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Metropolitan Division Weekly Roundup: The Streaking Never Ends

The Philadelphia Flyers seven-game point streak moves them into third, so how far have the Canes fallen as a result?

Philadelphia Flyers v Carolina Hurricanes Photo by Gregg Forwerck/NHLI via Getty Images

1. Washington Capitals: 45 Points (20-4-5)

The cap-strapped Capitals traded forward Chandler Stephenson to the Vegas Golden Knights for a 2021 fifth-round draft pick, a move made necessary by the return of Carl Hagelin from IR. They chose to keep Travis Boyd at $800,000 over Stephenson’s $1,050,000. Stephenson had three goals and one assist before being traded, and of course scored a goal in his first appearance with the Golden Knights.

Though this is a depth move, Stephenson was well liked in the locker room and won the Stanley Cup with the team in 2018. He was a rock on the penalty kill and had a monster 66.06 Corsi with the Caps, but Boyd has a higher offensive upside. Related to this move, the Golden Knights sent former Hurricane Nic Roy down to the AHL and chose to keep Stephenson with the team. Roy and a fifth-round pick were sent to the Knights for Erik Haula. Now they shipped a fifth-round pick out to find a replacement for Roy on the ice.

2. New York Islanders: 38 Points (18-6-2)

Since their historically hot start, the Islanders have just a 2-3-1 record in their last five games, including a 4-2 loss to the struggling Montreal Canadiens who had lost their last eight games before the win on Tuesday night. The Isles may have been tired from the back-to-back but have generally performed great on no-nights rest. They have a 3-1-0 record in these games scoring an average of 2.5 goals, including one shutout against the Buffalo Sabres.

The Islanders got some other good news this week: Jordan Eberle broke his 14-game scoreless streak on Monday. The forward has only played 15 games this year, missing 11 with a lower body injury. He scored two goals against the Detroit Red Wings in a 4-1 win and now has seven points on the season. Eberle has been a big part of the Isles success the last two seasons with 59 and 37 points in his last two seasons including 25 and 19 goal performances. The Islanders need him to find his confidence again.

3. Philadelphia Flyers: 37 Points (16-7-5)

The Flyers are the most recent Metropolitan Division team to string some wins together. They currently have five wins in a row and points in seven straight, thanks in large part to a huge offensive explosion. They have hung six goals on two different teams in the last five days including against the hot Maple Leafs on Tuesday. Since the start of the point streak on 11/21 three different players have averaged a point per game: Claude Giroux, Travis Konecny, and Jakub Voracek. The run also accounts for a third of Voracek’s total points this season, after he struggled at the beginning of the season to produce consistently.

This offense is clicking in large part due to the addition of rookie Morgan Frost to the lineup. Though he hasn’t scored since his second game played on 11/21, he has been bumped up to center the first line. This has allowed the Flyers to use Sean Couturier on the second line and Kevin Hayes on the third, giving the Flyers more depth than expected down the middle this season. Despite playing time on the third line, Hayes has scored a team best four goals during the point streak and is just one point behind the top three with six points. His 40% shooting percentage will not last, but it sure must be fun for him right now.

4. Pittsburgh Penguins: 34 Points (15-9-4)

This week in Pittsburgh Penguins injury news: they lost three players in four days. Bryan Rust left Friday’s practice after a fall and is listed day-to-day with a lower-body injury. Defenseman Brian Dumoulin left in the first minute of the game Saturday against the Blues and needed ankle surgery and is set to miss eight weeks. To cap it off, winger Patric Hornqvist was injured again on Monday and is set to be out long-term with a lower-body injury. He previously missed seven games with an injury at the beginning of November.

The Penguins also had Zach Aston-Reese miss practice for an illness but isn’t likely to miss any games. Justin Schultz has started practicing with a non-contact jersey and is nearing a return after also being hurt in practice earlier this season. His return will be huge as another puck-moving defenseman that can step in for Dumoulin.

The Penguins also had to sign Stefan Noesen to an NHL contract on Tuesday to be eligible to be called up to join the team. Noesen signed an AHL contract this offseason but needed to sign a basic minimum two-way contract to be eligible to play for the Penguins. (Of course, he scored last night in his Penguins debut.)

