When last week started, few people thought the Buffalo Sabres were a team that could make the playoffs. Seven days later, they're right in the thick of the hunt for the eighth spot, and they have their stellar goaltender to thank for it.
Ryan Miller, looking like he did in his 2010 Vezina-winning season, won all three of his starts last week -- all on the road -- including a pair of shutouts, to earn NHL First Star of the Week honors.
Miller started his week with back-to-back shutouts, stopping all 43 shots in a 2-0 win in Anaheim on Wednesday, and following that with 39 stops in a 1-0 win in San Jose.
"It's unbelievable to see a guy be this good in net," teammate Tyler Ennis said after Thursday's win in San Jose. "You never think a guy can be that good and make that many saves, but he does."
Miller ran his shutout streak to 155:37, and finished his week by stopping 32 of 35 shots in a 5-3 win in Vancouver on Saturday.
"It was an important win for us," Miller said. "We keep having to battle our way back to get close to a chance of making the playoffs and we had a challenge with the Canucks, a powerhouse all year, and I thought we did a great job."
And with a win Monday in Winnipeg, they would tie the Jets for eighth place in the Eastern Conference.
The Detroit Red Wings don't have to worry as much about the playoffs, and part of that credit goes to defenseman Niklas Kronwall, who stepped up in the absence of fellow blueliners Nicklas Lidstrom and Jonathan Ericsson to put up 2 goals and 5 assists in three games last week to earn Second Star of the Week.
On Tuesday against the Columbus Blue Jackets, he scored the game-tying goal in the second period and set up Henrik Zetterberg's go-ahead goal in a 5-2 victory. Then he set up three of the Wings' first four goals in a 6-0 defeat of the Minnesota Wild on Friday. He capped his week with the Wings' lone goal in a 2-1 loss to the Chicago Blackhawks.
Chicago goalie Ray Emery
earned the win in Sunday's game against the Wings, and for his solid week he was named Third Star of the Week.
Emery won all three of his games last week, allowing one goal in each. He came on in relief of Corey Crawford
on Wednesday and stopped 23 of 24 shots as the Hawks rallied for a 5-4 win. Two nights later, he made 25 saves in the Hawks' 2-1 win against the Ottawa Senators, and he closed the week with a 23-save effort in the 2-1 win against the Wings.
The three-game win streak is the longest the Hawks have had since they won four straight from Feb. 16-21, and allowed them to start the week sixth in the Western Conference, seven points ahead of ninth-place Los Angeles and just four points behind fifth-place Nashville.Contact Adam Kimelman at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter: @NHLAdamK
Author: Adam Kimelman | NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor