Scott Kane/Icon SMI)
The St. Louis Blues incredible season continued to get better this week as several franchise records were broken. A big benefactor of the team’s play was goaltender Brian Elliott whose shutout streak has his team on the brink of a President’s Trophy win.
Elliott earned top honors in the Central Division’s three stars of the week for March 23-29.
First Star: Brian Elliott, G, St. Louis Blues – As if deciding on a goaltender for the playoffs wasn’t already difficult enough for head coach Ken Hitchcock, the recent play of Brian Elliott will only make it that much harder. The all-star netminder recorded shutouts in both of his starts this week, beginning with a 20-save performance in a 4-0 win over Phoenix on Sunday. He followed that up by stopping all 24 shots sent his way in Tuesday’s marquee match-up with the Nashville Predators and goaltender Pekka Rinne. In total, Elliott has rattled off three straight shutouts, combining with Jaroslav Halak to set the modern day team shutout record with 15. He also established a Blues record by playing 186:33 minutes of shutout hockey.
Second Star: Henrik Zetterberg, LW, Detroit Red Wings – Zetterberg’s second half surge continued this week with the Red Wings star picking up three goals and four assists in the team’s three games. Now Detroit’s leading scorer, Zetterberg scored two goals in a comeback win over the Carolina Hurricanes and then tallied four assists in Monday’s 7-2 thrashing of the Columbus Blue Jackets. He added another goal in Wednesday’s loss to the Blue Jackets to extend his personal point-streak to four games. Zetterberg has without question been Detroit’s Most Valuable Player since the all-star break and is playing at an extremely high level as the playoffs draw near.
Third Star: R.J Umberger, LW, Columbus Blue Jackets – It hasn’t been often that a Blue Jackets player has been mentioned among the top performers within the Central Division, but R.J Umberger’s goal-scoring outburst lands him as the week’s third star. Registering four goals and one assist in four games, Umberger’s week was highlighted by a hat-trick in the Blue Jackets surprising 5-1 win over the New Jersey Devils on Friday. In what will be his lowest offensive output since the 2006-07 season when he was with the Philadelphia Flyers, Umberger is playing some of his best hockey of the year in what has otherwise been a tough season for him in Columbus.
Scott Kane/Icon SMI)
Central Division Notes
Chicago Blackhawks – The Blackhawks squandered a two-goal lead in the third period, but battled tooth and nail with the NHL’s top team and escaped with a huge two points in a 4-3 shootout win over the Blues. David Bolland scored the shootout winner to help Chicago move within a point of Nashville for fifth-place in the Western Conference. They could potentially have the opportunity to overtake the Predators when the two teams square off in Nashville on Saturday night before the Blackhawks close out their weekend at home on Sunday vs. Minnesota.
Columbus Blue Jackets – With five games remaining on their schedule, the Blue Jackets will hope to build off of Wednesday’s win over Detroit in a difficult pair of games this weekend. The club hosts the Southeast-leading Florida Panthers tonight at Nationwide Arena and will then hop on a plane to try and slow down the league-leading St. Louis Blues on Saturday.
Detroit Red Wings – After laying an egg in Columbus, the Red Wings return home for what is arguably their biggest game of the season. Detroit will look to extend their one point lead over Nashville for fourth-place in the West and move closer to locking up home-ice in the potential first-round playoff meeting between the two teams. The team will also be in action on Sunday when the Florida Panthers make a rare visit to the Motor City.
Nashville Predators – Off since Tuesday, the Predators couldn’t have asked for a better time to get some rest as the club will play the two biggest games of their season this weekend. One point behind Detroit and one point ahead of Chicago, Nashville could climb to fourth in the West or fall to sixth, depending on the outcome of the games against those two division rivals.
St. Louis Blues – Although it wasn’t the result they were hoping for, the Blues did manage to sneak out a point last night in Chicago and moved three points ahead of the Vancouver Canucks for top spot in the West. The club will have a good chance to remain in front as their lone game this weekend comes at home on Saturday night against Columbus.