On Friday night there was an extravaganza, a smorgasbord of local activity. The New York Knicks-Los Angeles Lakers game was the marquee matchup of course, but that one turned out to be the least interesting of the five games played, thanks to the Knicks' poor outing. The New Jersey Devils continued their magic carpet ride with two late goals to win their game, the New York Rangers continued whatever the opposite of a magic carpet ride is by allowing two late goals to lose their game and the New Jersey Nets won their second consecutive game, which is newsworthy. But it was the New York Islanders who played the game of the night. Sure, it may have crossed a line or two (see: Gillies, Trevor), but their contest with the Penguins was an awe-inspiring spectacle of old-time hockey. They exacted revenge in every way against Pittsburgh, Brent Johnson and Max Talbot. 1975 broke out with fisticuffs galore, which included 65 penalties, 346 penalty minutes, 10 ejections, 15 fighting majors, 20 misconducts and Micheal Haley becoming a Long Island folk hero. And poor Pittsburgh is no position to cry foul since they feature the NHL's Public Enemy No. 1 in Matt Cooke. Now on to the Player of the Week.
Michael Grabner: Right now it's Michael Grabner's world and we just live in it. What a week for the 23-year-old Austrian, and what a week for the Islanders. The rookie scored a dazzling eight goals in the four games played this week. He has a five-game goal-scoring streak going, a point in 13 out of his last 15 games and a total of 21 points in those games. The fastest skater in the league is up to 24 goals for the year, and is plus-10. And he, of course, won Sunday's game in overtime after completing a hat trick. I'm assuming he bought a lottery ticket on his way home and won a few million bucks, too. We'll be here all day if I start listing all the Islanders goals and assists this week, not to mention penalty minutes, so we'll just go with a few highlights. Haley made a name for himself in the Friday night brawl between the Charlestown Chiefs and Syracuse Bulldogs, when he acted like the Hanson brothers all rolled into one. The undrafted center scored his first NHL goal, and fought everybody except the peanut vendor. We now have a Micheal Haley Hat Trick: A goal, a fight and a fight with a goalie. Do we want a brouhaha like that every night? No. But once a year? Why not? John Tavares scored three goals this week, with five assists. Mikko Koskinen recorded his first NHL win. Al Montoya picked up his first Islander win. Kyle Okposo scored the game-winner in the shootout victory over Montreal and added three assists on Sunday. Frans Nielsen notched his 100th career point, and also had three assists on Sunday. And on and on and on . . .
Runners Up & Other Notables
Ilya Kovalchuk: The Devils went 3-0 this week, and are 6-0-1 in February. They've gone from the worst team in the NHL to the best in the blink of an eye. And a big reason why is Kovalchuk, who is on a scoring rampage and is finally earning his money. And he's scoring at the most opportune times, as well. He notched the game-winner in overtime on Thursday against the Maple Leafs and also scored the decisive goal in the comeback win over San Jose on Friday. He now has five goals in the last seven games, and picked up a pair of assists in the trio of games, too. Mattias Tedenby was the hero in the victory over Carolina on Tuesday, scoring the first goal and the overtime winner to boot. New Jersey hasn't skipped a beat with Johan Hedberg in the nets, replacing the injured Martin Brodeur, as he only let in four goals in the three games. And miracle worker Jacques Lemaire picked up his 600th win on Thursday, not to mention his 601st on Friday.
Ryan Callahan: The Rangers win! This one won't last a lifetime, but it's a big sigh of relief for the Blueshirts, as they stopped their longest losing streak of the year. They not only needed the win, but the five-goal eruption, with a season-high three power play goals, was a breath of fresh air, as well. Sunday's game started out with an "oh-no-here-we-go-again" vibe, but Henrik Lundqvist and the rest of the team settled down and dominated the game from the point of John Tortorella's early timeout. Callahan was the hero, with two goals, an assist, five hits and his usual all-around solid game. Brandon Dubinsky scored two goals and added an assist in the three games this week. Marc Staal notched a goal with two assists. While Devil superstar Kovalchuk is racking up the goals, his Ranger counterpart, Marian Gaborik, can't find the back of the net, not even on a penalty shot. But that's not surprising since he's just not very good at those. It's too bad a team can't decline one and take the power play instead, like in football. Gaborik is piling up the assists, though, and has played much better of late. Lundqvist is back in the nets, picking up the win on Sunday, with 26 saves, and wasn't too bad in Friday's loss, either. And the Sean Avery Rules were back in full force on Friday, with the opposition allowed to do pretty much whatever they want to him while if he so much as breathes on anyone, he's sent to the penalty box. But that's what happens when you're universally hated, I suppose.
Wilson Chandler: The pair of Los Angeles games was a double disaster for the Knicks this past week. They can't ignore them, but here at the Player of the Week we can do anything we want, so we'll focus on the one win, against the Nets on Saturday. The whole Carmelo Anthony thing is really getting on the nerves of everyone around the Knicks, and if they eventually acquire him they may hate him by the time he gets here. But without Amar'e Stoudemire, out with the sprained toe heard around the world, they said enough is enough and came up with a crucial win over the team across the river. Chandler, who's suffered the most with all the Anthony rumors swirling around, replaced Stoudemire in the starting lineup and replaced him as the star of the game. He did everything on the court, scoring 21 points, hauling in eight rebounds, blocking five shots, dishing out three assists, coming up with a steal and playing solid defense. He would have fought Brent Johnson if that's what it took, too. He also led the team's three-point explosion, by pouring in three from behind the arc. Raymond Felton, the consummate leader, scored 13 and distributed the ball for 11 assists. Landry Fields went three for four in three-pointers, with a huge one late in the game, and totaled 14 points. And Toney Douglas helped pick up the Amar'e-less slack with 19 points off the bench and three threes of his own.
Sasha Vujacic: If we're ignoring the Knicks' losses then we'll pretend like the one Net loss this week didn't exist either. The Nets defeated the former Charlotte Hornets on Wednesday and the present Charlotte Bobcats on Friday. This week we'll pay tribute to New Jersey's bench. Vujacic pumped in a career high 25 points in the overtime win over New Orleans, and he dished off to Kris Humphries for the decisive bucket. Jordan Farmar returned on Wednesday after a six-game absence and scored eight points with 11 assists. And Mr. Kardashian put up his usual numbers in the victories--14 points, 15 rebounds and 15 points, 14 rebounds.