Ovi had just 32 goals in 2010-11 and entered the final week of the outgoing year with only 12 goals. But maybe the two-day Christmas break was just what he needed, because he looked like the Ovechkin of old in Washington's four games last week.
Left Wing - WSH
GOALS: 16 | ASST: 15 | PTS: 31
SOG: 143 | +/-: -4
SOG: 143 | +/-: -4
Instead of the 11 goals he had at Christmas, Ovechkin now has 16 -- and a six-game points streak during which he's gone 6-3-9.
Five up -- Five players who hit the new year playing well:
Steven Stamkos -- Tampa Bay's top gun was scoreless in his last two games before the Christmas break, but the time off must have done him some good. Stamkos had six goals in the Lightning's three games last week, including a hat trick in Saturday's 5-2 win against Carolina. He has taken over the lead in goals with 26.
Henrik Sedin -- Look who's on top of the scoring race at the turn of the year -- it's none other than the 2009-10 Art Ross Trophy winner, who has quietly been piling up points. The assist-oriented twin had a goal and five helpers last week as Vancouver went 3-1-0 and enters the new year with a League-high 46 points.
Henrik Lundqvist -- As good as Lundqvist has been since entering the NHL in 2005, he's taking his game to a new level with the improved New York Rangers. Lundqvist allowed just one goal in winning his first two post-Christmas starts and enters Monday's Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic with a 1.91 goals-against average, a .937 save percentage and a 16-7-4 record that includes wins in his last four starts.
Jonathan Quick -- Darryl Sutter's arrival as coach in Los Angeles has perked up the Kings, but his 4-0-2 record is largely due to the play of his goaltender. Quick went 3-0-0 last week while allowing just four goals and is 5-0-1 in his last six starts.
Jimmy Howard -- The NHL's winningest goaltender this season just keeps rolling alone. Howard played all four of Detroit's games last week, won three of them and allowed just six goals, capping a hectic six days with a 31-save shutout on Saturday. The win was his 23rd -- no one else has more than 19.
Five down — Five players who are hoping for better things to come in 2012:
Matt Cooke -- Cooke showed at the start of the season that he can be an offensive force as well as a physical one for the Pittsburgh Penguins. But his point production has dried up in the past couple of weeks. He's gone eight games without a point and is minus-6 in that span.
Craig Smith -- Smith has gone from an early-season sensation to a player stuck in a goal-scoring slump. After scoring seven times in Nashville's first 15 games, Smith went the last 23 games of 2011 without a goal.
Ales Hemsky -- Not much is going right for the veteran forward, who hasn't had a point in his last eight games -- including two this week after missing a pair of contests with a sinus infection.
Center - ANA
GOALS: 6 | ASST: 19 | PTS: 25
SOG: 80 | +/-: -18
SOG: 80 | +/-: -18
Mark Streit -- It's been a tough year for Streit, who missed all of last season with a shoulder injury and has struggled as the leader of an undermanned defense on Long Island. But the Isles need more from him -- he's gone five games without a point and is minus-6 in that span, and is minus-16 for the season with just two goals.
Injuries, news and notes:
Out -- Nashville captain Shea Weber went on IR last week after suffering a concussion on Dec. 23. The Predators hope he could be back late this week. … Tampa Bay defenseman Victor Hedman is out indefinitely with what the Lightning say is a concussion sustained on Dec. 27. … Columbus defenseman James Wisniewski isn't likely to return until at least mid-February after breaking the inside bone of his left ankle on Thursday. … Colorado will be without center Matt Duchene for at least four weeks after the third-year center injured his right knee while trying to make a hit in Thursday's game. … Pittsburgh lost forwards Arron Asham (lower body) and Pascal Dupuis (upper body) with injuries in Saturday's game at New Jersey. … Toronto put center Tyler Bozak on IR after he injured his shoulder last week. … Minnesota placed forward Jarod Palmer on IR with an upper-body injury. … Buffalo says defenseman Christian Ehrhoff will miss "weeks" after suffering an upper-body injury on Friday. Forward Andrej Sekera hasn't played since leaving Wednesday's game with an upper-body injury. … Los Angeles forward Simon Gagne has been out since sustaining a concussion on Monday; the Kings placed him on IR. … Detroit is missing forwards Darren Helm and Tomas Holmstrom due to groin injuries. … Calgary defenseman Derek Smith left Thursday's game with a lower-body injury after blocking a shot and didn't play Friday. Center Alex Tanguay went on IR with an upper-body injury. … Ottawa defenseman Sergei Gonchar sat out Saturday's game after being hit in the head by a puck during warmups. … Nashville's Colin Wilson sat out Friday with an upper-body injury. … Islanders center Micheal Haley hasn't played since injuring his hand Monday night. … Florida will be without starting goaltender Jose Theodore will be out indefinitely with a lower-body injury after being run over accidentally by a teammate on Saturday.
