Each Friday throughout the season Kevin Weekes will bring you his Friday Four. The former goalie and current NHL Network analyst will be blogging about four players, teams, plays, or trends that have caught his eye.
Tampa Bay Lightning
The Lightning have won nine games in a row, outscoring opponents 42-17 during the streak. Tampa Bay looks like it did last season when it tied an NHL record with 62 regular-season wins. Goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy has played better after a slow start to the season and forwards Nikita Kucherov and Steven Stamkos and defenseman Victor Hedman are pacing the offense as usual.
I talked to forward Pat Maroon and he told me the Lightning have been defending better and getting out of the zone without making as many high-risk plays that had resulted in turnovers. He won the Stanley Cup with the St. Louis Blues last season and knows what it takes.
Tampa Bay, which was swept in the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs last season, said it wasn't going to put an emphasis on the regular season, but the Lightning hadn't been in playoff positioning until recently. Now they are second in the Atlantic Division and appear to be preparing for playoff hockey.
Video: ARI@TBL: Vasilevskiy stops all 25 shots in 4-0 win
Forward David Pastrnak had a hat trick for the Boston Bruins in their 5-4 win against the Winnipeg Jets on Thursday. It's nice to see another Czech Republic-born superstar in the League, joining past greats such as goalie Dominik Hasek, and forwards Patrik Elias and Jaromir Jagr. Pastrnak is well on his way to joining that list. He can score from anywhere on the ice and leads the NHL with 35 goals. He's also on a 12-game point streak (nine goals, 10 assists).
Pastrnak (65 points) and Brad Marchand, who has 62 points (20 goals, 42 assists) lead the Bruins. Patrice Bergeron, who has missed nine games, is third on the team with 37 points (18 goals, 19 assists). The goalie tandem of Tuukka Rask (16-4-6, .924 save percentage, 2.29 goals-against average) and Jaroslav Halak (10-4-5, .923 save percentage, 2.34 goals-against averages) has been one of the best in the NHL this season.
The Bruins have won two straight after going 4-1-5 in their previous 10. They're one of the better teams in the League but their defense has let them down recently. The Bruins, who have a seven-point lead over the Lightning for first place in the Atlantic, have a tough stretch coming up with games at the New York Islanders on Saturday (7 p.m. ET; NHLN, MSG+, NESN, NHL.TV), at the Philadelphia Flyers on Monday and at the Columbus Blue Jackets on Tuesday.
The Edmonton Oilers captain became the first player in the League with 70 points (24 goals, 46 assists) this season when he had an assist in a 4-2 win against the Montreal Canadiens on Thursday. McDavid got his 70th point in his 46th game for the second straight season. He is the second player to score 70 points in 46 games or less in consecutive seasons since Jaromir Jagr did it with the Pittsburgh Penguins in 1998-99 (46 games) and 1999-00 (38 games).
Edmonton had been struggling since a hot start to the season, but they've gone 4-0-1 in their past five games, scoring 23 goals in that span. If McDavid and Leon Draisaitl, who has 69 points (25 goals, 44 assists), can get help from their teammates - forwards Zack Kassian and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins are third on the Oilers in points with 28 each - the Oilers could return to the playoffs for the first time since 2016-17.
Video: EDM@TOR: McDavid converts jaw-dropping goal
I have to give a shout out to the Nashville Predators goalie after he scored his first NHL goal in a 5-2 win against the Chicago Blackhawks on Thursday. Rinne kicked the puck to his stick behind his goal line and his shot landed in the Blackhawks zone before bouncing into the net. It was the first goalie goal in the NHL since Mike Smith scored for the Phoenix Coyotes in Oct. 19, 2013. It's been done 15 times before by 12 different goalies.
I can tell you from experience, scoring a goal is something goalies dream about. The situation has to be right to even try to attempt it and Rinne took his chance with the Predators up by two. It's been a tough season for the Predators but it was nice to see Rinne score a goal and help get coach John Hynes his first win with the team.
The Toronto Maple Leafs have played exceptionally well under coach Sheldon Keefe. They are 15-5-2 since he replaced Mike Babcock on Nov. 20 and have averaged an NHL-leading 4.05 goals per game in that span.
Noel Acciari and Brett Connolly, who many people consider depth guys, are right up there in goals for the Florida Panthers. Acciari has 17 goals, tied with Jonathan Huberdeau for second on team, two behind Evgenii Dadonov. Connolly has 16, tied with Mike Hoffman for fourth. They weren't the most notable signings by the Panthers this offseason but have been two of the most productive.