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Posted On Friday, 05.23.2014 / 3:00 AM

By Kevin Weekes -  NHL Network Analyst /NHL.com - Weekes on the Web

Kings' Carter shows versatility, maturity in Game 2

Game 2 of the Western Conference Final between the Chicago Blackhawks and Los Angeles Kings was really interesting in how it was like two different games. The Blackhawks led 2-0 late in the second before Justin Williams scored to key a run of six unanswered goals for the Kings to tie the best-of-7 series 1-1.

Jeff Carter was a superstar in this game, scoring three goals and adding an assist. The Kings power play was also amazing. But it seemed to be Williams' goal with 1:46 left in the second that turned things around.

I was texting with one of the Kings after the game and I asked him for a couple of keys to that game. As one of the more veteran players on the team, he mentioned that Game 2 featured one of the most energetic and enthusiastic intermissions that they've had in his time there, and he's been there for some time. They felt they had a really good opportunity after getting that late goal in the second. They were very upbeat, evidently, in the locker room and they felt they had to strike. Chicago up to that point was 7-0 in the Stanley Cup Playoffs at United Center and they felt they had to get a stranglehold on that game, which they did.

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Posted On Wednesday, 05.21.2014 / 3:00 AM

By Kevin Weekes -  NHL Network Analyst /NHL.com - Weekes on the Web

Crawford deserves credit for Blackhawks' success

The Western Conference Final is shaping up to be a great series between the past two Stanley Cup champions, the Chicago Blackhawks and the Los Angeles Kings.

Chicago took Game 1, but I thought that the Kings played fairly well. I thought they actually played really well, being that they just got out of an emotional series against the Anaheim Ducks and then had to travel for Game 1. If not for Corey Crawford, it could have been a very different game. For Chicago, it's all about Crawford. He's one of the Conn Smythe Trophy candidates right now, just with how well he has played.

The good news for Chicago is it also looks like Andrew Shaw could be back in the lineup for Game 2. He's a very impactful player. He gets in on the forecheck, his skills are better than people give him credit for, he's physical, he's an agitator that can play and he's a 20-goal scorer. I think he'll give them even more depth than they already have.

But the real key for Chicago is Crawford.

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Posted On Friday, 05.16.2014 / 2:07 PM

By Kevin Weekes -  NHL Network Analyst /NHL.com - Weekes on the Web

Shero firing sets tone for busy summer in Pittsburgh

After blowing a 3-1 series lead and losing to the New York Rangers in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Second Round, the Pittsburgh Penguins fired general manager Ray Shero on Friday. They retained coach Dan Bylsma, but it's clear that this summer is going to be a very interesting one for a Penguins team that has been underperforming in the playoffs for some time now.

I previously mentioned that they were going to have their big, exhaustive internal meeting with co-owners Mario Lemieux and Ron Burkle, and team president David Morehouse. They did their full evaluation of the franchise and where they want to go and what they need to do to get there.

The franchise has had a lot of success through a lot of key injuries to a lot of guys, from Sidney Crosby to Evgeni Malkin to Kris Letang to Jordan Staal when he was there. These are all key performers. That being said, the expectation there is to be a Stanley Cup winner or at least compete for a Cup. They won one and lost one in the Cup Final, but since then their playoff performance has left a lot to be desired.

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Posted On Wednesday, 05.14.2014 / 3:00 AM

By Kevin Weekes -  NHL Network Analyst /NHL.com - Weekes on the Web

Ducks' Gibson on the verge of NHL stardom

The hockey world was turned on its head this week with the emergence of Anaheim Ducks goaltender John Gibson. At age 20, he is 2-0 with a 1.50 goals-against average and .957 save percentage in his first two Stanley Cup Playoff games. He may have also swung the Western Conference Second Round series against the mighty Los Angeles Kings.

What makes this development so incredible is that most people around Gibson aren't even surprised by what he's done.

This guy is exactly what you're seeing. This is the genuine article, this is what he is as a goalie. He has been that dominant goalie at every level, from the under-17 and under-18 teams with the United States Development Program, right through to Kitchener of the Ontario Hockey League and Norfolk in the American Hockey League. He even led the United States to bronze at the IIHF World Championship last summer.

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Posted On Friday, 05.09.2014 / 3:00 AM

By Kevin Weekes -  NHL Network Analyst /NHL.com - Weekes on the Web

Penguins defense, breakout plays are playoff subplots

Game 4 on Wednesday against the Pittsburgh Penguins was a rough one for the New York Rangers, who lost 4-2 and fell behind 3-1 in their best-of-7 Eastern Conference Second Round series.

The Rangers' effort level that night wasn't where it should have been, given the fact that it was a huge game on home ice at Madison Square Garden. I thought the Rangers were pretty listless. They didn't have it, but you've also got to give credit to Pittsburgh's defense, which has suddenly turned into the strongest part of an already-strong team.

That's the best defensive game I've seen the Penguins play in a while, and they did it playing five defensemen after Brooks Orpik was lost to injury.

