Viktor Stalberg celebrated his 26th birthday on Tuesday. And as Stalberg gains a year in his life, hes also gaining maturity in his game.
Stalberg has flourished lately, and has set new career highs in goals (14) and points (28). He garnered NHL second-star honors for his performance last week, when he scored five goals -- including his first career hat trick -- and an assist.
Not bad statistics for a guy who moved up and down the four lines earlier this season. Stalbergs found his newest niche with Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane; and those linemates, coupled with Stalbergs talent, has led to big production.
Hes brought good energy to that line, coach Joel Quenneville said. It seemed liked he was more effective in the puck area. He finishes plays, and makes some on his own as well. He had an outstanding week. Putting that (consistency) in, game in and game out, hes really helped himself this year.
Perhaps, all Stalberg needed was time. Although hes now 26, its easy to forget that Stalberg is still a relatively new guy in the NHL. This is just his third season; make that two and a half seasons since he played just 39 games with the Toronto Maple Leafs in the 2009-10 season.
Stalberg showed spurts of potential last season, but now hes catching on in all areas. He a few games with the checking line, too, and said even things he picked up in that short stint help him now.
Playing with (Dave Bolland), I had the puck a little more and maybe I realized I could do a little more, Stalberg said. Even with Kane and Toews I still have to use my assets. I know I can hold onto the puck a little bit, make some plays.
Teammates have noticed Stalbergs progress this season.
The best part of his game lately has been his relentlessness on the puck, said Jamal Mayers, who has been Stalbergs linemate this season. Hes such a quick guy that even when he loses the puck hes got a quick stick. When youre playing with two great players (Kane and Toews) like he is, hes able to sustain the attack by stealing pucks.
Hes coming into his own on what hes capable of doing, and starting to see some of the rewards for his hard work, Mayers said.
Stalberg turned a year older on Tuesday. His games been maturing right along, too.
Hes come along since the beginning of the year. The little things that compliment his speed and his shot and his skills, general hockey instincts, he seems to be progressing, Quenneville said. Hes more reactionary than hesitant, and that speeds a great asset. Hes more predictable where hes going to be. He seems to be improving in that area.