Week 11 is in the books! Scoring across the league took a slight step back this week. 33 of the 51 games featured five or more goals in the contest, a four percent decrease. Furthermore, there were three more shutouts than last week, nine in total. Nevertheless, there was still a multitude of explosive offensive performances. A single team scored five or more goals in a game 12 times, just one fewer than last week. Let’s take a look at this week’s top performers!
After a quiet first half of the season, Zibanejad finds himself in this column for a second week in a row. He scored four goals and four assists in four games this week. He found his rhythm again against the Philadelphia Flyers, notching seven points against them in two games.
On Thursday, he recorded three goals and three assists. As if that wasn’t impressive enough, his hat trick was also of the natural variety. Accompanying “The Great One,” he is one of just two players in NHL history to score a natural hat trick and tally three assists in a game twice.
Zibanejad is up to 11 goals, 16 assists, and 100 shots on goal this season. After scoring just 9 points in his first 24 games, he has 18 points in his last 10 games. The New York Rangers do not play the Flyers again until April 22, but it’s safe to say Zibanejad has that date circled on his calendar.
Kessel couldn’t be held off the scoresheet this week. He scored a goal and two assists in two games against the Colorado Avalanche. He also tallied four goals in two games against the San Jose Sharks. His most productive night came on Saturday, scoring a natural hat trick against the Sharks, his seventh career hat trick.
Kessel is on a roll of late, currently riding a five-game point streak. He leads the Arizona Coyotes in goals, with 14, and is tied for second on the team in points, with 26. He will look to keep the momentum going on Wednesday against the Avalanche.
The Carolina Hurricanes have been battling an injury bug, playing without key players such as Vincent Trocheck and Teuvo Teravainen. Necas has stepped up in their absence, scoring 17 points in the month of March so far. This week he recorded four goals and three assists.
He had a major impact on Saturday in an important matchup against the Tampa Bay Lightning. The Hurricanes won the game 4-3, and Necas had a hand in each goal. He tallied two goals and two assists in the contest, including this game-winning goal on the power play late in the third period.
Necas is second on the Hurricanes in assists and points, with 19 and 28, respectively. He leads the team with a plus-16 rating. The 22-year-old forward is currently on pace to reach the 52-point mark this season, far surpassing the 36 points he scored in 64 games last season. The Hurricanes take on the Chicago Blackhawks Tuesday at the United Center.
Honorable Mention: Ryan Strome scored a goal and seven assists this week. He tallied an assist on all three of Zibanejad’s power-play goals on Thursday.
Among defensemen, Fox was in a league of his own this week. He finished with a goal and 10 assists. He opened the week with a goal and two assists against the Buffalo Sabres on Monday. He followed that up with six assists in two games against the Flyers, five of which he tallied on Thursday. He capped off his tremendous week with two assists against the Washington Capitals.
With three goals and 26 assists on the season, Fox is third in points among defensemen. He also has a plus-9 rating and is averaging 24:32 of ice time per game. Not to mention he has scored 14 points in his last seven games. The 23-year-old blueliner has blossomed into one of the best defensemen in the league. Is it time for Fox to be in the Norris Trophy conversation?
It was a solid week for Letang, who got on the scoresheet five times. On Wednesday, he scored a goal against the Sabres and went on to score two assists against them the following night. In his third and final game, he scored two assists against the Islanders on Saturday. He also had a plus-3 rating, four blocked shots, and averaged 24:17 of ice time this week.
With 27 points on the season, Letang is well on his way to his seventh straight season with 30 or more points. The 33-year-old veteran defenseman leads the Pittsburgh Penguins with a plus-13 rating and is fourth on the team in points. He will look to extend his point streak to four games against the Islanders Monday.
Honorable Mention: Samuel Girard now has seven points in his last seven games. He recorded four helpers and a plus-7 rating this week.
Saros is doing his best to put his early-season woes behind him. He went 3-0-0 this week, including a 31 save shutout against the Detroit Red Wings on Tuesday. He gave up just one goal against the Red Wings on Thursday and one against the Chicago Blackhawks on Saturday. He finished the week with a .976 save percentage (SV%) and a 0.67 goals against average (GAA).
Giving up one or fewer goals in his last five appearances, Saros is on a roll to finish the month of March. He is 9-6-0 with a .923 SV% and a 2.38 GAA in 18 games played this season. The 25-year-old backstop is currently listed as day-to-day for an undisclosed reason, so it remains to be seen when he will be back in the net for the Nashville Predators.
Honorable Mention: In his three wins this week, Cam Talbot registered a .967 SV%, a 1.00 GAA, and a shutout. He improved to 9-5-1 with a .925 SV% and a 2.34 GAA on the season.
Week 12 is on deck! What to watch this week: the Toronto Maple Leafs and Winnipeg Jets will jostle for first place in the Scotia North Division, the Minnesota Wild look to gain ground on the Vegas Golden Knights, the Capitals will defend their divisional lead against the second-place Islanders, and the Blackhawks battle the Predators for the final playoff spot in the Discover Central Division.
Andrew is a freelance writer who covers the Tampa Bay Lightning at The Hockey Writers. He is a passionate hockey fan who grew up near Tampa, Florida. He is a husband, father to a Golden Retriever, and is studying to be a Physician Assistant. Follow me on Twitter: @Andrew_Mulville