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. Patrick Kane
It's been amazing how well he has played and what he has been able to accomplish with the Chicago Blackhawks. He's currently on a 14-game point streak and had his seven-game goal-scoring streak snapped Wednesday. Kane is one of a few players who isn't dependent on who he plays with to generate offense. He's uniquely gifted enough and talented enough to be a one-man offensive generator and a point producer. Any good player will tell you he wants to play with good players who can think the game, and there's always something to be said for chemistry. But I think right from the beginning this season, Artemi Panarin and Kane have had great chemistry.
Right Wing - CHI
GOALS: 13 | ASST: 17 | PTS: 30
SOG: 72 | +/-: 13
When you watch Panarin play, his hands are very similar to Kane's. Obviously one shoots right and one shoots left; that aside, when you watch their skating, their ability to manipulate defenders, their ability to get into the offensive zone, evade pressure, create space and gaps and make plays individually -- when they can do it collectively the way they have as well, it's really impressive to watch.
Kane has been shredding the League this season, and Panarin has been a perfect complement to him when they have played together. I think those two guys are one of the best pairs in the League. Of course we talk about Tyler Seguin and Jamie Benn of the Dallas Stars and Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry of the Anaheim Ducks, when they are going, but I would say as far as the Western Conference at least up front, I think that these guys are the best duo right now.
2. James Reimer
I've always said that the Toronto Maple Leafs have two good goalies in James Reimer and Jonathan Bernier; I know that Bernier hasn't quite played up to his level this season, but without question he has tons of potential, He's been battling a little bit of an injury, but there's been a lot of up and down between those two guys. They are both good goalies, but Reimer is on an incredible run right now. Give him credit; he is playing well. Of course it also helps as a goalie to be able to play games consecutively. It's tough when you're getting spotted in because you just lose your intuitive feel, your position, your reads, your timing, your spacing, the way you process the game. It's very tough to do when you are not playing that often.
In this case, I think Reimer has played much better in this stretch. He's 4-0-2 in his past six starts. It hasn't been an easy situation. They haven't done a great job of managing that situation in the last few years, but both of these guys have potential and have both played well despite the fact that the Maple Leafs are not a solid defensive team on any night.
3. New York Rangers
The Rangers' start has been incredible. How well they have played and what they have been able to do has been amazing. Henrik Lundqvist is off to his best start, but I mean they are just sizzling right now. He's tied for the League lead in wins (10) and is tops in goals-against average (1.71) and save percentage (.946). That certainly goes hand-in-hand with how well they are playing, but these guys are doing this collectively. I don't think they are as fast as they were last season, but we know that they are still fast, they are still super-talented and have a lot of balance.
Mats Zuccarello is the most underrated valuable player on that team. I just think all things being equal, they are the best team in the East for sure; right now they are the best team in the League.
4. Dallas Stars
The Stars are 16-4-0 after a 3-2 win against the Washington Capitals on Thursday. We know they can score, but they're at 3.55 goals per game. All this talk about goalie equipment is interesting. Jason Spezza's brother was a goalie, and I don't hear him, Benn, Seguin, John Klingberg or coach Lindy Ruff talking about it. They are shooting on the same dimensions, same nets as everybody else, or do they just get special goalies? The Stars are on par with the Edmonton Oilers in the 1980s, the Pittsburgh Penguins in the early 1990s, and the Detroit Red Wings dynasty of the late 1990s and early 2000s. It's always interesting to me how the good players, the smart offensive players ... I don't hear them complain, I just see them go out and make plays, and I see them lightning the lamp.
Not to mention, Seguin was in goal the other day at practice with Kari Lehtonen ( https://twitter.com/DallasStars/status/667069531135741952?lang=en), so, no, I haven't seen those guys complaining. I'm just a little miffed at everyone else.
The Boston Bruins' power play is connecting at 34.5 percent right now. That is crazy, what they have been able to do. They were 1-for-4 in a 4-2 win against the Minnesota Wild on Thursday.
And the Wild, they are 10-5-3 right now, and that's after Zach Parise went down with an injury. I didn't see them being able to sustain that with his injury. I like their team, I like what general manager Chuck Fletcher has been able to build with their team. Goalie Devan Dubnyk has turned the corner and is starting to look a little more like himself in this last stretch, which helps. I thought Parise being out would have been a major crater for them; not that it isn't, but they've been able to offset it in a way that I've been impressed by.
My last honorable mention is to Dylan Larkin of the Detroit Red Wings and Evgeny Kuznetsov of the Washington Capitals. That's all. Check the numbers and watch them play.