Time is running out on the NHL’s current regular season, and competition levels are as high as they’ve ever been. That makes picking THN’s Three Stars of the Week all the more difficult. But we’ll do our best to justify our selections. On we go:
3. Jonathan Quick, Los Angeles: The Kings needed big-time performances to firm up their hold on a playoff spot in the Pacific Division, and although they’ve got to win one of their final two games to assure themselves of a post-season berth, the play of veteran netminder Quick should ease their fans’ anxieties. Quick won three games this past week, and he’s currently enjoying a four-game win streak.
Quick’s 1.33 goals-against average and .940 save percentage were the best among any NHL goaltender who played three games or more in the past seven days, and with the prospects of a first-round matchup against Connor McDavid, Leon Draisaitl and the high-octane Edmonton Oilers looking increasingly likely, L.A. is going to need Quick to be at his best. Yes, he’s 36 years old, and nobody can be certain he’ll maintain this pace the rest of the year, but Quick isn’t going out like a lamb. He can still be a difference-maker for the Kings, and an upset-maker against the Oilers.
2. Steven Stamkos, Tampa Bay: After slumping as a team beginning at the start of March and lasting about a month, the Lightning are on a two-game win streak (and they’ve won four of their past five games), and Stamkos’ play is a big reason why. The Lightning’s captain is currently on a five-game points streak (in which he has 10 assists and 13 points), and in three games this week, the 32-year-old generated seven assists and nine points. Only our first star of the week had more points than Stamkos had.
Stamkos has done significant damage with the puck this week, despite playing more than 18 minutes in just one of the Lightning’s three games. Tampa Bay head coach Jon Cooper needs Stamkos to be rested and healthy for the start of the playoffs, and Stamkos is showing terrific energy at exactly the right time of year.
1. Kevin Fiala, Minnesota: The Wild have been one of the league’s hottest teams since mid-March, posting a dazzling 16-1-3 record in their past 20 games, and assuring themselves of a playoff berth in either the second or third position in the Central Division. Few Wild players have been better in that span than Fiala, who amassed a league-best nine assists and 13 points in four games this week. Three of Fiala’s four goals came at even strength, and Fiala now is on a nine-game points streak that has seen him contribute nine goals and 21 points in that span.
The 25-year-old winger – who’ll be a restricted free agent this summer – is going to receive a hefty raise on the $5.1-million he’s earning this year, and it’s possible he receives an offer sheet from another team, one that puts him out of range for the soon-to-be-salary-cap-strapped Wild. But for the moment, Minnesota just wants him to continue to play at his current level.