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Weekes on the Web

Friday Four: Mantha, Neal impressing for Red Wings, Oilers

NHL Network's Kevin Weekes also discusses Maple Leafs, Ducks

by Kevin Weekes @kevinweekes / NHL Network Analyst

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

 

Detroit Red Wings

The top line of Tyler Bertuzzi, Dylan Larkin and Anthony Mantha has had a great start to the season. Mantha has six goals, including a four-goal game against the Dallas Stars on Oct. 7, and eight points. He also has two game-winning goals and 21 shots on goal in four games. Bertuzzi (three goals, three assists) and Larkin (one goal, five assists) each has six points.

The Red Wings are 3-1-0 and have gotten strong goalie play from Jonathan Bernier (.912 save percentage) and Jimmy Howard (.915). They started 0-5-2 last season and haven't made the Stanley Cup Playoffs the past three seasons, so it's definitely been an encouraging start.

 

Edmonton Oilers

They're 4-0-0 for the first time since 2008-09, having come from behind in each game. Connor McDavid has 10 points (three goals, seven assists), including three straight multipoint games. Leon Draisaitl has eight points (two goals, six assists), and scored the shootout winner in a 4-3 victory against the New Jersey Devils on Thursday. James Neal, traded to the Oilers in the offseason, has lived up to the nickname "The Real Deal," leading the NHL with seven goals after scoring seven in 63 games with the Calgary Flames last season.

Not only does new coach Dave Tippett have the Oilers playing better, he has them winning close games (three of their wins have been by one goal). Part of the reason is the goalie tandem of Mikko Koskinen (2-0-0, 2.40 goals-against average) and Mike Smith (2-0-0, 3.50 GAA). Special teams have also been key. The Oilers are 6-for-15 on the power play, and at 40.0 percent they're fourth in the NHL. They are 12-for-13 on the penalty kill, with their 92.3 percent success rate fifth-best in the League. Their power play was ninth in the League (21.2 percent) while the penalty kill was 30th (74.8 percent) last season.

 

Toronto Maple Leafs

Toronto has lost three in a row (0-2-1) after winning its first two games of the season. The Maple Leafs have been outscored 15-10 in the three losses, to the Montreal Canadiens, St. Louis Blues and Tampa Bay Lightning. We know the scoring will be there for the Maple Leafs, but the question is how will the defensemen hold up?

I also have to talk about forward Auston Matthews, who has six goals in five games this season, including at least one goal in four of those games. If he stays healthy he has a chance at 50 goals this season. His NHL career-high is 40, which he had as a rookie in 2016-17. That total dipped to 34 in 2017-18 and 37 last season. I think this could be a big season for Matthews and the Maple Leafs.

 

Anaheim Ducks

The Ducks are off to a 3-1-0 start. New coach Dallas Eakins has them checking and defending more and they don't look as sloppy as they did last season. Goalie John Gibson has been lights out, with a 1.26 goals-against average and .961 save percentage.

The Ducks have nine goals scored by nine different players and 14 players have at least one point. That kind of depth and scoring spread throughout the lineup is what makes good teams great teams. Though the Ducks have scored 2.25 goals per game, an average they need to increase, they have won games, something they weren't able to do much of last season.

 

HONORABLE MENTION

The Lightning lost two of their first three games this season before a 7-3 win against the Maple Leafs on Thursday. Brayden Point came back from injury and had two goals and an assist in his season debut. Steven Stamkos (one goal, three assists) and Nikita Kucherov (two goals, two assists) also had big games in a statement game for the Lightning.

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