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.
The Boston Bruins began the season 0-3-0, losing each game at home but have won their past two on the road scoring 11 goals. Now they return to TD Garden to host the Philadelphia Flyers (8 p.m. ET; NBCSN, TVA Sports).
Philadelphia has a new coach and is a team in transition with little depth both offensively and defensively.
Here's my breakdown of the game:
Pluses: The Flyers defeated the Chicago Blackhawks 3-0 last week in the Wednesday Night Rivalry game with Michal Neuvirth in goal. It was his second straight shutout. General manager Ron Hextall was very instrumental in signing Neuvirth and really wants to play him quite a bit. Steve Mason has been excellent so far as a Flyer, although he has battled a few injuries and started off slowly. Mason made 30 saves in a 2-1 home loss to the Dallas Stars on Tuesday.
Of course there's Claude Giroux and Jakob Voracek, who have been really good so far, as expected. True, there will be some transition time with new coach Dave Hakstol to get acclimated with the team and for the team to adjust to him, but the Flyers are 2-2-1 in their first five games.
Minuses: The Flyers' thin blue line continues to be a problem. They also really ride the three horseman, Giroux, Voracek and Wayne Simmonds, for offensive production; there's not a lot of depth up front behind those guys. The pressure is always on these guys to score, and that can make it tough.
The Flyers are making a transition to another new coach. Hakstol has an excellent resume and is very prepared and very detailed, but the team is learning on the fly. Hakstol is the Flyers' third coach since the start of the 2013-14 season.
Pluses: The Bruins have exploded offensively. Boston wants to be able to blend offense into its defensive game and as a result, the Bruins want to play a quicker game. It's a big thing they focused on in training camp. At least they started scoring goals, with 11 in their road wins against the Colorado Avalanche and Arizona Coyotes.
Boston also got a good performance from backup goalie Jonas Gustavsson, who made 22 saves in a 6-2 win at Colorado on Oct. 14. Tuukka Rask, who got his first win of the season at Arizona on Saturday, has looked good as well.
Another plus is that the kids are starting to heat up. David Pastrnak and Ryan Spooner, from whom the Bruins expect so much, have provided a spark. One Bruins player told me that he thought Spooner would be an All-Star down the line, and I can understand why. You watch him play. He is fearless with the puck, he makes plays, he is courageous. He is very skilled and very much wants to be able to make plays offensively.
Having Brad Marchand back in the lineup is a big help to them, not only in terms of production but his energy and agitation and making plays.
Things have certainly gone much better to start the season on the road trip for the Bruins.
Minuses: The Bruins have not been able to fully replace Nathan Horton or Jarome Iginla on the top line at right wing, and that's been a big problem.
The Bruins are also in transition and are trying to be able to defend as well as they have in the past while being more offensive. It hasn't worked out thus far; they've allowed 21 goals in five games.
They had the best fourth line in hockey with Daniel Paille, Gregory Campbell and Shawn Thornton. But the best fourth line now belongs to the New York Islanders with Cal Clutterbuck, Casey Czikas and Matt Martin.
THREE THINGS TO WATCH
1. Which team will play faster?
The Bruins want to make it their mission to play faster this year.
2. Which team will be more physical/undisciplined?
Each of these teams has physicality in its DNA. If you're a Bruin or a Flyer, you are physical.
3. The goalies
If Mason starts again, how will he look? Has Rask hit his stride?