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's streak
What the Chicago Blackhawks forward has been able to do has been incredible. Kane tied Bobby Hull for the franchise record with a point in his 21st straight game against the Ottawa Senators on Thursday. He's one of maybe seven or eight players in the League who can generate offense all by himself. But at the same time, it's a unique balance because he is able to make the guys around him so much better, though he's not dependent on them to make plays. Because he is so adept at passing and shooting, and has great hands and creativity, Kane is very difficult to contain and he's not a perimeter player, which makes him very difficult to defend.
Hall of Fame defenseman and one of the best skaters of all time, Scott Niedermayer, said guys like Kane are tough to defend because you tend to give them a little extra space so they don't make you look bad, or else you'll be on the other end of a highlight. That's coming from Niedermayer, which says a lot to me.
Kane has no offensive tendencies; he can generate from all ends of the ice, going forehand or backhand, in coverage, outside coverage. There's a lot of different ways he can beat people in the offensive end. He makes his teammates better. To me, Artemi Panarin is a right-handed version of Kane. Sometimes you have to look twice when they play to tell who is who.
I spoke to Mike Modano this week, and he and Jeremy Roenick spoke so highly of Kane during this streak. Those are two of the greatest American-born players ever to play, so that has to tell you a lot right there. And Kane has made Artem Anisimov (11 goals in 26 games) better as well.
2. Montreal Canadiens
You have to give them a lot of credit, what they've been able to do without goalie Carey Price. They are fourth in the League in power-play percentage (23.1) and have a plus-32 goal differential. The way they execute the power play is what amazes me. There's no better example than this power-play goal by Max Pacioretty against the Columbus Blue Jackets on Tuesday.
From the neutral zone, P.K. Subban attempted to keep the puck in the zone and wasn't able to, but from there, he makes two or three individual plays at the blue line across the ice to David Desharnais, who chips it back to Dale Weise. There were 10-12 passes on the power play. Those guys were just snapping the puck around like the Harlem Globetrotters. When you watch that goal, it shows their unselfishness, their great hockey sense.
To me, that's very indicative of why they lead the League in points (tied with the Dallas Stars). You have the game-breaking individual one-man offensive skill and dominance of Subban on that particular play to make something out of nothing, but what people don't understand is that it's done within the team concept. It's how the Canadiens play. There's so much work they did before they scored that goal.
3. New York Islanders
The Islanders are playing very well right now. Following a 2-1 shootout win against the New York Rangers on Wednesday, they're 4-0-1 in their past five games.
True, they're not forechecking as relentlessly as they did last season, but their game is coming back. You look at where they are in the standings and they have done a nice job. Goalie Jaroslav Halak's numbers have been good this year, and he was an all-star last season. I know he has a few shutouts in the bank this season, but he was awesome against Henrik Lundqvist on Wednesday and that was his best game of the season.
Forwards John Tavares and Kyle Okposo are playing the way they can play; Okposo had that shootout goal Thursday. But the Islanders are starting to get some contributions from their second and third lines, which they need. After their first line, their fourth line is their best line.
I like them having forward Ryan Strome back in the lineup after he spent some time in the American Hockey League. He's an NHL player. Maybe they wanted to send him a message, but he's a playmaker and a guy who can create offense and is very unselfish. He's a pass-first guy and I think it gives them more balance with him back.
The fourth line brings that forecheck. But the Islanders are playing very well.
4. Calgary Flames' epic comeback
That third-period comeback by the Flames against the Stars on Tuesday, scoring three unanswered goals to ultimately win the game 4-3 in a shootout is exactly what they needed. That period is what they need to put in a bottle and just drink it, because that is the way they can play and what they need to do to get back in the Stanley Cup Playoff picture.
They suffocated the Stars, who are the fastest team in the League. They dictated the pace, made smart decisions in the neutral zone, cycled the puck, and activated the defense in the neutral zone. They were jumping. That's the way they need to play.
Bob Hartley, the reigning Jack Adams Trophy winner probably said, "This is our game. Where has this been all year? That is who we are." One Western Conference scout told me that was the Calgary Flames team that a lot of us feared last year.
Don't sleep on the Ottawa Senators. They are fun to watch, they are explosive and haven't slowed down at all. Craig Anderson usually plays well in net to give them a chance every night. Quietly, forward Bobby Ryan who has said he needs to be better, has been just that. He's been getting it done. Also, Mike Hoffman has one of the best shots in the League for a forward. He was a shoot-first guy, but now he is passing, so it is making it hard to defend him.
How good have the Sedins been? Daniel Sedin and Henrik Sedin have been in the League for 15 years and are still doing it, leading the Vancouver Canucks in points. Especially in an era where the game is so fast. They find ways to create offense and play the two-man game better than anyone not named Tyler Seguin and Jamie Benn up front. You have to tip your cap to the Sedins based on longevity. Being able to generate that offense and have that intuitive feel for each other up front and be in sync has been impressive.