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Weekes on the Web

Pluses, minuses for Blackhawks-Bruins

Kane, Kubalik lead Chicago offense, goaltending key for Boston, says NHL analyst Weekes

by Kevin Weekes @KevinWeekes / NHL Network Analyst

Each Wednesday throughout the regular season, Kevin Weekes will be offering his pluses and minuses for the teams competing in the NBCSN "Wednesday Night Hockey" game in his Weekes on the Web blog.

The Chicago Blackhawks and Boston Bruins face off in an Original Six matchup on "Wednesday Night Hockey."

Boston (32-10-12) seeks their fifth straight win and Chicago (25-21-7) looks to gain ground in the wild-card race in the Western Conference when the teams meet at United Center (8 p.m. ET, NBCSN, TVAS).

Here's my breakdown of the game:

 

Bruins

Pluses: First, they have the best top line in the League. It starts with David Pastrnak, who's second in the NHL with 38 goals and third with 75 points. Brad Marchand has 69 points and Patrice Bergeron, who's been limited by injuries this season, has 43 points.

Next, the return of Tuukka Rask is a big boost for them. He made 25 saves in a 4-0 shutout against the Vancouver Canucks on Tuesday and has won each of his starts since returning from a concussion. Backup Jaroslav Halak has played very well all season, particularly when Rask was out.

For the most part, they are healthy, which is big for them considering how much hockey they played last season, going all the way to Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final.

Video: BOS@MIN: Pastrnak buries loose puck with quick shot

Minuses: There aren't many negatives for a team that's in first place in the Atlantic Division more than halfway through the season, but I think they still need some more production lower down in their lineup from the bottom six group. Losing a guy like Noel Acciari to the Florida Panthers in free agency has hurt; the forward has an NHL career-high 18 goals this season. 

Also, for a team with that much talent, it's hard to believe the Bruins have no wins in seven shootouts this season. Points are critical, so we'll see if that comes back to hurt them.

 

Blackhawks

Pluses: They've gotten great goaltending this year from Corey Crawford and Robin Lehner, who have combined for a .913 save percentage. Each can become an unrestricted free agent after this season, so we'll have to see where that goes and if both remain with the team after the 2020 NHL Trade Deadline on Feb. 24 at 3 p.m. ET.

Patrick Kane is having another monster year. He has 65 points (25 goals, 40 assists), including a recent 12-game point streak (five goals, 13 assists). And Jonathan Toews is playing very well offensively with 44 points (14 goals, 30 assists). Those two have been consistent for a decade now.

A lot of their young players, including forwards Dominik Kubalik (21 goals) and Dylan Strome (30 points in 42 games) are having tremendous years and playing meaningful minutes.

Video: CHI@ARI: Crawford kicks out right skate for save

Minuses: Chicago has been inconsistent this season. They've had five instances of losing three or more games in a row and have only won more than two consecutive games three times. To be just three points out of a wild-card spot is a plus considering how their season has gone.

Playing in the Central Division is a minus. It's arguably the toughest in the League and not only do they have to play the teams they're battling for a playoff spot, but they also have to play the teams ahead of them who are trying for the division crown.

 

THREE THINGS TO WATCH

1. Which team has more jump after each played on Tuesday?

2. Who matches up against each top line? 

3. Each team has great goaltending, so will this be a defensive battle?

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