NHL 3 Stars and 3 Bums of the Week: Ilya Kovalchuk, Pierre Gauthier and More
As we begin the home stretch of the 2011-12 NHL season, the races are getting tighter and some surprising teams have made strong pushes towards making the playoffs.
This week, there were hat tricks mixed with spectacular shutouts, along with a bizarre maneuver by an increasingly unpopular general manager and a brawl that a former NHL player incited overseas.
It’s all part of the latest edition of the three stars and three bums of the week, spanning from March 5 to 11.
Whether you agree, disagree or just want to give your own take on something that happened, feel free to let your opinion be known in the comments section below.
3rd Star: Ilya Bryzgalov
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Fans of the Philadelphia Flyers have been waiting all season for Ilya Bryzgalov’s game to come around.
After a subpar start to the 2011-12 campaign, the man who some teammates have called “Universe” played stellar between the pipes for the Flyers last week, winning all three of his starts while posting shutouts in two of three starts.
In fact, if you include the Flyers 1-0 victory over the Washington Capitals last Sunday, Bryzgalov has posted shutouts in three of his last four starts.
The highlight of the week for Bryzgalov was clearly his victory over the Toronto Maple Leafs.
Neither team scored a goal in regulation and overtime, leaving the 0-0 tie to be settled in a shootout. Not only did Bryzgalov stop all 29 shots he faced through the first 65 minutes of play, but he also prevented all three Maple Leafs shooters from scoring on him in a magnificent performance.
Kudos to the eccentric Russian goaltender, who appears to have turned things around after sitting near the bottom of the league in goals against average and save percentage statistics for the first half of the season.
He’s the third star of the week.
2nd Star: Jarome Iginla
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Thanks in large part to captain Jarome Iginla, the Calgary Flames are on a three-game winning streak and have climbed into a playoff spot in the tough Western Conference.
Iginla racked up seven points in the three aforementioned games last week, recording at least two points in all of those games.
He was also among the three stars in all three games, as the Canadian Olympian and perennial All-Star continues to prove that he still has what it takes to lead the Flames to a playoff berth at the age of 34.
For his efforts, Iginla picks up another star honour as the second star of the week.
1st Star: Ilya Kovalchuk
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Ilya Kovalchuk's first full season with the New Jersey Devils was one that the entire franchise and its fan base would like to forget.
But, Kovalchuk has certainly delivered on his lengthy contract this season, especially when you consider the numbers he put up over the past seven days.
Kovalchuk was the biggest reason why the Devils won all four of their games last week, tallying five goals and adding four assists.
The highlight of the week for the 28-year-old Russian sniper was his hat trick on Thursday in a 5-1 dismantling of the New York Islanders.
For leading all scorers over the past week while helping his team reel off four straight wins to pull even with the Philadelphia Flyers for the No. 5 seed in the East, Kovalchuk is the star of all stars for the first full week of March.
3rd Bum: Rob Scuderi
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It was a rough week on the ice for Rob Scuderi of the Los Angeles Kings.
Scuderi is a shutdown defenseman, but you wouldn’t know it by his plus/minus numbers over the Kings four games this past week.
The 33-year-old Scuderi was a minus player in every game of the week, with his low point coming on Friday.
Scuderi was on the ice for all four goals the Detroit Red Wings scored and none of the occasions where his own team scored in a 4-3 loss. Scuderi finished the night as a minus-four and was described as “clueless” by Rink Royalty blogger Jon Gillette.
Overall, Scuderi was a minus-seven on the week and was on the ice for nine of the 13 goals that were scored against the Kings.
Also, Scuderi finished the week without a point, adding to his poor defensive play. Fortunately, the Kings were able to overcome Scuderi's struggles, finishing the week with a 2-2 record—only losing 3-1 and 4-3 in their defeats, respectively.
While it’s true that plus/minus stats can sometimes be misleading, this isn’t one of those cases.
Scuderi’s minus-seven rating on the week clearly singles him out in a manner that no one wants to be singled out in.
Generally a solid player, Rob Scuderi's performance earned him the label as a bum.
2nd Bum: Pierre Gauthier
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Even when the Montreal Canadiens appear to have a good week, their general manager still finds a way to screw something up and anger the media in the process.
The Habs won two of their three games over the past seven days and welcomed standout defenseman Andrei Markov back to the lineup, after missing nearly 16 months with a knee injury.
However, this is where Pierre Gauthier made his latest blunder that has the press talking.
Instead of doing the smart thing by either sending out a press release or announce the long-awaited return of your top defenseman on your official broadcast channel—RDS in this case—Gauthier avoided all of that and decided to mention the news during an intermission interview at a Hamilton Bulldogs game (the Canadiens AHL affiliate) instead.
Clearly Gauthier either has no common sense or he has a complete disdain for the Montreal press.
Either way, this is just another example of an incompetent general manager that can’t carry out the simplest of tasks correctly and doesn’t seem to care if he disrespects a company that pays $25 million for the rights to broadcast the majority of his team’s games.
It’s this kind of disconnect with reality that has just about every media outlet that covers the Habs making strong predictions that Gauthier won’t return as the general manager next season.
Then again, perhaps these journalists are just hoping he gets fired before they have to learn about Carey Price’s contract extension during an interview at a Wheeling Nailers game (the Habs ECHL affiliate).
For handling his business in a shady manner yet again, Pierre Gauthier is a bum.
1st Bum: Frank Banham
The first bum of the week may not play in the NHL, but we’re making an exception because of the mess that Frank Banham created in an Austrian Hockey League playoff game last week.
Banham, who had a cup of coffee with a couple of NHL teams many years ago, plays for Zagreb Medvescak KHL, a Croatian team, who were playing against EC KAC, an Austrian team.
As you can see in the featured video clip, Banham decides to deliver a flying elbow to the face of his unsuspecting opponent while cutting across the ice.
Needless to say, Banham got ejected from the game for the dirty hit, but not before he made matters even worse when he started talking trash to another player on the Austrian team, causing a massive donnybrook.
A total of 239 penalty minutes stemmed from the incident.
After the game, Banham acknowledged that the hit and the entire incident was ugly, but claimed that he isn’t a dirty player.
Banham is a generally clean player, but he certainly caused a dirty scene in this instance, making him the bum of the week, despite his outstanding handlebar mustache.