Each week that goes by choosing just three forwards, just two defensemen, and just one goalie becomes harder and harder. There are so many great story lines in the NHL this season. Who would have predicted that in the tough Western Conference the teams that finished 10th-13th last season (Nashville, Winnipeg, Vancouver, and Calgary) would all be legit playoff contenders this season. I mean Nashville has the best record in the league right now. In the Eastern Conference it's Montreal, Tampa Bay, and the Islanders sitting atop the East while Pittsburgh, Boston, and the Rangers are trying to catch up. Even more interesting is the players who have broken out this year and taken everyone by surprise. Tyler Johnson from the Lightning, a guy who wasn't even drafted, is just a hair off a PPG pace and 10th overall in the league in scoring. Jakub Voracek from Philadelphia is third in the NHL in scoring with 63 points which already is a career best with over 20 games still left in the regular season. Then you have guys like Devan Dubnyk, a very much forgotten about goaltender until this year, who has incredibly backstopped a Wild team into the playoff picture with MVP like numbers since being acquired.
The bottom line is there are so many great players and so many great performances happening around the hockey world and what I just listed is just a fraction of that greatness. Seeing the way individual players step up for their teams as the season gets into the final stretch is special. Take the time to appreciate these performances, they are worth it and watch out for some of these guys come playoff time because they raise their game to the next level when it really counts.
Jamie Benn, Dallas Stars: (4g-4a-8p in 4GP)
Benn becomes the first skater to make this list in multiple weeks and gets the honor because this guy is truly a leader. The Stars suffered a huge blow losing Tyler Seguin. He was the team's leading scorer and had already amassed (29g-30a-59p) on the season in just 55 games. As the saying goes it's next man up and Benn definitely stepped up. In the Stars first game of the week they defeated St. Louis by a score of 4-1 with Benn recording a hat-trick in the game. Dallas would go 0-2-1 over its next three games in the week but Benn was a steady source of offense for a team missing its top player. In a 5-2 loss to San Jose he added two assists and then as his team fell 7-6 to Detroit in OT Benn contributed a goal and an assist. Finally, the Stars lost to the Wild 6-2, in a game where the score did not represent how close the game was for the first 40 minutes, Benn was credited with an assist for his eighth point of the week extending his point streak to seven games.
Henrik Sedin, Vancouver Canucks: (3g-5a-8p in 4GP)
After enduring a very forgettable 2013-2014 season, both the Canucks and Henrik Sedin are enjoying a much more successful 2014-2015 campaign with the team very much in the playoff picture and Sedin leading the team in points. Vancouver started the week by taking an important two points in regulation from Minnesota in a 3-2 victory with Sedin adding a goal and an assist. Then Sedin scored twice as the Canucks beat the Rangers 5-4. Vancouver's only loss of the week came at the hands of the New Jersey Devils, 4-2 the final score, but Sedin recorded two assists in the game. Finally, the Canucks ended the week with a 4-0 victory over the Islanders and Sedin did his part registering another two assist night. Sedin's work in helping his team win three out of four games in the week catapulted the Canucks into 5th in the West.
Martin St. Louis, New York Rangers: (4g-2a-6p in 4GP)
Age really is just a number if you're Marty St. Louis. At 39 years young, in his 16th NHL season, St. Louis remains an electrifying scorer and an important piece of a very good team. This week the Rangers won three games and took seven out of a possible eight points and MSL was a big factor. New York took down the Islanders 6-5 behind a goal and an assist night for St. Louis. Then the Rangers got saddled with the loser point as they were dropped 5-4 in OT by the Canucks but St. Louis still managed a goal and an assist. The Blue Shirts got back in the win column against lowly Buffalo with a 3-1 win where St. Louis was held off the scoresheet, however, St. Louis went on to score twice as the Rangers defeated the Blue Jackets 4-3 in the final game of the week.
Tyson Barrie, Colorado Avalanche: (3g-2a-5p in 4GP)
It's safe to say that this season has not gone the way the Avalanche wanted. After taking the NHL by storm last season with a combination of youth, speed, skill, and great goaltending, the Av's find themselves on the outside looking in this season in terms of the playoffs. One positive for Colorado fans, however, is the continued growth of defensemen Tyson Barrie after suffering a serious knee injury in the playoffs last year (insert Matt Cooke comment). The Av's won three out of four games this week with Barrie factoring in heavily on offense. Against Arizona he added a goal in a 5-2 win. Then Barrie was held scoreless as the Kings dropped Colorado 4-1. In his next game Barrie scored two goals and added an assist as the Av's beat Central Division rival Chicago 4-1. Colorado took on Tampa Bay in its last game of the week and Barrie recorded an assist for his fifth point with the Avalanche getting a 5-4 win.
Erik Karlsson, Ottawa Senators: (1g-4a-5p in 3GP)
How many defensemen can you think of that have led their team in points? Erik Karlsson did it last year and is on pace to do it again this season. Through 57 games Karlsson has racked up an astounding 45 points from the blue line putting him in an elite class of offensive defenders. The Sens fell to Carolina 6-3 in their first game of the week but EK contributed two assists. Ottawa went on two win its next two games of the week against Montreal (4-2) and Florida (4-1) with Karlsson adding two assists against the Canadiens and scoring a goal against the Panthers. While his team is likely out of playoff contention this year, barring a miraculous turnaround, Karlsson has cemented himself as one of the most dangerous blue liners in the game today with his ability to add offense from the backend.
Jonathan Quick, Los Angeles Kings: (3-0-0, 4GA in 3 GP)
Since starting the All-NHL Team of the Week this goaltender spot has seemingly belonged to either Devan Dubnyk or Carey Price with Pekka Rinne getting the honor once. This week Quick throws his hat in the ring with a really clutch week for a Kings team badly needing some wins. In the Kings first game versus the Lightning, a 3-2 win, Quick stopped 21-of-23 shots to earn the win. Next, Los Angeles defeated Colorado 4-1 with Quick standing on his head to make 42 saves on 43 shots. The biggest win of the week though came against Pacific Division and in-state rival San Jose Sharks. Quick made 31 saves while allowing only one goal as the Kings held on to win 2-1 and maintain the eighth spot in the Western Conference.
Once again this week a lot of very good players unfortunately did not make the cut so vote in the extra-attacker poll for who you feel was the biggest snub and leave a comment with your reasoning if you feel up to it. As always I am open to input in selections and love to talk hockey so if a player from your team deserves the All-NHL weekly honor show your support. Tweet at me (#AllNHL) or shoot me an email and tell me why they are deserving.