With eight weeks in the rearview mirror, we are nearly halfway through the 2020-21 NHL season. This week saw Zdeno Chara’s return to TD Garden, the Tkachuk brothers go head to head, and women’s hockey take the ice in Chicago for the second installment of the 2021 Secret® Dream Gap Tour. Let’s take a look at this week’s top performers!
Forwards: Necas, Roque, & Stone
The Vegas Golden Knights are on a six-game win streak, and Mark Stone has played a major role in their success of late. This week he tallied 10 points in four games. To kick it off, he recorded an assist on all five of the Knights’ goals to defeat the Minnesota Wild. Two days later, he continued to find success against the Wild, scoring a goal and an assist.
The Knights closed the week with two wins against the San Jose Sharks. Stone recorded two assists on Friday and a goal on Saturday. I would be remiss if I did not add an honorable mention here. Max Pacioretty also had an outstanding week, recording four goals and four assists.
Stone has 27 points on the season, and his 21 assists are good for seventh in the league. Knights’ fans had a scare on Saturday, though. Stone was injured in the second period on Saturday and was ultimately held out of the third period as a precaution. If he is able to suit up, he will look to extend his point streak to five games on Monday against the Wild.
March looks good on Martin Necas. He started the month off strong, notching seven points the week. He began the week with a three-point performance against the Florida Panthers that included two assists and the game-winning goal in overtime. The following night he tallied an assist in Nashville.
Necas closed the week with three points in two games at home. He recorded a goal and an assist against the Detroit Red Wings and an assist against the Panthers. He finished the week with a plus-five rating and six shots on goal, too.
Necas is up to four goals and 14 assists this season. The 22-year-old forward is fifth on the Hurricanes in points and is tied for first for plus/minus rating, plus-11. The Hurricanes will hope their 2017 first-round draft pick continues to trend up as they take on the Predators Tuesday.
Over the weekend, the Professional Women’s Hockey Players Association (PWHPA) partnered with the Chicago Blackhawks and Bauer Hockey to put on two games as part of the 2021 Secret® Dream Gap Tour. The games were held at United Center and Fifth Third Arena on Saturday and Sunday, respectively.
Abby Roque shined over the weekend, scoring four points across the two games played. She had a three-point night on Saturday, finding the back of the net twice and tallying a helper for Team Minnesota. She followed up her strong performance with an assist on Sunday for Team Adidas. Check out her highlight reel!
Roque has been on fire during the 2021 Secret® Dream Gap Tour. She scored three goals and three assists on the first weekend of the tour, bringing her point total to 10 through four games played. The contests in Chicago this weekend also featured strong performances from Kendall Coyne Schofield and Hilary Knight.
Defensemen: Ekblad & Hedman
It might be time to throw Aaron Ekblad’s name into consideration for the Norris Trophy. The Calder Trophy winner is off to a tremendous start in his seventh NHL campaign. This week he recorded three goals, three assists, and 11 shots on goal.
All six points came in back-to-back games against the Nashville Predators. He tallied two goals and four assists on Thursday, followed by a goal and an assist on Saturday. The Carolina Hurricanes kept him off the scoresheet on Monday and Sunday to bookend the week.
The 25-year-old blue liner has had a knack for finding the back of the net. He has nine goals, the most amongst defensemen in the league. Furthermore, his 68 shots are good for fourth amongst defensemen. He also has eight assists and a plus-1 rating in 23 games this season. Ekblad and the Panthers travel to Columbus to face off against the Blue Jackets on Tuesday.
Victor Hedman is enjoying the Tampa Bay Lightning’s road trip. He was on the scoresheet for each of their four contests this week. He opened the week with an assist against the Dallas Stars, followed by an assist in back-to-back games against the Chicago Blackhawks. He finished the week with a goal and an assist against the Blackhawks on Sunday.
Hedman’s assist on Thursday came just in the nick of time for the Lightning. His shot was tipped in by Alex Killorn with just 0.1 seconds left in overtime to give the Lightning the win.
Hedman is making his own push for the Norris Trophy. He leads the league’s defensemen in points, 24, and is second amongst defensemen in assists, 19. He also leads the Lightning in points and is tied for second in shots with 56. Hedman will be looking to get on the scoresheet again as the Lightning travel to Detroit on Tuesday.
Thatcher Demko is absolutely on fire. This week he won all three of his starts for the Vancouver Canucks, improving his record to 7-9-1 on the season. He opened the week with his first regular-season shutout against the Winnipeg Jets, making 27 saves in the contest.
He followed that performance by winning back-to-back games against the league-leading Toronto Maple Leafs. He made 31 and 37 saves in those wins, giving up just one and two goals, respectively.
Demko had a slow start to the season, but it seems he has found his groove. He has a 2.87 goals-against average (GAA) and .913 save percentage (SV%) on the season but had a remarkable 1.00 GAA and .969 SV% this week. He’ll look to keep the momentum going as the Canucks take on the Montreal Canadiens Monday, a team he has struggled against this season.
There is a lot to look forward to in week nine! Pietrangelo returns to St. Louis for the first time since leaving the Blues in free agency this offseason. The Knights will also take on the Wild again this week, a high octane matchup that featured 15 goals in two games last week. Finally, the Winnipeg Jets and Toronto Maple Leafs will square off three times this week as the Jets look to close the gap between themselves and the division leaders.
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