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.
All-Star Game a huge success
Nashville surprised a lot of people who never had the pleasure of going there. The city did an amazing job hosting All-Star Weekend, one of the best I've been to. The hospitality, venues, accessibility. All the players, all the coaches I spoke to there had a great time. Cowboy hat tip to the folks of Nashville.
People talk about the movie "Rudy," but that was a real life Rudy moment with John Scott at the All-Star Game. I can't credit the players enough for how inclusionary they were and supportive of him. When you look and see the waves of support he got from different people around the game, it's a testament to not only how well he performed, but how he handled himself off the ice. He has an engineering degree from Michigan Tech, so he is a lot brighter than people give him credit for based on his role and size. It was amazing how he handled himself. It's no surprise people are contacting him for a screenplay.
Video: ATL@PAC: Scott lifted by teammates, wins All-Star MVP
Dylan Larkin of the Detroit Red Wings was spectacular. The fact that he broke Mike Gartner's record in the fastest-skater competition, that's a Usain Bolt-like moment for hockey because Gartner was a rocket ship in his time. And for Larkin to beat him by as much as he did, and stumbling a few times, was something else. If you think of all the fast players who have done that over the years, the record stood until Larkin, a 19-year-old, broke it. And Larkin kept up his solid play with two goals Thursday against the Florida Panthers.
Video: Dylan Larkin breaks 20-year fastest skater record
Also, something that came out of All-Star Weekend was how composed Panthers defenseman Aaron Ekblad is. He wears No. 5 because he models his game after Nicklas Lidstrom, and it shows. You can see a lot of that in him both on and off the ice.
Connor McDavid shines in return
We know about the spectacular goal McDavid scored on Tuesday and could talk about that for a while. I liked that he showed no fear on that goal, skating through the middle of the ice. You wouldn't necessarily expect that from someone returning from a clavicle injury.
Video: Connor McDavid scores an amazing goal in return
Something we're seeing more of from the Edmonton Oilers is that it was a three-zone goal. Usually if you generate offense from your own zone, it means you are in proper defensive position, which was the case on that goal. McDavid is becoming more comfortable in his own skin and had two points Thursday against the Ottawa Senators after having three in his return Tuesday against the Columbus Blue Jackets. He has five points in two games. Don't forget, there was a guy last year (Patrick Kane) who had the same injury and returned in the Stanley Cup Playoffs and ended up doing helping his team win the Stanley Cup.
Coming down the homestretch
Each team has about 30 games remaining, and some of those teams who were not expected to be in the Stanley Cup Playoff hunt are still holding on. The New Jersey Devils, Carolina Hurricanes and Arizona Coyotes are among them. Those teams have played so well and exceeded expectations; they're over-performing and are in the thick of the race right now. A lot of teams are window-shopping, looking at those teams, and they figured the prices would be lower to acquire players, or that more players would be available. That's been a little bit of a wrench in the plans of some general managers who want to acquire some pieces at the NHL Trade Deadline. There aren't that many teams who are out of the playoff race right now, so the trade deadline will be interesting. Things are heating up in the NHL.
A lot of intriguing storylines
Look at how great things are going in Florida right now with the Panthers and Tampa Bay Lightning. But where does this lead with Steven Stamkos (contract situation) and Jonathan Drouin (suspended by the team)? How does that situation get settled? But their team in playing well. Stamkos has been Stamkos. Nikitia Kucherov and Ben Bishop have been great.
Video: DET@TBL: Bishop scrambles back to stop Datsyuk's shot
With the Panthers, Aleksander Barkov is becoming a star, and Luongo is playing some of his best hockey, even at his age. He's in a great state of mind. And Jaromir Jagr, we know he is never going to age; he didn't get the memo.
Speaking of Luongo, how good has his former teammate Cory Schneider been? The two got together for breakfast in Nashville and caught up. Look at the year Schneider is having. He was very deserving of being in the All-Star Game and has come in and replaced Martin Brodeur for the New Jersey Devils, which is not easy to do.
Have the Anaheim Ducks hit their stride, or are they just on a good stretch right now? They have been the No. 1 seed the past two seasons in the playoffs in the Western Conference, and although they have underperformed most of this season, they're on a nice stretch right now.
Video: ANA@LAK: Getzlaf scores top shelf on two-on-one break
John Gibson and Frederik Andersen are the best young goalie duo in the League. They defeated the Los Angeles Kings on Thursday and are on a season-high five-game winning streak.
Lastly, can Braden Holtby break Brodeur's single-season record for most wins in a season (48)? Holtby has 31, and the Capitals have 33 games remaining.