1. Columbus Blue Jackets: 28 Points (13-7-2)
Blue Jackets captain Nick Foligno was absent in the 4-1 win against the Carolina Hurricanes, but returned on Monday. Foligno was at home with his daughter who was hospitalized on Friday with a virus. The family doesn’t have all of the answers at the moment, but with her condition stabilized, he felt comfortable enough to rejoin the team for Monday’s game against the Maple Leafs.
Heading into the game, the Blue Jackets had points in seven straight and a 6-2-2 record in their last 10 games. The seven-game point streak came to an end in this game, with the Jackets losing 4-2 despite opening the scoring in that game. Again, focus is on the Jackets defense. Zach Werenski is under the gun again for his two-way play, this time for being beaten by John Tavares for the tying goal. While he had the right position as the play started, he was beat by Tavares’s stick at the net for the goal. While he hasn’t had the best defensive stats, it’s weird to see so much negative focus on one of the best young players in the league.
2. Washington Capitals: 27 Points (12-7-3)
The Caps have been hit with the injury bug as of late. Early in the week the Capitals went to Montreal to play the Canadiens without T.J. Oshie and Evgeny Kuznetsov who are dealing with concussions and Brooks Orpik. Lars Eller was bumped up to the first line to play with Alex Ovechkin and Tom Wilson. Eller, who was constantly booed by his former fans in Montreal, ended up scoring the game winner in overtime. The top line also saw Ovechkin score two goals, and almost had a hat-trick before being absolutely robbed by Carey Price.
The good news for the Caps is that starting goalie Braden Holtby returned to the lineup on Wednesday against the Chicago Blackhawks. Pheonix Copley filled in great in his absence with a 3-1-0 record while Holtby was out. The Caps were happy to have Holtby back, who has been a huge part of the team’s success and brings more confidence back to the team. Holtby earned wins on Wednesday and Friday stopping 66 out of 69 shots faced.
3. New York Rangers: 26 Points (12-9-2)
Possibly inspired by the Pittsburgh Penguins, Jeff Gorton made a trade of his own, Ryan Spooner for Ryan Strome, a one for one, Ryan for Ryan trade. This was a similar situation to the Penguins where both players looked to need a shakeup after both have just a lone goal and an assist on the season. Strome is a year younger and has the higher ceiling of the two players. In 2014-2015 he scored 50 points and has back to back 30-point seasons. Spooner had 49 points in 2015-2016 but has seen a decline ever since. Both players have a $3.1 million cap hit through the 2019-2020 season.
Spooner, who was part of the return in the Rick Nash trade with the Boston Bruins, was now flipped for a younger player. Strome was part of the one-for-one trade with the Islanders for Jordan Eberle, which means now the Oilers effectively traded Eberle for Spooner. Both times the Oilers have traded the better player on a slump for a worse player, but this time with the Rangers benefitting.
4. Carolina Hurricanes: 25 Points (11-8-3)
Center Victor Rask has returned to the Carolina Hurricanes lineup. This is big news for the Canes who have struggled with center depth up the middle. Even at the very least it forces Rod Brind’Amour to make some sort of change to the lines. As of now Rask has been plugged into the fourth line with Warren Foegele and Phil Di Giuseppe.
This is in part due to the success that the third line of Andrei Svechnikov, Lucas Wallmark, and Jordan Martinook. In Friday’s game Martinook earned his first ever NHL hat trick. On Wednesday Svechnikov had eight shots on net and scored an empty net goal to seal the win. When Rask gets back up to speed he can move up to this line if they bog down and start to struggle later in the season.
The Hurricanes goaltending situation has gotten even more interesting this week. Curtis McElhinney started two straight games against the Maple Leafs and Florida Panthers and earned wins in both games. He stopped 64 out of the 67 shots he faced in these games. He is doing his best to force Don Waddell’s hand and prevent the Canes from waiving any of their three netminders.
5. New York Islanders: 24 Points (11-8-2)
This week the Isles dropped a 5-0 loss to the Rangers and a 6-2 loss to the Stars last week, before turning it around to win 4-3 in overtime against the Devils. The Islanders have been struggling this week mainly due to defense and goaltending. They have let up 15 goals in just three games. Over the past week both Thomas Greiss and Robin Lehner have been struggling with a .842 and .805 save percentage respectively.
The Isles are the team in the division that rely on their coach the most. Barry Trotz has only missed the playoffs twice as a head coach since 2009. He has gotten this team from eighth to fourth in the division. This is also with a team that is less skilled and an older team than they have had in the past couple of years. It is easy to see the effect that he has over his team.
6. Philadelphia Flyers: 22 Points (10-10-2)
The Flyers were able to right the ship on Friday with a 4-0 win against the New York Rangers after losing four straight. The Flyers have a -7 goal differential, which is the worst in the division, even after gaining four goals yesterday. The Flyers have given up 14 goals in five games since last week, the seventh most in that timespan. The good news for the Flyers is that they were at least able to stop the skid.
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7. New Jersey Devils: 21 Points (9-9-3)
Cory Schneider now has played five games and started four, with a record of 0-4-0 and a 4.08 goals against average. In his most recent start, Schneider let up two goals in the first minute of the game against the Hurricanes on his first two shots faced. Though Schneider has been injured for a significant portion of the season, no one expected that he would be heading into Thanksgiving without a win this season. Instead of being able to rely on Schneider to start or split starts like last season, the Devils are leaning on Keith Kinkaid who has already started 16 games this season.
The Devils may look to make an early season trade to alleviate their injury woes and help get the team out of a funk. This wouldn’t be out of the ordinary for Ray Shero who made a trade in November last season when he swapped Adam Henrique for Sami Vatanen after a 14-8-4 start. He could look to employ the same strategy with a struggling team. The team is now also without Nico Hischier, Brian Boyle, and Sami Vatanen, so Shero could look to gain skill to get them through this stretch.
8. Pittsburgh Penguins: 21 Points (8-8-5)
Even with the shakeup trade of last week, the Penguins continue to struggle. The Pens dropped a 6-4 loss to one of the worst teams in the league, Ottawa. They then dropped a game in overtime to the surging Buffalo Sabres on Monday. The Penguins took a 4-1 lead just five minutes into the second, helped by new acquisition Tanner Pearson scoring his first goal in 30 games. But, the Sabres stormed back with four straight goals, with an eventual game winner coming 45 seconds into overtime from Jack Eichel.
The Penguins continue their slide with a 2-6-2 record in their last 10 games and have lost 10 of their last 12 games. This skid caused them not only fall to the bottom of the Metro division, but also 14th in the East. At this pace they may need a few more shakeup trades.