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Friday Four: Stamkos, Kucherov powering Lightning

NHL Network's Kevin Weekes also discusses Kings, Golden Knights, Canucks

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.

 

Tampa Bay Lightning

The Lightning are tied with the Los Angeles Kings for the best goal differential in the League (plus-17). We've got to start with their top line of Steven Stamkos, Nikita Kucherov and Vladislav Namestnikov. Stamkos leads the League with 21 points, and he and Kucherov each have at least one point in all 11 of Tampa Bay's games. Kucherov leads the League with 12 goals and is second in points (19). Namestnikov has 11 points (four goals, seven assists) in 11 games.

The chemistry that Stamkos and Kucherov have shown is similar to what Stamkos had with Martin St. Louis when the two played together from 2008-14. Stamkos and Kucherov are so in synch together, 5-on-5 or power play, that they are impossible to defend right now. It's even more impressive because Stamkos didn't play after Nov. 15 last season because of a knee injury.

Video: PIT@TBL: Stamkos buries PPG, sets team record

Tampa Bay is getting a lot of scoring from other sources. Brayden Point (12 points; five goals, seven assists) has probably been their most effective offensive player outside of the top line. I had Victor Hedman (six points) winning the Norris Trophy, but it's been all about rookie defenseman Mikael Sergachev so far. I think Jonathan Drouin was a nice player for them, but getting Sergachev from the Montreal Canadiens for him has been a boon for them. He played on their first power-play unit on Thursday and has 10 points (four goals, six assists) this season. He proved he deserved to stay with the team after his nine-game trial period ended.

Without Ben Bishop, Andrei Vasilevskiy has been amazing. He makes big saves every game and tied the franchise record (with Nikolai Khabibulin) with his eighth straight win on Thursday, 3-2 against the Detroit Red Wings. Vasilevskiy is 9-1-0 with a 2.20 goals-against average and a .936 save percentage.

 

Los Angeles Kings

The Kings have also flown out of the gate with a franchise-best 8-1-1 start. Jonathan Quick made 40 saves in a head-to-head matchup with Carey Price on Thursday in a 4-0 win against the Montreal Canadiens at Bell Centre. It was Quick's 500th NHL game and his 46th career shutout. No one has had more since his first full season in the League in 2008-09.

What Anze Kopitar (seven goals, 12 points) and Dustin Brown (five goals, 11 points) have done offensively has been a surprise, considering the off-year Kopitar had last season and Brown having not been an offensive force recently. They're scoring 3.5 goals-per game and allowing a League-low 1.90 per game.

The Kings seem to have a more naturally skilled team and didn't make any moves this offseason aside from signing Mike Cammalleri up front, but even he has been a healthy scratch early on. Credit is due to coach John Stevens, who has turned this team around after the Kings didn't make the Stanley Cup Playoffs last season.

 

Vegas Golden Knights

From talking to Gerard Gallant, this has been exactly how he wanted them to play thus far, which is why they are 7-1-0. Vegas has been competing and playing hard in all three zones.

The Golden Knights are getting contributions up and down the lineup. James Neal (six goals), Reilly Smith (seven points), William Karlsson and David Perron (five points each) up front, and Luca Sbisa (five points), Colin Miller, Deryk Engelland and Nate Schmidt (four points each) on the back end.

Their goalies have been great, too. We all know how well Marc-Andre Fleury was playing before he got a concussion. Rookie Malcolm Subban took over and won his first two games; when he went down, Oscar Dansk, another rookie, stepped in. Dansk is 2-0-0 in his young career.

Vegas goes on a six-game road trip after its home game against the Colorado Avalanche on Friday. That will really be a test for this young expansion team.

Video: Vegas is off to a historic start in its first season

 

Vancouver Canucks

I don't think anyone had them playing at .500, let alone 6-3-1. There have been a lot of reasons for this, starting with Bo Horvat and Brock Boeser. Horvat, the clear team leader of the future, has seven points (four goals, three assists). Boeser, who was a healthy scratch to start the season, had three assists on Thursday in a dominating 6-2 win against the Washington Capitals and leads them with nine points (two goals, seven assists) in eight games. Derek Dorsett has had a resurgent season with six goals.

Henrik Sedin and Daniel Sedin are playing mostly on the second line, something they are not used to but have handled gracefully -- and the Canucks have has kept winning. Anders Nilsson, who essentially was thought to be the backup to Jacob Markstrom, is 3-1-0 with a 1.88 goals-against average, a.943 save percentage and two shutouts.

 

Honorable mentions


Clayton Keller continues to dominate for the Arizona Coyotes. Although the Coyotes are 0-9-1, Keller has been a spark and the one bright spot for them. He had a goal in a 5-2 loss at the New York Rangers on Thursday and has seven goals and 11 points, tops among rookies in each category. The 19-year-old has played like a veteran and is exactly the kind of player the Coyotes want and need in their lineup. Plus, he's already fit in on the power play with three points (two goals).

I have liked what I've seen from Claude Giroux of the Philadelphia Flyers to start the season. He has five goals and 11 points in 10 games, a point-per-game player. The biggest thing is that he looks to be healthy and rejuvenated. We know about his offensive struggles last season when he had 14 goals and 58 points, his fewest totals in a full season since 2009-10. He didn't score his fifth goal until game No. 24 last season.

Longtime linemate Jakub Voracek has 14 points (one goal, 13 assists) through 10 games after struggling offensively the past two seasons. If these two can keep this up, the Flyers can make some noise in the Metropolitan Division.

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