1. Carolina Hurricanes: 29 Points (14-2-1)
The Carolina Hurricanes have to be happy with their current performance on the West Coast, earning five out of six possible points so far on a five-game point streak. They may be in store for a much tougher challenge than a road trip, though. Defenseman Ethan Bear has been sidelined with a positive COVID test. We have seen multiple teams in the division affected by COVID protocol, with the Pittsburgh Penguins and the New York Islanders just getting over their outbreaks.
Bear is likely not the last player to be affected on the team. Bear’s quarantine came after a practice where Rod Brind’Amour said he would be a game-time decision due to feeling sick, so he had potentially been around the team as late as Monday morning. Every team that has seen a positive test has had multiple players affected. The Canes' defensive depth can cover up for one lost player, but a breakout could lead to some tricky lineup decisions.
You may not be able to hear what he’s saying but just watching a powerful moment at the end of #Canes practice.— Abby Labar (@abbylabar_) November 23, 2021
Rod Brind’Amour has Seth Jarvis address the team following his 10th game. Officially a part of the NHL Club. @CanesOnBally #LetsGoCanes pic.twitter.com/93cmXgFAY6
With Bear out, the Canes shuffled Tony DeAngelo up to the top pairing and moved Brendan Smith into the third pairing with Ian Cole. These pairings seemed to work well in Bear’s absence with Brendan Smith and Ian Cole having the best Corsi numbers for a Canes pairing with both players over 75%. The top pairing produced the only goal for the Canes. Slavin and Cole both play a similar game, they are both smart defensive-minded players that allow for a player like DeAngelo to be aggressive offensively. Cole’s steady play also helps cover up any issues that Smith may have on the ice.
2. Washington Capitals: 27 Points (22-3-5)
The Washington Capitals have had some terrible injury luck. After missing 10 straight games, T.J. Oshie was able to play against the Sharks on Saturday but was injured and missed Sunday’s game against the Seattle Kraken. He left the Sharks game early and did not return. The injury is not related to the foot injury that kept him out for 10 games. The Caps were also without Conner Sheary, who was injured during warmups against the Kraken and the Caps were forced to dress 11 forwards and seven defensemen. They were able to get newly extended Nic Dowd back in the lineup. He was on the third line behind Evgeny Kuznetsov and Connor McMichael in the lineup.
Caps goaltender, Ilya Samsonov was named as the second star of the week with back-to-back shutout wins against the Los Angeles Kings and the San Jose Sharks. These wins bring Samsonov’s record up to 6-0-1 with a .924 save percentage. Vitek Vanecek has been the Caps starting goaltender, Samsonov is making that choice tougher by the game. Vanecek has a record of just 4-3-4 with a .906 save percentage, if Samsonov can stay healthy he should end up the starting goalie sooner rather than later.
3. New York Rangers: 25 Points (11-4-3)
The New York Rangers have an 11-4-3 record despite not having their best players playing their best hockey. Artemi Panarin and Mika Zibanejad have just four goals each in the first 18 games of the season. As a comparison, Seth Jarvis has four goals in his first 10 games this season. Chris Kreider has been their leading goal scorer with 13 total goals, but only five coming at even strength. The Rangers are not a good possession team, but it is still shocking to see both Panarin and Zibanejad with Corsi below 50%.
The Rangers will have $50million + 60 percent of their cap space tied up in five players next season. Is that too much? Let's look into what some current 'contenders' + past champions have dedicated to their core players #NYR https://t.co/QMWUmkoeMN pic.twitter.com/jbr5udfSZR— Shayna (@hayyyshayyy) November 23, 2021
Their low point production hasn’t completely sunk the Rangers when they are getting the league-best goaltending out of Igor Shesterkin but they haven’t been able to overcome their subpar backup goaltending. Alexandar Georgiev has had steadily declining numbers. His numbers last year were average with an 8-7-2 record and a .905 save percentage and a 2.71 GAA. This season in just six games played he has a .853 save percentage and a 4.08 GAA. Both of those numbers are going in the wrong direction.
4. Pittsburgh Penguins: 20 Points (8-6-4)
After a 2-6-2 record in a 10-game span, the Pittsburgh Penguins have been able to turn it around and won three straight games, including back-to-back shutouts against the Toronto Maple Leafs and the Montreal Canadiens. They have won these three games by a combined score of 11-1 on a Canadian road trip. While Sidney Crosby hasn’t made a huge impact on the scoresheet with just one goal and one assist in six games played this season. However, his impact in the lineup can still be felt.
