It’s Sunday, so it’s time for THN’s Three Stars of the Week. These are the NHLers who stood out from the rest, in a positive way, over the past week.
3. Jacob Markstrom, Calgary: Markstrom has already been one of our three stars this season, and the Flames backstopper has returned to prominence again this time around: he went 2-0-0 this week, posting a 1.00 goals-against average, a .972 save percentage and his fifth shutout of the year.
The 31-year-old Swede has been central to Calgary’s strong start to the season, and the Flames just need him to stay healthy and be himself. Markstrom has now got a 7-3-4 record, a 1.71 GAA, and a .942 SP in 14 games played this year. He looks extremely comfortable and confident in the Flames’ net. Many before him have tried and failed to perform as well as he has in Calgary this season, and the trick now for him is consistency week-in and week-out.
2. Victor Hedman, Tampa Bay: As the Lightning’s defensive cornerstone, Hedman is leaned on heavily by head coach Jon Cooper, and he usually responds with weeks like the one he just had. Hedman generated four assists and five points in three games played, and equally impressive was his time-on-ice averages; in two of the Bolts’ three GP, he averaged 27:11 for the Lightning – and 10 of his 16 points (in as many games) have come at even-strength.
At age 30, Hedman is at the peak of his form these days, and if he maintains his current all-around excellence, he’ll almost assuredly be nominated for the Norris Trophy for the sixth consecutive year as the game’s best blueliner, and should win the second Norris of his superb career. He makes everyone’s job on the Bolts an easier one.
1. Johnny Gaudreau, Calgary: An honorable mention this week goes to his Flames teammate Andrew Mangiapane (who had four goals, including one game-winning goal, in three GP), but Gaudreau contributed just a little bit more, producing three goals and six points in three GP to vault him into the top-five point-producers this season with 14 assists and 21 points in 17 GP. And two of Gaudreau’s seven goals have been game-winners. He has been all the Flames needed and then some on Calgary’s top line.
Gaudreau's contract situation – he will be an unrestricted free agent at the end of this year – looms in the background of all he does, but the best way to keep media and fans from speculating about it is by doing just what he’s doing: looking like a robust, smart offense contributor, and by making the most of the time head coach Darryl Sutter gives him. That time on ice is not easy to come by; Sutter has given Gaudreau an average of only 18:12 – the second-lowest average ice time of any of the NHL’s top seven point-getters. The other five top point-getters all play near or above the 21-minutes-per-game mark. Gaudreau is getting it done, and earning a bigger payday next summer when he goes to market.