Week 16 saw the postseason picture continue to take shape, with the Carolina Hurricanes, Florida Panthers, New York Islanders, Pittsburgh Penguins, Tampa Bay Lightning, Toronto Maple Leafs and Washington Capitals officially punching their playoff tickets. They join the Colorado Avalanche, Minnesota Wild, and Vegas Golden Knights, the first three teams to clinch. Here’s a look at the week’s top performers, many of who are just getting warmed up for what they hope is a long postseason run.
McDavid’s drive for 100 points in this 56-game season was ramped up to warp speed, as the Edmonton Oilers captain exploded this week for four goals and six assists – and this despite being held pointless in a 3-1 loss to the Calgary Flames on Thursday.
Otherwise, McDavid was unstoppable: he had a hat-trick and an assist in Monday’s 6-1 win over the Winnipeg Jets; assisted on all three of Edmonton’s goals in a 3-1 win at Winnipeg on Wednesday, and picked up a goal and two helpers to lead the Oilers past Calgary 4-1 at home on Saturday.
With three or more points in five of his last six games, McDavid now needs 13 points in Edmonton’s final seven games to reach the century mark.
Toronto’s superstar sniper potted the deciding goal in each of his team’s three games this week, giving Matthews a dozen game-winning goals this season, which is one less than the entire Buffalo Sabres team has in 2021.
After notching one goal in each of Toronto’s identical 4-1 wins over the Montreal Canadiens on Wednesday and Vancouver Canucks on Thursday, then scoring twice as the Leafs thumped Vancouver 5-1 at Scotiabank Arena on Saturday, Matthews has a league-leading 38 goals, nine more than second-place McDavid.
Matthews’ 12 game-winners are tied for the 12th most all-time in a single season. If he were to record a GWG in each of Toronto’s remaining five games, he would set a new league record. More realistically, he could move into a tie for fourth all-time with two more game-winning goals this season.
Duclair totaled four goals and two assists in four games this week for the surging Panthers, who are on a three-game win streak and have been on an absolute tear for over a month now, going 14-5-1 in their last 20 outings.
The 25-year-old winger assisted on the Panthers’ lone goal in a 4-1 road loss to the Nashville Predators on Monday, then scored once in both a 7-4 win in Nashville on Tuesday and 4-3 overtime triumph against the Chicago Blackhawks on Thursday. He capped off the week with a three-point night as the Panthers won 5-4 at Chicago’s United Center on Saturday.
Duclair, who earlier in the season had three stretches of four or more games when he failed to register a point, now has a five-game point streak and has scored or assisted in 12 of his last 13 outings.
Honorable Mention: One of the bright spots in what will be another season that ends without a playoff appearance for the New Jersey Devils has been the play of first-year center Yegor Sharangovich, who potted four goals, including one GWG, and added a helper in four games this week.
The Anaheim Ducks blueliner totaled four points this week as the Ducks split four games with the Los Angeles Kings, which saw each team go 1-1 in the other’s barn.
On Saturday, Fowler had two assists, and a monster plus-four rating as the Ducks thumped Los Angeles 6-2 at the Honda Center. He scored the deciding goal when Anaheim won 3-2 in Los Angeles on Wednesday and also recorded an assist in a 4-1 loss at the Staples Center on Monday.
Petry totaled a goal and four assists this week for the Canadiens, who went 3-1 as they moved closer to clinching a North Division playoff berth.
The Michigan native had a point in all four games, capping things with a clutch performance Saturday night at the Bell Centre in a critical 3-2 victory over the Ottawa Senators: it was Petry’s goal midway through the third period that sparked the Habs’ late rally from a 2-0 deficit, and he set up the winning goal by rookie sensation Cole Caufield in overtime.
Honorable Mention: Torey Krug helped the St. Louis Blues strengthen their grip on the West Division’s final playoff spot, registering four assists as his team went 3-0 this week.
The veteran netminder was perfect this week between the Islanders’ pipes, turning aside all 53 shots he faced in a pair of shutout victories over the New York Rangers. He made 25 saves on a 4-0 win at Madison Square Garden on Thursday, then blocked 28 shots Saturday in a 3-0 home win that clinched a playoff spot for the Isles.
The two shutouts give Varlamov four against the Rangers this season, making him the first goalie since 1963-64 to blank one team more than three times. Overall, he has shutouts in three straight games and an NHL leading seven for the season.
Honorable Mention: Mackenzie Blackwood went 3-0 for the Devils this week, posting a 3.00 goals-against average and .907 save percentage in three appearances against the Philadelphia Flyers.
Week 17 could see the playoff picture completed, with opportunities for several teams to clinch the remaining postseason spots. The game of the week could be the Battle of the Sunshine State on Saturday when Florida hosts Tampa Bay in a Central Division clash of teams with Stanley Cup aspirations.
Brian is an Edmonton-based sports writer and broadcaster. His experience includes working as a sports reporter for the Edmonton Sun, where he covered the Edmonton Oil Kings 2013-14 Memorial Cup championship season.