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.
1. Blue Jackets feeling blue
I've said on the record, I expect the Columbus Blue Jackets to make the Stanley Cup Playoffs. I love what president of hockey operations John Davidson and general manager Jarmo Kekalainen have done. The pieces they've gotten on that team. The blue line still has to be improved, but Ryan Johansen and Nick Foligno were amazing last season.
I also said they are going to go as far as goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky will take them. He is the hardest-working guy on that team, hands down. The most respected guy in that room. Amazing work ethic, first in and last to leave. But right now, he is struggling; it happens. He expects a lot of himself.
Team-wise they haven't been very good outside of the top line. Brandon Saad has made a smooth transition. When that top line is going, it should be a top-five line in the League. Saad said he's really surprised by the lack of attention to defensive detail. In Chicago, he played with Jonathan Toews, Marian Hossa and Duncan Keith and saw what they did every day with the Blackhawks. Coming off a Cup, being an integral part of that team, being around winners and playing for Joel Quenneville, there is a lot to be said for that. I understand why he is frustrated, but Bobrovsky will get better. Maybe he will work with the goalie coach and refine a few things. The Blue Jackets are going to go only as far as he takes them.
2. Red Wings flying high
The Detroit Red Wings are 3-0-0. An amazing start under Jeff Blashill. Rookie Dylan Larkin is the real deal. He has been so much fun to watch. Their team in general has been fun to watch. They are playing a fast brand of hockey. Henrik Zetterberg is healthy and rejuvenated playing with Larkin on the top line. They are playing fast and are playing skilled. Blashill is setting a new tone. Look for Gustav Nyquist and Tomas Tatar to break out.
Their two goalies have been awesome. Jimmy Howard has a shutout and Peter Mrazek has been good as well. Detroit has been fun to watch because of the energy they are playing. Also, Justin Abdelkader looks amazing. He looks like a man possessed right now, coming off the First Star of the Week.
3. Coyotes Howling
I'm going nuts every time I watch these guys play. Thursday wasn't Mike Smith's night, but he has been off to a great start, which they need as a young team, especially with skilled offensive players. And they are playing so fast right now.
Mikkel Boedker is back in the lineup; he's a speed demon. And you compliment Max Domi and Anthony Duclair. Those guys went in and chewed up the Anaheim Ducks in a 4-0 win on Wednesday, and each scored against the Minnesota Wild on Thursday. General manager Don Maloney and coach Dave Tippett getting Domi in the 2013 NHL Draft and trading for Anthony Duclair last season were great moves. These guys are must-see TV for me right now.
4. Kings not looking royal
The Los Angeles Kings are concerning because they are such a great group in terms of management and coaching staff. They're coming off a tough year, not making the Stanley Cup Playoffs after winning the Cup. A lot of their top guys came back in top shape, but it hasn't translated into their performance yet. They hardly get any shots on goal. There's no spark to their game.
I think Milan Lucic has a great opportunity as a pending free agent to come in there and play the way he is capable of playing. He's a big man, he's from the West Coast, but he hasn't been a fit so far. When he is on his game, he can be a game-changer, but it's not really all on him. A lot of guys in their group are not showing any spark. All the hunger they said they had has not translated into their game.
Their speed guys aren't even playing the speed game that we know. Marian Gaborik, Jeff Carter, "That 70s Line," those guys are fast players; but right now, they are not playing physical or fast. It's been disappointing watching them so far because I know they are way better than they've shown. The Kings are a two-time Cup champion team, but we're not seeing that right now.