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 Philadelphia Flyers (38-20-7) visit the Washington Capitals (40-19-6) at Capital One Arena on Wednesday (7 p.m. ET; NBCSN, TVAS) in a game with huge implications in the Metropolitan Division.
Then, the Anaheim Ducks (26-32-8) visit the Colorado Avalanche (40-18-7) at Pepsi Center (9:30 p.m. ET; NBCSN).
Here's my breakdown of the games:
Pluses: Philadelphia has won six straight games and is three points behind Washington for first in the division. The Flyers have scored at least four goals in each of those games and have scored three or more in 11 straight and in 16 of 17. When you have that kind of offense going, it's hard to be beat.
Kevin Hayes, James van Riemsdyk, Jakub Voracek, Claude Giroux, Sean Couturier and Travis Konecny have given them a great top six at forward. Konecny leads them with 60 points (23 goals, 37 assists), and the Flyers are 18-0-1 when Hayes scores a goal. Philadelphia is the disrupter in the NHL this year. They've shaken up the Eastern Conference and coming into the season, most people didn't expect that.
Video: PHI@CBJ: Konecny scores in 1st period
Minuses: There aren't many things wrong with the Flyers except the disparity of their success at home as opposed to on the road. The Flyers are 23-5-4 at Wells Fargo Center and 15-15-2 away from home. Carter Hart, who has been amazing at home (18-2-2, 1.67 goals-against average, .941 save percentage) is 4-10-1 with a 3.81 GAA and .857 save percentage on the road.
Pluses: It starts with Alex Ovechkin, who has 45 goals and is inching closer to his ninth 50-goal season in the NHL, and John Carlson, who has 73 points (15 goals, 58 assists) and has been at the forefront of the Norris Trophy conversation all season. Those two have been the two most consistent players on the Capitals.
The goalie tandem of Braden Holtby and rookie Ilya Samsonov has worked nicely together. It hasn't been his best season in terms of stats, but Holtby still has 24 wins and gives them a chance to win every night. And Samsonov is among the rookie leaders in wins (16), GAA (2.40) and save percentage (.917). The best teams are the ones with depth throughout the lineup, and the Capitals have that.
Video: WSH@VGK: Carlson scores PPG in 3rd period
Minuses: Washington has lost seven of its past 11 games (4-6-1). The Capitals have allowed at least three goals in eight straight games and in 10 of 11. In those 11 games, the penalty kill is 75.8 percent, quite a drop from their 83.3 percent for the season. With the Capitals struggling and the Flyers surging, the top spot in the Metropolitan isn't a lock.
Pluses: The Ducks have put faith in young players this season, and while it's been a growing experience, it's also been a positive one. Two players they acquired prior to the 2020 NHL Trade Deadline have already contributed. Forward Sonny Milano has four points (two goals, two assists) in four games and forward Danton Heinen has three points (two goals, one assist) in four games. Adam Henrique leads the Ducks with 24 goals; that's six behind his NHL career high set in 2015-16 with the New Jersey Devils. He has been a nice fit for them in his two-plus seasons with Anaheim.
John Gibson and Ryan Miller have provided the Ducks with good goaltending. Although the wins haven't been there, they have combined for a .901 save percentage and have had to face almost 32 shots on goal per game with not always the best support in front of them.
Video: PIT@ANA: Gibson stretches to rob Rust at doorstep
Minuses: Anaheim is 29th in the League in goals scored per game (2.50). Henrique and Jakub Silfverberg (18) are the only players with more than 13 goals, and Ryan Getzlaf is the only one with at least 40 points. Even with the man advantage they've had trouble scoring; the Ducks rank last in the NHL on the power play (14.4 percent).
Pluses: Colorado has gotten good goaltending and defensive play during its current seven-game winning streak. The Avalanche have allowed a total of nine goals in that span and have won each of the past six games by one goal. Pavel Francouz has played very well this season, even before the injury to Philipp Grubauer. Francouz has won six straight starts and is 19-5-3 with a 2.24 GAA and .929 save percentage.
General manager Joe Sakic has done a great job rounding out the roster after they were one win from the Western Conference Final last season. Adding veteran players with skill and character like Nazem Kadri, Andre Burakovsky, Pierre-Edouard Bellemare and Joonas Donskoi has shored up their depth and made them one of the Cup favorites this season.
Video: TBL@COL: Francouz denies Stamkos at doorstep
Minuses: They have been hit hard by injuries. Forward Mikko Rantanen along with Kadri, Burakovsky and Grubauer are all out, and rookie defenseman Cale Makar didn't play Monday because of an upper-body injury. The good news is they've clearly had the depth and been able to overcome those injuries.