Times columnist Helene Elliott rates the pluses and minuses in the NHL from the previous week.
+ The St. Louis Blues took over the NHL lead in points last week and remain on top with 97 points, a remarkable feat for a team whose payroll ranks 23rd in the league, according to capgeek.com. They also tied a franchise record Saturday with their 29th home victory, matching their total of 1980-81. Coach Ken Hitchcock, who took over for Davis Payne when the Blues were 6-7, should be coach of the year. Period.
+ Ottawa's Erik Karlsson, who leads defensemen in scoring with 18 goals and 69 points, is getting support for the Norris Trophy as the NHL's top defenseman. But is he good enough defensively? Or should there be a separate trophy for offense-minded defensemen, say, the Bobby Orr Trophy?
+ The Dallas Stars have branded themselves "the Pesky Stars," and that captures only some of the reason they're on a 9-0-1 roll. Their goaltending has been outstanding, winger Michael Ryder has reached 30 goals for the first time since the 2006-07 season, and team captain Brenden Morrow has returned after sitting out 18 games because of an upper-body injury.