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Metropolitan Division Weekly Roundup: New Jersey Devils Keep on Rolling

The Carolina Hurricanes keep a hold on second with seven of eight points on their latest West Coast road trip.

NHL: Carolina Hurricanes at Anaheim Ducks Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

1. New Jersey Devils: 43 Points (21-4-1)

It is still worth noting that after the New Jersey Devils lost their first two games of the season their fans fired up a “Fire Lindy” chant. Since then, the Devils have not lost back-to-back games. Their 3-0 win against the Chicago Blackhawks last night also saw them regain the top spot in the NHL. The Devils also set a record for the most wins all time in the month of November with 13, with a total record in the month of 13-1-0.

Jack Hughes may be flying under the radar because he plays across the Hudson River from Manhattan, but his six game point streak that includes six goals and four assists is some elite level stuff. The 21-year old center has 29 points in 25 games and its very hard to find a stretch of this season where he hasn’t scored in bunches. While Nico Hischier and Jesper Bratt get most of the conversation, Hughes is developing into a top centerman in the league despite playing on the second line.

2. Carolina Hurricanes: 34 Points (14-6-6)

The Carolina Hurricanes have points in their last six games and are doing a good job of limiting damage by earning loser points in the games they do end up on the wrong side of. Their six overtime losses are tied for the most in the league with the Toronto Maple Leafs. The issue recently has been the Canes playing down to their opponents. They lost in overtime last night to the worst team in the league.

Their last regulation loss came against the Arizona Coyotes, the 29th team in the league. Of the top 10 teams in the league the Canes have the worst goal differential at +4, seven less than any other team in the top 10. You have to go to the Los Angeles Kings at 11th place to see a team with a worse differential than the Canes at -2.

The Canes should be able to improve in this department, as they rank second in both expected goals for and expected goals for percentage. They are getting the scoring chances but they aren’t putting the puck in the net. They are seeing the same issues that have plagued them for years, ranking 27th in the league in even strength shooting percentage at 7.8%. The power play also ranks 28th at just 17.6% which doesn’t cover up for their even strength scoring struggles.

3. Pittsburgh Penguins: 32 Points (14-8-4)

The Peguins were met with tough news last week as it was announced that defenseman Kris Letang suffered a stroke last Monday. This is Letang’s second stroke in eight years, but the news seems to be good coming out of Letang’s camp with all signs point to it being less serious than his first stroke. However, there is still no timetable for his return as doctors continue to run tests. He has continued to skate and has light off-ice workouts in his recovery and the Penguins have not added him to LTIR which would allow them to exceed the cap by his $6.1 million cap hit.

After being a noted healthy scratch this season for two straight weeks, winger Kasperi Kapanen has roared back onto the scene. Since returning, in five games played he has recorded five points including four goals and a hat-trick against the struggling St. Louis Blues on Saturday. Kapanen certainly looks like he’s had the confidence boost that he needs to be back in the lineup on a regular basis. He is certainly a key player to continue to follow heading forward.

4. New York Islanders: 32 Points (16-11-0)

The New York Islanders have been fairly successful this season with a 16-11-0 record and have been showing a steady rate of improvement. They are tied in points for third place in the division with Pittsburgh (though are bumped to WC1 based off of point percentage) and maintain a +13 goal differential. Despite the high goal differential, their underlying numbers haven’t been great. Their 48.92% Corsi is ranked just 22nd in the league. Despite having a sub 50% Corsi, they have a 56.38 % goals for which is the sixth best in the league.

This is way higher than their 46.47% expected goals for. Digging into these numbers, this means that the Islanders are expected to have a negative goal differential at even strength, but are greatly outperforming those metrics. The Islanders defense has been bailed out by their goaltenders. Despite having let up 650 scoring chances, the fifth most in the league, they have the seventh fewest goals against with just 41.

5. New York Rangers: 29 Points (12-10-5)

The New York Rangers had lost five of six heading into Monday night’s game against the St. Louis Blues. The Blues served as a great “get right game” for the Rangers who were able to earn a 6-4 win. The last time the Rangers won two straight games was November 19-22 and they just posted a 6-6-2 record in November. There has been plenty of criticism over freshly named captain, Jacob Trouba’s recent play. Trouba has just seven points in 27 games played so far this season.

Over the last weekend he registered 19 PIMS which included fighting majors in back-to-back games. One of these fights came after Trouba hit Andreas Athanasiou high and Jonathan Toews came to his defense. Trouba has never had an issue being a physical presence on the ice, but the Rangers can’t afford to have a player making $8 million only showing up on the stat sheet for hits and PIMs.

6. Washington Capitals: 26 Points (11-12-4)

The Washington Capitals rank 27th in the league in scoring with just 2.74 goals per game which has been their biggest weakness. When the Caps acquired forward Anthony Mantha from the Detroit Red Wings they were expecting to get top six scoring while improving the veteran presence of the team. They paid a high price in Jakub Vrana who is a young forward who contributed to the Stanley Cup run but with less team control. Since joining the Caps Mantha has struggled to stay healthy and consistently produce.

Last season he played in just 37 games but recorded a respectable 23 points with nine goals and 14 assists. This season he has struggled to produce at a high level with six goals and six assists in 27 games played. He has just one goal and one assist in his last nine games, and they both came in the same game against the Vancouver Canucks. Washington needs him to ramp up and produce at a higher level if they have any hope of digging out of their early season hole that sees them five points out of a playoff position.

7. Philadelphia Flyers: 23 Points (9-12-5)

Since returning from a hand injury that kept him out for the back half of November, Travis Konecny has scored in three straight games. This three-game goal streak has brought his season total up to 10 goals in 20 games and makes him the highest goal scorer on the team. His goal scoring finally paid off for a win on Monday night against the Colorado Avalanche who also lost star center Nathan MacKinnon in the first period. The win against the Avs is just their second win in their last 14 games.

Since starting 5-2-1 the Flyers have a record of 4-10-4. Things aren’t going to get easier for the Flyers, with eight of their 10 remaining games in the month of December on the road. While the Flyers have been able to use their injury woes as a crutch to think they are better than they really are, those dreams could come crashing down by the end of the month and really make the organization look in the mirror and accept that they are long overdue for a rebuild.

8. Columbus Blue Jackets: 18 Points (8-14-2)

Columbus Blue Jackets forward Jakub Voracek’s NHL may very well be counting down its last days. Voracek suffered a concussion while playing in the NHL Global Series in Tampere Finland and has missed the last 13 games because of it. This season he had scored six points in 11 games played and was an impact player for Columbus. But he has a long list of head injuries and he told reporters a few days ago that the chances that he can play this season are “very slim.” According to his admission he said he suffered “seven or eight” concussions but that doesn’t include little ones or ones suffered at a younger age.

He still is not ruling out a return in the long run, but he will need to be cleared by doctors and the team if he were to return. The 33 year-old is still signed through the 2023-24 season. GM Jarmo Kekalainen is in no rush to see him return saying, “He has a young family. The most important thing is that he lives a normal life.” The other piece is that the Blue Jackets have experience with this in the past with Rick Nash who retired at the age or 34 after suffering lingering symptoms.