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Weekes on the Web

Friday Four: Impact of Golden Knights coaching change

NHL Network analyst Weekes also discusses Lightning, Devils, Panarin

by Kevin Weekes @KevinWeekes / NHL Network Analyst

Each Friday throughout the season Kevin Weekes will bring you his Friday Four. The former goalie and current NHL Network analyst will be blogging about four players, teams, plays, or trends that have caught his eye.

 

Vegas Golden Knights

It was shocking this week that the Golden Knights fired Gerard Gallant, the only coach in their history, who took them to the Stanley Cup Final in 2018 -- and then hired Peter DeBoer who was fired by the San Jose Sharks last month. True, they had lost four straight at the time, but I think they were the victims of their own success after their historic first season in the NHL.

They've spent money and are committed to the team. Vegas has given lengthy contracts to numerous players (forwards Mark Stone, Paul Stastny and William Karlsson, as well as defensemen Nate Schmidt and Shea Theodore), so certainly expectations are higher than where they are right now.

The Golden Knights need goalie Marc-Andre Fleury to play better (2.82 goals-against average, .907 save percentage), can't score their way out of slumps like some other teams and may need to make some moves. But Vegas responded to the coaching change with a 4-2 road win against the Ottawa Senators in DeBoer's debut on Thursday.

Video: VGK@OTT: Stastny finishes give-and-go with Stone

 

Tampa Bay Lightning

Although they lost 4-2 at the Minnesota Wild on Thursday, the Lightning have won 12 of their past 14 games and are playing like the team they were for the entirety of last season.

What's more impressive to me is that forward Alex Killorn was leading them in goals (19, tying his NHL career high) prior to Thursday and with 38 is on pace for an NHL career-high in points. The Lightning's depth players look good (Pat Maroon, Anthony Cirelli), and we can't forget about top forwards Nikita Kucherov, Steven Stamkos and Brayden Point.

Overall they are playing harder and a better game and seem to be locked in every night. Just as important is that goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy (23-9-2, 2.58 goals-against average, .916 save percentage) has been lights-out recently, playing like the reigning Vezina Trophy winner he is.

Video: LAK@TBL: Killorn fires wrister past Quick's glove

 

New Jersey Devils

I spoke to some people with the organization, and the Devils are going to be a work in progress. They fired Ray Shero as general manager on Sunday, promoted Tom Fitzgerald, and said Martin Brodeur would take a more active role with management.

This isn't how the Devils were hoping the season would go after acquiring defenseman P.K. Subban and drafting center Jack Hughes with the No. 1 pick. But after a bad start they've traded their best forward, Taylor Hall, fired their coach, John Hynes, and clearly are not in a playoff mindset right now.

However, I do like some of the pieces they already have. In addition to Hughes and center Nico Hischier, the No. 1 pick in the 2017 NHL Draft, forward Blake Coleman, who can be an unrestricted free agent after next season, is a player they need to sign. The 28-year-old has been their most consistent player this season. He has 19 goals, three shy of his NHL career high, and 27 points, nine short of his NHL career high of 36. Coleman scored his third shorthanded goal of the season in a 5-2 loss at the Washington Capitals on Thursday and has shown he's a piece the Devils need to build around.

 

Artemi Panarin

I think he is a top-five player in the League right now. His production rates are through the roof. He's tied for third in the NHL with 68 points (26 goals, 42 assists). I can't believe every team had the opportunity to get him in the offseason and some weren't more aggressive. Overall, that was a missed opportunity because teams wouldn't have to give up assets to get him. So I have to credit the New York Rangers for going all-in on him.

Though Panarin, Kucherov and Patrick Kane of the Chicago Blackhawks are wings, they generate offense as well as any center in the League. Panarin is plus-23, tied for fifth in League, which shows you how consistent he's been. Panarin helped the Rangers (23-19-4) perform better than most people thought they would.

Video: NYI@NYR: Panarin scores in 3rd period

 

HONORABLE MENTION

The Arizona Coyotes have been the most consistent team in the Pacific Division, so it's nice to see Rick Tocchet representing the division as coach at the 2020 Honda NHL All-Star Game, replacing Gallant. I think this is the year the Coyotes return to the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the first time since 2012.

Corey Crawford is money in the bank when he comes home to play the Montreal Canadiens. Crawford got the win in Chicago's 4-1 victory on Wednesday, and the Montreal native is 6-0-2 with two shutouts in eight games at Bell Centre.

Lastly, I have to give a shoutout to Ilya Samsonov. Washington's rookie goalie won his ninth straight decision on Thursday by defeating the Devils and is 14-2-1 with a 2.10 GAA and .926 save percentage in 18 games. He should be in the running for the Calder Trophy as the NHL's top rookie.

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