5. Carolina Hurricanes: 33 Points (16-11-1)

The Hurricanes have continued their up and down play as of late with a 6-4-1 record in their last 10 games, bumping them down to fifth behind the surging Flyers and Penguins. They have also continued to look terrible against division teams with a 2-6-1 mark on the year. The schedule ahead isn’t looking any easier, with two home games against the San Jose Sharks and the Minnesota Wild (who are a combined 14-3-3 in their last 10 games) before then heading on a five game Western Canada/Colorado road trip.

One of the most odd and frustrating situations to sit back and watch is the continued use of 11 forwards and seven defensemen in games. The Canes are now 0-3-1 in games which they use this deployment and 16-8-0 in games with the standard lineup. What doesn’t make sense is that they sent down Clark Bishop after beating the Tampa Bay Lightning and did not recall him for the game against the first place Bruins. This causes both the forwards and defensemen to get out of rhythm. Defensemen are shuffling partners, and they play a game that is mainly feel and trust to know where your partner is at all times.

The only logical explanation for this is that the Canes would like to save cap space. But when the team needs to get on a roll and you disrupt the lineup going into a tough game, it doesn’t make much sense. The three teams above the Canes have had point streaks seven games or longer. If the Penguins ever get healthy that team is more than capable of rattling 10 off in a row. The Canes need to take an extra forward on the road with them for their week and a half road trip to ensure they don’t have any more of these 11/7 games.

6. New York Rangers: 29 Points (13-10-3)

The Rangers are 4-1-1 in their last six and 2-1-1 since Mika Zibanejad returned to the lineup. In the last six games, Zibanejad ranks fifth with four points despite playing two fewer games. The Rangers have been led by their top defensive pairing of Adam Fox and Jacob Trouba who have three goals and eight assists in this span. Overall, the Rangers are tied for eighth with 19 goals for in this span. They have been getting it done despite their lethal power play drying up with just three goals at just 11.1% success rate, down from 21.4% to start the season.

Marc Staal has returned to practice from injury earlier this week. The 32-year-old has served as an alternate captain to start the season, but hasn’t played since November 7th. The Rangers would like his leadership back, but he isn’t guaranteed a spot in the lineup night in and night out. The Rangers have a pair of 21-year-olds, Libor Hajek and Ryan Lindgren, who have a ton more upside than Staal who has struggled in his last few seasons.

7. Columbus Blue Jackets: 26 Points (11-12-4)

The Blue Jackets lost on Saturday to the Islanders, but sustained a bigger loss than the one they suffered on the scoreboard. They lost defenseman Zach Werenski to a shoulder injury for the next four months. The 22-year-old defenseman currently leads Columbus defensemen with six goals and 10 assists through 26 games this season. Werenski has been playing 20 minutes a game mainly on the second pairing, but his loss leaves a huge hole in their defensive pairings.

The team called up defesneman Andrew Peeke in response to losing Werenski. They will now be looking at a top pairing of Dean Kukan with Seth Jones and a second Pairing of Ryan Murray and David Savard. Savard and Murray have played significant time together this season, but only have a 45.35% corsi and 45.45% goals for. Both stats are worse than any combination Werenski has played on this season. With a struggling forward group, this could spell trouble heading into a four game road trip starting on Saturday.

8. New Jersey Devils: 22 Points (9-14-4)

The New Jersey Devils fired head coach John Hynes on Tuesday, a day after the team lost huge to the Buffalo Sabres 7-1 and gave up five goals in the first period. Hynes joined the team in 2015 and has a total record of 150-159-45 with one playoff appearance. This season the team has been horrible, with just 22 points and a 9-14-4 record under him, which was second last in the league. GM Ray Shero said “I think that (start) set a lot of things back. We lost games in every way imaginable it seems.”

The Devils have now moved on and named assistant Alain Nasreddine interim coach for the rest of the season. This is Nasreddine’s first head coaching gig but has been an assistant with the Devils since 2015 and was an assistant with the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins of the AHL for five years. He played 15 pro seasons and played 74 games in the NHL. The Devils didn’t fare too much better with their new bench boss, as they lost 4-3 to the Golden Knights on Tuesday. The Devils have said that they will reassess the coaching decision in the offseason.