The Phoenix Coyotes have re-emerged as a Stanley Cup Playoff contender in the Western Conference, and perhaps the biggest reason why is the NHL's First Star for this past week.
Mike Smith's recent heroics in goal earned him the honor, announced Monday by the League. Evgeni Malkin of the Pittsburgh Penguins once again finds himself in the mix as the Second Star, while a big scoring week for St. Louis Blues forward David Perron led to him being named Third Star.
The Coyotes surged past a pack of fellow contenders and into the West's No. 8 seed by winning all four of their games last week, extending their overall streak to five in a row. Smith has been in net for all of those victories. In defeating Detroit on Monday, Dallas on Tuesday and Calgary on Thursday, Smith allowed just a single goal in each game, stopping 81 of 84 shots. He punctuated his spectacular week with a 38-save shutout performance against Chicago on Saturday. Smith posted a .975 save percentage during the four games.
Malkin's third five-point outing in less than two months highlighted his most recent high-scoring week. In this case it was the weekend that earned Malkin his nod, as he scored a goal and assisted on four others as the Penguins outscored the Jets 8-5 on Saturday afternoon. The next day, Malkin both started and capped their four-goal rally to beat the Lightning. For the week, Malkin had three goals, five assists and a plus-6 rating. Malkin extended his NHL-leading point total to 69, and his 32 goals are second only to the 37 scored by Tampa Bay's Steven Stamkos.
Perron's honor is a feel-good story, as he was coming off a 20-goal season and had five goals in the Blues' first 10 games last season before a concussion sidelined him for more than a calendar year. When he finally got back in the lineup, he had been limited to four goals in 26 games before this past week. Perron had his first multi-goal game of the season against Ottawa, including the game-winner, and had the tying score in a shootout win against New Jersey. Another multi-goal effort plus an assist followed against Colorado, and Perron capped his six-goal, seven-point week by lighting the lamp against San Jose.