Each Friday throughout the Stanley Cup Playoffs, Kevin Weekes will be bringing you his Friday Four. He will be blogging about four players, teams, series, plays, trends or really four of whatever from the playoffs that have caught his eye.
Belief, accountability and giving credit where it's due are the themes of this week's Friday Four blog.
Here we go …
1. Wild need to believe they can win
Will the third time be the charm for the Minnesota Wild?
I really believe the Wild have taken a lot of strides to get closer to being one of the elite teams in the NHL. They're better than they've ever been. They're deeper and harder to play against, especially with Chris Stewart going there. Their defense is underrated and playing well. Devan Dubnyk has been great in goal. They're a more skilled team than they've ever been, and they feel good in their skill game.
Ultimately it comes down to belief. Does everyone in that dressing room legitimately believe the Wild can beat the Chicago Blackhawks?
You have to have belief when you're playing the Blackhawks, because you know the Blackhawks have that belief. The Blackhawks always believe that if they play their game they can turn the heat up and beat anyone. They know they can because they've done it.
Before we start talking about matchups in this series, we have to talk about the Wild's belief because matchups won't matter if the Wild don't have a genuine belief that they can beat the Blackhawks.
Of course they should believe. They're a good team. They were good against them in the playoffs last year even though they lost in six games. But again, on the deepest level of their team, do they all believe they can beat them? That's the key.
All the things we always talk about, such as the job general manager Chuck Fletcher did in assembling the team and how Dubnyk saved their season while they helped save his career and how Zach Parise and Ryan Suter have been the players we expect them to be, all are genuinely great. But for the Wild to move on, those guys and everyone else need to believe they can win.
2. Canadiens have to get around their kryptonite
Speaking of belief, the Tampa Bay Lightning owned the Montreal Canadiens in the regular season, so now the Canadiens need to find a way to believe they can beat the Lightning in the playoffs.
The Lightning were Montreal's kryptonite this season.
Goalie - TBL
GAA: 1.87 | SVP: .922
Yes, the Canadiens swept the Lightning last year, but last year's version of the Lightning is way different than this year's because everyone is healthy, including goalie Ben Bishop
, who missed the series last spring. Steven Stamkos
might not have scored against the Detroit Red Wings
in the first round, but he's healthy; he wasn't last year.
I think Tampa Bay's 2-0 Game 7 victory against the Detroit Red Wings will go a long way for Bishop's confidence. He had an excellent game, but his first round was not up to the high standard he has set for himself. However, I think his performance in Game 7 will be huge for him. He was awesome with the 31-save shutout.
In saying all that, the Canadiens have to believe they can beat the Lightning. It was ugly during the regular season for Montreal. Tampa Bay just dominated the Habs, owned them. I know the regular season and playoffs are different, but there is something to be said about one team being in your head.
The Canadiens have to get the Lightning out of their heads and just go play, because they are good enough to win this series. They have to rise up and be better than they were in the regular season.
3. Allen was impressive in losing
I know it was a tough end to the season for the St. Louis Blues, but I was really impressed with how goalie Jake Allen spoke after losing Game 6.
Goalie - STL
GAA: 2.20 | SVP: .904
Life doesn't prepare you to have to go in front of the world and admit you made a mistake. Most people who have jobs don't have to do that, or if they do it's hard to get them to admit that.
If you look at his comments in his postgame scrum, you can clearly tell how disappointed he was to lose. For him to announce that he didn't play well enough, that he wasn't sharp enough, that he let his team down, that's a huge sign of maturity and accountability.
There are adults that don't do that. There are five-star chefs that don't do that. There are heads of public transport that don't do that. You have commercial pilots that don't do that, heads of state that don't do that.
It's never easy and nothing in life prepares you for having to do that, but watching him do it the way he did was very impressive.
I say this all the time: Everybody is a good guy when everything is going your way. You're getting name in lights, billboards of your face in the arena, money, etc. But I like to see who is a good guy when things aren't going your way.
Allen had a really good season, he did a lot of good things he can build on. But he has things to improve on and he was able to be honest, accountable and forthright even though that loss stubbed him so much. A lot of people can learn from that.
4. Give Ovi his due, please
Alex Ovechkin deserves a ton of credit. It's about time his haters stop hating on him.
When Barry Trotz came in there, what they presented, what they were showing him, how they wanted to play, right from the beginning Ovechkin got on board and bought in. But this isn't surprising.
Let's keep in mind that Ovechkin has been through a lot of coaches in the NHL from Glen Hanlon to Bruce Boudreau to Dale Hunter to Adam Oates to Trotz, and every time he gets a new coach, that coach wants to do it his way, a different way, with different plans for Ovechkin.
All Ovechkin has done is produce. That's it. He produces.
Left Wing - WSH
GOALS: 3 | ASST: 4 | PTS: 7
SOG: 34 | +/-: -2
Let me tell you, there are a lot of players who don't want to make any changes to their game, who won't make adjustments, who basically just point at their numbers and say, "Why do I have to change? Why would you even ask me to change?"
Ovechkin has never done that. He's a rare superstar in that way. He's a rare superstar in many ways, but the fact that he has been willing to change his game so often says a lot about how much he buys into the team and into what the coach is preaching.
I know he catches a lot of heat, but I don't get why. All he does is produce, adjust, produce, adjust and produce more.
Want him to play left wing and just score? OK, he'll score 60.
Want to move him to right wing? OK, he'll score 50.
Want him to play a more well-rounded, 200-foot game, be more accountable in the defensive zone? OK, he'll still score 50.
Trotz wants him to play a certain way, and Ovechkin is playing that way. Oates asked him to play a certain way, and he played that way. Boudreau wanted him to do certain things and he did them. He might not have liked what Hunter was asking of him, but he did what he was asked.
He's not a malcontent. Watch the tape. Watch the games. Watch what Ovechkin does out there and how he does it, how he empowers his teammates to be themselves and how he is willing to play with whomever and do whatever needs to be done to win.
Ovechkin deserves credit for being who is he. And who he is is not what a lot of people think he is.