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WEEKES ON THE WEB
Posted On Wednesday, 12.04.2013 / 3:00 AM

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

Red Wings, Flyers enter rivalry game as better teams

Of all the great Wednesday Night Rivalry matchups we've had so far this season, this week could be one of the most intriguing as the Philadelphia Flyers visit Joe Louis Arena to take on the Detroit Red Wings (8 p.m. ET, NBCSN).

It's been a tale of two seasons for both of these teams. Detroit had trouble finding consistency in the early going but has looked very impressive in winning four straight, including resounding wins against the Boston Bruins and New York Islanders, both without Pavel Datsyuk, who has been out with a concussion and is questionable for Wednesday.

Detroit's 4-2 win against the Ottawa Senators on Sunday was impressive for many reasons. It starts with Darren Helm being back after dealing with a back injury that limited him to one game last season. I know coach Mike Babcock is really bullish on Helm. He seems to make a big difference with their team and has seven goals in 14 games this season. He is very fast and adds a lot of speed to that lineup. By the time you complement that with rookies Gustav Nyquist and Tomas Tatar, you're getting young legs that can help an older, experienced Detroit team play a more up-tempo game. They were pushing the pace against Ottawa. They actually out-skated Ottawa in that game, which you wouldn't expect coming into the matchup just based on both teams' personnel.


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Posted On Friday, 11.29.2013 / 3:00 AM

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

Young talent playing way into Olympic consideration

As you've probably noticed, NHL.com has spent the week projecting the rosters for the top teams at the 2014 Sochi Olympics. The invitations sent out over the summer give some idea as to who will be on these impressive teams. But some players overlooked during the summer have been playing their way into consideration for Sochi.

I think Torey Krug of the Boston Bruins has definitely played himself into the conversation for the United States. Look at what he has done on a back end that features Dennis Seidenberg, Zdeno Chara, Johnny Boychuk and Adam McQuaid. You can argue that Boston has the best blue line right now in the Eastern Conference. And Krug has stepped in and hasn't missed a beat from the way he was playing at Michigan State and at Providence in the American Hockey League. More importantly, he hasn't missed a beat from how he played in the postseason with Boston last season, when he scored four goals in his first run in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

With a Czech Republic team that will be relying heavily on veterans, Tomas Hertl of the San Jose Sharks deserves a shot. For him to be as young as he is, doing what he is doing on a top line with a future Hall of Famer in Joe Thornton and an X-factor in Brent Burns, it's beyond phenomenal. We've all seen what he can do and the Czechs could definitely use his blend of size and skill.

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Posted On Wednesday, 11.27.2013 / 3:00 AM

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

Weekes: Red Wings have big test against Bruins

Once again, we have another great midweek matchup as the Boston Bruins visit Joe Louis Arena to take on the Detroit Red Wings in this week's Wednesday Night Rivalry (7:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN). This game features two Original Six teams that have been among the class of the League for some time now.

The rivalry has an added element this season, with the Bruins and Red Wings competing in the Atlantic Division. Detroit has struggled a little since joining the Eastern Conference this season. But any conversation regarding the East has to begin with the Bruins.

I think Boston is the class of the Eastern Conference. One could argue goaltender Tuukka Rask is the most consistent goalie in the League right now. The Bruins have a great defensive corps with a top offensive line that propels them, as well as a third line consisting of Reilly Smith, Carl Soderberg and Chris Kelly that has been excellent. They're very well-coached and play with a lot of structure. That means they are very strong on the puck and on the boards and very solid with puck possession and one-on-one battles. The main thing with them, especially offensively, is their versatility. Offensively, they can score off the rush, they can score off the cycle and their defensemen can contribute to help create goals.

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Posted On Friday, 11.22.2013 / 12:15 PM

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

Weekes: Some great efforts being ignored

At the quarter-point of the 2013-14 season we've been focusing on all of the big, prevailing stories and trends in what has been a great season so far. But I wanted to bring attention to some of the more unheralded, under-the-radar players who have been excellent this season but haven't really earned enough attention.

It starts with two veterans defying expectations with the Calgary Flames and ends with two youngsters turning heads with the Boston Bruins.

The Flames have faded since their excellent 3-0-2 start. But one thing a lot of people aren't talking about is the play of the veterans in Calgary. I love Sean Monahan and we can talk about how he has been amazing. But I also love the way Mike Cammalleri and Jiri Hudler are playing.

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Posted On Thursday, 11.21.2013 / 10:54 AM

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

Weekes: Stadium Series in New York great for fans

Yankee Stadium will be hosting two very special outdoor games as part of the 2014 Coors Light Stadium Series. It starts Jan. 26 when the New York Rangers face the New Jersey Devils and continues Jan. 29 when the Rangers meet the New York Islanders.

As someone who has played for all three teams, I have a unique perspective on these rivalries.

Personally I think the atmosphere at these games is going to be nuts. If you haven't lived or spent time in the New York metropolitan area, you don't really understand how much people love hockey there. You think it's the Giants, the Jets, the Knicks and everybody else.

Unless you spend time there you don't know how much people really love hockey. We're talking millions of people in the area, from Broadway to Long Beach to Morristown, N.J. The fact that they support three teams within that radius is mind-boggling. It's not just because of the population. It's about the passion.

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Posted On Wednesday, 11.20.2013 / 3:00 AM

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

Ovi, Fleury will be key in Wednesday Night Rivalry

This week's Wednesday Night Rivalry will be a great one as two of the most talented teams in the NHL face off when the Pittsburgh Penguins visit the nation's capital to play against the Washington Capitals (8:00p.m. EST, NBCSN).

Sidney Crosby has been putting up points at his typical pace, but one of the real stories at the quarter-point of the season has been Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin, who entering Tuesday night was tied with Alexander Steen of the St. Louis Blues for the League lead with 17 goals.

With 40 goals in his past 42 regular-season games, Ovi is really humming along. The key for him is he's scoring in a lot of different ways right now. When you're a goal-scorer, that means you're giving the opposition fits. It makes it very difficult for them to defend you when you're able to score in so many different ways, because it means you're doing a lot of things right without the puck. I like Ovi's game right now. He's scoring from the middle of the ice, he's scoring from the wing, he got a backhand rebound the other night, we've seen him on his off side, he's scoring around the net on little chip-ins.

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Posted On Wednesday, 11.13.2013 / 3:00 AM

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

Improved Mason has been key for Flyers

The Pittsburgh Penguins and Philadelphia Flyers aren't sharing precious real estate at the top of the division standings right now, but this rivalry still will be on display when they face off Wednesday (8 p.m. ET, NBCSN, TSN2, RDS).

The Penguins usually are the team with the star players generating compelling storylines, but I think it's the Flyers who actually have one of the great untold stories of the early part of this season.

Things have been tough for Philly, but one thing a lot of people were questioning coming into the season has been answered. And that's the goaltending.

Steve Mason has retooled his game. I have to give Mason credit and I have to give Flyers goaltending coach Jeff Reese credit. I think we all know that Mason is talented and has the gifts to be a top-flight goalie in the League but he hasn't necessarily been the most focused. He hasn't necessarily worked as hard as he can off the ice in years gone by. He hasn't always practiced with the intensity that you need to be an elite goalie in this League. From all that I'm hearing so far this season, he's been doing those things.

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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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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