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Posted On Wednesday, 06.04.2014 / 3:00 AM

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

Cup Final offers several intriguing matchups

We're finally here. The New York Rangers are about to face the Los Angeles Kings in the Stanley Cup Final, and it's a really intriguing matchup between two great teams.

Here are the important matchups between these teams, as I see them.

With the Rangers, what really sticks out for me is the speed with which they played in the previous round against the Montreal Canadiens. Despite having all that speed, they also scored goals in several different ways. That was really impressive, and the tempo they played at forced Montreal to play a fast game, which made the Canadiens very uncomfortable.

With Los Angeles, this is a different recipe than what the Kings were doing last year. They have a lot of their core pieces in place and their coaching staff is intact. But there's always a unique recipe every year. One thing we've seen them do this year is they've had to go to three different Game 7s. That speaks to how strong this team is and how they play a power skill game. Like the Rangers, they also have four excellent forward lines with a lot of strength at center.


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Posted On Thursday, 05.29.2014 / 10:21 PM

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

Shaw, Blackhawks showing grit against Kings

How about that double-overtime thriller Wednesday night? It was a great game in which the Chicago Blackhawks extended the Western Conference Final with Michal Handzus' winner in Game 5 against the Los Angeles Kings. The Kings lead the best-of-7 series 3-2.

I mentioned earlier in the week how Chicago made certain adjustments against the Boston Bruins in the Stanley Cup Final last year. The Kings are a very similar team to the Boston Bruins. Chicago knew what it took to win the Stanley Cup against Boston last year and the adjustments it had to make in the last two games of that series. I thought the Blackhawks made a lot of the same adjustments in Game 5 in Chicago.

First of all, their D was involved in the play again, which they need and encourage. Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook were excellent, and Seabrook and Johnny Oduya got the party started with early goals. More than anything, they showed their grit against the Kings.

They'll have to do it again in Game 6 at Staples Center (9 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, RDS).


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Posted On Tuesday, 05.27.2014 / 9:21 PM

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

Blackhawks need to pay the price against Kings

In a surprising turn, the defending champion Chicago Blackhawks have fallen behind 3-1 in the best-of-7 Western Conference Final against the Los Angeles Kings. Game 5 is Wednesday at United Center (8 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, RDS).

L.A. has won three straight games against Chicago and one thing that is abundantly clear is that perimeter skill players have not been getting any fruits in the conference finals. If you're willing to pay the price to make a play, you'll be able to get points and contribute. If you don't, you won't. It's that simple.

Look at some of the incredible world-class players on Chicago. I've seen Marian Hossa take it strong and take it to the net, but he's been snake-bitten a bit lately. Patrick Sharp, Patrick Kane and some of the other stars on the Blackhawks are faced with a dilemma. It's adapt or go home. They were faced with that dilemma last year against the Boston Bruins in the Stanley Cup Final and they chose to adapt. They were then able to thrive and win the Stanley Cup.

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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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Quote of the Day

For us it's a little bit different. I've never been in front of this much media. This is more than we've ever had to deal with in Tampa. I guess we're on a little bit bigger stage now. It's nice, you have to enjoy it. This doesn't happen too often.

— Lightning forward J.T. Brown after his first Media Day experience on Tuesday in preparation of Game 1 on Wednesday