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Posted On Friday, 11.08.2013 / 9:00 AM

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

Organizational depth, forecheck keys to Cup run

Now that the first month of the 2013-14 NHL season is in the books, I'm starting to see the competition League-wide take shape. It might be a little early to predict a Stanley Cup winner, but you can see which teams are emerging as legitimate contenders.

The way I usually identify top teams, especially this early in the season, is by looking at organizational depth. It's not just about which teams have the biggest stars scoring the most goals. You have to take a closer look at the NHL's top teams to distinguish the contenders from the pretenders.

In theory, the stars cancel each other out. I really believe that you can only go deep in the playoffs and have a chance to win or even play for a Stanley Cup if you have depth. That's why the smart teams do a good job of continuing that development of their depth players. They empower their depth players and help them get better. It's a big part of the organizational philosophy. You can't just lean on depth players under the white-hot lights of the playoffs. You can't all of a sudden say, "Hey, fourth line, we want you guys to go out and kill a penalty now."

It doesn't work like that. I think the Chicago Blackhawks are a great example of that.

Michael Frolik and those role players had huge playoffs. Marcus Kruger, Nick Leddy, Michal Rozsival. Each of those guys played a real impactful game. Did anyone project Bryan Bickell to be on the first line? Did anyone think Brandon Saad was going to develop the way he did, or that the Frolik line would be so key? Behind the scenes, they got leadership from veteran Jamal Mayers, whether he was in the lineup or not. A lot of those players who bring intangibles are needed to go deep.

Yes, it's early in the season, but you've got to start finding that early.

Look at the Anaheim Ducks right now. Is anyone demonstrating better organizational depth? Look at their goaltending. Last year, they had Viktor Fasth and Jonas Hiller. Now you have Fasth, Hiller and Frederik Andersen. Oh, and by the way, you also have John Gibson, who is awesome and was named the American Hockey League's goaltender of the month for October. The credit for all of that has to go to the Anaheim organization.

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Posted On Tuesday, 11.05.2013 / 7:52 PM

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

Role players will be key in Penguins-Rangers matchup

The Pittsburgh Penguins and New York Rangers used to be rivals in the Patrick Division. Then they met as Atlantic Division foes. They're still together in the new Metropolitan Division.

No matter what division they're in, the Penguins and Rangers are poised to meet in a great Wednesday Night Rivalry matchup (7:30 p.m. ET; NBCSN, TSN2, RDS2).


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Posted On Friday, 11.01.2013 / 9:39 AM

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

Weekes: Sid, Ovi look right back on top

I was looking at the stats page on NHL.com earlier this week and couldn't help but notice two very familiar names right at the top: Sidney Crosby leading the League in points and Alex Ovechkin leading the League in goals.

Ovechkin has since been overtaken by Alexander Steen of the St. Louis Blues, but it was nice to see the two biggest names in our game back on top, especially when you consider the noticeable lack of buzz surrounding these two players last season. With Crosby rehabbing from injuries and Ovi off to a slow start that saw him score two goals in his first 10 games, the narrative had switched to how the Sid vs. Ovi show was a thing of the past.

I can see why people were saying it. Sid was banged up and battling the health challenges he had, and Ovi had lost his way. At the end of the day, the fortunate and unfortunate thing about our business is it is performance-based. That's what it is about. People look at numbers and interpret them how they want, but I don't always believe that numbers tell the whole story. I believe it's more about the process. Sometimes you can have the right process and for an extended period not have the numbers. Then you get discouraged because people say you're not producing.

That process has helped the two biggest names in hockey get back on top. And we're all the better for it.

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Posted On Wednesday, 10.30.2013 / 3:00 AM

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

Weekes: Bruins-Penguins could be statement game

The last time the Boston Bruins and Pittsburgh Penguins faced off, the Bruins were advancing to the Stanley Cup Final after sweeping the Penguins in the Eastern Conference Final. It was quite a moment for a Boston team that looked unbeatable after outscoring Pittsburgh 12-2 in the series.

The Penguins will get their first shot at redemption as they host the Bruins in this week's Wednesday Night Rivalry game (8 p.m. ET; NBCSN, RDS2) -- or as some might call it: the Iginla Bowl.


