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.
It's amazing how they continue to roll. They got deeper with the additions of forwards Jamie McGinn (who has scored in each of his first two games with Anaheim) and Brandon Pirri, who is recovering from an injury. They are getting scoring from multiple sources. Their offense was dried up at the beginning of the season, but now that has changed. They're also defending better.
The Ducks defeated the Arizona Coyotes 5-1 on Thursday to tie a franchise record with their 10th straight win. They are a remarkable 17-1-1 in their past 19 games.
Ryan Kesler has started to turn it around, playing the way Ducks' brass envisioned when they went out and got him. The luxury of having him in a No. 2 center role behind Ryan Getzlaf is big. He gives them added size and strength up the middle.
If you look at Cam Fowler's goal on Thursday, that is what the Ducks needed more of -- defenseman scoring. Hampus Lindholm, Sami Vatanen and Fowler have the ability to skate and make plays.
I spoke to Predators general manager David Poile, and he said they are playing better in every facet of the game. Filip Forsberg finally found his scoring touch; he had two hat tricks last week and hasn't slowed down, scoring again Thursday and contributing two assists in a 5-4 overtime loss to the New Jersey Devils. He was shooting, but for whatever reason, the pucks weren't going in. Now he is knocking on the door for 30 goals; he has 27.
They've been getting strong play from goaltender Pekka Rinne (5-0-3 in his past eight games). Rinne wasn't playing at his usual level for a stretch despite being a top-five goalie in the League. He is good enough to win games on his own and is back to playing the way he can play.
Shea Weber had missed three games with an injury but has four points in two games since his return. These are a few of the reasons the Predators have points in 11 straight games (7-0-4).
Video: NJD@NSH: Forsberg breaks the tie late
Let's start off with Patric Hornqvist. He had a goal in a 4-1 win against the New York Rangers on Thursday, giving him five in three games. With Hornqvist as hot as he is, it opens up space, especially on the power play. He's always going to be a net-front presence, so you have to respect him. And defenseman Kris Letang continues to produce; he has 11 goals and 49 points in 53 games.
That was a big win for them Thursday; the Rangers had been 11-1-1 in the past 13 games against the Penguins. And Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin each scored in the game.
Olli Maatta has been an underrated piece for them and has made an impact offensively and defensively.
Phil Kessel scored his 20th goal Thursday and has five goals in 10 games. Would they have liked for him to score 30 goals? Sure, but to fit into the group and get assimilated, if he finishes with 25, that's still a decent year.
Marc-Andre Fleury is so important to everything they are doing and trying to do. All roads lead back to him, for them to be able to play the way they want to play. He's been their most consistent player during the past four years, especially with the injuries they've had. He's going to have to be at his best.
It was a great move by general manager Don Sweeney not to fire Claude Julien, who tied Art Ross for the franchise record in wins (387) when Boston topped the Chicago Blackhawks 4-2 on Thursday. Julien has handled himself well throughout everything. I saw firsthand the respect he got from New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick at the Winter Classic in Foxborough, Mass. For all the accomplishments Belichick has, it really says a lot to have as much respect as he has for Julien.
Not trading forward Loui Ericsson was a great move; he will be a key piece for them down the stretch and in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, if they get there. Acquiring forward Lee Stempniak (two assists Thursday), and defenseman John-Michael Liles (one assist) will help.
The Bruins have three potential 30-goal scorers in Brad Marchand (33), Patrice Bergeron (25) and Ericsson (24). Not many teams can say that.
Video: CHI@BOS: Bergeron opens up the scoring for the Bruins
Let's talk about the World Cup of Hockey. Team Sweden may have the most balanced squad so far, offensively and defensively. Team USA and Team North America have impressive rosters as well, especially in goal. The three goalies for Team USA (Cory Schneider, Ben Bishop and Jonathan Quick) have been great this season. The three who were picked for Team North America (Connor Hellebuyck, Matt Murray and John Gibson) have played at the NHL level this season and have been standouts in the American Hockey League.
Lastly, there were some notable omissions from Team Canada that surprised me: Forwards Corey Perry and Claude Giroux and defensemen Brent Seabrook and P.K. Subban. I know it's not easy with all the talent that Canada has, but I think each of them should have made the roster. We'll see if they get named to the final team in the coming months.