Fred Kfoury/Icon SMI)
There were some monster performances this week in the Atlantic Division, none more so than New York Rangers forward Brad Richards, and the line he has recently played on with sniper Marian Gaborik and rookie Carl Hagelin. The three have combined for 23 points since March 9th, with Gaborik and Richards combining for 17 of them.
First Star: Brad Richards, C, New York Rangers – Since he started playing on a line with wingers Marian Gaborik and Carl Hagelin, few forwards have been as prolific over the last week as Brad Richards. From March 9th to the 15th, Richards scored five goals, including two power play markers, and added four assists. Historically, Richards is not a particularly hot player at this time of the season, though this year he seems to be getting hot at just the right time, contributing to the Rangers power play as well as late in games. Continued production from the Hagelin-Richards-Gaborik line will be critical for the Rangers to maintain their dwindling lead in the Atlantic Division and Eastern Conference.
Second Star: Marian Gaborik, RW, New York Rangers – Like Richards, Gaborik seems to be the beneficiary of some fantastic chemistry with linemates Richards and Hagelin. He has been explosive over the past week, managing three goals and five assists in four games, including three multi-point efforts. He currently leads the team in goals (35), points (66), and is second on the team in assists with 31. Like Richards, Gaborik couldn’t be heating up at a better time for the Rangers, as they have 12 games left and are desperately clinging to the top spot in the Atlantic Division and Eastern Conference. In his last nine games, Gaborik has six goals and seven assists.
Third Star: John Tavares, C, New York Islanders – Tavares kicked off a four-game hot streak on March 10th and so far has accumulated five goals, two assists, and a plus-four. For the season, Tavares has posted 31 goals and 39 assists, both career highs, through 71 games while doing so on a team that has struggled to consistently produce offense. He has played the bulk of the season with wingers Matt Moulson and P.A. Parenteau, and has figured in to 56 percent of their power play goals and 42 percent of their total offense. Tavares has gradually emerged as a leader off the ice too, and was vocal with his team’s most recent loss on Thursday against the Philadelphia Flyers.
Atlantic Division Notes
New Jersey Devils – The Devils played the Colorado Avalanche last night in a matchup where no goals were scored and only two minor penalties were committed. Both goaltenders, Martin Brodeur and J.S. Giguere stopped all of the shots they faced in regulation and overtime before the Devils finally won in a shootout.
New York Islanders – Forward Michael Grabner snapped a 14-game cold streak last night when he scored a goal against the Philadelphia Flyers. Last night’s game was the 235th straight appearance in the NHL for winger Matt Moulson.
New York Rangers – Forward Artem Anisimov was injured in last night’s match against the Penguins and did not return for the third period. The Rangers were also without Ryan Callahan, who missed his sixth of nine games, and defenseman Michael Del Zotto, who has missed five of his last eight. The Rangers would lose 5-2 to the Penguins, the first game all season New York would yield five goals to an opponent.
Philadelphia Flyers – Defensemen Pavel Kubina and Andrej Meszaros missed last night’s 3-2 win over the New York Islanders; both remain out indefinitely. Goalie Ilya Bryzgalov continued to pile up the wins, stopping 29 of 31 shots faced. In the month of March, Bryzgalov is 7-0, with a 0.99 goals-against average and .965 save percentage. The Flyers have been the second hottest team in the Eastern Conference behind the Penguins, winning seven of their last eight.
Pittsburgh Penguins – Sidney Crosby and Kris Letang returned to the Penguins lineup last night, marking only the second time this season the Pens iced a healthy 23-man roster. Letang would play over 23 minutes in the 5-2 win over the Rangers and register a plus-five, a single game career high. The victory would be the Penguins 10th in a row, the longest streak by a team this season.