Blues Coach Ken Hitchcock gives some instructions to his players during… (Darryl Dyck / Canadian Press…)
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.
- Just when Toronto winger Joffrey Lupul had revived his career — and received an apology from Coach Randy Carlyle for not deploying him properly when both were with the Ducks — Lupul suffered a separated shoulder last week. Lupul, who has 25 goals and 67 points in 66 games, is expected to be out two to three weeks. His exit from the lineup just about extinguished the Maple Leafs' faint playoff hopes.
- The San Jose Sharks' victory over Edmonton on Monday, which ended a five-game winless streak, was only their third win since Feb. 16. What's wrong? A little bit of everything, including only 15 goals from Joe Thornton. Their struggles are shocking for a team that was expected to contend for the conference title.
- For much of the season the Kings were the NHL's lowest-scoring team. Through games Sunday that dishonor now belongs to the Minnesota Wild, at 2.07 goals per game to the Kings' 2.16. According to the Minneapolis Star Tribune, the Wild was a league-best 20-7-3 on Dec. 10 but is 9-23-7 since then and has been outscored 124-68 in that span.