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 will also be assisting fans with three must-watch elements of the game.
Here is the thing that I love about the Wednesday Night Rivalry game between the Detroit Red Wings and Chicago Blackhawks at United Center (7:30 p.m. ET; NBCSN, TVA Sports):
The Blackhawks have become one of the "it" teams in the NHL by reinventing themselves off of the Detroit model in so many ways; a model, by the way, that still works for the Red Wings. I'm talking about the puck-possession game, the skill game, talent, having no real meatheads on the roster, putting a premium on making plays, a lot of give-and-go's.
In so many ways I find them to be similar in how they go about their business.
Scotty Bowman has had such a big hand in both organizations. These are two amazing coaches, with Joel Quenneville being one of the best of all-time and Mike Babcock rising up the charts quickly.
The captains have a lot in common in that Jonathan Toews has won everything and so has Henrik Zetterberg. Detroit had a Norris Trophy-winning defenseman in Nicklas Lidstrom, and Chicago has one now in Duncan Keith.
I say all this as a way of flattery to the Red Wings because in so many ways the Blackhawks reinvented themselves based off the Red Wings' model.
And now to my breakdown:
Pluses: If I'm Joel Quenneville and I'm looking around the room, I'm saying I have no concerns about my star players because they are always star players.
Right now Marian Hossa is the hottest of the stars Chicago has. He's a first ballot Hall of Famer, period, end of story. Oh, and by the way, he played for Detroit too.
Hossa can play against anybody at any time. He can play any forward position. In any situation he gives the Blackhawks a strength.
Patrick Kane, just look at what he's doing this year in terms of scoring. A lot of people don't know that Kane's mom brought him to play hockey in Detroit because it was more competitive than it was in Buffalo, so he actually moved to Detroit prior to going to London in the Ontario Hockey League.
Toews is phenomenal. Keith and Brent Seabrook have been great, all-stars.
The one thing that Quenneville doesn't have to worry about is his stars coming to play. They are stars every night. They always come to play.
Minuses: Now if I'm Quenneville, I'm walking into general manager Stan Bowman's office and I'm asking him to get me another defenseman before the NHL Trade Deadline on March 2 at 3 p.m. ET.
I don't know about the cap space situation, but please give me another No. 5 or No. 6 defenseman. That's what I'm saying if I'm Quenneville talking to Bowman.
Simply put, the Blackhawks know what they're getting from Seabrook and Keith, and they know what they're getting from Niklas Hjalmarsson and Johnny Oduya. They know that Michal Rozsival has had a long, solid career and that he's going to give them the very best he has, but ultimately they could be one injury away on the back end and they don't have the Nick Leddy factor anymore. They don't have a guy like Leddy that they can use in a top-four spot in a pinch.
If Bowman comes back and says he can do it, but he's going to have to give up take some depth away up front to make it happen for cap reasons, I'm still all for it. If I'm Quenneville, I would understand and be OK with it because other than Brandon Saad and Teuvo Teravainen, we don't have a young forward that I can't part with.
Whether it's Ben Smith or Marcus Kruger or even Bryan Bickell, they are going to have to trade from a position of depth in order to shore up the position of weakness right now. They wouldn't be giving away a Filip Forsberg-type player to get it.
Pluses: If I'm Mike Babcock looking around the room I'm going to say to myself that I have complete confidence in the seamless meshing of our star players with our young players. It's a seamless connection they have. It's not like the veteran players are saying they have done this and that; instead, they are working with the young players.
Listen to Gustav Nyquist or Tomas Tatar or Danny DeKeyser or Petr Mrazek talk; they gush about the guys that are ahead of them like Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk and Niklas Kronwall and Jimmy Howard.
It's not just that, but they play really well together. That goes a long, long way. Babcock can mix and match them all, intertwine them through his lineup. There is nothing mutually exclusive about the two groups save for their experience.
The Red Wings are a much deeper team as a result of the veteran players mixing with the younger players, and they're only one call to Grand Rapids away to add to that depth. They have great depth organizationally.
So if I'm Babcock, I'm very pleased with what we've got in the room because of how seamless everyone is working together.
Minuses: If I'm Babcock I'm walking into general manager Ken Holland's office and saying that I need a player with a right-handed shot. It would be nice if the Red Wings had some more righties, preferably on the back end if they can get it.
The Red Wings have tons of depth up front, but they could use, and have needed and been looking for, a veteran right-shooting defenseman. They have Alexey Marchenko, but he's played just a handful of games. The rest of their defensemen all shoot left. Luke Glendening is their only regular player with a righty shot.
If they can make it a top-four defenseman who shoots right, that's even better. It can be a guy who will play five or six for them, but could move up the lineup if need be and potentially play on the power play, not that their power play needs any much help seeing that it's No. 1 in the NHL.
A name I'm thinking of is Marek Zidlicky from the New Jersey Devils. Jeff Petry from the Edmonton Oilers works as well. They both shoot right. Hey, Petry's dad pitched for the Detroit Tigers. And I really like Zidlicky. I think he'd fit well with what Detroit does. Zidlicky's skills are dirty.
The fact is the Red Wings need a guy who shoots right and can play significant minutes on their back end. That's what I'd want if I'm Babcock. I know that's what Babcock wants too.
THREE THINGS TO WATCH
1. Goalie matchup
Jimmy Howard and Corey Crawford have willed themselves into All-Stars. They are guys who have exceeded expectations in a dramatic way. They have even followed a similar path of guys that were never fully respected, questioned all the time, went through the AHL, and became NHL All-Stars.
2. Special teams
Let's see what happens on special teams because the Blackhawks can do a great job the penalty kill, but for some reason their power play is icy. I can't understand why it's icy, but they really struggle on the power play. Based on their power play, how do they struggle? The Red Wings don't struggle on the power play. Their power play is the best in the NHL. It's very good. So will the Blackhawks be able to shut down the Red Wings' power play and will they be able make their own power play work?
Look at the similarity in styles between the teams. Let the picture tell the stories. And watch for the stretch pass. I love it when these two teams play because this is not a grinder's game. Neither team dumbs their players down to table hockey. This should be fun.