The Top Individual Performances of the Week
Oh my. By Friday night, I was thinking this would be an easy week. Three players had hat tricks, another reached a significant milestone, at least one goalie stood on his head. But then the hat tricks and brilliant performances kept coming, and coming, and coming. Guess that's why "Honorable Mention" was invented. We could probably argue the merit of one three-goal game over another forever, but here's what made the most sense to me. Here's also hoping for a more normal final week of October ... (CB)
1. Tim Thomas, Boston vs. Washington, Tuesday and Thursday: The 36-year-old Thomas, written off as done in some parts of the league, had a pair of nights to remember as the Bruins beat Washington in back-to-back games. His ailing hip finally healed, Thomas stopped 77 of 79 shots over the two games. On Thursday in Boston's home opener, he made 38 saves in a 4-1 win, allowing his only goal when he personally turned over the puck to the Capitals' Jason Chimera. Two nights earlier, Thomas stopped 35 shots in an equally impressive 3-1 in Washington.
2. Daniel Alfredsson, Ottawa at Buffalo, Friday: The Ottawa captain might have preferred to reach the milestone at home, but otherwise you couldn't find a cooler way to reach 1,000 career points in the NHL. Alfredsson became just the third player in NHL history to get his 1,000th point on the same night he got a hat trick. When he scored his third goal on an empty-netter with 22 seconds left, Alfredsson became the third Swede in NHL history to reach the milestone. He did it in his 1,009th career game.
3. Brad Richardson, Los Angeles at Colorado, Saturday: Of the six hat tricks combined on Friday and Saturday, Alfredsson's was historic, but Richardson's was the most clutch. With the Kings and Avalanche tied at 4-4, Richardson scored a shorthanded goal with just under seven minutes left in regulation. After his second period goal and his game-winner, Richardson added an insurance goal with three minutes left in LA's 6-4 win. These were the first three goals of the season for the former member of the Avalanche.
4. Lee Stempniak, Phoenix vs. Los Angeles, Thursday: When Stempniak is cold, he tends to drive coaches a little batty. When he's hot, all is forgiven for the night ... at least for a week or so. In the Coyotes' 4-2 win over the Kings on Thursday before a diehards-only crowd in Phoenix, the wing scored his first, second and third goals of the season. Suddenly, Coyotes general manager Don Maloney felt better about bringing Stempniak back after an offseason in which the player thought he was worth a lot more than the rest of the league did.
5. Steven Stamkos, Tampa Bay at Atlanta, Friday: Looks like the kid is going to pan out, huh? The night after an uninspired 3-2 overtime loss to the Islanders, the Lightning beat the Thrashers 5-2 behind a hat trick by Stamkos. The first overall pick in the 2008 draft, coming off a 51-goal second season, scored a goal with under three minutes remaining in each period -- including an empty-netter to seal the deal. Even the empty net goal came with style points; Stamkos scored from the Tampa Bay blueline with a pair of Thrashers hacking him. He also had an assist on Brett Clark's goal three minutes into the game to open the scoring. Stamkos does not turn 21 until February.
More Hat Tricks!: Rene Bourque completed the third hat trick in the NHL on Friday night by scoring with six seconds left in regulation in the Flames' 6-2 blowout of the Blue Jackets. Bourque also had an assist. On Sunday, he scored two more goals in the Flames' 4-0 win over San Jose ... Alexander Semin had a hat trick in Washington's 4-3 overtime victory in Atlanta on Saturday ... 2009 first overall draft selection John Tavares had the first hat trick of his NHL career, but he was the only Islander to score in his team's 4-3 loss in Florida on Saturday. (CB)
Goaltending Greatness: Jaroslav Halak stopped all 31 shots through regulation and one minute of overtime to blank Pittsburgh on Saturday in the Blues' 1-0 win ... Nashville's Pekka Rinne shut out Dallas on Saturday, 1-0, making 30 saves ... Behind outstanding team defense, Carey Price stopped all 19 shots in Montreal's 3-0 shutout in Ottawa on Saturday ... In his first start of the season, Curtis McElhinney made 40 saves in leading the Calgary Flames to a 3-2 win in Philadelphia on Thursday ... Faced with another chorus of skepticism about how much he has left to give, Martin Brodeur had another shutout in Montreal on Thursday, stopping 30 shots in a 3-0 win ... In his best performance so far as a Blackhawk, Marty Turco made 36 saves in regulation in Chicago's 2-1 shootout win over Roberto Luongo and the Vancouver Blackhawks ... Cam Ward was back in Stanley Cup form as he made 42 saves in Carolina's 5-2 victory in San Jose on Tuesday. (CB)
Also: In the Penguins' 4-3 overtime victory in Nashville, Sidney Crosby scored goals to tie the game in the second and third periods and assisted on Kris Letang's winner. In a normal week, Crosby's gem would have cracked the top five ... Better nutrition and conditioning has transformed Chris Stewart over the last year from an average player to a possible star. On Monday night at Madison Square Garden, the 6-3, 230-pound right wing scored a pair of power play goals (including the winner) in Colorado's 3-1 win over the Rangers. (CB)
Top Plays Of The Week
1. Pavel Datsyuk, Detroit Red Wings
Pavel Datsyuk has incredible hands and jaw-dropping skill. During Detroit's 5-4 win against Anaheim on Saturday it was all on display as he scored the game-winning goal with 11 seconds to play. Nifty play, too.
2. David Perron, St. Louis Blues
Speaking of great hands, St. Louis Blues youngster David Perron knows his way around the puck as well, and he helped lead the Blues to a pair of wins over the past two Stanley Cup champions this weekend. He scored two during Friday's win against the Chicago Blackhawks, including this one midway through the second period.
3. Jordan Eberle, Edmonton Oilers
I'm not sure how many games the Edmonton Oilers are going to win this season, but they have an impressive group of youngsters that are a joy to watch, including Jordan Eberle who scored his second goal of the season (both of which have been shorthanded) on Saturday night. It was impressive. (AG)
Bizarre Moment of the Week
For whatever reason, somebody in Boston thought it would be a good idea to allow Aerosmith front man Steven Tyler to sing the National Anthem before a Bruins game this week. It didn't go well. (AG)
Alexander Radulov Staying In Russia
Alexander Radulov was well on his way to being a standout player in the NHL for the Nashville Predators when he decided to jump over to the upstart KHL prior to the 2008-09 season. Since joining Ufa Salavat Yulayev, Radulov has been one of the best players in the league, and is off to an unbelievable start this season tallying 28 points (five goals, 23 assists) in his first 17 games. This week, news surfaced that the former No. 15 overall pick (2004) had signed a contract extension with his club that will keep him in Russia for the next two seasons. Yahoo! Sports Dmitry Chesnokov reported last week that the contract was actually signed in August, before the two leagues (NHL and KHL) signed an agreement to respect the others contracts.
At this point, Radulov has been the best still-in-his-prime player to make the move to the KHL. Jiri Hudler spent a season with the league last year, but since returned to the Detroit Red Wings. Other than that, it's been a number of former super stars at the end of their career (Jaromir Jagr, Sergei Fedorov, Sergei Zubov, etc.) and players that haven't been able to catch on regularly in the NHL. (AG)