to the top of the Metro in no small part because of Kreider’s performance this season. The 30-year-old center netted five goals – two power play markers, two even-strength goals, and one shorthanded goal – and seven points in three GP for the Blueshirts this week. In 42 GP this year, Kreider has 29 goals (tying him with Washington’s Alex Ovechkin for the league lead) and 42 points. Kreider’s previous career-best in goals in a single-season was 28 games, a plateau he reached twice in his previous nine career NHL seasons. Now, he’s well on track to amassing more than 40 goals in an 82-game campaign. That’s exactly what the Rangers want and need out of him.