The NHL season is long, 82 games long to be exact, and each week of the season is significant. Just over halfway through the 2014-2015 schedule and a few dropped points here or there might not seem like a big deal but when April comes around and your team is fighting for a playoff berth getting that extra-point in overtime or beating a divisional rival in regulation may make all the difference. That is why looking at how players impact their team on a week-to-week basis is so fascinating. Every single point in the NHL standings is equally important.
In the debut of the All-NHL Team three forwards, two defensemen, and a goalie were chosen to represent the best of the best from the 48 NHL games played last week. To refresh your memory here were the selections:
F: David Backes, STL
F: Ryan Johansen, CBJ
F: TJ Oshie, STL
D: Aaron Ekblad, FLA
D: TJ Brodie, CAL
G: Pekka Rinne, NSH
While last week's team was great and definitely had some memorable performances, I believe the performances this week were even better and the new faces in the lineup reflect that. Without wasting anymore team here is who made the cut:
Kyle Okposo, New York Islanders
Okposo had a monster week for the Islanders and looked every bit the part of a big-time goal scorer. The former Minnesota Golden Gopher product racked up five goals and an assist for six points in just three games. Okposo didn't get on the scoresheet in a 3-0 win over the Rangers but made his presence felt in the next game against the Penguins. Okposo scored late in the first period to cut a 2-0 Pens lead in half. Then down 3-2 entering into the third period Okposo went off scoring three consecutive goals, including the tying goal and game-winner, to carry the Islanders to a 6-3 win. The Islanders dropped their next game to Montreal 6-4 but Okposo stayed hot picking up a goal and an assist in the loss.
Sidney Crosby, Pittsburgh Penguins
It was only a matter of time before Sid the Kid made this list. The Penguins didn't have a particularly great week having dropped two of the three games they played this week but the poor results didn't prevent Crosby from piling up three goals and three assists for six points in those three games. Pittsburgh took down the struggling Minnesota Wild 7-2 to begin the week with Crosby picking up three helpers. While Kyle Okposo's four-goal performance was the big story in the Pens 6-3 loss to the Islanders, Crosby quietly recorded three points on two goals and an assist. Pittsburgh couldn't bounce back in their next game against the Rangers suffering a 5-2 loss but Crosby scored his third goal of the week in the process.
Tomas Tatar, Detroit Redwings
The Red Wings played four games this week and won four games. Without the play of Tomas Tatar those wins might not have been possible. Tatar started the week with a goal in a 3-1 win over the McEichel bound Sabres and then found the back of the net for the second game in a row in a 3-2 win over the Blues. Due up next for Detroit was a home contest against Nashville and Tatar turned in his best performance scoring two goals and picking up an assist. Then in the second game of a back-to-back the Wings took on Buffalo for the second time this week and for the second time Tatar was instrumental in helping the Sabres lose by scoring a goal and adding an assist. If you're keeping track that's five goals, seven points, and four wins in four games for Tatar and the Redwings.
Dustin Byfuglien, Winnipeg Jets
Big Buff continues to show that regardless of whether he lines as a defensemen or forward, his presence on the ice will be felt by opponents both physically and in the scoresheet. The Jets started the week with a tough 5-4 shootout loss to Anaheim. Byfuglien finished the game with an assist and a +2 rating. Buff then played a key role in a 8-2 throttling of the Florida Panthers scoring two goals, including the game-winner, and picking up an assist in the win. Buff logged 24:02 TOI while maintaining an even rating as Winnipeg beat Dallas 2-1. In a Central Division meeting against the Blackhawks Byfuglien added two assists to help his team to a 4-2 win and a crucial two points in the standings. In the Jets final game of the week Byfuglien scored a goal as his team defeated Coyotes 4-3 in a shootout.
Kris Letang, Pittsburgh Penguins
Letang joins his Penguins teammate on the All-NHL Team this week by being an offensive force from the blue line. Even though his team lost two of three games, Letang managed to contribute six points over that three-game stretch. Letang added a goal and an assist as Pittsburgh beat the Wild 7-2. After scoring seven goals in a game against the Wild Pittsburgh only managed five goals-for in their final two games for the week. Letang assisted on four of those five Penguins goals picking up two assists against both the Islanders and Rangers showing exactly why he ranks among the best offensive-defensemen in the league.
Devan Dubnyk, Minnesota Wild
Statistically speaking there were more deserving goaltenders than Dubnyk for this week's team but Dubnyk gets the sentimental nod for preventing the entire state of Minnesota from going off the deep-end. On January 13th, Dubnyk was in net for the Arizona Coyotes in a 3-2 loss to the San Jose Sharks. On January 15th, Dubnyk was traded to Minnesota for a 3rd round pick. Dubnyk stepped into net for a team in absolute desperation mode thanks to well below-average goaltending on a nightly basis. Dubnyk suited up for the Wild the same day he was traded and turned in an 18 save shutout performance against the Sabres. Dubnyk was back in net for the next game against his former team and made 25 saves to led the Wild to a 3-1 win over the Coyotes.
For the second installment of the All-NHL Team of the Week I'm adding a new spot for a seventh player to be voted in as the extra-attacker. The extra-attacker represents the player with the best weekly performance who didn't make the cut so make sure to check out the poll and cast a vote.