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.
Howard has started 10 games for the Detroit Red Wings; he has a 1.76 goals-against average, a .943 save percentage but is 5-5-0. How is that possible? It's because Detroit has scored 14 regulation goals in those 10 starts. Five of those came in the first two games, which means they have nine goals in Howard's past eight games. I spoke to him and he said one of the keys is that he's reading the play and not being overaggressive. He'll be aggressive when he needs to be, but will be conservative when he needs to be. Howard said as a result, he feels as though he's playing a controlled game.
He certainly feels like his feet are settled and they are underneath him before he makes plays. That's helped him make more controlled saves and make the saves he wants to make on the first try, it then gives him a great opportunity to make that next save if there's a second or third shot.
Video: DET@BUF: Howard denies a pair of huge chances
The Calgary Flames have started Johnson in goal in five of the past six games, and he's been good. He had another shutout, 2-0 against the Columbus Blue Jackets on Wednesday, his second of the season. Johnson is 6-3-1 with a 2.08 goals-against average and a .922 save percentage. Brian Elliott has struggled in his transition to Calgary after being acquired from the St. Louis Blues in the offseason; although the Flames haven't necessarily been good in front of him, they haven't been great for Johnson either. Johnson has been motivated in his return to Calgary, his hometown. People forget he was really good for the Buffalo Sabres last season, filling in while Robin Lehner was injured.
Cam Ward, Tuukka Rask
Ward has turned back the clock. He was the NHL's Second Star for last week and helped the Carolina Hurricanes win five straight games, a span in which he allowed a total of five goals. Ward switched his pads this season; they appear to be lighter and he appears to be moving better. But one thing he isn't doing is changing the game around, and it's the same thing with Rask of the Boston Bruins, who's been a Vezina candidate early on.
Last season, I found at times that each of these guys was over-sliding laterally and were sliding post-to-post or too far and not taking the correct angle on their slides. Rask was also spending a lot of time down on his knees, even when the puck was in the corner. Each has been more patient this season, and it's a reason for their success thus far. Ward has also been aided by Carolina's penalty kill, which leads the NHL at 92.2 percent (the League average is 82.0).
Not only is McDavid leading the League in scoring (nine goals, 27 points), but he just took over the Edmonton Oilers' game Wednesday at the Colorado Avalanche. The Oilers captain' had a goal and two assists in the third period, including the game-winner in a 6-3 victory. This was two games after he had his first NHL hat trick on Saturday. McDavid has four goals and eight points in his past three games; not surprisingly, the Oilers won all three.
Video: EDM@COL: McDavid scores from behind the goal for lead
Nikita Kucherov of the Tampa Bay Lightning has been amazing. He has 10 goals and is second in the League with 24 points. The Lightning need that scoring without Steven Stamkos. Kucherov is averaging 1.20 points per game, third in the League behind McDavid (1.29) and Sidney Crosby (1.36)
The Columbus Blue Jackets' power play is amazing. They're leading the League at 28.6 percent and can attack from anywhere. They use the width of the rink and make plays from the goal line and behind it. Teams are having a hard time adjusting because the Blue Jackets have many different looks with the man advantage.