Each Wednesday throughout the regular season, Kevin Weekes will be offering his pluses and minuses for the teams competing in the NBCSN Wednesday Night Rivalry game in his Weekes on the Web blog. Weekes also will assist fans with three must-watch elements of the game.
The Detroit Red Wings had a six-game winning streak end when they were swept in back-to-back games against the Boston Bruins and Florida Panthers on Saturday and Sunday. The Philadelphia Flyers are looking to win consecutive games for the first time this season. They beat the Carolina Hurricanes 4-3 on Sunday, but have lost the following game after their two previous wins.
These franchises expect to win the Stanley Cup, something that can't be done unless they qualify for the Stanley Cup Playoffs, which these teams have done a lot of the past few decades. The Red Wings have made it 25 straight seasons, while the Flyers have been in eight of the past 11 seasons.
There should have a playoff feel to this one when the Red Wings (6-4-0) visit the Flyers (4-5-1) at Wells Fargo Center on Wednesday (8 p.m., NBCSN, TVA Sports, NHL.TV).
Pluses: It starts with goaltending for the Red Wings. Their six-game winning streak was buoyed by the play of goaltenders Jimmy Howard and Petr Mrazek. Howard has allowed three goals in four games and Mrazek had played well in his six starts prior to allowing four goals on 10 shots and being pulled in a 5-2 loss to the Panthers on Sunday. They haven't gotten much help defensively but we'll get to that later.
I look for the Red Wings to come out breathing fire. They are a faster team right now, which has been impressive to watch, and went 2-for-5 on the power play Sunday. Defenseman Mike Green, who has seven points in 10 games, is having a nice little resurgence right now.
Minuses: The Red Wings were dominated in every facet of the game against the Panthers. That came one day after they were shut out but played well in a 1-0 loss to the Bruins. Coach Jeff Blashill didn't address his players after the loss to the Bruins, hoping they'd respond the right way, but they had a bad performance against the Panthers. Hopefully they will come out with more energy and jump to start the game against the Flyers.
The Red Wings will have to cut down on their defensive miscues. We've seen a lot of those, but the goalies have been able to cover for them. The defensemen have five goals (three from Green) in 10 games, which has mitigated some of the defensive struggles.
They'll need to continue to get that level of production from them, especially with Thomas Vanek, who was off to a great start with four goals and eight points in seven games, week to week because of a lower-body injury.
Video: DET@NYR: Howard stuffs Hayes' shot from the slot
Pluses: We all know what defenseman Shayne Gostisbehere brings to the table. But the Flyers also have been getting strong play from defensemen Brandon Manning and rookie Ivan Provorov. They're each super-skilled and have added offense to the Flyers, who entered play Tuesday with 35 goals, tied for the most in the League.
That's on top of Claude Giroux (12 points in 10 games), Jakub Voracek (10 points in 10 games) and Wayne Simmonds playing well. Simmonds started the week tied for the League lead in goals (six) and has 11 points in 10 games. I wouldn't be surprised if he hits 35 goals this season. He had 32 last season and 28 and 29 in the two seasons before that.
The Flyers' transition game has been good. They've been more creative on offense because they have more puck-movers to start plays. The power play has scored 11 times on 40 chances (27.5 percent), which ranked third in the League.
Minuses: Neither of the Flyers' two goalies has played as well as he did last season, or up to his potential. Steve Mason (2-4-1, 3.46 goals-against average, .878 save percentage in eight games) and Michal Neuvirth (2-1-0, 3.84 GAA, .861 save percentage in five games) have been letting in too many goals, but at the same time have been getting hung out to dry too often.
The Flyers have been pretty porous defensively. They've allowed 38 goals, the most in the League entering play Tuesday. I mentioned Manning and Provorov, who have been good offensively but not as good defensively as they'd like. The penalty kill has allowed eight goals in 33 times shorthanded (75.8 percent). That can't continue if the Flyers want to make the playoffs.
Video: CAR@PHI: Manning sneaks tough-angle goal past Lack
Three things to watch
1. The Flyers' young, active, skilled defensemen.
2. Which team does a better job defending?
3. Will the Red Wings be able to stop the Flyers' offense?