Wild's Eric Staal is NHL's First Star of February. No kidding.
GLENDALE, Ariz. — Eric Staal was named the NHL's First Star of the Month for February on Thursday, March 1.
In other news, the sky is blue, water is wet, and taxes are due in six weeks.
In fact, Staal earning the accolade might have been the least surprising news in the entire world on Thursday, considering he scored 13 goals in 13 games over 28 days, leading the Wild to a 9-2-2 record in February that has vaulted them into third place in the Central Division.
"Everything he's touched has turned to gold," coach Bruce Boudreau said Thursday, a couple of days after saying the 33-year-old would be a front-runner for NHL MVP if he played in a bigger market like Toronto.
Staal tallied at least a point in 11 of 13 games last month and capped it with a hat trick in Tuesday's 8-3 rout of the St. Louis Blues at Xcel Energy Center.
"It's an honor," Staal said. "This is a great league with a lot of great players, so to be recognized in that respect is nice, for sure. It says a lot (about) the guys that I'm playing with. We have a great team and a good thing going, especially over this last month. You want to continue to carry that and hopefully continue it here heading into March."
Staal has quietly worked his way into the discussion for the Hart Trophy. Suddenly, he is tied for fourth in the league with 33 goals to go with 31 assists as the team's No. 1 center. That production comes after some wondered if Staal was washed up as he slogged his way through his final two seasons with the Carolina Hurricanes and a 20-game stint with the New York Rangers.
Staal was given a new lease life on July 1, 2016, when he signed a three-year, $10.5 million contract with the Wild, and the rest is history.
"I always believed in my ability to be an offensive contributor," Staal said. "I have my whole life, since I was 8 years old. It was difficult, no question, for a little bit there. I knew coming here was going to be a good fit for me. Obviously, it had to play out once I got here. It's been everything I could've imagined coming to this team."
Perhaps it is fitting that Staal's candidacy for the league's MVP is starting to pick up less than a week after Boudreau questioned why he wasn't getting more attention.
"It's like your kids," Boudreau explained. "You get proud of them and want to talk about them. That's the same deal with Eric."
Not that Staal wants the attention. As far as he's concerned, the most important thing is putting his team in the best position to chase a Stanley Cup.
"At this point in my career, it's about trying to help this team win," Staal said. "I want to get another shot at having success in the playoffs, and I'm going to do what I can to help contribute. We will continue to push down the stretch and put ourselves in a good position and try to enjoy going after another run."