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WEEKES ON THE WEB
Posted On Tuesday, 02.07.2012 / 8:41 PM

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

Goalies up for grabs?

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Posted On Wednesday, 01.18.2012 / 4:41 PM

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

Weekes: My All-Star Game Starters

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Posted On Wednesday, 01.11.2012 / 5:07 PM

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

Weekes: Midseason awards to five deserving figures

We've reached the halfway point of the 2011-12 NHL season, so it's time to dish out some midseason hardware to five deserving figures.

Erik Karlsson
Defense - OTT
GOALS: 6 | ASST: 35 | PTS: 41
SOG: 152 | +/-: 7
Norris Trophy
Erik Karlsson, Senators
-- The expectations were low in Ottawa, but Karlsson's play has them in the top eight in the Eastern Conference. He plays a high-risk, high-reward style that's been reaping rewards all season. He has 8 more points than any defenseman and is plus-7 on a team that's a minus-4 in goal differential. His play can take your breath away. He's a patient skater with great hockey sense. His nerves of steel have served him well.

Hart Trophy
Jonathan Toews, Blackhawks
-- On a loaded offensive team, there are guys with more talent -- Patrick Kane, Patrick Sharp, Marian Hossa -- but the most consistent player is Toews. He can play in any situation. You don't have to worry about him bringing his best effort or taking a night off. He's the league leader in faceoffs (61.5). You need a penalty killed? Fine. You need a goal? Fine. You need someone to defend or hit? Fine. He does it every night and the matchup doesn't matter.

Vezina Trophy
Henrik Lundqvist, Rangers
-- This one isn't easy to pick. There are a lot of quality candidates -- Tim Thomas, Jonathan Quick, Brian Elliott. This is the best start to Lundqvist's career, but I like his overall game. He's more aggressive. His catching glove is a lot better, he's catching more pucks than ever before. I like the maturity I've seen from him. He's referring to his teammates a lot more in interviews. He's talking about other guys and what they're doing in front of him. It's a sign of maturity. The downside of having to do it on your own is no matter how sick Henrik is, just look at Dominik Hasek, the greatest goalie of all-time, and he couldn't win by himself. When Lundqvist took the podium after the Winter Classic, he talked about the plays his teammates made. This is a whole new level this year.

Steven Stamkos
Center - TBL
GOALS: 29 | ASST: 18 | PTS: 47
SOG: 145 | +/-: 6
Rocket Richard Trophy
Steven Stamkos, Lightning
-- This season, he's shown it doesn't matter who's on his line. He can score in many different ways. You hear people talk about Steven Stamkos, and people always want to talk about his one-timers. This season, I bet only a handful came off that one-timer. That's a key for me. It doesn't matter if he's playing with Martin St. Louis or Vincent Lecavalier or neither of them. He's become a guy who scores goals from anywhere. He has speed and the motivation to keep himself where he is.

Jack Adams
John Tortorella, Rangers
-- The Rangers have reflected his personality. The team is playing a more honest game, and it's not about superstars as much anymore. It's not about one guy -- it's about the collective. More importantly it's also about the style of play -- they play harder. Marian Gaborik is playing harder. He's scoring in different ways and not poaching for breakaways. He's driving the net, and it's one of the indicators of a more honest game, a game with more effort. Block a slot of shot. They have an identity. They're a four-line team with a lot of guys playing hard every night. It gives them a chance to win.
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Posted On Wednesday, 01.11.2012 / 11:16 AM

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

Kevin Weekes gives his midseason Vezina contenders

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Posted On Thursday, 12.29.2011 / 11:59 AM

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

Weekes on the Web: Winter Classic moment

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Posted On Wednesday, 12.14.2011 / 3:20 PM

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

Weekes: Keep open mind when judging players, teams

Sometimes our preconceived notions about players and teams can hurt us when it comes to enjoying the game and seeing who the best players and teams truly are. This was something I first learned about as a teenager, working my way into the NHL.

It's about performance vs. perception.

The biggest thing I had to learn once I started skating in the NHL was the gap between performance and perception. By that, what I mean is there are so many unheralded players. I had to get adjusted. The guys who received all the hoopla -- guys like Doug Gilmour, Eric Lindros and Curtis Joseph -- are completely unbelievably great players.

