Give Kevin Weekes
his choice of who to face, and without hesitation the ex-NHL goalie would always eliminate Alex Ovechkin
from the discussion.
Weekes, who now analyzes the League for the NHL Network and CBC, told NHL.com that Ovechkin is easily the most dangerous of the three players going after the Rocket Richard Trophy because "he can score in so many ways."
and Steven Stamkos
are at times indefensible because of their courage, positioning, shot and accuracy, but Weekes said it's about impossible for a goalie to tell when or where Ovechkin's next shot is coming from and that makes him lethal.
"He can score on you with one foot inside the blue line, on the fly, with speed and using a wrist shot," Weekes said. "He can beat you clean or do the D-man as a screen. So many people are at home thinking what is that goalie doing, and there is no question there are some that he could stop, but Ovechkin's wrist shot is so good from that far out and so lethal that he can beat you with it. Or, he can blow by the D with moves or sheer power. He's the most bullish of the three in terms of his determination and just how powerful he is taking the puck to the net."
For the record, Ovechkin faced Weekes only twice and beat him once, but that was back on Oct. 10, 2005, just his fourth NHL game. Crosby scored three times in six appearances against Weekes while Stamkos was 0-for-3 last season.
"He's so strong, so fast and he's built like a running back," Weekes said of Ovechkin. "You see how wide his back is. If you have a guy that skates that well and that fast at 235 pounds, it's pretty scary."
"Ovechkin's wrist shot is so good from that far out and so lethal that he can beat you with it. Or, he can blow by the D with moves or sheer power. He's the most bullish of the three in terms of his determination and just how powerful he is taking the puck to the net."
-- Kevin Weekes on Alex Ovechkin
Weekes wasn't disparaging Crosby or Stamkos with his praise of Ovechkin. He said both present their own unique problems for a goalie.
Crosby, Weekes said, has become a more dangerous threat without the puck because he plays down low or behind the net and it's easy for a goalie to lose sight of him.
"When he has the puck, you think you've got him, but he's got the 360 cam where he can find guys in different spots," Weekes said. "When he doesn't have it, you lose sight of him and you're like, 'Oh no, I can't find him,' and then he reappears and the rebound pops right to him and he can pop it in. The D-man can't locate him, but also the goalie can't locate him. The play can be above the goal line so you have to be focused on who has the puck above the goal line. It's enough to focus on that guy let alone Crosby, too."
Weekes doesn't think Crosby gets enough credit for his ability around the net, "because everything he did before he got there gets fixated on. He does so many pretty things en route to the net that it leaves tongues hanging out."
The fact that Crosby goes to the net -- and stays there -- is enough to amaze Weekes.
"He'll take it strong, not as strong as Ovechkin, but he'll hang out there," Weekes said. "He's willing to go the net to take abuse. He is willing to score from five feet away. Let's be honest, there aren't a lot of guys that are willing to hang out around the net."
Stamkos is learning how to be effective in the tough areas, but for now he scores on shots, mostly one-timers from the left side, that look like they should be stopped but they sometimes fool goalies even when they're in position to make the save.
"You know he is there and you know the puck is coming there and you know he is going to shoot it but he is still able to score with it," Weekes said. "That's the craziest thing about it for me."
Weekes remembers hearing people talk about Stamkos' ability from the half wall two years ago when the kid was finishing up his OHL career with the Sarnia Sting. They were saying he was one of the best shooters from that area in recent memory.
"You hear things like that all the time, but he's 100 percent legit," Weekes said. "He just has that laser beam coming form there and it doesn't matter if it's a wrist shot, one-timer, or slap shot because he can pick corners. He's a one shot guy."
Surprisingly, Stamkos has been given that shot all season long. Weekes said "video coaches better be busy this summer" breaking down film and figuring out ways to gear the defense, specifically the penalty kill, toward stopping Stamkos' one-timer.
"Part of it is an adjustment from the goalie's point of view, but it's also good coaching from Rick Tocchet
because he's got (Kurtis) Foster up there at the point and he's got a booming shot," Weekes said. "As a goalie, I'd rather see that shot from Foster so if anything I would shade over to Stamkos a little bit and the defense should do the same thing. If you're playing a diamond, that right guy should be in line with Stamkos and if you're boxing it up that right guy should be out higher to defend him. But, they're not."
Which makes Weekes wonder if there is a good way to defend Stamkos' one-timer?
"You know what Kobe is going to do at the end of the game, but can you defend it? It's the same thing," Weekes said. "I'm not putting Stamkos in that category, but I mean in terms of being a gamebreaker and delivering even though everyone is expecting it."
Follow Dan Rosen on Twitter at: @drosennhl