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.
Since going 0-4-1 from Oct. 26-Nov. 5, the Avalanche are 5-2-0. And they've done that without two of their top three forwards; Gabriel Landeskog and Mikko Rantanen each is injured. They were also without their top two goalies for a time, when Philipp Grubauer and Pavel Francouz each was injured. Still, Colorado (13-7-2) is in second place in the Central Division.
We know center Nathan MacKinnon carries this team; he has 32 points (13 goals, 19 assists) in 22 games and is a Hart Trophy candidate as the NHL's Most Valuable Player. But how about the job rookie defenseman Cale Makar has done? He has 25 points (seven goals, 18 assists) in 22 games, more than a point per game, and is plus-9.
Makar has not only thrown himself into the Calder Trophy race as the NHL's top rookie but should receive some votes for the Norris Trophy as best defenseman. The 21-year-old is playing big minutes; he played 24:41 in a 3-2 loss at the Minnesota Wild on Thursday and has averaged 19:43 of ice time per game this season. He's a star in the making.
Video: COL@MIN: Makar scores PPG in 2nd period
Remember when the Stars, who began the season with Stanley Cup aspirations, were 1-7-1 after nine games? That seems like a long time ago now, doesn't it?
Dallas is playing like the team we all thought it could be, with five straight wins and 12 in their past 14 (12-1-1). They had trouble scoring goals early on but have scored at least four goals in four straight games and in six of their past nine. Captain Jamie Benn has seven points (four goals, three assists) in a four-game point streak and center Joe Pavelski has four points (two goals, two assists) in his past two games. Each of them struggled offensively to start the season.
And let's not forget about their goaltending. Ben Bishop (8-5-1, 2.25 goals-against average, .926 save percentage) is in the Vezina conversation and backup Anton Khudobin (5-3-1, 2.31 GAA, .921 save percentage) has also been stellar. Dallas has clamped down defensively, allowing two goals or fewer in nine of 14 games, which says something because they're without defenseman John Klingberg, who has missed six games with a lower-body injury.
New York Islanders
What can we say about them that hasn't been said already? They have put together a 16-game point streak (15-0-1), the longest in their history, after a 4-3 overtime win against the Pittsburgh Penguins on Thursday. Everything has been going right for them.
They rank first in the NHL in goals against (49), are tied for 10th in power-play percentage (22.7 percent), are 12th in penalty-killing percentage (83.0 percent) and have gotten contributions from everybody. Coach Barry Trotz has to be the favorite to win the Jack Adams Award as the best coach in the League (for the second year in a row); he has gotten New York to buy in to a team-first mentality.
The Islanders don't have anyone with double-digit goals; center Mathew Barzal is the only player with at least 20 points (nine goals, 11 assists). And Thomas Greiss (9-1-0, 2.07 GAA, .934 save percentage) and Semyon Varlamov (7-2-1, 2.70 GAA, .912 save percentage) have by far been the best goaltending duo in the NHL this season. After 20 games into the season, it can't be viewed as a fluke.
Video: FLA@NYI: Greiss stones Barkov with terrific pad stop
After the Ottawa Senators center had 12 points (four goals, eight assists) in 39 games last season and was minus-12, he has really turned it around this season. Pageau has 13 goals in 23 games, six shy of his NHL career high (19 in 2015-16), and he is plus-17 on a team with a minus-5 goal differential.
Pageau does it all for the Senators. He's a staple on the penalty kill and has two shorthanded goals this season (tied for the League lead), has taken the most face-offs on the team (377), and also occasionally sees time on the power play.
He's a big reason Ottawa is 7-2-0 in its past nine games, which is good news for him; he can be an unrestricted free agent after this season, and I'm sure many teams will be looking at him if the Senators don't secure his services.