Then there was a guy like Steve Thomas, who was an unbelievable player, excellent player. I thought he was just as dangerous as those other guys, yet no one ever talked about how great he was or mentioned him in the same breath as the other guys.

Why does that happen? The average person that covers the game or a fan won't see how good a player like that is, or if they see it, they won't accept it. Part of that stems from hero worship. Someone will see a guy like Steve Thomas and think, "He can't be as good as these other guys."

When I ran track in high school, the fastest guy always ran the anchor leg. There were no opinions leading to the decision. It wasn't about where someone was from or their pedigree. It was about who was the fastest, and that person ran the anchor leg. That's how it went every time.

But that's not the case in sports. I had to learn to adjust to that.

The extension of that is, when we watch teams play, we let our perceptions influence us. We watch teams that we've already decided aren't good and think, "This team can't be a good team from here. No way the Wild or Panthers can win. Why? Because we're from Toronto or New York and that shouldn't happen." Who cares if the Wild have the best record in the NHL or the Panthers have been leading the Southeast Division for almost three months?

When people judge players or evaluate teams based on what they want them to be rather than what they are, it hurts them and it hurts fans.

All the while, you end up missing some pretty good things just because it's not what you want it to be. You can't appreciate the performance. Forget players and teams. The same thing can happen with cities, too.

Last year's All-Star Game in Raleigh is a great example. People went into it thinking it was going to be a bad time because it wasn't a traditional hockey city. Yet you had so many people who were out in Raleigh saying, "This is unbelievable, they know the game, they know how to party, they did it right." People got blown away. People were pleasantly surprised.

If they came in with an open mind, there wouldn't have been any unwarranted negativity toward going to Raleigh.

About 15 years ago, people were asking, "Who is this Dominik Hasek guy? I don't like his style or how he looks in the net." I'll tell you right now -- he's the best goalie I've ever played against. He's the most dominant goalie of all time in terms of being able to influence a game by himself.  Yet, no one wanted to accept that for a long time.

How does it happen? It's coaches and GMs saying things like, "Well we didn't we earmark him, we earmarked someone else. I can't relate to where he comes from, so that's why I'm not open to accepting that guy has talent. I didn't draft him. A friend from his hometown played with him and recommended him and it wasn't my call." That's why a lot of those guys are like that. They're so resistant. "We got Jack Campbell in the first round. Who's this Richard Bachman guy?" That's not how Joe Nieuwendyk thinks. He's cerebral, open-minded, a Cornell guy. I have lots of respect for him. But oftentimes, that's how people think. It impacts the thought process when judging performance.

It's the same thing with college players, or how people still say Europeans will disappear in the playoffs. Has anyone ever watched Marian Hossa? Nicklas Lidstrom? Johan Franzen?

Size to this day also influences how a player is judged even if he's performing well. Martin St. Louis is begging for ice time as a fourth-liner in Calgary, now he's an NHL MVP and wins the Stanley Cup and now he's playing nationally for Team Canada, for the same guys who said he was too small, his legs were too short, and he played in college.

Same thing with Tim Thomas, who went to Vermont with Martin St. Louis. "I don't like how he makes saves, he doesn't play like that guy, he's from Michigan." I love when people say he's a journeyman. Aren't we all on journeys? Quite often, that's said in a condescending way. But if it's a guy they like, they change the terminology. "Mike Sillinger, he's a guy everybody wants in their room. He's well-respected, he plays hard, a heart-and-soul type guy. Dean McAmmond, Prince Albert Raiders, high-character guy."

But if it's Mark Parrish, he's a vagabond. Wayne Gretzky, Brett Hull and Paul Coffey all played for a lot of teams. So did Mark Recchi.

I just don't understand how so many people come in closed-minded when it comes time to judge talent. Far too often that happens when the performance is there. That's why they say perception is reality.
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Posted On Thursday, 12.08.2011 / 5:03 PM

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

8 Goalies a Weekes: Best of November

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Posted On Wednesday, 11.30.2011 / 6:04 PM

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

Weekes: Burke adjusted in retooling Maple Leafs

When Brian Burke first came onto the scene in Toronto, he pledged to build a tough team, one that would be able to stand up to anyone physically. That plan didn't work out, however, as the Leafs have yet to taste the postseason with Burke as GM.

