Each Friday throughout the Stanley Cup Playoffs Kevin Weekes will be bringing you his Friday Four. He will be blogging about four players, teams, series, plays, trends or really four of whatever from the playoffs that have caught his eye.
Two that are out, two that are moving on, good, bad, honesty, depth and history -- it's all in this week's blog.
Here we go…
1. Canadiens finish strong, still need pieces
The three horsemen all had great seasons for the Montreal Canadiens.
Max Pacioretty had a good season with 37 goals and a plus-38 rating. Carey Price arguably had the best regular season for a goalie in Canadiens history, which is history in itself. P.K. Subban is a nominee for his second Norris Trophy and that's unbelievable.
In addition, you have to respect the emergence of Alex Galchenyuk and Brendan Gallagher.
I think general manager Marc Bergevin and his staff have done a nice job with this team. There are young players to support the veterans in their prime. The addition of Jeff Petry at the trade deadline helped solidify their back end, and I think his game really elevated when he went to Montreal. Petry was very impressive with the Canadiens.
The Canadiens have come a long way under Bergevin, but they still have a ways to go. They have to get bigger and stronger through the middle, although big centers don't grow on trees. They also need some snipers, guys that can put fear in the hearts of opposing goalies and defenders. They have one sniper right now in Pacioretty; that's tough and puts a lot of pressure on him.
It's one thing to say that Subban is a Norris Trophy finalist again, but you can't have your defenseman leading your team in scoring as Subban did in the playoffs. Look at how great Duncan Keith is; he's won the Norris Trophy twice, but more often than not he's only a piece of a team with game-breaking forwards. The Canadiens don't have that.
2. What a season in Calgary
What a tremendous run it was for the Calgary Flames. What a season. What a turnaround.
They had their young guys shining, their defense scoring, and there were even players such as Matt Stajan who rekindled their careers. Stajan has focused on his fitness and has become a good leader for a lot of the young players.
The simple fact that the Flames made the Stanley Cup Playoffs after captain Mark Giordano went down says so much about the team and how deep their blue line is. I know GM Brad Treliving said he wants to improve the blue line, and what team doesn't, but all things being equal they had the highest-scoring defense corps in the NHL this season. That includes not having Giordano for the last two-plus months, including the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
I had Giordano as a runaway winner for the Norris Trophy before he went down with his injury. To lose his leadership on the ice and his ability and to still get into the playoffs and make the second round, I mean that's just unbelievable.
The leadership and production of Jiri Hudler was impressive. They have a No. 1 line with Hudler, Sean Monahan and Johnny Gaudreau. The impressive strides those two young guys, Monahan and Gaudreau, made this season will go a long way toward sustaining this type of success in Calgary.
Overall the entire team made major strides. However, they also have to have an honest evaluation of who they are and where they need to get better. They were the comeback kings, the third-period kings this season. So yes, they can make honest evaluations and honest decisions. They have to understand where they are in their development, and they have to continue to get high-level contributions from their young players, a group that now includes Sam Bennett.
The Flames have to look at the Colorado Avalanche as the cautionary tale. The Avalanche had a huge year last season and signed some veterans in the offseason such as Jarome Iginla. But Iginla and 35-year-old Alex Tanguay were their most consistent forwards, outplaying the likes of Nathan MacKinnon, Gabriel Landeskog and Ryan O'Reilly at times.
3. We're about to find out about these deeper Ducks
Don't call Ryan Kesler, Matt Beleskey and Jakob Silfverberg a second line. Whatever you do, don't do that. They're not playing like a second line. They've been amazing. They're producing like a top line.
This is what the Anaheim Ducks envisioned when they acquired Kesler. When you have a second line that can produce like a first line, well, it's no surprise why they've been rolling the way they have in the playoffs.
Anaheim has played great hockey, and part of that has been the performance of the second line. Coach Bruce Boudreau has tons of options because it's not just Corey Perry and Ryan Getzlaf providing the offense anymore.
If you're lucky enough to contain the top line, which odds say you're not going to be lucky enough to do, the Ducks now can also sting you with their "other" top line -- notice I didn't say second line. So now what if you're the opponent?
This is the time for the Ducks, but we can also safely say time will tell if they're for real. We know the Chicago Blackhawks are the gold standard. We know the Ducks have a great team and they have had a great season. This is the time for them, but will they seize it and can they seize it?
4. Remember where the Lightning were, now look at where they are
It's really impressive to see how far the Tampa Bay Lightning have come since reaching the Eastern Conference Final in 2011.
Two players that skated in that seven-game series against the Boston Bruins four years ago are still with the team. That's it. Two. Steven Stamkos and Victor Hedman. Two.
This wasn't a retool or a reset in Tampa Bay. This was a legit rebuild.
We can see "Triplets" line and all the guys around them, but this didn't happen overnight. General manager Steve Yzerman deserves a ton of credit for making it happen, but the scouting staff, including Al Murray, all deserve a lot of credit as well for drafting these guys, helping to develop them at the American Hockey League level while also developing an excellent coach in Jon Cooper at the AHL level.
Tampa Bay's goalie coach, Frantz Jean, deserves a lot of credit for the work he's done with Ben Bishop. Assistant coaches Rick Bowness and Steve Thomas also deserve a lot of credit.
It's really amazing to see what these guys have been able to accomplish in a short amount of time, especially considering there are only two players left on the team who played in the 2011 conference final.