Analysis

Chicago Blackhawks, NHL 3 Stars: 2017 Starts With A Bang

By George Clifford
Jan 8, 2017; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago Blackhawks defenseman Niklas Hjalmarsson (4) is congratulated for scoring by right wing Patrick Kane (88) during the first period against the Nashville Predators at the United Center. Mandatory Credit: Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports
Jan 8, 2017; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago Blackhawks defenseman Niklas Hjalmarsson (4) is congratulated for scoring by right wing Patrick Kane (88) during the first period against the Nashville Predators at the United Center. Mandatory Credit: Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports /
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Jan 5, 2017; San Jose, CA, USA; Minnesota Wild center Mikko Koivu (9) shoots the puck against San Jose Sharks goalie Martin Jones (31) during the third period of the game at SAP Center at San Jose. The Minnesota Wild defeated the San Jose Sharks with a score of 5-4. Mandatory Credit: Stan Szeto-USA TODAY Sports
Jan 5, 2017; San Jose, CA, USA; Minnesota Wild center Mikko Koivu (9) shoots the puck against San Jose Sharks goalie Martin Jones (31) during the third period of the game at SAP Center at San Jose. The Minnesota Wild defeated the San Jose Sharks with a score of 5-4. Mandatory Credit: Stan Szeto-USA TODAY Sports /

Western Conference 3 Stars

Third star: Minnesota C Mikko Koivu. Koivu’s three goals and one assist over the past two games helped the Wild avoid a “dead-cat bounce” after Columbus snapped Minnesota’s 12-game win streak on New Year’s Eve.

He scored both the game-tying goal and the game-winner in the Wild’s 5-4 win over San Jose Thursday night, then earned a huge assist on Zach Parise’s late goal that sent the game to overtime and earned a valuable point Saturday night in a 4-3 loss to the Kings.

Koivu’s 28 points ranks fourth on the team as the Wild hang tantalizingly close behind the Blackhawks in the Central Division with four games in hand.

More from Blackhawk Up

Second star: Winnipeg F Nikolaj Ehlers. Ehlers had an assist and four goals last week as the Jets won two of three games to stay in the fight for a Western Conference wild-card slot. His two goals Tuesday night included the game-winner in the Jets’ 6-4 win over Tampa Bay.

Ehlers leads the Jets with 22 assists, and his 36 points ranks second on the team.

First star: St. Louis F Vladimir Tarasenko. During his current three-game scoring streak, Tarasenko notched two goals (including the game-winner) against the Blackhawks, and one goal each in a 4-2 loss to Carolina and the 4-3 win over Dallas. His 20 goals and 43 points are both tops for the Blues and rank third and second, respectively, in the Western Conference.

Next: NHL Stanley Cup Odds Favor Chicago Blackhawks, Minnesota Wild

With Tarasenko, the Blues have one of the league’s top snipers, and that makes them a very formidable opponent.

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