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 Montreal Canadiens against the Pittsburgh Penguins is must-see TV.
There's been no slowing down the Canadiens, who continue their amazing start. They are playing like the fastest team in the NHL. They are so fast right now, and are just getting that speed and that pace not only offensively but defensively as well. They are rushing into position of coverage to close out the opposing players or counter on them.
The Canadiens' stars have been stars but their depth players have been awesome. Dale Weise is tied with Max Pacioretty for the team lead in goals (eight), but everybody is scoring up and down the lineup for Montreal and everyone is making a difference.
The Penguins have been playing much better lately, winning eight of 10 games and having found their offensive and defensive games. This will be a good test for them.
The Canadiens (13-2-1) visit the Penguins (9-5-0) at Consol Energy Center on Wednesday (7:30 p.m. ET; NBCSN). Here's my breakdown of the game:
Pluses: The Canadiens have a lot of good things going right now. Their back end is deeper, their defense is strong. P.K. Subban and Andrei Markov as their top pair have been done well. Their point production is incredible; they each have a goal and 14 points. And it's all been done within the team concept.
And let's not forget the job goalie Mike Condon has done in Carey Price's absence. Condon is 6-0-1 with a .940 save percentage and first in goals-against average (1.57) heading into Tuesday.
Montreal has won the Stanley Cup 24 times and is hoping to make it 25, but the Eastern Conference is wide open right now.
Minuses: They still only have one game-breaker offensively up front in Pacioretty. On the back end, of course they have Subban, but up front, it's not like they have multiple weapons so they are doing it by committee.
The Canadiens really don't have many minuses right now and are pretty much clicking on all cylinders.
Pluses: The Penguins have found an ability to defend. Coming into the season, everybody thought it was going to be their Achilles' heel. Overall their 'D' has been solid because their forwards are committing. I talked to Sidney Crosby the other day and he talked about how they are defending as a team. When you are getting that buy-in from Crosby and Evgeni Malkin and Kris Letang who are superstars in the League and they are comfortable winning low scoring games on the road, that sets the tone for the rest of the group.
Phil Kessel is hitting his stride. He's not a player who is dependent on having to be set up. He can self-create and he is very unselfish. He's a better passer than people recognize. He has goals in back-to-back games and has four points in three games this month.
The Penguins' power play is starting to turn around. After scoring once in its first nine games, Pittsburgh has a power-play goal in each of its past five games. The Penguins are not forcing anything by being unselfish.
And Marc-Andre Fleury has been amazing. He has two shutouts, a 1.93 goals-against average and .933 save percentage and has been their best player.
Minuses: Their one challenge has been staying healthy. Some good news is that Pascal Dupuis practiced Monday and could return to the lineup after missing the past two games.
Sometimes their unselfishness hurts them. The Penguins have so many weapons, and some times that can hurt them.
THREE THINGS TO WATCH
1. Canadiens speed
2. Penguins' new ability to defend
3. Goalie matchup between Fleury and Condon