Welcome to the final week of the 2021-22 NHL season. The Eastern Conference playoff picture is set, aside from seeding, but there is still a battle raging in the Western Conference. Both teams on this week’s Weekly Lost & Found are going to be from the latter, one from the Central Division and one from the Pacific. One team has clinched the conference title, but has been struggling of late, while the other is fighting for their divisional position.
Before we dive into those two teams, we have another round of honorable mentions for this week. The Montreal Canadiens are “Lost” as they have now lost nine straight games. On a more positive note, the Florida Panthers “Found” a way to win 13 in a row prior to a loss on April 24. Now, onto the show.
Lost: Colorado Avalanche Ride Losing Streak as Regular Season Winds Down
After a 10-0-1 run over their last 11 games, the Colorado Avalanche have dropped their past four. While they did just come off that streak of 11 games without a regulation loss, losing to the lowest team in the Eastern Conference’s playoff table and multiple non-playoff teams was concerning.
Things have gone topsy-turvy for the Avalanche as of late. They’ve been a top team in goals-for per game, goals-against per game and power-play conversion rate this season; though their penalty kill hasn’t been the best. Over this four-game losing streak, they’ve scored just eight goals while allowing 16, and their power play hasn’t scored in 13 attempts. The one bright side is, that they have only allowed one power-play goal in seven opportunities against. This recent stretch has flipped their season’s script.
Related: 3 Takeaways From Avalanche’s 6-3 Loss To Oilers
Starting goaltender Darcy Kuemper has struggled and lost the three games he has played. He allowed 12 goals with an .876 save percentage (SV%). While he’s played well during the regular season, he’s going cold at the wrong time. Pavel Francouz played a game over the streak and lost, allowing three goals with an .897 SV% against the Seattle Kraken.
The team’s leading scorer, 25-year-old Mikko Rantanen, has been sidelined for several games with a non-COVID related illness. He only played in one game of the skid and didn’t tally a point. He leads the team with 36 goals and 91 points in 73 games. Cale Makar continued his Norris Trophy-caliber season and tallied three points, as did Nathan MacKinnon, over the four games. Their play this season has been elite; Makar has scored 27 goals and 85 points in 75 games, while MacKinnon has sent 32 goals home and totaled 87 points in 63 games.
This four-game skid is the Avalanche’s longest losing streak of the season. Despite this, there are still reasons to be confident and optimistic about the team ahead of the postseason. Especially when Rantanen returns, their offense should heat back up.
They should look to get back on track ahead of the playoffs starting with their final matchups of the season. They’ll play three teams, two of which have clinched a playoff berth and one that is still hungry for one. Let’s see if they can rise to the task.
Found: Los Angeles Kings’ Winning Streak Bolsters Divisional Position
The Los Angeles Kings are holding onto third place in the Pacific Division, with the Vegas Golden Knights and Vancouver Canucks trailing them. With just two games left in the regular season, it looks like they’re going to be the third team from the division to clinch a berth, and be in a fight for seeding with the Edmonton Oilers. They’ve won five of their last six games, albeit among non-playoff teams, as their four-game winning streak really helped cement their position.
It’s interesting to look at this team over those past six games. They’ve scored 20 goals and allowed 16, that’s 3.33 goals-for per game (GF/GP) and 2.67 goals-against per game, respectively. The team has fired 35 shots-for per game (SF/GP) and allowed just 24 shots-against per game (SA/GP) over that same span. That’s right on par with their season averages, if not a bit better, and a major factor for their success. This is further evident in Jonathan Quick’s play over that timeframe.
Quick went 5-0-0 in six appearances, and has played extremely well aside from being pulled in a 9-3 loss to the Avalanche. He’s allowed 10 goals in those six games with a .916 SV%, and allowed just one goal in three-straight games after being pulled. He currently sits with 22 wins in 45 games, a 2.58 GAA and .909 SV%; all of which are his best numbers since the 2017-18 season.
Adrian Kempe still leads the way with 34 goals in 77 games this season. That’s nine more since the last time the Kings were in the Weekly Lost & Found, and is the team’s leading goal-scorer. Captain Anze Kopitar paces the team with 47 assists and 66 points in 80 games. Over their respective past six games, they each have five points. Kempe has two goals and five points, while Kopitar has four assists and five points.
It’ll be interesting to see how this team continues forward without Drew Doughty. The 32-year-old second-overall pick from 2008 has 31 points in 39 games, but is out for the season following wrist surgery.
They will face two divisional opponents in their final two games, and it’s a road back-to-back. The Kraken are far from the playoff picture and are a should-win game. Then they’ll take on a Canucks team still fighting for a playoff berth via the wild card. Technically, if the Golden Knights win-out their final four games and the Kings lose out, they could snag that last divisional spot. Needless to say, both games are important ones.
There is cause for concern considering the team’s wins on this recent stretch were all against non-playoff teams, and it came following a three-game skid against playoff teams. However, to play strong down the stretch on a team that was arguably overachieving all year is still a decent sign.
Related: Kings’ Quick Getting Hot at the Perfect Time
The Avalanche can take it easy with their final games, but they definitely shouldn’t completely phone it in. It’s never good to go into the playoffs completely cold, as their offense currently is. The Kings should keep things going and see if this momentum, and their hot goaltender, could make some noise in the first round of the playoffs.
It’s been a fun season covering the NHL with this column. Thank you to all who’ve read throughout the season. Next up: the playoffs. For continued coverage on those teams, the rapidly approaching NHL Entry Draft and more, stick with The Hockey Writers.