After some good reception on the November edition of Metro Division By the Numbers, I’m happy to bring December’s edition. Once again, I caution the numbers are light. Stay with me now:
That’s the number of games the Washington Capitals have left without a point since Nov. 21. It’s during that time that the Capitals’ 9-1-1 record, outscoring opponents 34-22 has helped them surpass the Rangers for the top spot in the Metro division and a struggling Montreal for the top spot in the East. A
season ago, Barry Trotz was in his second year behind the bench, taking the Capitals to game seven of the second round, before bowing out in overtime at Madison Square Garden. While the Caps have traditionally garnered the San Jose-treatment of strong season coupled with unfulfilling playoffs, it might be time to take this team seriously. Backstopped by Braden Holtby and his 19-4-1 record with a .933 save percentage and led by Alex Ovechkin, they’ve offered little evidence to suggest a dip.
And while the defense was presumed weaker when Mike Green exited via free agency, the team has compensated quite well with a gradually-emerging core of John Carlson and Karl Alzner along with veteran presence in Brooks Orpik and Matt Niskanen. Their offseason acquisitions in T.J. Oshie and Justin Williams have acclimated well to their new team. For the time being, there’s lots of reasons to have the Caps as a favorite in the East to advance to the Stanley Cup finals.
That was the number of periods Columbus forward Ryan Johansen played in Tuesday night’s 5-1 loss to the Dallas Stars. After the game head coach John Tortorella told reporters: “That was coach’s decision. No explanation. I just didn’t play him.” This isn’t the first time we’ve seen some degree of souring on Johansen from his head coach. In Tortorella’s head coaching debut with the Jackets he reportedly benched Johansen citing lack of fitness.
The Blue Jackets have not had a good season, their 25 points (11-19-3) is the worst in the NHL and they’ve surrendered the second most goals in the league. Johansen has struggled as of late—he’s been held scoreless in the Jackets’ last eight games. In that time, Columbus has dropped seven, including four in regulation.
Tuesday, after their most recent loss, the team held a players-only meeting. There will surely be changes on the ice in the not too distant future for the underachieving Blue Jackets—whether Johansen is among them remains to be seen. His publicized contract negotiations in 2014 certainly didn’t earn him any favors from the organization and trade talks were rampant. Perhaps the rumor mill and Johansen will start up again.
That’s the number of mid-season coaching changes in Pittsburgh during Sidney Crosby’s tenure. The forward, who is off to the worst start in his professional hockey career, saw Mike Johnston fired on Saturday. Johnston’s first NHL coaching gig saw a 58-37-15 record. The Penguins were finding ways to win games but remained a vastly underperforming team. Prior to his dismissal, general manager Jim Rutherford spoke candidly about the playing time of forward Daniel Sprong. Sprong, the Pen’s second round (46th overall) draft pick at June’s entry draft had surprisingly made the team as an 18-year-old.
Sprong was a healthy scratch in six of Johnston’s final ten games behind the Pittsburgh bench. The days leading up to Johnston’s exit have been some of the most contentious in recent memory, but for Crosby, who has been with the team since 2005-06, it’s the third mid-season coaching change he’s experienced. Eddie Olczyk was dismissed from his duties 31 games in after the Pens opened the season 8-17-6. He was replaced by Michel Therrien, who coached parts of four seasons and guided Pittsburgh to the 2008 Stanley Cup finals before. He was fired 57 games into the 2008-09 season and replaced by Dan Bylsma, who led Pittsburgh to a Stanley Cup championship. So history tells us that Pittsburgh has a pretty good track record with the mid-season bench swap. But history will also reveal a 113-point Evgeni Malkin and a 103-point Crosby. Both are on pace to finish with under 80 points this season.
That was the number of games in a row in which the Carolina Hurricanes have scored five goals. That was broken on Tuesday, when the Hurricanes fell 4-3 in overtime to the Philadelphia Flyers. But prior to that, the ‘Canes went an impressive 3-1-0 in a stretch of four games, which included three on the road. Most impressive though was the volume of scoring. In the past 25 games, they had scored four or more goals just three times. Carolina remains among the bottom-tier of scoring teams in the NHL, which begs the following: What’s gotten into the ‘Canes as of late? For starters: Jeff Skinner has been staying healthy, which is a good thing.