Returning -- Colorado activated forward David Jones (groin) from injured reserve. … Devils defenseman Henrik Tallinder played Saturday; he missed six games with a back injury. … Dallas goaltender Kari Lehtonen returned Thursday after missing more than a month with a groin injury. … St. Louis forward Vladimir Sobotka returned Friday after missing nearly three weeks with an ankle injury. … Islanders forward Brian Rolston had a goal Thursday in his return after missing two weeks with a concussion. Defenseman Steve Staios was back in the lineup Saturday after a concussion sidelined him for eight games. … Calgary defenseman Anton Babchuk returned Friday after missing eight games with a broken hand. … Wild forward Chuck Kobasew (concussion) returned Thursday. … Buffalo center Nathan Gerbe was back in the lineup Saturday after missing 10 games with a concussion.
Still out -- Washington freed up a roster spot by placing defenseman Mike Green on IR. He's still sidelined by a groin problem. … Florida forward Marcel Goc is skating again as he works to return from a concussion. … Columbus defenseman Radek Martinek is in his third month of being sidelined with a concussion. … Blues center Andy McDonald is skating at practice wearing a no-contact jersey, but he's nowhere near ready to return from a concussion. … Anaheim's Jason Blake could return from a serious wrist injury this week; he's been out since being cut by the skate of San Jose's Brent Burns on Oct. 14. … Buffalo defenseman Tyler Myers, who broke his wrist on Nov. 19 and was expected back in about six weeks, is not ready to return. He's slated to see a doctor on Monday.
The week ahead -- The start of the new year brings one of the signature events of the regular season -- the Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic (1 p.m. ET; NBC, CBC). This year's edition should have a little extra animosity, as the Philadelphia Flyers host the New York Rangers in a battle of the two top teams in the Atlantic Division.
Other games to watch:
San Jose at Vancouver (Jan. 2; Versus) -- The two Western Conference finalists meet for the second time in less than a week; the Canucks beat the Sharks in OT at San Jose last Wednesday.
Chicago at Philadelphia (Jan. 5) -- The Blackhawks come to the Wells Fargo Center for the first time since June 9, 2010 -- when Patrick Kane's OT goal in Game 6 of the Final gave Chicago its first Stanley Cup since 1961.
New York Rangers at Pittsburgh (Jan. 6; NHL Network U.S./Canada) -- Four days after playing one of their Pennsylvania rivals, the Rangers head to Consol Energy Center to play the other one.
Vancouver at Boston (Jan. 7; NHL Network-U.S.) -- Last spring's Stanley Cup finalists get together for the first time since the Bruins won Game 7 on June 15; the afternoon game at TD Garden is their only meeting of the season.
Minnesota at Calgary (Jan. 7; CBC) -- The Flames are back at Scotiabank Saddledome for the first time since before Christmas after a seven-game trip necessitated by the World Junior Championship.
Tough week ahead:
Columbus Blue Jackets -- A team with all of one regulation road win in 2011 could have picked a better way to start the new year than playing three games in four nights in California.
Edmonton Oilers -- It's week 2 on the road for both Alberta teams, who've had to hit the road while the World Junior Championship takes over their buildings. But the Oilers have the tougher week, with the last four of their seven-game trip.
New York Islanders -- The Islanders start the new year with a game at Carolina on Tuesday, then head west for back-to-backs at Anaheim and Phoenix.
Easy week ahead:
Montreal Canadiens -- Fresh from their holiday week trip through Florida, the Canadiens are back home with only two games on the schedule, with Winnipeg and Tampa Bay coming to the Bell Centre.
Nashville Predators -- The Predators, who welcomed Calgary in the only game played on Jan. 1, stay at Bridgestone Arena to host Dallas and Carolina this week.
Pittsburgh Penguins -- The Pens have plenty of time to get themselves together for the 2012 portion of their schedule. They are off until Friday, when the Rangers come to town after hosting Florida on Thursday, and stay at home to host New Jersey on Saturday.