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Weekes on the Web

Friday Four: Canadiens, Oilers well-balanced

NHL Network's Kevin Weekes also discusses surprising starts for Red Wings, Wild

by Kevin Weekes / 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.

Montreal Canadiens

Following a 3-1 win against the Tampa Bay Lightning on Thursday, Montreal is 7-0-1 this season. It's the third straight season the Canadiens have gotten off to a good start; they began the 2014-15 season 7-1-0 and went 9-0-0 last season.

Their goalies have been great. Obviously Al Montoya had to start the season for Carey Price. Montoya is 3-0-1 with a 1.47 goals-against average, .955 save percentage and a shutout. Price is 4-0-0 with a 1.51 goals-against average, and .947 save percentage. Montreal's plus-16 goal differential leads the League so defensively the Canadiens have played well as a team.

Shea Weber has been incredible so far, offensively and defensively. He has three goals, six assists and is a plus-12. He's also had a huge impact in front of the net (16 blocks in eight games) and provides support for Price.

There was too much chasing around the ice last season and leaving good chances in open ice. So far, they are utilizing the middle of the ice more and it's been beneficial.

Video: MTL@NYI: Habs take lead on Weber's PPG late in 3rd

 

Edmonton Oilers

It's been a long time coming for the Oilers, who are 6-1-1. There has been a lot of frustration in Edmonton, but the Connor McDavid effect has been phenomenal. He just does things at a pace no one else can do them at. It changes the way the team plays; there's no denying that. He is fast but also has the hands and vision to make plays at that speed.

Cam Talbot had a rough go of it last season, but played better in the final months. He's 6-1-0 including four straight wins in which he's allowed a total of four goals. I liked the trade for him last year right from the beginning. I got a chance to know him when he was with the New York Rangers. When you are playing with Henrik Lundqvist and guys still like seeing you in the net and support you, that says a lot.

The Oilers defeated the Washington Capitals 4-1 on Wednesday, dominating the game against the Presidents' Trophy winners from last season who have almost the identical team. That showed me something.

Video: WSH@EDM: Talbot denies Oshie on the power play

 

Detroit Red Wings

The Red Wings have been a pleasant surprise, and have won six games in a row. Jimmy Howard has really put in a lot of work into his game, and it's paid big dividends for him. He's gone to a goaltending camp the last few summers and has added new elements to his game. Howard has been a two-time All-Star before, but he's willing to make changes and it's paid off early on (2-0-0, one goal allowed in two games).

When it's not Howard, it's Petr Mrazek. He helped the Red Wings win 2-1 in an eight-round shootout at the St. Louis Blues on Thursday by making made 31 saves and six in the shootout. I don't see Detroit getting out-goaltended on many nights.

The defense has been much better than I thought it would have been, based on the youth and inexperience. Jonathan Ericsson has had a nice start to the season and Mike Green has had a nice little turnaround as well.

Putting Henrik Zetterberg on the wing has helped his game also. He scored the game-winner in the shootout against the Blues and has had some nice assists to Dylan Larkin. Thomas Vanek, signed as a free agent, has eight points in seven games, which is what the Red Wings hoped they would get out of him.

 

Minnesota Wild

Minnesota has been great. We know coach Bruce Boudreau has had a lot of success, winning eight division titles in nine seasons with Washington and the Anaheim Ducks. The postseason results aren't what he would have liked, but you can't argue with how good a coach he is. I thought they would have been a bubble team for the Stanley Cup Playoffs in the tough Western Conference and Central Division but so far, they're atop that division.

I have to give some love to Devan Dubnyk, who has two straight shutouts. And don't underestimate the role assistant coach Scott Stevens is playing. Ryan Suter is off to the best offensive start in his career (nine points in eight games) and Matt Dumba and Jonas Brodin have played well. Stevens has done great work with these guys.

Video: MIN@BUF: Suter beats Nilsson through traffic

 

Honorable mention

* The Los Angeles Kings have a nice win streak; they've won four in a row, each in overtime or a shootout. Peter Budaj is 4-0-0 and has done a nice job filling in for Jonathan Quick.

* Brandon Pirri, Mika Zibanejad and Jimmy Vesey have all been really good so far, and the defense has been much better for the New York Rangers, in part because of the play of the forwards. Their speed game has been a big reason they've gone 5-2-0.

* A lot of sharp-angled and short-side goals are going in. A lot of goalies aren't squaring up properly because they're anticipating a pass, but you have to take it one play at a time. Shooters pay attention and they see what's going on.

* The young guys could earn a spot in this every week. Patrik Laine had two goals for the Winnipeg Jets and Kyle Connor got his first goal in a 4-1 win against the Dallas Stars on Thursday, the same night that Mitchell Marner of the Toronto Maple Leafs was unreal and had three assists in a 3-2 win against the Florida Panthers.

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