Kevin Weekes will be offering his pluses and minuses for the 2019 NHL Thanksgiving Showdown between the New York Rangers and Boston Bruins in his Weekes on the Web blog. Weekes also will assist fans with three must-watch elements of the game.
Now that we've all enjoyed our Thanksgiving feast and time with our family and friends, it's time for some hockey.
The New York Rangers (12-9-2), who have won three straight, visit the Boston Bruins (17-3-5), winners of five in a row, at TD Garden on Friday (1 p.m. ET, NBC).
Here's my breakdown of the game:
Pluses: Artemi Panarin is one of the best players in the League. It's not situational. He can make something out of nothing. Panarin will make things happen regardless of who his linemates are. He had two assists in a 3-2 win against the Carolina Hurricanes on Wednesday.
The return of center Mika Zibanejad paid immediate dividends; he scored less than three minutes into the game on Wednesday. Zibanejad had missed the previous 13 games because of an upper-body injury and was missed in all phases of the game.
Video: CAR@NYR: Zibanejad scores PPG in 1st period
Young defensemen have emerged for the Rangers. Tony DeAngelo was always super-skilled but it's taken a little time for him to mature, which he Is doing now. He's really flourishing and improving in New York. So is Adam Fox, who had a goal and an assist Wednesday.
The Rangers have also been more physical. Brendan Lemieux has been a big part of that. He just has to make sure he makes smart plays. Lemieux, Jacob Trouba and their teammates have been working hard and paying the price in front of the net and along the boards.
Minuses: They've been struggling for consistency. Three straight wins represent their longest streak of the season. Prior to that, they lost three of four games. And they play in a really tough division, which makes it even harder. The Rangers improved in the offseason, but so did most of the rest of the Metropolitan Division.
They've allowed 3.43 goals per game, tied for fourth-worst in the League; that has taken away from the fact that their offense ranks in the top 10. Similarly on special teams, the penalty kill is tied for 25th (74.4 percent) while the power play ranks 10th (20.7 percent).
The Rangers are 4-5-0 away from Madison Square Garden. This game starts a stretch of seven of nine on the road, including a trip to California.
Pluses: In my opinion, they have the best goalie tandem in the League. Tuukka Rask is 12-2-2 with a 2.10 goals-against average and .931 save percentage. Jaroslav Halak has been money when Rask gets the night off; he's 5-1-3 with a 2.39 GAA and .930 save percentage. The two have combined for three shutouts; two by Rask, one by Halak.
The top line, what more can we say? David Pastrnak had his third hat trick of the season in an 8-1 win against the Montreal Canadiens on Tuesday and leads the League with 23 goals in 25 games; he has 39 points this season. Marchand has 43 points and Bergeron, who has missed some time, has 24 points in 21 games. With Marchand out, David Krejci has filled in on the top line and has played well.
Video: BOS@MTL: Pastrnak scores PPG in 1st period
Boston ranks second in the League in goals per game (3.72) and is second in goals against per game (2.32). The power play ranks second at 32.0 percent. Also, the Bruins have also yet to lose at home in regulation; they are 9-0-4 at TD Garden.
Minuses: There really isn't anything negative and hasn't been for most of the season. The one thing I will say is that not having Bergeron obviously hurts them. He has missed four of the past six games. Bergeron is one of the best two-way, 200-foot players in the game and brings so much to them offensively, defensively and in the face-off circle.
THREE THINGS TO WATCH
1. Who do the Rangers play against the Bruins' top line?
2. How will special teams fare for the Rangers, and can they stay disciplined?
3. Which team has the more physical game?