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Posted On Friday, 01.24.2014 / 3:01 AM

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

Stadium Series will be a showcase for hockey

In a season that has already had so many highlights, it's incredible that we're about to witness three more historic events. After months of anticipation, the Coors Light NHL Stadium Series kicks off on Saturday as the Anaheim Ducks face off against the Los Angeles Kings at Dodger Stadium. The Stadium Series then heads East as the New York Rangers meet the New Jersey Devils at Yankee Stadium on Sunday before going against the New York Islanders on Wednesday.

It's going to be an epic showcase for the sport.

Let's start with New York. I don't know how you can be in New York, New Jersey or Connecticut and not be at those games. As a hockey fan, it's going to be the place to be.

Posted On Wednesday, 01.22.2014 / 3:00 AM

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

Blackhawks, Red Wings face off in matchup of rivals

This week's Wednesday Night Rivalry game features one of the NHL's greatest rivalries as the Chicago Blackhawks visit Joe Louis Arena to take on the Detroit Red Wings (8 p.m. ET, NBCSN, TSN2).

When it comes to Blackhawks vs. Red Wings, there are so many elements to the rivalry between the Original Six teams.

To start with, it's a great playoff rematch. They had a great series last season, when both were still playing in the Western Conference.

It's pretty fascinating when you take a closer look at how the Red Wings and Blackhawks are connected.

Posted On Friday, 01.17.2014 / 3:00 AM

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

Rangers, Islanders lead resurgence in Metropolitan

After every Metropolitan Division team except for the Pittsburgh Penguins got off to a tough start, we're seeing a major shift lately. A number of teams in that division have shown some real signs of life, and it could be the New York Rangers who are making the biggest push as we head into the Olympic break.

The Rangers have been a lot better. To me, it all starts with Henrik Lundqvist. Cam Talbot has been amazing and Hank in his last few games has been outstanding. There are parts of his game that he has really built on and he's starting to gain some momentum. If he's able to play like that, it covers some of the mistakes that we've seen from the Rangers.

Staying in the New York area, let's give the New York Islanders some love. How about John Tavares? You want to talk about a guy who has worked and willed himself to become a better player. He's that guy. To me, he's playing on an MVP-type level. Also, Kyle Okposo's game has come a very long way. He's become a top-tier power forward this season. He's put in a lot of work in the offseason and now he's got more of a blend between being a skill player and still being a big-body power forward. Add Thomas Vanek to that line, and you have a trio that people aren't talking about enough.
Posted On Wednesday, 01.15.2014 / 3:00 AM

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

Capitals vs. Penguins comes down to goalies

This week's Wednesday Night Rivalry features a great Metropolitan Division matchup with the Washington Capitals visiting the Pittsburgh Penguins (8 p.m. EST, NBCSN, RDS, TSN2).

These teams feature some of the world's best skaters, but goaltending will be the key for both. Washington's Philipp Grubauer has come in and played exceptionally well. He's forced coach Adam Oates' hand to keep playing him. Both Michal Neuvirth and Braden Holtby earned their right to be in the NHL, no question about it. They were both excellent down in Hershey of the American Hockey League when they were there, and Holtby has had huge playoff runs for a young goalie.

But all three Capitals goaltenders are young, and part of being a young goalie is finding that consistency in the League. I know firsthand it's difficult to achieve. Grubauer has come in and outplayed Neuvirth and Holtby, and for now he is the guy.

The Capitals need great goaltending, as does any team. Because Washington really excels on the power play and is so skilled, their 5-on-5 play is even more critical, and their goalie needs to make the saves that allow them to play to their skill set.

Posted On Friday, 01.10.2014 / 3:00 AM

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

Russia, Finland could be teams to watch in Sochi

Now that all the Olympic team rosters have been unveiled and the 2014 Sochi Olympics are just a few weeks away, everyone has offered their opinion regarding every player included and excluded from the tournament. Naturally, the United States and Canada rosters have received plenty of attention.

With Sochi just around the corner, there are a few things I thought were worth mentioning.

The biggest key to recognize is that this is going to be a very different tournament. In the past, host cities like Salt Lake City or Torino have been picturesque, but hockey hasn't been the main focus. That won't be the case in Sochi. This is Russia. This is the motherland. They're hosting this on their home soil and Russia has a rich hockey culture. I think that is something nobody is talking about enough.

Posted On Friday, 01.03.2014 / 9:19 PM

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

Winter Classic wraps; Blackhawks still team to beat

There's so much to talk about as we start 2014, but with the Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic still so fresh in all our minds, let's start there.

