Each Friday throughout the season Kevin Weekes will be bringing you his Friday Four. He will be blogging about four players, teams, plays, or trends that have caught his eye.
Claude Julien's impact on Bruins, Canadiens
As shocking as it was when the Montreal Canadiens fired Michel Therrien, I said on NHL Network that I thought the Canadiens would go after Claude Julien once he was fired by the Boston Bruins. He was far and away the best choice for the job. Bruins fans may be upset that Boston let Julien talk to Montreal, but if you don't want him as your coach, I'm not worried what he's going to do elsewhere. Julien will make his second coaching debut with the Canadiens against the Winnipeg Jets on Saturday (2 p.m. ET; CBC, SN, TVA Sports, NHL.TV). Don't forget, he also coached them from 2002-06.
The Canadiens are 1-5-1 in their past seven games, and even though they're leading the Atlantic Division, you had to know when they got into this tailspin that something was going to happen. Goaltender Carey Price said they've lost their identity. When you hear him say that, you know something's up. They just became too loose and were sloppy, allowing too many grade-A opportunities around the net.
On the flip side, the Bruins have played better since firing Julien and replacing him with Bruce Cassidy (3-0-0). They've had more speed and more risk in their offensive game. They are attacking more at the goal line and off the half wall, and it's paying dividends for them.
St. Louis Blues
Give their goalies a lot of credit. Jake Allen and Carter Hutton were good goalies to begin with. I talked to assistant general manager and goalie coach Martin Brodeur and they did a lot of research on Hutton. He and Allen got off to a great start before some lulls, and it's a testament to their wills with how they've responded. Allen was left behind by the team a few weeks ago on a road trip and has responded emphatically.
The Blues had three shutouts and allowed three goals in a 5-0-0 road trip and have won six straight. Hutton has shutouts in three of four games. Maybe Brodeur has had a calming influence on them both. Brodeur is one of the best of all time. He's talked to them and had faith in them, and they've been great recently.
Video: STL@MTL: Allen uses his body to reject Markov
New York Islanders
Quietly Islanders forward Jason Chimera is on pace for 20 goals this season. He has 14 in 576 games and still can play up and down the lineup. Chimera recently played his 1,000th NHL game and the 37-year-old still can fly up the ice. He's also added tons of leadership to that group as well.
Following a 4-2 win against the New York Rangers on Thursday, the Islanders are 9-3-2 since Doug Weight took over as coach Jan. 17 and are closing in on the second wild card in the Eastern Conference. Anders Lee, who leads them with 22 goals, is getting to the middle of the ice way more and getting to the opposing goalie. He's playing to his size (6-foot-3, 228 pounds) and strength. And let's not forget about Thomas Greiss, who stepped in last season and helped the Islanders win a round in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. He's gotten most of the starts after Jaroslav Halak was assigned to Bridgeport of the American Hockey League.
Video: NYR@NYI: Greiss denies Kreider late to preserve lead
Is there anything Brent Burns can't do? He has 25 goals and 61 points and is in third in the NHL in scoring. He jokes that he closes his eyes when he shoots but I am telling you, he can shoot the puck from the blue line in more different ways than any defenseman in the League. There are other defensemen playing well, but the San Jose Sharks star has been on another level this. Burns had 27 goals and 75 points last season and is on pace to shatter those totals. And what's more is that he's managed to score at this pace while still playing at a high level defensively.
Buffalo Sabres forward Evander Kane is taking the puck to the middle of the ice more and making the most of his shot selections. I think it's coincided with Jack Eichel returning to the lineup. Kane has 19 goals. Is there a chance he hits 25 or 30? And Robin Lehner is playing great. He shut out the Colorado Avalanche 2-0 on Thursday and has a .926 save percentage this season.
Edmonton Oilers forward Patrick Maroon has hit the 20-goal mark for the first time in his NHL career. He has 30 points in 58 games playing mostly with Connor McDavid and is dialed in. The fact that he's on the top line tells you something about him. Let's not forget, Maroon played with Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry with the Anaheim Ducks. He's turned into more than just a role player for them.
Lastly, the Calgary Flames line of Micheal Frolik, Matthew Tkachuk, and Mikael Backlund has been one of the best in the League. Each of them has at least 31 points. It features two veterans playing with the rookie Tkachuk, who only has gotten better as the season has gone on. They are fun to watch.