It's all Carmelo Anthony all the time around the New York/New Jersey area these days. Everybody's getting into the spirit of things as even my wife has contacted the Denver Nuggets looking to trade me for the superstar. She's offered a package of me, both of my brothers, our living room couch, all our patio furniture and the expiring contract of the old Hungarian guy who lives next door to us. Our daughter is off-limits, though, as she has too much upside. And while we all look westward to Denver, or Los Angeles during All-Star weekend, to see what will happen, there were a few games played this week on the basketball court and on the ice. And there was also a Player of the Week, who is . . .
Johan Hedberg: The New Jersey Devils are a winning machine that cannot be stopped. They've been replaced by robots that destroy anything in their way. That's the only explanation for their amazing turnaround. They crush. They kill. They destroy. And they cannot stop winning. They are now only 10 points out of eighth place, as they keep beating Carolina and everybody else that stands in their way. They may never lose another game again. Hedberg's play in the nets has made no one miss Martin Brodeur. The 37-year-old Swede went 3-0 this week, with the highlight being a shutout against the New York Rangers, though he only faced 16 shots and could have done it sitting in a recliner while flipping through a Hockey Digest. He hasn't given up more than two goals in his last seven games, which were all won by New Jersey, of course. His goals against average stands at 2.45, which would be the best mark of his career if he can keep it up. Helping out his cause is the fact that the Devils' best players are playing at the top of their game (maybe a few Rangers should take note of that). Ilya Kovalchuk scored two goals and added an assist, and he grabbed a turnover against the Rangers and zoomed in to put home the only score of the game. Patrik Elias had a goal and four assists. Brian Rolston had two goals and an assist. And Dainius Zubrus chipped in with two goals in the second win over Carolina.
Runners Up & Other Notables
Al Montoya: The New York Islanders are right there with the Devils, winning on a consistent basis, though they're not in another stratosphere the way New Jersey is right now. Playing for the San Antonio Rampage just a few weeks ago, Montoya is giving the Islanders some solid play in the nets. The first Cuban-American ever to play in the NHL, Montoya recorded his second career shutout on Saturday, stopping the red-hot Kings cold. He made 35 saves, and he also relieved Nathan Lawson (who picked up his first NHL win on Tuesday) on Thursday in the loss to the Bruins, making 15 saves and only allowing one goal. In eight NHL games, Montoya has a 1.83 GAA and two shutouts. Not bad. John Tavares, Josh Bailey and Matt Moulson all scored two goals this week, but Moulson was the only one to do it against his brother-in-law. And Frans Nielsen scored a regulation goal this week and got the game-winner in the shootout victory over Ottawa.
Henrik Lundqvist: The find-a-way-to-win Rangers have now become the formerly-find-a-way-to-win Rangers. As John Tortorella said a few days ago, the Blueshirts are now finding a way to lose. Their come-from-behind-in-the-third-period persona has disappeared, as now they just go on to defeat in the final frame after digging themselves a hole in the first two periods. It looked like they may have righted the ship with their mini two-game winning streak, but that's been followed by consecutive loses, and they're 2-7-1 in their last 10 games. We'll keep up the goalie theme and give Lundqvist the shout-out this week for picking up his 200th career win on Thursday against the Kings. He made 25 saves, and then was his usual masterful self in the shootout. And Erik Christensen and Mats Zuccarello weaved their usual magic with highlight-reel goals in the skills competition to win the game. Lundqvist only let in one breakaway goal in the loss to the Devils, but it was one too many as his teammates couldn't score, yet again. And Ryan Callahan had a typical Ryan Callahan game in the win over Los Angeles.
Raymond Felton & Devin Harris: We'll honor the two local point guards as we may never see one of them again. Well, until the New York Knicks or New Jersey Nets play the Denver Nuggets that is. Felton has been nothing but great in his time in New York. He's having a career year, and his leadership skills, toughness and losing-is-not-acceptable attitude have been a pleasant surprise. If he has to be included in the Anthony deal we'll sure miss him around here. Harris has been the Nets' best player the last three seasons (his three-year anniversary was Saturday). Sure, that's not saying much, but he's been an All-Star and put up a career-high 21.3 points per game in 2009 along with a 6.9 assist-per-game average. Felton scored 13 points with 11 assists in the Knicks' lone game this week, a win over Atlanta, while Harris put up 10/4 and 16/5 lines in the two Net losses. And let's hear it for Amar'e Stoudemire, who became the first Knick since Patrick Ewing in 1992 to start in an All-Star game on Sunday, and he scored 29 points while spurring a fourth-quarter East rally that just fell short..