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.
Detroit Red Wings
The Red Wings have been underperforming for a little while, and the chances of extending their streak of making the Stanley Cup Playoffs to 25 consecutive seasons could be in jeopardy. Detroit is 4-6-1 in its past 11 games and is struggling to hold on to one of the wild-card spots from the Eastern Conference.
Video: WPG@DET: Mrazek stymies Stafford with the left padThe Red Wings have been able to rely on goalies Petr Mrazek and Jimmy Howard at points, but neither has been playing well recently, a problem that has coincided with Detroit's struggles. Rookie forward Dylan Larkin has hit a wall; he had one goal in his previous 13 games before scoring against the Winnipeg Jets on Thursday. It's a long season, so this was bound to happen at some point.
As good as Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg have been for them, their offense has kind of dried up as well. All things being equal, the Red Wings have had difficult manufacturing offense, and their power play is not what it was last season. Those are things we couldn't say about the Red Wings in the previous decade.
Another issue for the Red Wings is that they don't have a dynamic defenseman. They brought in Mike Green, but he isn't the same guy he was in Washington. They need an electric point producer like P.K. Subban or Erik Karlsson. There's no one on Detroit's defense that can drive offensive production, and this is one area of their team that has always been problematic. But having Nicklas Lidstrom back there for years was an exception.
Carolina has been a really good story. The Hurricanes are one of those teams pushing for a playoff spot that appeared to be out of the race earlier, even trading Eric Staal before probably losing him in free agency.
Jeff Skinner is healthier and has been scoring the way we know he is capable of. He's challenging goalies from in close and not just at a distance, and he's looking like the Jeff Skinner of old. That was impressive the way he scored for the second time this season with under 10 seconds left in regulation to tie a game that the Hurricanes eventually won. They never quit.
Video: CAR@BOS: Lindholm opens the scoring on the power play
Young forwards Elias Lindholm and Victor Rask have been pleasant surprises, and the Hurricanes are getting good goaltending from Eddie Lack and Cam Ward. Their faceoff game has improved, they are a harder checking team, a more tenacious team on the forecheck. I'm really impressed with their progression and where they are right now. They are well ahead of schedule for where we thought they would be.
Los Angeles Kings
In a tough division and a tough conference where you get no nights off, the Kings have been outstanding all year long and doing it mostly quietly as well, which is the way they like it. They defeated the League-leading Washington Capitals 4-3 in overtime on Wednesday in what seemed like a playoff game. They had a 3-0 lead in the third period, then let that go to waste before winning in overtime. But the way they won was impressive. Drew Doughty got the puck, cleared the zone, looked over his shoulder and saw that the Capitals were changing lines and waited for support before making the smart play that ended the game.
Video: WSH@LAK: Martinez's shot hits Lecavalier, goes in
Milan Lucic has been really good for them as well. I know he had a slow start, but overall he has been really good. He is tailor-made for how the Kings play. Vincent Lecavalier has proven he still has something left in the tank; he's come to Los Angeles and taken a reduced role but is still having an impact. Lecavalier has scored more than 900 points during his NHL career and has won a Stanley Cup but still has the fire to play and win. They also added another Cup winner at the trading deadline in forward Kris Versteeg.
Philadelphia is a great place to play, especially in the springtime. When the team is playing like it has lately, it's fun for them and they turn it up a few notches. The goaltending has been really good. Steve Mason had yielded to Michal Neuvirth, but now Mason has started the past few games and been really good.
Video: TBL@PHI: Schenn's deflection puts Flyers up by two
Claude Giroux, Wayne Simmonds, Brayden Schenn (22 goals) and rookie Shane Gostisbehere have stepped up; especially Gostisbehere, who I think has transformed this franchise. When you have an electrifying defensemen who can make plays, it changes your whole game. He has changed their offense, their power play and even overtime, where he has scored four game-winners.
The Boston Bruins continue to impress. They're now on top of the Atlantic Division standings, just ahead of the Tampa Bay Lightning and Florida Panthers. General manager Don Sweeney has done a masterful job. They're scoring 3.0 goals per game and swept the Panthers and Lightning earlier this week, winning back-to-back games in overtime on the road. The Bruins could have three 30-goal scorers: Brad Marchand is already there, and Patrice Bergeron and Loui Eriksson are likely to reach 30 as well.