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Posted On Tuesday, 10.29.2013 / 3:03 PM

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

Weekes' Beat with Jonathan Bernier

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Posted On Friday, 10.25.2013 / 9:00 AM

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

Weekes: Teams we should be talking about

There are plenty of great storylines to follow early in the 2013-14 NHL season. A number of teams and players have been getting lots of attention, and deservedly so, for their great performances so far. But there are a couple of teams in particular who I actually think might not be getting enough attention.

I was thinking about this Saturday when I spoke to Joe Thornton of the San Jose Sharks after his team's 6-3 win against the Calgary Flames. Joe was telling us on "Hockey Night in Canada" how impressed he was by that Flames team. Two nights later, Calgary scratched out a big victory in Los Angeles against the Kings.

Calgary started its current five-game road trip 1-3-0, so the question is, "Are they for real?" You know what? I think that their approach is for real. Sean Monahan, their first-round pick, has been awesome. But more than anything they're a team that competes hard and plays an honest game. They're starting to believe in themselves. It was doom and gloom in Calgary last season, but now these guys are having some success. They're starting to believe in themselves. Much of the focus early this season has been on the Colorado Avalanche and their incredible turnaround. But the Flames are also worth a look.

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Posted On Wednesday, 10.23.2013 / 3:00 AM

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

Weekes: Sabres and Bruins in different places now

This week's Wednesday Night Rivalry game features two teams that have competed in countless classic games through the years. Whether it was in the Adams, Northeast or Atlantic divisions, the Boston Bruins and Buffalo Sabres have always been a great matchup.

They're likely to engage in another great game Wednesday night. But in the big picture, these are two teams in very different places. And if the Buffalo Sabres truly want to turn things around for their franchise, they can take a hint from the Bruins.

I really like what I've seen from the Bruins. The thing that impresses me most is that they play the same way every night. From night to night, the Bruins have an identity to their game. They check well, they're physical, they're smart, they work hard. They're a disciplined team for the most part. But in addition to that, Tuukka Rask has been excellent. You put all that together and that is why they continue to have success.

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Posted On Friday, 10.18.2013 / 3:00 AM

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

Weekes: My take on new goalies, 'Hertl power'

In a busy summer packed with big trades, two of the biggest deals involved goalies moving from the Western Conference to the East. As a goaltender myself, I couldn't help but take a long look at Cory Schneider and Jonathan Bernier.

Both of these guys are high-quality goalies and they're great people. I've gotten to know both of them quite well. One of the things I like about both of them is that they put their time in. They went to the American Hockey League and became dominant there, and they've earned the right to be in the National Hockey League. They've also both been patient. Bernier sat behind Jonathan Quick in Los Angeles and Schneider sat behind Roberto Luongo in Vancouver. Now Bernier is with the Toronto Maple Leafs and Schneider is with the New Jersey Devils, two teams going in opposite directions so far in 2013-14.

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Posted On Wednesday, 10.16.2013 / 3:00 AM

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

Weekes: Rangers must turn it around against Capitals

It's still too early in the 2013-14 season to really pass judgment on any players or teams. But it's impossible to have a discussion of the National Hockey League's early-season disappointments without mentioning the New York Rangers, who have gone 1-4-0 to start the season and have a League-worst minus-16 goal differential entering action Tuesday night.

With four games remaining on their crazy nine-game season-opening road trip, the Rangers must turn things around. And they're going to get a great opportunity to do that against the Washington Capitals, a team they eliminated in the first round of last year's playoffs.

I've spoken to several guys on the Rangers and their biggest hurdle is they didn't get a regular training camp. While Madison Square Garden was being renovated, they were in Banff, Alberta for camp. They had tons of travel through the western time zones and they played their preseason games out there, so they never felt settled. They just felt like they were displaced. Also, they're playing a different style right now that they're not quite used to.

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Posted On Tuesday, 10.15.2013 / 12:39 PM

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

Weekes' Beat: Weekes sits down with Avs' Patrick Roy

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Quote of the Day

The groove of being behind a bench is going to be interesting at first, but thank God we have a few exhibition games to get rid of those cobwebs. Overall the excitement of it all and the freshness and coming back refreshed, all those things are going to be assets. If [the players] come ready to give their best effort in practice and games, good things are going to happen. I'm always looking for results. It's not always on the scoreboard. It's winning and building something.

— Bryan Trottier on making his return to coaching as an assistant with the Sabres