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Weekes on the Web

Pluses, minuses for Canadiens-Bruins, Flames-Kings

Kovalchuk, Boston's top line face off; Calgary continues playoff push against Los Angeles

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 "Wednesday Night Hockey" games on NBCSN in his Weekes on the Web blog.

The Montreal Canadiens (27-24-7) continue their Stanley Cup Playoff push when they face the Boston Bruins (34-11-12) at TD Garden on Wednesday (7:30 p.m. ET; NBCSN, SN, SN360, RDS).

Then, the Calgary Flames (29-22-6) seek their third straight win when they visit the Los Angeles Kings (19-33-5) at Staples Center (10 p.m. ET; NBCSN, SN1).

Here's my breakdown of the games:

 

Canadiens

Pluses: Forwards Ilya Kovalchuk and Nick Suzuki have been key additions. Kovalchuk has 12 points (six goals, six assists) in 16 games, including three game-winners and two in overtime and Montreal is 9-7-0 since signing him. Suzuki, who was a acquired from the Vegas Golden Knights in the trade for Max Pacioretty last season, is tied for third among rookies with 35 points (11 goals, 24 assists) in 58 games.

Goalie Carey Price has been playing well. In the past month, he's 8-3-0 with a 1.71 goals-against average and a .947 save percentage. And forward Brendan Gallagher, who missed time with headaches, has four goals in seven games. They're a big reason the Canadiens entered play Wednesday seven points out of a spot in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Video: TOR@MTL: Kovalchuk cleans up rebound for OT winner

Minuses: It's hard to make the playoffs when you've been as inconsistent as they have been. Montreal has been winless in eight straight games twice this season (Nov. 16-Dec. 1, 0-5-3; Dec. 28-Jan. 9, 0-7-1). They've won three consecutive games four times this season but never more than that.

Injuries have hurt them. In addition to Gallagher, forward Jonathan Drouin missed nearly two months with a wrist injury, forward Paul Byron is out with a knee injury and defenseman Shea Weber is out with a lower-body injury.

 

Bruins

Pluses: The top line of Brad Marchand, Patrice Bergeron and David Pastrnak is the best first line in the League. Pastrnak is tied for third in the League with 78 points (38 goals, 40 assists) and Marchand is tied for eighth with 69 points (23 goals, 46 assists), and Bergeron ha 47 (23 goals, 24 assists) in 48 games. Add to that the play of David Krejci (39 points in 48 games) and Jake DeBrusk (34 points in 52 games) and it's not hard to see why they're tops in the League standings.

Tuukka Rask is healthy and that's good news. He's 20-5-6 with a 2.14 GAA and .929 save percentage this season. He's been money at home with a 12-0-6 record and three shutouts. And the Bruins' special teams have been great, ranking second on the power play and fourth on the penalty kill this season.

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

Minuses: Players like forwards Noel Acciari and Frank Vatrano, who played depth roles with them in recent seasons, could have helped the Bruins this year. We've seen what they've each done with the Panthers this season, but the Bruins were deep enough to let them go.

The only other thing that's concerning is that the Bruins are 4-12 in games decided after regulation this season, including 0-7 in the shootout. Points are critical down the stretch so how they fare in games after regulation could go a long way into determining their playoff positioning, especially now with the Tampa Bay Lightning (37-15-5) one point behind the Bruins for first in the Atlantic Division.

 

Flames

Pluses: Matthew Tkachuk is the heartbeat of their team. He had his second through-the-legs goal this season in a 6-2 win against the San Jose Sharks on Monday and is tied for the team lead with 45 points (19 goals, 26 assists) this season. He leads the Flames in penalty minutes (61). That's been good to see with Johnny Gaudreau and Sean Monahan underwhelming this season.

They've gotten mostly good goaltending from David Rittich and Cam Talbot. Rittich has started games at a ratio of more than 2:1 and has a better record, but Talbot has a better GAA and save percentage. Still, they've been one of the more impressive and durable tandems this season.

Video: CGY@SJS: Tkachuk nets incredible between-the-legs PPG

Minuses: The defense took a big hit with the injuries to Mark Giordano and Travis Hamonic. Giordano will be out weeks with a hamstring injury and Hamonic will be out at least a week with an undisclosed injury. Those are important pieces to be missing on the backend especially for a team that is fighting for its playoff life.

For a team that finished first in the Western Conference last season, Calgary has struggled with consistency this season. They've only won more than two games in a row twice this season and have had three losing streaks of at least three games or more.

 

Kings

Pluses: With goalie Jack Campbell having been traded to the Toronto Maple Leafs, Cal Peterson finally gets his chance in the NHL. He played 11 NHL games last season when Jonathan Quick was injured but spent most of his season in the American Hockey League where he has played in the All-Star Game twice in the past three seasons (2018, 2020).

Forwards Anze Kopitar (47 points) and Alex Iafallo (32 points) have been bright spots for the Kings this season. The Kings have six players with at least 10 goals but only one other besides Kopitar and Iafallo has at least 30 points (Tyler Toffoli, 30).

Video: LAK@NYI: Iafallo sends puck through Greiss' five-hole

Minuses: Los Angeles has scored the second-fewest goals in the League (137) and has allowed the seventh-most (181). Even if the goaltending were better this season, it's hard to win games when you're not scoring; they've scored 2.40 per game this season.

Special teams also haven't performed well for the Kings this season; they rank in the bottom third in both power play (tied for 23rd) and penalty kill (tied for 27th).

 

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