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.
New York Rangers
In their three games against the Tampa Bay Lightning, St. Louis Blues and Edmonton Oilers, the Rangers have scored 16 goals. They've done so against three of the better teams in the League this season. The Rangers are flying, off to an 8-3-0 start, and have a plus-20 goal differential.
Is there a guy who hasn't had a start? Rick Nash has six goals (he had 15 in 60 games last year). Michael Grabner has six goals, Jimmy Vesey has six goals. Ryan McDonagh is off to his best offensive start (nine assists in 11 games), Kevin Hayes has four goals (10 points) and Henrik Lundqvist (6-3-0, 2.24 goals-against average) has played well.
When you are watching their group play right now, there's so much speed in all three zones on both sides of the puck. Grabner is their new Carl Hagelin.
Video: EDM@NYR: Nash slides in deflected puck for late lead
Tuukka Rask missed time because of soreness but came back and looked like he never left. And you know he came back early from the injury as well. He had a 24-save shutout against the Detroit Red Wings on Saturday and then made 33 saves and allowed one against the Florida Panthers on Tuesday and three goals in a 4-3 shootout win against the Lightning on Thursday. Rask is 6-0-0 with a 1.48 goals-against average and .951 save percentage. When he is at this level, it's a clear indicator of two things; how good he is, and how much the Bruins need and depend on him.
Let's also salute defenseman Brandon Carlo. When you watch him play, you'll see why a 19-year-old is playing in the top pairing with Zdeno Chara and looking very good doing it. He has incredible skating ability, reads the game so well, doesn't have to chase the game and is so bright. He's playing big minutes (22:37 per game) with no stress and zero panic. The goal he scored on Thursday was so smart; coming down the boards on the strong side, taking what the defense gave him and picking his spot (that was maybe the size of a coffee mug) and scoring on the short side. And then, he makes arguably the play of the year right now, he took a one-timer in the face to block a shot from Nikita Kucherov. It turned out to be huge since Rask was on the other side of the net and wouldn't have been able to stop the shot in a game that was 3-3 at the time. No cut, no bruise no bleed, no nothing. As somebody who got paid to stop a few pucks, I can't imagine a guy taking one of the face and not flinching and still continuing to play.
Video: Chatting with Brandon Carlo on the Arena Cam
We all know what's going on with Anderson and his wife, Nicholle, who has cancer. He took another leave of absence this week, but how he played under those circumstances is amazing. When he came back Sunday, he had a 37-save shutout in a 2-0 road win against the Edmonton Oilers. Class act by everyone, including the fans in Edmonton and goalie Cam Talbot, who cheered for him when he came on the ice and was announced as the No. 1 star. Anderson then made 32 saves in a 2-1 overtime win against the Carolina Hurricanes on Tuesday. We're certainly thinking about him and Nicholle.
Mike Condon made his first start for the Senators on Thursday and was great; He made 27 saves in a 1-0 shutout against the Vancouver Canucks. No one will replace Anderson, but it was nice to see that kind of performance from Condon, who got his start with the Montreal Canadiens last season and made one appearance with the Penguins before being traded to Ottawa on Wednesday.
Video: The crew discusses the support for Craig Anderson
Former London Knights making an impact
The three forwards who made up the top line for the London Knights last season each scored a goal in the NHL on Thursday. Mitchell Marner had two for the Toronto Maple Leafs, Matthew Tkachuk scored twice for the Calgary Flames and Christian Dvorak got one for the Arizona Coyotes. The three combined for 121 goals and 344 points in 2015-16 with London in the Ontario Hockey League; the Knights were the OHL champs and won the Memorial Cup. I don't know if that's ever been done, that all three guys who were linemates in juniors scored on the same night in their rookie season.
Video: TOR@BUF: Marner beats Lehner for second of the game
The Chicago Blackhawks have had a nice turnaround the past few games. They've won three straight, defeating the Los Angeles Kings, Flames and Colorado Avalanche. The play of Artem Anisimov, Patrick Kane, Artemi Panarin and Richard Panik has been great, as has Corey Crawford, who has two shutouts in three game.
Have to give a shout-out to the Canadiens who are 9-0-1 and off to another fine start. They've won eight straight games and are not a soft team anymore, something that used to be an Achilles heel for them.
Sergei Bobrovsky has been a big reason the Columbus Blue Jackets are off to a surprising 4-3-1 start. He's playing like the player who won the Vezina Trophy in 2012-13.