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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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Posted On Friday, 04.18.2014 / 3:00 AM

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

Plenty of intriguing storylines in first-round series

We're only two days into the 2014 Stanley Cup Playoffs and there have already been plenty of memorable moments, not to mention plenty of exciting overtime action. In analyzing the first few games of the postseason, I've come away with a few observations and even more questions.

The first thing I noticed, particularly in the first three games Wednesday night, is how there were a lot of opportunities in the middle of the ice, something you don't typically see in playoff hockey. There were a lot of pinches, including a few good pinches in which the D committed to the right play under the thought their forwards would back them up and support them, which in many instances they didn't.

There were other instances where the forwards were challenging the D and making plays offensively. Look at the goals by Lars Eller and Tomas Plekanec for the Montreal Canadiens in their overtime win against the Tampa Bay Lightning. They challenged off the rush and made plays to score.

I don't think all the forwards and defensemen were in sync. Overall, that was a theme for me in all of the games Wednesday.


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Posted On Thursday, 04.10.2014 / 10:35 PM

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

Linden hiring was a crucial move for Canucks

Some major changes took place this week out West, with the Vancouver Canucks firing general manager Mike Gillis and hiring former captain Trevor Linden as president of hockey operations. It's a big move that will go a long way toward which direction this team goes in. After being the class of the League for a few years, the Canucks do not intend on taking more steps backward after missing the Stanley Cup Playoffs this season.

With Gillis, overall I think we knew the time had come. Something was going to happen. I wasn't sure if it was going to be him and coach John Tortorella, him or Tortorella. Who knows? I will say that I think there were some trades that Mike didn't net great returns on. I would also say the development pool is not where it should be. Their best prospect was Cory Schneider, who is gone. They've also done a great job with Christopher Tanev. Other than that, they haven't had great prospects and that has hurt them.

Overall, Gillis did a lot of great things to. Under his watch, Vancouver won the Presidents' trophy in back-to-back seasons and got to Game 7 of the 2011 Stanley Cup Final. The Canucks' style of play mirrored that of the Detroit Red Wings during that time. Puck possession was encouraged, hockey IQ was rewarded. They didn't have the heavy game like the Bruins had, which led to Boston beating them in 2011. But the Stanley Cup year was one of the most dominant teams we've seen in a while.

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Posted On Wednesday, 04.09.2014 / 9:12 AM

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

Penguins look to find identity against Red Wings

With the 2014 Stanley Cup Playoffs almost upon us, we have a great Wednesday Night Rivalry with the Detroit Red Wings visiting the Pittsburgh Penguins in a potential first-round preview (8 p.m. ET, NBCSN, TSN2).

The Red Wings have made an impressive playoff run despite numerous injuries to their key players. But the Penguins have also lost a lot of man games to injuries. They've had a tough go from an injury standpoint and have received major contributions from numerous places. Sidney Crosby has had an unbelievable season and Olli Maatta has been amazing as a rookie. Marc-Andre Fleury was awesome the other night against the Colorado Avalanche in that shootout win. A guy that doesn’t get a lot of attention in Pittsburgh is Matt Niskanen. I'm not sure why. He's been one of their most consistent players on a team with a lot of excellent players. I love the season he has had. He's gone largely under the radar and has played exceptionally well.

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Posted On Friday, 04.04.2014 / 3:00 AM

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

Coaches like McLellan, Cooper changing NHL mold

I was talking to Tampa Bay Lightning coach Jon Cooper the other day and there was just something about the way he conducted himself. It was just him being a human being; so refreshing. There's no yelling or false bravado. It then dawned on me how the way coaches address their players has changed in the NHL.

You don't see yelling or intimidation anymore. You don't even see that from Philadelphia Flyers coach Craig Berube, and he collected more than 3,000 penalty minutes as a player. That's the irony. Look at the job he's done and how he's galvanized that group.

This is how coaches are doing their job in today's NHL. I'm going to get back to Cooper, but Todd McLellan is another guy who illustrates that. And it's working wonders for the San Jose Sharks.

San Jose looks as good as I've ever seen them, which says a lot because they've had a lot of very good teams over the years. Doug Wilson and McLellan and that staff have done a great job.

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Posted On Wednesday, 04.02.2014 / 3:27 PM

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

Emerging Nyquist, Tatar face tough task vs. Bruins

There are just a few days remaining in the 2013-14 NHL season, meaning just about every game has major postseason implications heading into the 2014 Stanley Cup Playoffs.

That's certainly the case with the Wednesday Night Rivalry game this week (8 p.m. ET, NBCSN, TSN2, RDS), which matches a Detroit Red Wings team scrambling to make the playoffs for the 23rd straight season against a Boston Bruins team looking to wrap up home ice throughout the postseason.

With Detroit, you really have to start with Gustav Nyquist and Tomas Tatar. They have been stars down the stretch for the Red Wings. The big point for me with those two is they are not replacing serviceably good players; they have stepped in and tried to fill the void left by injuries to Henrik Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk, two of the best two-way players in the world.

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Posted On Friday, 03.28.2014 / 3:00 AM

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

Leaders emerging for contenders in East

Before a busy slate of games started Thursday the Eastern Conference had four teams, the Columbus Blue Jackets, Detroit Red Wings, Washington Capitals and Toronto Maple Leafs, tied for the two wild-card spots for the Stanley Cup Playoffs with 80 points. That means these last few weeks of the season are going to be an absolute dogfight in the East.

And for the teams scrambling to qualify for the postseason, certain players have emerged to lead the way.

The Capitals are 4-0-2 in their past six and collected an impressive five of six points in a three-game trip through California. Considering that, it's hard to ignore how Joel Ward is playing. Entering Thursday, Ward had the same amount of goals (22) as Anze Kopitar of the Los Angeles Kings. That gives you some perspective right now for the year he's having.

Perhaps more important, if Washington can squeeze into the playoffs Ward has a history of scoring big goals in the postseason. That's really impressive for someone who is supposed to be a third-line player.

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Posted On Wednesday, 03.26.2014 / 3:00 AM

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

Flyers, Rangers meet in potential playoff preview

We've reached that time of the season where every game is more important than the last. That's definitely true of the Wednesday Night Rivalry game this week, which will see the Philadelphia Flyers visit Madison Square Garden to take on the New York Rangers in a potential Stanley Cup Playoff preview (8 p.m. ET, NBCSN, TSN2, RDS).

The Rangers are one point ahead of Philadelphia in the Metropolitan Division, although the Flyers have two games in hand. It doesn't hurt that this also is one of the best rivalries in the NHL. These games always are nasty. Definitely no love lost between these two teams and their very passionate fan bases.

The Rangers earned a hard-fought and much-needed win against the Phoenix Coyotes on Monday. Now they go up against the Flyers, who really are coming on. They've got several 20-goal scorers and Wayne Simmonds is having a heck of a season. He's got more goals than Anze Kopitar and Kopitar is a star in this League. Scott Hartnell is doing his thing and Claude Giroux has been great. Vincent Lecavalier is playing better lately and they're getting production from everywhere. I just love what coach Craig Berube is doing with that team and the belief that he's instilled in them.

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Posted On Friday, 03.21.2014 / 4:22 PM

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

Weekes' Beat: Steven Stamkos Exclusive

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Quote of the Day

I got a chance to play a thousand games and that's pretty special to me. To get a thousand [points], it's a great accomplishment. I'm not going to hide my feelings, I'm proud of that. To do it on a win, do it on a goal, I think it makes it special.

— New York Rangers forward Martin St. Louis after scoring his 1000th NHL point on Friday
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