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Posted On Wednesday, 05.07.2014 / 3:00 AM

By Kevin Weekes -  NHL Network Analyst /NHL.com - Weekes on the Web

Quick, Gaborik have Kings thinking Cup again

It's hard to believe that just a few days ago the Los Angeles Kings were trailing the San Jose Sharks 3-0 in the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Now they're the hottest team in the NHL, having reeled off six straight wins.

Jonathan Quick has been a big reason why people are comparing this team to the group that won the Stanley Cup in 2012. But the addition of scorer Marian Gaborik gives the Kings a new dimension that makes them especially dangerous.

Quick has been making the stops and Gaborik has been scoring the goals.


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Posted On Friday, 05.02.2014 / 3:00 AM

By Kevin Weekes -  NHL Network Analyst /NHL.com - Weekes on the Web

Second-round teams must focus on strengths

Now that we're in the second round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, the matchups are that much more intense. Each team will look to find the best strategy to advance to the conference final, but when you get to this point in the postseason it's generally best not to make too many changes.

Start with the Montreal Canadiens. There will be plenty of talk about how they match up against the physical Boston Bruins, but I think they just have to play their game. I spoke to one of their players and he said they can't be goaded into trying to play more physically than they naturally do. They know they're not trying to "win the physical matchup" with the Bruins. Still, they have to be smart and be willing to pay a price.

I thought Montreal did a great job of attacking from the outside and the inside against the Tampa Bay Lightning. They're going to have to do that and change it up. They can't be predictable in how they attack against Boston.

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Posted On Wednesday, 04.30.2014 / 12:00 AM

By Kevin Weekes -  NHL Network Analyst /NHL.com - Weekes on the Web

Night of Game 7s is treat for fans

Any Stanley Cup Playoff series that goes the distance is an intense and exhausting experience for both players and fans. One Game 7 is usually enough, but we get to enjoy three of them Wednesday night, when the New York Rangers host the Philadelphia Flyers, the Minnesota Wild visit the Colorado Avalanche and the Los Angeles Kings meet the San Jose Sharks.

Let's start by giving Minnesota and Colorado their due. Each franchise has made major strides. I like the way Minnesota handled the adversity of losing Game 5 in Denver. The Wild came back with the right mindset and attitude. Not only were they playing a speed game, but they also played a very physical game. Most importantly, it was a disciplined brand of physicality they brought in Game 6.

Zach Parise had an amazing game with a four-point night. That's what makes him one of the true stars of the NHL. At the same time, the Avalanche got a nice boost from having Matt Duchene back. Now we're going to see a potentially great Game 7 at Pepsi Center. I'm looking forward to it. It's going to be fast and intense.


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Posted On Friday, 04.25.2014 / 12:00 AM

By Kevin Weekes -  NHL Network Analyst /NHL.com - Weekes on the Web

Stars' depth among storylines in first week of playoffs

We're barely a week in, but multiple storylines have developed in the 2014 Stanley Cup Playoffs.

You can start with the Dallas Stars. They did a great job of defending their home ice against the Anaheim Ducks. They won those two tough games in their own building, and their stars continue to be stars for them. Jamie Benn started the comeback in Game 4. Who wins a neutral-zone faceoff to himself and scores an unassisted goal? Jamie Benn did, and it was super-impressive to me.

In the bigger context, it was all about the support in Game 4. Cody Eakin scored a huge goal for Dallas, Jordie Benn had an assist, Shawn Horcoff had an assist, and Vernon Fiddler scored a big goal. As great as Dallas' stars have been, the depth guys really stepped up in Game 4 to complement Benn and Tyler Seguin, who have been carrying the Stars all season long.

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Posted On Wednesday, 04.23.2014 / 4:30 AM

By Kevin Weekes -  NHL Network Analyst /NHL.com - Weekes on the Web

Plenty of surprises in opening week of playoffs

Every year without fail, the Stanley Cup Playoffs kick off and we see plenty of players and teams step up unexpectedly. It's just one of the many reasons the playoffs are so great.

One of the biggest surprises so far has been all the offense coming uncharacteristically from the middle of the ice. You don't typically see that as much in the playoffs. A prime example of that would be what happened with the Los Angeles Kings and San Jose Sharks through their first three games. The Kings won the William M. Jennings Trophy for allowing the fewest goals this season, but the Sharks are faster and deeper than they've ever been and have been scoring at will. As great as the Kings typically are defensively with Jonathan Quick, that hasn't been the case so far against the Sharks, who did a great job of exploiting the Kings in scoring 17 goals and winning all three games.

San Jose has gained so many odd-man rushes. They're exploiting a lot of missed coverage on the back door and they're making lots of passes across the width of the rink. I just think they had their way with L.A. The Kings don't look like the Kings yet.

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— Islanders captain John Tavares after a 4-1 win against the Penguins tied the teams atop the Metropolitan Division standings
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