The venue itself was beyond spectacular. Everything that the NHL has done with this game so far has been awesome. But Michigan Stadium was at a whole other level. Just to think there was an NHL game played at the Big House with 105,491 fans, it's beyond incredible. It was a sight to behold, a once-in-a-lifetime experience. I don't think anyone who grew up playing the game at any level would have ever imagined they would play an NHL hockey game at the Big House. It was a historic event. The whole world's eyes were on the Winter Classic and that's pretty special.

For the fans who had never seen an outdoor game, they were all blown away. Every fan I talked to was going nuts. They deserve a lot of credit.

Posted On Wednesday, 01.01.2014 / 3:00 AM

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

Winter Classic provides ultimate hockey spectacle

It's finally here. After months of anticipation, the 2014 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic is upon us and I personally could not be more excited. There are so many elements that make this event so special, it's hard to go through all of them.

But one thing is for certain, this year's Winter Classic pitting the Toronto Maple Leafs against the Detroit Red Wings at Michigan Stadium in Ann Arbor, Mich., is a can't-miss event and one of the truly great spectacles in sport.

Even if you can't make it to the Big House, it really is going to be phenomenal to watch. If you don't have a television, get to the local bar or get to your buddy's place to watch the game.

You've got to watch it, no matter where you are. And you won't be alone. The eyes of the sporting world will be on the Winter Classic. That means people in the Czech Republic, Russia, London, Paris, Schenectady, everywhere. It's not just Toronto and Michigan who will be watching, the whole sports world will be watching the Winter Classic.

Posted On Friday, 12.27.2013 / 9:34 AM

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

Weekes: NHL has provided some great gifts

It's the holiday season and plenty of people are turning their attention to the great gifts they received this year. With a holiday theme, I have to talk about some of the best gifts NHL fans have seen so far this season.

The best gift the League has received is that all three California-based teams are playing great. It's had a great impact on the state from a business level but also at the grass-roots level. There are a lot of great, young minor-league players now playing in California. That talent in California has been spurred by the great performance from all three California NHL teams.

The Los Angeles Kings, Anaheim Ducks and San Jose Sharks have been so great this season that it's almost impossible to look at a major League statistic and not find a California-based player. At the Christmas break five of the top six players in plus/minus were Ducks: Hampus Lindholm, Francois Beauchemin, Dustin Penner, Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry. The only non-Duck in that group is another California-based player: Anze Kopitar of the Kings, who is tied with the Ducks' Dustin Penner for third at plus-20. Just about any category you look at right now there is a California-based player at the top. Look at 34-year-old Jumbo Joe Thornton, who leads the League with 35 assists at Christmas.

It's great for the League. And it's not only flourishing on one level in California; it's flourishing on every level. We're starting to see NHL draft picks who are California-born players. That state has 30 million people; Canada has 35 million. It just shows how great this can be for the game as a whole.

Posted On Thursday, 12.19.2013 / 6:47 PM

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

Year of the 'Backup' goalie

I couldn't help but notice something interesting when the NHL released its three stars of the week on Monday. Sure, Alex Ovechkin of the Washington Capitals was named the first star. That wasn't a surprise. But right behind him were Martin Jones of the Los Angeles Kings and Carter Hutton of the Nashville Predators, a pair of undrafted goalies who were playing in the American Hockey League last season.

And they're not the first goalies who have surprised people this season. Consider the excellent play of guys considered "backups," such as Antti Raanta, Ben Scrivens, Jonas Gustavsson, Cam Talbot, Marek Mazanec and Frederik Andersen. Heck, Curtis McElhinney has gone 3-1-0 with a .935 save percentage for the Columbus Blue Jackets since Vezina Trophy winner Sergei Bobrovsky was lost with a groin strain.

They're all proving they can play in the League. It's a limited body of work, but at least from a talent and ability standpoint, they're proving themselves. It just goes to show you how unpredictable sports can be at any position, but especially in goal. There can be an injury or a trade or someone not performing up to their level. That's why I definitely think it's been the year of the "backup."

Posted On Wednesday, 12.18.2013 / 6:16 PM

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

Rangers can take advantage of injury-plagued Penguins

It was six Wednesdays ago that the New York Rangers last hosted the Pittsburgh Penguins at Madison Square Garden. At the time, the Penguins were flying and slowly starting to get healthy as the Rangers were working to overcome a 2-6-0 start.

The Penguins got off to a strong start that night, but the Rangers came away with a big 5-1 win over their Metropolitan Division rival.

They're back at it tonight, but much has changed with the Penguins.

First and foremost, the Penguins are obviously without a lot of key personnel. Evgeni Malkin is out with an injury, as are each of Pittsburgh's top four defensemen. They're going to have to really buckle down to overcome these losses. I think the onus is going to be on their forwards to continue to come deep in their defensive zone and help out the defense because the blue line is decimated right now. Also, because they don't have Malkin down the middle either, the forwards will also have to make themselves outlets for the defensemen to transition the puck and get going north.

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