Remember when we were all scared of the Dallas Stars two-headed goalie monster?
With five games left in the first half of the season and the Dallas Stars guaranteed to finish the 2015 portion of the 2015-16 regular season with single-digit regulation losses, those memories seem quite distant at this point.
Things are going about as well as could be hoped from a goalie perspective as well. Right now, it's Antti Niemi who has the hottest hand (though it should be noted that Kari Lehtonen was equally impressive in Sunday's shutout win over the St. Louis Blues), and for his efforts last week as the Stars took on the Central Divisions's best, Niemi was named the NHL's second star of the week.
Niemi went 2-0-1 with a 0.966 save percentage, 1.02 goals against average and one shutout in wins over the Minnesota Wild and Chicago Blackhawks and a shootout loss to those Blues (and dragged the Stars to one point and nine rounds deep in Saturday's shootout loss to boot).
Johnny Gaudreau was named the NHL's first star while Maple Leafs center Tyler Bozak was named third star.
The NHL's official release is below:
NEW YORK – Calgary Flames left wing Johnny Gaudreau, Dallas Stars goaltender Antti Niemi and Toronto Maple Leafs center Tyler Bozak have been named the NHL's "Three Stars" for the week ending Dec. 27.
FIRST STAR – JOHNNY GAUDREAU, LW, CALGARY FLAMES
Gaudreau led the NHL with five goals in two games to help the Flames (17-16-2, 36 points) set a franchise record with their 11th consecutive victory on home ice. He opened the week with his third career hat trick – and second of the month (also Dec. 4 vs. BOS: 3-1—4) – in a 4-1 triumph over the Winnipeg Jets Dec. 22. Gaudreau then scored twice, including the game-winning goal, in a 5-3 comeback victory over the Edmonton Oilers Dec. 27. The 22-year-old Salem, N.J., native paces the Flames and shares sixth in the NHL in both goals (17) and points (39) in 35 appearances this season. His five game-winning goals are one shy of the League lead (Joe Pavelski: 6).
SECOND STAR – ANTTI NIEMI, G, DALLAS STARS
Niemi went 2-0-1 with a 1.02 goals-against average, .966 save percentage and one shutout to lift the Stars (27-7-3, 57 points) back into first place in the League standings. He turned aside 30 of 31 shots in relief of Kari Lehtonen in a 6-3 win over the Minnesota Wild Dec. 21. Niemi then made 20 saves for his 35th career shutout (third this season) in a 4-0 victory over his former team, the Chicago Blackhawks, Dec. 22. He closed the week with 35 saves, plus another four in the shootout, in a 3-2 loss to the St. Louis Blues Dec. 26. The 32-year-old Vantaa, Finland, native boasts a 15-5-3 record (2.28 GAA, .917 SV%, 3 SO) in 24 outings this season, his first with the Stars.
THIRD STAR – TYLER BOZAK, C, TORONTO MAPLE LEAFS
Bozak ranked second in the NHL in both goals (4) and points (tied-5) to power the Maple Leafs (13-14-7, 33 points) to two victories in three starts. He recorded his second career hat trick, including the game-winning goal, in a 7-4 triumph over the Colorado Avalanche Dec. 21. Bozak then collected one assist in a 3-2 loss to the Arizona Coyotes Dec. 22 before closing the week with one goal in a 3-1 win over the New York Islanders Dec. 27. The 29-year-old Regina, Sask., native shares second on the Maple Leafs with 9-15—24 in 30 games this season, including 5-5—10 in his last eight outings.