Friday, April 12, 2024
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NHL Star Power Index: Mark Scheifele embarking on strong stretch, Jake Guentzel thriving in new home

Welcome to the NHL Star Power Index: A weekly gauge of the players who are controlling substantial buzz around the league. When a player is included on this list it may not be a good thing — it means that they are capturing a large amount of the hockey world’s attention.

These players are in no particular order when it comes to the amount of buzz that they’re creating. We’ll revisit the Star Power Index every week throughout the regular season.

The Winnipeg Jets are attempting to capture the Central Division crown for the first time since relocating north of the border. Star center Mark Scheifele is helping lead the offensive charge to make that a reality.

Scheifele is fresh off of a hat trick performance in a 4-2 win against the New York Rangers on Tuesday. It marked the eighth hat trick of his NHL career and tied him with Patrik Laine for the second-most hat tricks in franchise history. Only Ilya Kovalchuk has more with 11 to his credit.

Scheifele also became the first player in Atlanta Thrashers/Jets history to tally nine career 20-goal seasons.

The Jets star is currently on a four-game point streak and has registered three goals and three assists over that stretch. Winnipeg has been victorious in each of those four games dating back to March 11.

Following a scoreless opening period in Tuesday’s contest, Scheifele began his big night by getting the Jets onto the scoreboard.

At the 4:04 mark of the second period, the Jets were able to dig the puck free from along the boards. Defenseman Nate Schmidt ripped a shot from the point that forward Alex Iafallo attempted to redirect, but it hit a body on the way to the net. Luckily for Winnipeg, Scheifele was able to deposit the rebound into the back of net as he was in the right place at the right time.

Breakaways were certainly on the menu throughout Tuesday’s game as both Igor Shesterkin and Connor Hellebuyck were kept busy. However, Scheifele finally made good on a chance all alone in the second period.

Late in the second period, Scheifele was able to poke check the puck away from Rangers forward Chris Kreider, and there was no one in front of him. Scheifele raced ahead to secure the puck, skated in on Shesterkin, and snapped a shot past Shesterkin for the easy goal.

Scheifele completed the hat trick in the final minute of the contest as he scored an empty-netter with under 10 seconds remaining. It was Scheifele’s first hat trick of the season and was just the latest strong performance in a month that has already seen him tally five goals and five assists.

The Jets are currently tied with the Colorado Avalanche atop the Central Division with the Dallas Stars also nipping at their heels. Scheifele’s strong play is certainly something that Winnipeg will need to depend on down the stretch if they want to capture the division crown.

The Carolina Hurricanes made the largest splash at the trade deadline when the team acquired star winger Jake Guentzel in a trade with the Pittsburgh Penguins. Just a few games into his Hurricanes tenure, Guentzel has fit in quite well with his new team.

Guentzel has registered eight points (two goals & six assists) in his first five games as a member of the Hurricanes. On Tuesday, the talented forward had his best game as a Hurricane as he tallied a goal and two assists in a 4-1 win against the New York Islanders.

The Hurricanes jumped all over the Islanders in the opening period as they racked up three goals. After forward Seth Jarvis scored the first goal of the contest, Guentzel helped set up Jarvis once again at the 14:53 mark of the first period.

After receiving the puck from teammate Jaccob Slavin, Guentzel brought the puck into the offensive zone and executed the two-man game with Jarvis to absolute perfection. Guentzel dropped the puck off for Jarvis, who gave it right back to Guentzel. The former Penguins standout stick-handled the puck in deep before giving to back to Jarvis, and Jarvis had to a wide-open net to shoot at for the easy goal.

Guentzel also earned a secondary assist on Jarvis’ first goal, and added an empty-netter with less than four minutes to go in the third period.

The Hurricanes winger has tallied at least one point in all but one of his five games with his new team. Guentzel failed to record a point in his first game with Carolina, but only registered 15:12 of ice time in that particular contest.

Carolina made a bold move to acquire the services of Guentzel, especially since he’s set to become an unrestricted free agent this summer. However, Guentzel has proved to be a tremendous fit with the Hurricanes in the early going, and Carolina figures to be one of the top teams in the Eastern Conference when the postseason gets underway next month.

It’s hard to imagine a more talented two-way defenseman than Cale Makar in the NHL ranks in recent years. Makar is putting together another career year, and is one of the main reasons that the Avalanche are in the thick of the Central Division playoff race this season.

Makar currently has 75 points (17 goals & 58 assists) this season, and that puts him on pace for 96 points (22 goals & 74 assists). That would shatter his previous career-high of 86 points (28 goals & 58 assists) that he racked up during the 2021-22 campaign, and he’s already tied his career-high in the assists department (58).

The Avalanche blue-liner has had a flair for the dramatic throughout the majority of his career, and that was the case yet again in a 3-2 overtime win against the Edmonton Oilers on Saturday.

In the final seconds of the overtime period, Makar possessed the puck in the defensive zone, and surveyed the landscape before snapping a pass to forward Nathan MacKinnon down the ice. Makar’s pass was close enough to MacKinnon that MacKinnon could chase it down in the corner. MacKinnon then fired a pass in front that teammate Artturi Lehkonen was able to deposit into the back of the net for the game-winning goal with just 0.5 seconds left in the overtime session.

Makar is currently on a four-game point streak and has registered at least one point in six of his last seven contests. The Avalanche star defenseman has tallied five assists over his last four games, including at least one in all four of those contests.

Makar certainly is an integral part of Colorado’s success, and not having him throughout a portion of last season was definitely a noticeable sight as he was injured. The Avalanche star’s presence on both ends of the ice should make the team one of the top threats in the Western Conference when the chase for the Stanley Cup begins next month.

The Dallas Stars are within striking distance of winning the Central Division this season, but Jake Oettinger certainly has seen his fair share of struggles throughout the year.

Oettinger has put together a 26-13-4 record to go along with a lofty 3.02 goals-against-average and just a .897 save percentage. Both his goals-against-average and save percentage are career lows as he’s never had higher than 2.53 goals-against-average and a .911 save percentage during his four-year NHL career.

Obviously, his season has been an up-and-down affair, but the Stars goaltender has gone through a big rough patch as of late. Oettinger has tallied a 4-2-0 record, a 3.52 goals-against-average, and a .836 save percentage over his last six starts.

Oettinger has surrendered at least four goals in three of those starts, including giving up six goals to the lowly San Jose Sharks on March 5. The Stars were able to outlast the Sharks 7-6 in overtime in that particular contest, but Oettinger stopped just 14 of the 20 shots that he faced in that game.

Mixed in with this brutal stretch, Oettinger did have a few solid starts, including yielding just two goals in a 5-2 win against the Arizona Coyotes on Wednesday.

The Stars obviously have Stanley Cup aspirations this season, and are coming off a season in which they reached the Western Conference Final before being eliminated by the Vegas Golden Knights in six games. Dallas is definitely going to need more steady production from Oettinger in the crease if the team wants to make a deep run when the postseason rolls around.

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