Although the NHL is slowing to a crawl in advance of their holiday break, we still had a decent-enough sample size to single out a trio of talents in THN’s Three Stars of the week. This may well be the last Three Stars piece for a couple of weeks, as the league isolates all teams from each other to try and ward off the latest COVID-19 virus outbreak and return to action as soon as their health permits. Here’s hoping we’re back soon.
3. Vladimir Tarasenko, St. Louis: After struggling to stay healthy in the past couple of seasons, Tarasenko is beginning to look like the dangerous sniper he was for approximately six-and-a-half years, beginning back in the 2012-13 campaign. In five of those years, Tarasenko scored at least 33 goals – and after a hot week in which he generated three goals (including one game-winner) and five points in two games, he’s got 11 goals and 28 points in 30 games played. That puts the 30-year-old on a 30-goal, 77-point pace. That would be his top points total since he posted 74 for the Blues in 2016-17.
The Blues are a handful for teams this year in large part because Tarasenko is punishing them on offense. He requested a trade from the team last summer, but St. Louis will be asking a hefty price for his services. For now, at least, Tarasenko is probably just happy his scoring game has rebounded.
2. Jusse Saros, Nashville: This is Saros’ second appearance on the Three Stars this season. The Predators star goalie went 3-0-0 this week, with one shutout and a.948 save percentage. Saros beat the New York Rangers, Colorado Avalanche and Chicago Blackhawks, and with Nashville surprising many people by being the league’s current hottest team (with seven wins in a row, and eight of their past 10 games), Saros may just be earning himself some Hart Trophy votes as the league’s most valuable player this year.
Certainly, without him, the Preds would be much further down the standings than they are at present – second in the Central Division, one point behind the Minnesota Wild for top spot. The 26-year-old now has a 15-8-1 record, a .924 SP and a 2.22 G.A.A. this season, putting him on pace for a 41-win season. In the unfolding era of goaltending tandems, Saros is a clear No. 1 netminder and is continuing to prove he can carry a team to great heights.
1. Dylan Larkin, Detroit: Larkin and his Red Wings played three games this week, and Detroit’s captain amassed five goals – including his first career hat trick, scored Saturday against the New Jersey Devils – and seven points as the Wings won two of those games. The 25-year-old Larkin is on pace to score 40 goals and 77 points – and that would be career-bests in both categories (his current goals record is 32 goals, and his current points record is 73 points, with both marks set in the 2018-19 season).
Larkin averaged approximately 20 minutes of ice time this week, a sign Wings head coach Jeff Blashill trusts him to back up his desire to win by playing responsibly at both ends of the ice. In 27 games this season, Larkin has 15 goals and 29 points. Last season, in 44 games, he scored nine goals and 23 points. That ought to tell you how well Larkin has played, and why the Red Wings are technically in fourth place in the Atlantic Division. Yes, the fifth-place Boston Bruins are just three standings points behind Detroit, and they have a whopping five games in hand on the Wings. But after many years of disappointing team results, Larkin seems set to help push Detroit back into post-season contention.