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Friday Four: Capitals' run similar to last season

NHL Network's Kevin Weekes also discusses Brent Burns, Michael Grabner, new Islanders coach

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.

 

Washington Capitals

The Capitals are the hottest team in the NHL right now. They defeated the St. Louis Blues 7-3 on Thursday for their 10th win in 11 games. Washington has averaged almost five goals per game during that stretch (54 goals); the Capitals have also played well defensively, with four shutouts in that span.

The offense hasn't only been coming from their star players like Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom; the depth players have been stepping up. Justin Williams is quickly up to 16 goals and has five in his past five games. T.J. Oshie (16 goals) returned to St. Louis and had a goal and an assist. Andre Burakovsky and a lot of other depth guys have been scoring. Getting that production up and down the lineup has been huge. What I have seen from Washington is that they're playing every bit as well as they did last season, when they ran away with the Presidents' Trophy.

There's also been no drop-off in Braden Holtby's game. Last season's Vezina Trophy winner has three shutouts in his past seven games, though he's getting overlooked because of the play of Sergei Bobrovsky of the Columbus Blue Jackets and Devan Dubnyk of the Minnesota Wild.

Video: WSH@STL: Connolly, Johansson score 11 seconds apart

 

Brent Burns

The more this season goes on, the more Brent Burns is looking like the Norris Trophy winner. He is doing everything right now. He has 19 goals and 47 points to lead all defensemen, he plays tons of minutes in all situations and he's has been great. Burns, from start to finish, has been the best defenseman in the League.

Burns leads all skaters (not just defensemen) in shots on goal (177) and has 13 multipoint games. He helped the San Jose Sharks get to the Stanley Cup Final last season and had 24 points in 24 games, one of the highest totals by a defenseman in a single playoffs in NHL history.

 

Michael Grabner

Grabner leads the Rangers with 21 goals, tying him for fourth in the League. More impressively, 20 of those goals have come at even strength. Grabner scored twice in a 5-2 win at the Toronto Maple Leafs on Thursday. The first goal was shorthanded; it was his first non-even strength goal this season.

The last time Grabner scored at least 20 goals was in 2011-12, when he had 20 with the New York Islanders. The season before that, he set his career high of 34, a number he could break this season.

Video: NYR@TOR: Grabner motors in for SHG on breakaway

 

New York Islanders

Doug Weight has put in his time with the Islanders as a player and a mentor. John Tavares lived in his house years ago, and Weight took him under his wing. Weight worked his way up to assistant coach and assistant general manager prior to taking over as coach when Jack Capuano was fired Wednesday. This gives Weight a chance to see how much he likes coaching. It's something he's been really passionate about, and the Islanders got the win in his first game (3-0 against the Dallas Stars on Thursday). Let's see how much he likes it.

Thomas Greiss has back-to-back shutouts and Tavares has seven goals in four games, including two against Dallas. As badly as the Islanders have played, New York is only six points out of a playoff spot, so who knows what can happen?

 

HONORABLE MENTION

Thomas Vanek is almost a point-per-game player for the Detroit Red Wings (31 points in 34 games, points in 11 of 12) and he's tied for the team lead in scoring despite missing 11 games. He's been a good fit for Jeff Blashill.

Chris Stewart is playing really well for the Minnesota Wild in a depth role. He had his 10th goal on Thursday and was aggressive, getting into a fight. He's been a guy who is tough but can also score and provide leadership. It was a good offseason signing by the Wild, who acquired Stewart two seasons ago at the NHL Trade Deadline before letting him go in free agency.

Jake Allen of the St. Louis Blues is a good goalie, but he's going through a rough patch right now. He was pulled for the fourth time in six games on Thursday, and isn't getting much help in front of him. When you combine Allen not playing his best and the team playing poorly, it doesn't add up to success.

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