Every Wednesday during the regular season, Kevin Weekes offers his pluses and minuses for the teams competing in the “Wednesday Night Hockey” games on NBCSN in his Weekes on the Web blog.
It’s a doubleheader on “Wednesday Night Hockey”, each the second game of a series of two games.
The Chicago Blackhawks (8-5-4) aim for their sixth win in seven games when they play the Detroit Red Wings (4-10-3) at Little Caesars Arena (7:30 PM ET; NBCSN).
Next, the Winnipeg Jets (9-5-1) will play against the Edmonton Oilers (9-8-0) at Rogers Place (10:00 PM ET; NBCSN, TVAS, SNW, TSN3).
Here are my breakdowns of the games:
Pros: Patrick Kane leads Chicago with 22 points (seven goals, 15 assists) in 17 games. Two other players, Alex DeBrincat (16 points) and Dominic Cuban (14 points) have scored more than 10 points. Those three forwards are also a major reason why the Blackhawks’ power play is ranked third in the NHL (32.7 percent).
Kevin Lankinen leads NHL rookie goalies with a .925 save percentage (minimum two games played), and is tied with Vitek Vanecek of the Washington Capitals for the first time with six wins. Lankinen is expected to start on Wednesday after that Malcolm Subban made 27 saves in Chicago’s 3-2 overtime win over Detroit on Monday. Lankinen is one big surprise this season and one of their best players
Minuses: The Blackhawks are still without their captain, come on Jonathan Toews, who has not played all season due to an illness. That will always be a big loss, but especially missing a veteran is difficult with their very youthful line-up. They are also without Brent Seabrook, one of the best defenders in Blackhawks history, who has not played this season due to a low back injury.
While each of the Blackhawks’ past four wins have been scored with one goal, they are generally not a team that plays to win 2-1 or 1-0. If they can strengthen themselves defensively, they will be a much more difficult team to play against.
Video: CBJ @ CHI: Kane scores PPG in 3rd period
Pros: Forward Dylan Larkin (four goals, five assists) and Anthony Mantha (five goals, four assists) and defender Filip Hronek (nine assists) lead the Red Wings with nine points each. Those three have emerged as franchise players, but it’s usually not a good sign when a defender is tied for the scoring lead, and no one has scored more than 10 points in 17 games in the season.
The wins may not be there for the goalkeeper Thomas Greiss, but he has kept the Red Wings in every game. Despite his 1-9-3 record, he has an average of 2.90 goals against and has not conceded more than three goals in any of his 13 games this season.
Minuses: The Red Wings didn’t get much production of their defenders, with four goals combined by the eight who played at least one game. Being in the early stages of rebuilding can be difficult and they just don’t score enough; the Red Wings averaged 2.06 goals per game, 30th in the NHL. That does not help Tyler Bertuzzi out with an injury. He is level with Mantha for the Detroit lead with five goals, but has missed the past eight games.
The Red Wings have not fared well in special teams. The power play is 30th in the NHL (7.6 percent) and the penalty kill is 27th (73.5 percent). If one of these units were more effective, the Red Wings could be on the winning end of more close games.
Pros: What a game the Jets and Oilers played on Monday. The Jets held their own for a 6-5 win against the Oilers in a battle between two major offenses. Centre Mark Scheifele is fifth in the NHL with 21 points (seven goals, 14 assists) in 15 games and ahead Nikolai Ehlers is linked with Montreal Canadiens forward Tyler Toffoli for third in the NHL with 10 goals. The Jets have also received strong contributions from attackers Blake Wheeler Kyle Connor and Andrew Copp, who was an offensive surprise this season with 12 points (four goals, eight assists) in 15 games.
While the focus was mostly on Jets’ attack, and with good reason, let’s not forget the reigning Vezina Trophy winner, goalkeeper. Connor HellebuyckHe is 7-4-1 with a 2.58 GAA and a .917 save percentage in 12 games, including 40 saves on Monday. It’s not easy to play against some of the powerful fouls in the Scotia North Division, but Hellebuyck has done well.
Minuses: I would like to see more consistency. They have a three-game winning streak (January 19-23) and a two-game winning streak (February 2-4), and appear to be following impressive wins with tough losses. Offense isn’t the problem, but it would be nice to see them defend themselves against some of these teams in the division.
It will also be interesting to see how further Pierre-Luc Dubois fits in. He has no points in two games and has missed the last two due to a lower body injury. There is no doubt that he will add their middle depth when acclimated.
Video: WPG @ EDM: Scheifele scores PPG in 1st period
Pros: They have the top two scorers in the NHL in attackers Connor McDavid (30 points) and Leon Draisaitl (26 points). The transgression runs through them, and with good reason. Surprisingly, their next highest scorer is the defender Tyson Barrie (14 points). I would expect the violation to come forward Jesse Puljujarvi and Kailer Yamamoto soon.
Before he was drawn after allowing four goals on 11 shots at 10:31 PM Monday, goalkeeper Mike Smith had played great since his return from the injured reserve. In the two previous games, he was 2-0-0, conceding one goal on 66 shots. This is what the Oilers expect Smith to move forward.
Minuses: Special teams were great for the Oilers last season when they had the best power play in the NHL (29.5 percent) and came second in the penalty kill (84.4 percent). So far this season they are 10th in power play (25.4 percent) and 23rd in penalty kill (74.5 percent).
Two of their top five scorers are defenders. Besides Barrie, Darnell nurse is in joint fourth place with 13 points (six goals, seven assists). The Oilers would be a more difficult team to play against if they had a secondary score from their forwards who are not called McDavid or Draisaitl.
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