Since Crosby returned on Nov. 14, Jake Guentzel has had five goals and an assist in five games. In the 11 games without Crosby, he had just three goals and six assists. This means that 40% of his points have come in just five games. The five goals in this span also accounts for over a third of the Penguins' total offense. When Crosby is on the ice the other players benefit directly or indirectly, the other players get more space, and Guentzel has been able to take advantage of the opportunity.
5. Columbus Blue Jackets: 20 Points (10-6-0)
The Columbus Blue Jackets won an 11-goal thriller on Monday night against the Buffalo Sabres. Columbus had great contributions from both Jack Roslovic and Max Domi, who had three-point nights and combined for three goals. Both players have struggled this season. Roslovic had zero goals and just four assists in 16 games heading into Monday. Domi has been effective when he has been able to play, but Monday was just his sixth game of the season.
Roslovic and Domi have been playing on the fourth line with Gregory Hofmann in the last two games. If they can continue to play with success, the Blue Jackets will have more flexibility with their lines. One of the biggest issues for the team going into the year was the forward depth. Their first line of Gustav Nyquist, Boone Jenner, and Oliver Bjorkstrand has combined for 12 even-strength goals. They have struggled with injuries and consistency farther down in the lineup. A second line producing regularly can go a long way for the Blue Jackets season's success.
6. Philadelphia Flyers: 19 Points (8-6-3)
This week the Flyers lost both Ryan Ellis and Kevin Hayes due to re-injuries. Ellis is expected to be out for four to six weeks, while Hayes is listed as week to week. This comes after just two games with a fully healthy team. They will now be without their top defenseman and their second center for a longer-term situation while also coming off of their second straight loss. The Flyers front office has been impatient in the past and now expect to be competing for a playoff position this season, so what are they to do?
Unleash the Brauner.— NBC Sports Philadelphia (@NBCSPhilly) November 23, 2021
Thrust into top-pair duties, Justin Braun surprisingly tops the Flyers' defense in a notable category. ⤵️ pic.twitter.com/C7UO1O4uel
With both players expected to be out weeks and not the full season, they can’t use the LTIR and Kucherov/Lightning situation, but it could always be a possibility if surgery is required for Hayes. The Flyers have already dealt with the loss of Ellis, they have proven to be able to handle that earlier in the season. However, the opening of a center position in the top nine could prove to be a great opportunity to see what prospect, Morgan Frost, would be able to do in a longer-term role. He has had mixed results in the NHL with 20 games played in the 2019-2020 season but only saw two games last season and has only seven points in 22 NHL games.
7. New Jersey Devils: 19 Points (8-5-3)
Jack Hughes has taken a significant step in returning from injury when he returned to the ice in practice Tuesday. His return added some energy to the practice as a whole even though he was only able to skate for 15 minutes. PK Subban commented on his return saying “I miss having him around. We need him, he’s a big part of him team. It was great to see him out there.” Hughes was expected to miss at least five weeks after having shoulder surgery on Oct. 29 meaning that he could return as soon as next week.
The biggest news out of New Jersey has not been about the on-ice play, it has been about their third uniforms. It is a largely black and white uniform with the word “Jersey” on the front which has led to a social media firestorm. To be fair the word “Jersey” is used colloquially to refer to the state in the region, so that's not the real issue with the uniform. It’s just plain and uninspiring that is essentially a copy of the Chicago Blackhawks black and white uniforms that they used a couple of years back.
8. New York Islanders: 12 Points (5-8-2)
The New York Islanders opened their new barn with two-straight losses to the Toronto Maple Leafs and the Calgary Flames over the weekend. The Isles have now lost their last six games and have a 2-6-0 record in the month of November. This has the Isles eight points out of a playoff position in the Eastern Conference. However, they have 60% of their remaining games at home and have games in hand over every other team in the conference.
The New York Islanders now have seven players on the NHL's COVID protocol list after Zdeno Chara was added on Tuesday. https://t.co/8tEwvqnPwi— Sportsnet (@Sportsnet) November 23, 2021
Their struggles aren’t just due to the road trip, the Isles have been hit by injuries and COVID. Adam Pelech, Andy Greene, and Anthony Beauvillier were added to COVID protocol. They joined Anders Lee, Josh Baily, and Ross Johnston. They are also without Ryan Pulock who is out four to six weeks with a lower-body injury. The loss of their entire top pairing has pushed Zdeno Chara and Noah Dobson to the top of the lineup.