This year, things have been different.

There's no unnecessary roller derby on the ice. When Burke first got to Toronto, it was all about truculence. What is this, UFC? This isn't 1974 hockey. The good thing about it is he recognized he was wrong and adjusted. I give him credit. He couldn't put a UFC team together and win. Having a bunch of bruisers who couldn't play the game wasn't helping in the standings.

So Burke made adjustments. He went out and got players with high hockey sense. One of the reasons why the Leafs are scoring more is they think game better. From the top to bottom, the Leafs are vastly improved in the hockey smarts department.

The No. 1 guy to key on is Dion Phaneuf. It's not that he didn't have hockey smarts before, because he had some nice years in Calgary. But he also had some bad ones. To me, what happened, maybe Dion started reading his press clippings. He started to play with a nastier edge that he thought he needed.

In Toronto, his biggest adjustment is he's not running out of position to make plays or to hit someone. That keeps him in better position to defend and attack. His timing is better and his reads are better, and that is having a huge impact on his game and the Leafs' game.

I think the D as a whole is vastly improved and far smarter. I love the move to get John-Michael Liles and I love Jake Gardiner. Their ability to transition the puck is excellent. I love the way the Leafs' defenders have gone from running and chasing to make hits to having D to move the puck. They're making better choices in the O-zone. They're getting shots through, more passes down low and not backing off the blue line like they did in the past. That's been one of the biggest improvements.

Burke has made adjustments from physical to finesse.

Another guy who deserves a ton of credit is Joffrey Lupul. Everyone thought when Burke acquired him, it was just a salary dump. The good thing for him is he didn't pay attention to all that and maybe didn't know how close he was to having his career end. All the working out he's done to get back in shape has made a major difference. I talked to him a couple times before the season and came away very impressed. His mind was in the right place and he's been awesome this season because of it.

Phil Kessel is leading the League in goals, and if you're not watching him, you probably assume it's all off the rush like it has been in the past. I've seen at least six or seven goals this season when he's been down around the net, battling for loose pucks in heavy traffic. He's made adjustments, too.

With James Reimer out, the Leafs' goalies have also found a way to get it done.

I know it's been tough for The Monster, but he's come a long way. I think the expectations were unrealistic for Jonas Gustavsson. The Leafs definitely overvalued him, but so did a lot of teams who were fighting for his services. But I give him credit for starting to find his game at the NHL level. The main thing for him is he's become mentally stronger, but I think he needs to be stronger in the gym. He's just a long, tall, lanky frame. You need to be in shape to bounce back after hard practices and tough games, and there's room to grow in that area. But he's stayed mentally strong during this stretch.

With Ben Scrivens, it's a good situation for him and for the Leafs. To be able to go from the ECHL to the show, it's a good thing. He has made a nice impression. I had a chance to meet him, too. He had a good head on his shoulders.

I think the Leafs can play with anybody. I know Boston has owned them, but the Leafs have a shot tonight. I think the biggest thing for the Leafs is to find that sweet spot in terms of balancing the offense and defense.

By and large, I love the Leafs' transformation.
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Posted On Tuesday, 11.29.2011 / 4:16 PM

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

Weekes: The art of the head save

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Posted On Wednesday, 11.23.2011 / 12:00 AM

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

Weekes: Young Oilers are getting the message

The game Saturday night between the Chicago Blackhawks and Edmonton Oilers is a great example of what a young, talented team can do if it isn't in awe of its competition.

The Blackhawks rolled into Edmonton as the League's best team. They were coming off a bad loss to the Calgary Flames the night before, so all signs pointed toward a deep, complete, experienced team rolling through the Oilers. After all, the Blackhawks had just beaten the Oilers 6-3 in Chicago six days earlier.

The Oilers weren't showing any reason to think they'd be able to withstand the Blackhawks attack. Their blue line was decimated, with Cam Barker, Andy Sutton, Corey Potter and Ryan Whitney out with injuries.
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It was pretty unbelievable...I think (my family in France) is pretty much in front of the TV right now. I don't think I have to wake them up.

— 29-year-old Flyers forward Pierre-Edouard Bellemare after scoring his first NHL goal
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