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Weekes on the Web

Friday Four: Golden Knights are feel-good story

NHL Network's Kevin Weekes also discusses Devils, Avalanche, struggling Canadiens

by Kevin Weekes @KevinWeekes / NHL Network Analyst

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.

 

Golden Knights debut

It's been very impressive how the Vegas Golden Knights have started the season by going 3-0-0, the only expansion team in NHL history to do that. It starts with the ownership group and Bill Foley, and how far they have come since being awarded an NHL team. Everything up to this point has been first class. The way in which they handled themselves prior to their home opener, with a moving ceremony for the victims of the terrible attack in Las Vegas, was one of the most perfect ceremonies I've ever seen. The tone, the tenor, the level of empathy and compassion in the community, followed by Deryk Engelland's speech and the first responders being on the ice was amazing. I don't think any production company could have done a better job than the Golden Knights did there.

Video: Golden Knights make first home opener a special one

As far as the team is concerned, goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury has been incredible as expected. Forward James Neal, who has three game-winning goals in three games, has been the offensive star thus far. I spoke to coach Gerard Gallant on Wednesday and asked him, "If you could sum up your team in a short phrase, what would it be?" His answer was simple: "We are determined to make a difference with no excuses on and off the ice." I don't think anybody can argue that when you look at the way they have played to this point.

 

Fast starts for Devils, Avalanche

I don't think anybody expected the New Jersey Devils to be 3-0-0 out of the gate, including a win at the Toronto Maple Leafs on Wednesday. The Devils have seven new players from a year ago. Rookies Jesper Bratt (six points), Will Butcher (five points) and Nico Hischier, the No. 1 pick in the 2017 NHL Draft have all done their parts so far.

Goaltender Cory Schneider has been a difference maker (3-0-0, 2.00 goals-against average, .948 save percentage). The Devils brought in Roland Melanson as their goalie coach during the offseason; Melanson was Schneider's goalie coach with the Vancouver Canucks from 2010-13. Schneider took a hard look at his game this offseason and made some tweaks. He's always been an excellent goalie, but I really think the hiring of Melanson, especially based on their previous work together, has led to more success. Schneider is back in A-plus form so far.

Video: NJD@TOR: Schneider shuts down JVR in close

The Colorado Avalanche finished 22-56-4 last season and were the worst team in the League. They were really not a good team. To their credit this season, even with the talk about center Matt Duchene possibly being traded (he's looked great so far with five points), they've gotten off to a 3-1-0 start. Goalie Semyon Varlamov, who had double hip surgery last season, is back in fine form. He's 3-0-0 and his movement has looked good. The work that he put in during rehabilitation to play and get back to this level is impressive to me. Forward Mikko Rantanan has played extremely well for them, and Sven Andrighetto and Nail Yakupov have also been nice additions.

 

Alex Ovechkin's goal-scoring touch returns

Some pundits said Ovechkin's best days might be behind him after he scored 33 goals in 2016-17, his fewest in a full season since he had 32 in 2010-11. But through four games this season, he has eight goals, including hat tricks in back-to-back games to open the season for the Washington Capitals. There's no player who plays like him.

Video: Alex Ovechkin's strong opening to the season

Ovechkin realized he wanted to change part of his offseason regimen. He's always been fast, but now he is faster. He's scoring goals in a lot of different ways and from different positions. I always say that's what makes good offensive players more dangerous. Linemate Evgeny Kuznetsov is tied for the League lead with eight assists, including seven on goals by Ovechkin. The line of Ovechkin, Kuznetsov and Jakub Vrana has been one of the NHL's best so far.

 

Tough start for Canadiens

The Montreal Canadiens have gotten off to fast starts each of the past two seasons (13-1-1 last season, 9-0-0 in 2015-16), but they haven't looked good so far. They have one win (in a shootout) in four games, and have been anemic offensively (four goals). I still think that there are parts of their team that need to be addressed. Defenseman P.K. Subban, traded by the Canadiens to the Nashville Predators on June 29, 2016, has more points (six) than all of Montreal's players have goals. It's clear that they are definitely missing him. The offensive chemistry isn't there, and they are scrambling in their defensive zone. They just don't look good at all but hopefully can turn it around soon.

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