The NHL's Team of the Week for January 12

Carol Schram@pool88Featured ColumnistJanuary 12, 2015

The NHL's Team of the Week for January 12

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    USA TODAY Sports

    Last Saturday, the NHL announced the names that would fill out its All-Star Game roster, offering accolades to many of the players who have had strong first halves in this 2014-15 NHL season.

    The spectrum of this article is narrower: It looks at the best hockey performances of the last week at each position and behind the bench.

    Impressive individual stats matter, of course, but so does a player's impact on his team—in the win/loss column and to the playoff picture.

    Take a look. Who did you think had the most impressive performances of the week?

Left Wing: Jonathan Huberdeau

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    Gerry Thomas/Getty Images

    Last Week's Stats: 

    3 GP, 3-2-5

    Why He Impressed: 

    As the Florida Panthers kicked off their Western Canadian road trip with a 3-0 record, 21-year-old Jonathan Huberdeau has been an offensive standout.

    Huberdeau posted two goals and an assist on three shots in Florida's 3-1 win over the Vancouver Canucks on Thursday, then followed that up with a goal and an assist as Florida beat Calgary 6-5 on Friday. He was held pointless in Florida's 4-2 win over Edmonton on Sunday.

    After a sophomore slump that saw him record just 28 points in 2013-14, the past week has been Huberdeau's best of the current campaign. The question now is whether he can stay consistent as Florida heads into its stretch run and continues to push for a playoff spot.

    Honorable Mentions: 

    • Alexander Steen, St. Louis Blues (3 GP, 2-3-5)
    • Mathieu Perreault, Winnipeg Jets (4 GP, 2-2-4)

Center: David Backes

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    USA TODAY Sports

    Last Week's Stats: 

    3 GP, 5-3-8

    Why He Impressed: 

    On Jan. 6, David Backes joined Brett Hull on the list of the only players in St. Louis Blues history to have posted two four-goal games. The Blues shut out the Arizona Coyotes 6-0 that night—part of a three-win week.

    Backes added a goal and an assist in the team's 7-2 win over the San Jose Sharks on Thursday and finished off the week with a two-assist effort against the Carolina Hurricanes on Saturday.

    Offense is coming easily for the Blues these days. They've posted 24 regulation goals during their current four-game winning streak and now sit third in the league with an average of 3.14 goals per game.

    Backes joins Alex Ovechkin and Marian Gaborik as the only active players who have posted multiple four-goal games.

    Honorable Mentions: 

    • Mikael Backlund, Calgary Flames (3 GP since returning from injury, 3-2-5, 1 GWG)
    • Paul Stastny, St. Louis Blues (3 GP, 3-2-5, 1 GWG)

Right Wing: T.J. Oshie

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    Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images

    Last Week's Stats: 

    3 GP, 1-4-5, 1 shootout winner

    Why He Impressed:

    After a four-point effort to kick off the St. Louis Blues' winning streak against the San Jose Sharks on January 3, Oshie stayed hot last week. He logged three assists against Arizona and a goal and an assist in the rematch against the Sharks, then scored the shootout winner in the Blues' win over Carolina.

    Surprisingly, Oshie's shootout goal was his first success in four attempts this season after leading the NHL with a 9-of-12 record in 2013-14.

    Like many of his teammates, Oshie has been finding his game in recent weeks.

    Honorable Mentions: 

    • Justin Abdelkader, Detroit Red Wings (3 GP, 2-3-5)
    • Patrick Kane, Chicago Blackhawks (4 GP, 1-4-5)

Defense: Shea Weber

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    USA TODAY Sports

    Last Week's Stats: 

    3 GP, 2-1-3, 8 shots, plus-4

    Why He Impressed: 

    At midseason, the Nashville Predators are tied with the Anaheim Ducks for the top spot in the NHL standings, and with two games in hand, they hold the NHL's best winning percentage at .732.

    The Preds are getting it done at both ends of the ice, ranking ninth in goals per game and second in goals against. Captain Shea Weber contributed on both sides of that ledger last week, scoring the game-winning goal in Nashville's 3-2 overtime defeat of the Dallas Stars on January 8 while also logging big defensive minutes and helping to shut down the offenses of the Carolina Hurricanes, the Stars and the Minnesota Wild.

    After missing the playoffs last season, Nashville's in the midst of a remarkable transformation and is arguably the most balanced team we've ever seen in Music City. Weber's 10th NHL season is looking like it might be his best to date.

Defense: Dustin Byfuglien

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    Norm Hall/Getty Images

    Last Week's Stats: 

    4 GP, 0-3-3, 10 shots, plus-2

    Why He Impressed: 

    The Winnipeg Jets' blue line is getting healthier. After a rash of injuries that knocked five of their top six out of the lineup, Zach Bogosian, Toby Enstrom and Mark Stuart have returned to support Dustin Byfuglien, who has been a force through this difficult stretch.

    Big Buff played 28 minutes and 31 seconds or more in each of his last four games—well above his season average of 22:47. He has been defensively responsible while continuing to use his body to throw punishing hits on the opposition.

    A win over the Los Angeles Kings and a shootout loss to the Anaheim Ducks last weekend provided precious points to keep the Jets in the wild-card picture. Byfuglien's strong play has been a big part of his team's recent success.

    Honorable Mentions: 

    • Aaron Ekblad, Florida Panthers (3 GP, 0-2-2, 10 shots, plus-3) 
    • Erik Johnson, Colorado Avalanche (3 GP, 2-0-0, 7 shots, plus-2)

Goal: Henrik Lundqvist

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    Juan Ocampo/Getty Images

    Last Week's Stats:

    2-0-0, 2 goals against, .964 save percentage

    Why He Impressed: 

    The New York Rangers started last season with a nine-game road trip while renovations were being completed at Madison Square Garden. The Blueshirts went 1-2 through California on that trip, beating the Los Angeles Kings 3-1 before getting hammered 9-2 by the San Jose Sharks and 6-0 by the Anaheim Ducks.

    This year's West Coast visit turned out much better. The Rangers went 3-0 last week against the California teams, with Henrik Lundqvist allowing just a single power-play goal in each of his starts against the Sharks and the Ducks.

    The Rangers are now 9-1-0 in their last 10 games and are tied for the best goal differential in the Eastern Conference. After another slow start, last season's Eastern champs have climbed into the third playoff spot in the Metropolitan Division.

    Honorable Mentions: 

    • Semyon Varlamov, Colorado Avalanche (3-0-0, 5 goals against, 1 shutout, .962 save percentage)
    • Pekka Rinne, Nashville Predators (3-0-0, 5 goals against, .939 save percentage)

Coach: Patrick Roy

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    Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

    Last Week's Stats: 

    3-0-0, 11 goals for, 5 goals against, 1 shutout

    Why He Impressed: 

    For the past month, the Colorado Avalanche have been steadily digging themselves out of the hole they dug early in the season.

    The Avs are 4-1-0 so far in 2015, were undefeated last week and have once again been enjoying lights-out goaltending from a healthy Semyon Varlamov.

    After Sunday's games, Colorado's now 11th in the Western Conference but just five points out of a playoff spot. A second-half surge could make things interesting for a team that many were regarding as a one-season wonder.

    Honorable Mentions: 

    • Alain Vigneault, New York Rangers (3-0-0)
    • Ken Hitchcock, St. Louis Blues (3-0-0)

    All stats courtesy of NHL.com. 

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