He’s tallied a hat trick in two of the last three games and has 10 points in his last six games. If this is the beginning of another gear for him, Hurricane fans will have a lot to be excited about for the 23-year-old. Another noteworthy player has been Justin Faulk, who has continued his torrid start to the season. He leads all defensemen with 12 goals in 30 games and is just three away from matching his career-best 15, scored a season ago. Also 23, Faulk is on his way to shattering his career-high in goals (15) and points (49) this season. If the heightened goal scoring continues perhaps the fans will start to come in greater numbers because this team is actually playing some entertaining and very watchable hockey.
That’s the number of points Islander captain John Tavares has in his last 12 games. While those numbers should be reason for some kind of concern, the team has managed to go 8-2-2, using a balanced approach to the scoring to help stay among the upper-esculent teams in the Metro division, maintaining a five-point lead over New Jersey, who they handed a 4-0 loss to on Sunday at home.
They’re just one point out of the second spot in the division, occupied by the Rangers and while their 5-1 defeat versus the Panthers saw Jaroslav Halak allow four goals for the first time since Oct. 27, the Islanders are playing some pretty acceptable hockey. A road trip at Colorado, then Arizona should be welcomed for the Isles who defeated both clubs in Brooklyn by 5-3 and 5-2 scores, respectively. There’s little doubt Tavares will get it going, but for now it doesn’t really matter who is getting the goals—but just how many.
That’s the number of goals 22-year-old defenseman, Shayne Gostisbehere has through 15 games this season. Gostisbehere, who was called up from the Phantoms of the AHL on Nov. 14 following a Mark Streit injury scored his third overtime winner of the season Tuesday night versus the Hurricanes. At just 5’11, 170 lbs. he’s showing why he can survive the rigors of playing defense at the NHL-level. He’s got lots of offense, skating ability and pure skill. This bodes well for the Flyers’ future.
The current assembly on the backend has done little to inspire much hope outside of Gostisbehere and it will be interesting to see how the team maneuvers the roster when Streit is ready to return. At this point, it appears the native of Florida and third round pick of the Flyers at the 2012 draft, has earned a regular spot on the roster. He’s already tallied 33 shots on goal and this month he’s averaging over 17 minutes of ice time a game. For all that is wrong with the aging, often deteriorating Flyers blueline, this kid might be a stud in the making.
That’s a number the New York Rangers would like to forget following a dramatic 7-5 loss to the Edmonton Oilers on Friday. Lundqvist and the Rangers avenged their worst loss of the season with a 4-2 win at home Tuesday night. Still, it might take time for New York to really get over that 7-5 defeat that saw Lundqvist get yanked after allowing five goals on 33 shots. A comeback to even the score at five late in the third period was erased within seconds as the Oilers tallied the go-ahead goal, eventually winning by two. Even if the game is long gone, it wasn’t pretty and there is some growing concern surrounding the Rangers. Since winning nine straight from Oct. 25 to Nov. 15, the Rangers have won just five of their last 14 games.
The team has been able to find offense out of a cast of characters including Mats Zuccarello, who has leads the team in goals (14), and points (27). Nash has rebounded partially from a slow start of three points in 10 games. On Tuesday, he tallied a goal and assist en route to the team’s victory. With an 18-9-4 record, there’s not a ton of reason for concern yet surrounding the Blueshirts, but with so many pieces mortgaged away in past deals (St. Louis/Yandle), it might be hard for the current core to change significantly, which is a change from the norm recently of trade deadline-palooza.
That’s the number of players throughout the entire league with more points than Mike Cammalleri. Among them: Patrick Kane, Tyler Seguin, Jamie Benn, Vladimir Tarasenko. It seems odd to see a New Jersey Devil among that ilk of talent—more so, a 33-year-old Cammalleri, who missed parts of last season due to injury. Nonetheless, his 31 points, including an assist in Tuesday’s 2-0 win at Buffalo is among the top of the league.
He, alongside Lee Stempniak and Adam Henrique have accounted for 32 of the Devils’ 76 goals on the season. Cammalleri, who signed a five-year, $25 million dollar contract with the Devils in the 2014 offseason has proved to be a pivotal part to the offense. He’s currently on pace to score 82 points, which would match a career-high from 2008-09 with Calgary. If the Devils are to continue their surprising 2015-16 campaign, they’ll need somewhere around 70 points from Cammalleri when it’s all said and done.
Neal McHale began contributing to The Hockey Writers in 2015, covering NHL hockey and the New Jersey Devils. He also writes for Inside Hockey. Previously, he’s served as a correspondent to the Big East Conference and a staff writer for The Setonian. He graduated from Seton Hall University in 2015 with a Bachelor of Arts in Journalism and Public Relations.