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.
How about the Coyotes? After a 3-1 win against the Philadelphia Flyers on Thursday, they are in first place in the Pacific Division with a record of 17-9-4. Coach Rick Tocchet and assistants John MacLean, Phil Housley and Corey Schwab have done an excellent job.
The Coyotes have allowed 2.27 goals per game, which is second in the NHL behind the Boston Bruins (2.24). Darcy Kuemper is 12-6-2 with a 1.92 goals-against average and .937 save percentage, and Antti Raanta is 5-3-2 with a 2.66 GAA and .924 save percentage. Right now, Kuemper has my vote for the Vezina Trophy.
Depth scoring has been key. Arizona has 11 players with 10 or more points, and their leading scorer is Conor Garland who has 11 goals. Phil Kessel had two goals against the Flyers and has six in his first season with Arizona. If he starts to heat up, the Coyotes will be even more dangerous.
The Capitals are 21-4-5 this season, including a remarkable 13-2-1 road record.
John Carlson is above every defenseman in the NHL right now based on his complete game. He has 42 points (11 goals, 31 assists), which not only leads all defensemen, but ranks sixth in the NHL. Carlson is one of six Capitals with at least 20 points, along with forwards Alex Ovechkin (31), Evgeny Kuznetsov (28), Jakub Vrana (25), T.J. Oshie (22) and Tom Wilson (20). Forward Nicklas Backstrom, out since Nov. 18 because of an upper-body injury, has 18.
Braden Holtby, who can become an unrestricted free agent after this season, has nothing left to prove, but is 14-2-4 in a season where he was expected to yield starts to rookie Ilya Samsonov.
Video: WSH@LAK: Carlson dances around Quick for sweet tally
Vegas Golden Knights
The trip to the New York area was good for the Golden Knights, who went 2-0-1, including a 3-2 overtime loss to the New York Islanders on Thursday. They're 4-0-1 in their past five games and more importantly, several players have gotten on track.
Forward Jonathan Marchessault has four goals in his past two games including a hat trick against the New Jersey Devils on Tuesday. Forward Alex Tuch, who scored two goals in a 4-1 win against the New York Rangers on Monday, has four goals and seven points in his past four games.
More good news is that Malcolm Subban was in goal for all three games on the road trip and is 4-0-1 in his past five starts after losing his first four decisions of the season. With Marc-Andre Fleury out for personal reasons, Vegas needed that effort from Subban, and perhaps it's shown them they can rest Fleury down the stretch for the playoffs.
Everyone has been talking about the Capitals and Islanders, and rightfully so, but let's not forget the third-place team in the Metropolitan Division. Although they lost to the Coyotes on Thursday, the Flyers are 16-8-5 and have points in 15 of their past 18 games (11-3-4).
Forward Travis Konecny, who has 27 points (10 goals, 17 assists), has been their best player. Forwards Sean Couturier (22 points), Claude Giroux (20), and Jakub Voracek (21) each also has 20 or more points. Forward Kevin Hayes has points (two goals, two assists) in four of his past five games and seven of his past nine, and defenseman Ivan Provorov has 18 points (six goals, 12 assists) in 28 games and is plus-7. He leads the Flyers with an average of 24:50 time on ice per game.
Video: ARI@PHI: Niskanen's wrist shot ricochets into twine
The Rangers are 6-2-1 in their past nine games following a 3-2 win against the Columbus Blue Jackets on Thursday. Alexandar Georgiev made 45 saves in the win and Artemi Panarin scored against his former team. Panarin is a top-five player in the world right now for me. And defensemen Tony DeAngelo and Adam Fox have been very good. I think they are a little ahead of schedule.
Staying in the Metropolitan, the Penguins enter Friday as the second wild card into the Stanley Cup Playoffs from the Eastern Conference, three points ahead of the Rangers. They have done this despite a slew of injuries. Forward Sidney Crosby, who has been out since Nov. 9, is recovering from core muscle surgery, as is Nick Bjugstad. Forward Patric Hornqvist is out longer-term after sustaining a lower-body injury in practice on Monday. Defenseman Brian Dumoulin is expected to be out at least eight weeks after having ankle surgery Sunday, and defenseman Jack Johnson could miss a second straight game with an illness. Yet the scrappy Penguins are 5-3-3 since Crosby has been out.