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. Nashville Predators
The Predators (7-1-1) are off to an amazing start, their second-best start following an 8-0-0 run to begin the 2005-06 season. It starts with Pekka Rinne in net, but general manager David Poile, assistant general manager Paul Fenton, and former coach Barry Trotz when he was there, have done an amazing job drafting and developing talent. Having Peter Laviolette come in as coach and have their team be more offensive is fun to watch. But they haven't compromised how they defend. They have a very deep defensive corps. A lot of their defensemen are interchangeable. Shea Weber is one of the top players in the world. They bring in Barret Jackman for stability. Forward Filip Forsberg became a star; that was an amazing trade by Poile, acquiring him from the Washington Capitals in 2013.
From Pekka Rinne to the deep defense corps and underrated forward arsenal in front of him, the Nashville Predators have developed their talent and are a major player in the Western Conference. (Photo: Getty Images)
I talked to Poile last week about his team and he spoke about how they played, the style that they play and how they have evolved as a franchise and a team. It's a big year for them. They are hosting the 2016 NHL All-Star Game. It's going to be off the charts. They have a lot of good things going on in Nashville right now and there are a lot of good resources in place for that team to be successful. Those are all the reasons how and why they are having success.
2. Los Angeles Kings
The Kings are on fire right now. Tyler Toffoli has been amazing and Milan Lucic has started to look like himself. It's been Toffoli, Carter and Lucic, and that line has everything. You have play-making in Carter, you have a goal scorer in Toffoli (six goals in six games), and you have the physicality of Lucic.
More importantly, they are looking good defensively. The Kings always have been a team that when they are at their best, they defend and they are physical. Because goaltender Jonathan Quick is so dynamic and aggressive, he needs to be able to trust that his teammates are going to take the other shooters. As amazing as Quick is, his teammates do a great job of that as well. It's a collective effort because of how great he is and how the players around him play. There's a trust factor that allows Quick to play that way. And if it's not there it is more difficult on him. The Kings look more in sync and I like the balance they have right now.
3. Columbus Blue Jackets
The Blue Jackets have won two straight games and have played better under coach John Tortorella. It's been a process for them. Goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky has been really good in his past two games. That spin-around save that he made against the Devils on Tuesday, where he spun around and knocked the puck out of the crease with his paddle, showed an amazing amount of concentration. That's the kind of save where you get pumped up on the bench. At the end of the game Blue Jackets forward Nick Foligno hugged Bobrovsky and talked to him. Whatever was said was encouraging, and that to me is a sign of great leadership by the captain.
Center - CBJ
GOALS: 6 | ASST: 0 | PTS: 6
SOG: 23 | +/-: -4
Don't sleep on Boone Jenner
. I know he has been on the bad side of a few plays defensively, but look at his goal production. I know he is a good, young player who has potential; he leads them with six goals. If they continues to play with their work boots first and dress shoes second, the way they need to and the way they are capable and the way Tortorella will demand that they play, they are in games. These are some big strides in a long process to rebuilding that confidence to do the things that they need to do to be successful.
4. Anaheim Ducks
It's really puzzling what's happening with the Ducks. They have one win in 10 games (1-7-2) and have been shut out five times while scoring 10 goals, the fewest in the League. I know Bruce Boudreau is a good coach and they have a lot of character in their locker room. Frederik Andersen has been amazing (2.05 goals-against average, .932 save percentage) but has no wins in eight games (0-5-2).
Anaheim was perfectly balanced offensively Tuesday in a 2-1 loss to the St. Louis Blues, making plays off the rush and cycling. But they're not grinding teams down with the cycle game. You have three defensemen that can activate in the offensive zone which they were doing so well last season, getting points
We interviewed Alex Pietrangelo on NHL Network after the game and he and fellow defensemen Colton Parayko combined for 15 shots. The Ducks were outshot 15-4 in the third period. Those are pretty staggering numbers to me. That to me, not to mention the faceoff situation (the Ducks lost 38 of 64 draws Thursday), which I know is affected without Ryan Getzlaf, has been a problem. That's a small encapsulation of what has been Anaheim's problem all season.