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 Boston Bruins have been playing well under new coach Bruce Cassidy, winning eight of 11 games since he took over from Claude Julien on Feb. 7. Boston is hanging tough in the Atlantic Division and trying to make the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the first time since 2013-14.
The final season at Joe Louis Arena hasn't gone as planned for the Detroit Red Wings. They enter play Wednesday last in the Eastern Conference and will need a miracle to make the playoffs for the 26th consecutive season.
However, you can throw the records out when two Original Six teams meet. It should be another classic when the Red Wings (25-28-11) visit the Bruins (34-26-6) at TD Garden on Wednesday (8 p.m. ET; NBCSN, TVA Sports, NHL.TV). Here's my breakdown of the game:
Pluses: Henrik Zetterberg has been really good for them. It's been a nice bounce-back year. Zetterberg has been battling injuries for the past few seasons, but he's been their best point producer this season with 14 goals and 53 points after finishing with 50 points in 82 games last season.
Video: NYI@DET: Zetterberg buries PPG with 0.1 on the clock
I think it's a good thing that they are struggling because it provides a better window into who players are. If you're general manager Ken Holland, it helps you better evaluate who you want to have going forward.
Overall, the goaltending has been pretty good with Petr Mrazek and Jared Coreau. It's been even better when Jimmy Howard has played. Howard, who is rehabbing from a knee injury, had a shutout with Grand Rapids of the American Hockey League on Tuesday and is close to rejoining the team.
Minuses: The one thing that continues to be an Achilles heel for the Red Wings is that they're very light on defense. Guys like Nick Jensen and Xavier Ouellet are getting the chance to play, but defense has been a position of real weakness for them behind Mike Green and Niklas Kronwall.
The next weakness has been consistency. The Red Wings haven't been able to string together wins or play the style they need to play for more than a few games in a row. Detroit started the season 6-2-0, including a six-game winning streak, but has won more than two games in a row once since then.
What will the Red Wings do to reshape their team going forward? They were sellers at the NHL Trade Deadline, trading defenseman Brendan Smith and forward Thomas Vanek for draft picks. Detroit hadn't been a seller for years, so it shows you where the Red Wings are this season and that they realize the playoff streak likely is over.
Pluses: Brad Marchand has 30 goals. Can he get to 37, which he had last season? Marchand is fourth in the NHL in scoring with 68 points and has done it quietly, which is really impressive. He's had the points all season but is finally starting to get the goals. Marchand has already established a career high in points; he had 61 in 77 games last season.
Video: BOS@OTT: Marchand kicks rebound to tape and nets PPG
David Pastrnak hasn't had many dips this season. He's got 26 goals and 55 points, second on the team in each category. I remember defenseman Torey Krug telling me Pastrnak was going to be a star in this League, and that was two years ago.
The Bruins have managed to score more without compromising how they defend. They are getting more net-front presence and are attacking the goal line more. The defense is doing a better job breaking out of their zone and getting involved in the offensive zone.
Minuses: The Bruins have yet to find a solid backup to starting goalie Tuukka Rask. Though Anton Khudobin has won his past three decisions, Bruins goalies not named Rask are 4-10-2 this season. That's why the Bruins have been so reliant on Rask. Hopefully Khudobin's recent stretch will allow them to rest Rask more heading into the stretch.
The Bruins also need more production out of their fourth line. I know Dominic Moore has nine goals, but he has one in 32 games and Boston needs more from that line. The Bruins can't rely exclusively on their top two lines for offense every game.
Patrice Bergeron has had a big drop-off offensively from last season. We know how much he does defensively and how good his all-around game is, but Bergeron had 32 goals last season and has 17 in 63 games in 2016-17. He's also down to 43 points after finishing with 68 in 2015-16.
THREE THINGS TO WATCH
1. Can the Bruins' new offensive game led by Marchand and Pastrnak continue to produce?
2. How do the Red Wings defend the new-look Bruins?
3. Can the Red Wings play a full 60-minute game?