We’ve flown around the NHL through seven editions of the Weekly Lost & Found, and the eighth edition has us landing in the east coast, and mostly in the Metropolitan Division. While it would be easy to pick on the New York Islanders, they’re still reeling from COVID issues, culminating in a winless start to UBS Arena’s history.
Two teams we’ll be discussing have made some significant offseason additions, yet are lost in the wild and struggling to stay afloat. Meanwhile, two youth movements are showing promising steps toward the reestablishment of perennial contention for their respective teams. It’s a bit chilly on the east coast these days, so bundle up. Time to get going.
Lost: Philadelphia Flyers, New Jersey Devils Offseason Additions Haven’t Paid Off
Devils’ Poor Week Indicative of Larger Problem
The New Jersey Devils have made the playoffs just once since losing the 2011-12 Stanley Cup. In the years since, they’ve had high draft picks, some that look to be ready to take the next step. They made a flurry of moves this past offseason, which included bringing in Ryan Graves, Dougie Hamilton and Tomas Tatar. Yet, their season hasn’t begun how they’d have liked.
They are 9-9-4, which has them looking at a climb for a wild card spot. This past week, they went 1-3 and are now on a three-game losing streak. Over those four games, they gave up 20 goals and have a minus-7 goal differential. In each loss, they gave up at least five goals, including eight to the Winnipeg Jets.
On paper, the team looks better than they’re performing. However, goaltending is where a major problem lies. Mackenzie Blackwood is still young but has performed relatively well considering how his team in front of him has underperformed the last few years, and he’s been splitting time with veteran Jonathan Bernier.
Blackwood has appeared in 11 games to Bernier’s 10, and the pair has a combined 3.14 goals-against average (GAA) and .904 save percentage (SV%). The duo doesn’t see much goal support either. The highest scoring Devil has just nine goals, and the team is 17th in the NHL, averaging 2.91 goals per game.
This Devils team has the potential to be dangerous, but it appears the danger may be a bit further away than anticipated. Getting Jack Hughes back in the lineup will be a good boost, but they need goal-scoring to try and offset their goaltending struggles.
They’re looking at four games in their next six days. They really need to come out with at least two wins, especially against the Ottawa Senators and reeling Islanders.
Flyers’ Skid Could Dig an Insurmountable Hole
During the offseason, the Flyers brought in several new players, such as Keith Yandle, Ryan Ellis and Cam Atkinson, in hopes of returning to the playoffs. However, the new faces haven’t shown immediate results, as the team is 8-10-4 this season, and winless in their last eight games. They went 0-3 this past week, with one game postponed.
They have been moving towards rebooting their aging core by infusing some young and exciting talent into the lineup. However, both veterans and younger players have been struggling to score. It was on full display this past week.
They scored a combined four goals while giving up 16. Cam Atkinson leads the team with eight goals, and their 51 goals rank 30th in the NHL. Their 13.4 power-play percentage comes on nine goals and is 30th in the league. They’re leaving their goaltenders high and dry.
Carter Hart owns a 2.95 GAA and .911 SV% in 15 games, and Martin Jones has a 2.94 GAA and .917 SV% in eight games. The goals-against average is on the higher end, as is the save percentage, due to the Flyers giving up the fourth-most shots in the NHL.
They have had some injury issues, as Ryan Ellis and Kevin Hayes have suited up for just four games each. However, Flyers brass looks to be out of patience as they’ve fired head coach Alain Vigneault, who was in his third season behind their bench.
The Flyers are looking at four games this week, making for five in seven days. They’re really going to need to dig deep because they have a hole to climb out of that could get a lot deeper, a lot faster.
Found: New York Rangers, Detroit Red Wings’ Youth Movements Operating Ahead of Schedule
Rangers Getting Contributions From Throughout Lineup
The Rangers made their first Weekly Lost & Found appearance just six games into the season after starting the year 4-1-1. Consistency is key for winning teams, and they’ve found it. They’re 16-4-3 through 23 games and have the second-highest points percentage in the NHL. They sit just a point behind the Washington Capitals for the Metropolitan Division lead, with two games in hand.
They’re riding a six-game winning streak, which includes winning three of four games this week, with the fourth being postponed. They scored eight and gave up three goals in those games, and have one shutout. The start of goaltender Igor Shesterkin’s first 82-game NHL season has him continuing to be everything as advertised.
He has a 13-3-2 record and has started 17-of-18 games played. His 2.05 GAA is seventh and .937 SV% is fourth in the NHL among goalies with at least five starts. He was injured in their victory against the San Jose Sharks, which means that Alexander Georgiev will assume starting duties despite having struggled so far this season.
Offensively, the notoriously streaky Chris Kreider is tied for fourth in the NHL with 16 goals, reigning Norris Trophy winner Adam Fox is second in the NHL in defensive scoring with 25 points, and star Artemi Panarin leads the team with 26 points.
The Rangers have found ways to win close games; a one-goal win over the Florida Panthers and the Sharks for example. Even when they lose, it’s been competitive, like the 2-1 loss to the Toronto Maple Leafs. They’ve got four games this coming week, and their match with the Colorado Avalanche will be an interesting test.
Red Wings Rookies Hot Starts Show the Future Burns Bright
The Red Wings haven’t seen playoff hockey in five seasons, but that could all change by the time April hits. They currently sit in the first wild card spot in the Eastern Conference with a 13-9-3 record. They won all three games this past week, including a win in overtime and a shootout, and are now on a five-game winning streak.
While the Wings’ goaltending has held up despite not having the prettiest numbers, it’s their youngsters that have been making waves. Moritz Seider is one of them and leads all Red Wings and NHL rookie defenders in scoring, while sitting fourth on overall team scoring with three goals and 17 points in 25 games. Two of his three goals have been overtime game-winning goals.
“He became the first rookie defenseman in Wings’ history, and the fifth rookie blueliner in the NHL, to net multiple overtime goals in a single season”From “Rookie Moritz Seider, Red Wings developing swagger as wins pile up” by Ted Kulfan, The Detroit News, 12/5/21.
Seider is fourth among all NHL rookies for scoring, and the rookie leader is teammate Lucas Raymond. Raymond has 10 goals and 22 points in 25 games and is taking the league by storm. Captain Dylan Larkin and Tyler Bertuzzi round out a new-look core that many may not have expected to be making a push towards contention this early…but here they are.
The Wings head west and will take on three teams in the thick of the Central Division playoff hunt. Two games will be on the road, where they’ve struggled to a 4-7-1 record. They have a slight cushion in the Atlantic Division but give up four games to the next-placed Boston Bruins.
They’ll want to keep this run going and keep adding to the distance between them, as they won’t want it to come back to bite them down the line. Either way, this early success is a good sign for their young players and may quicken their development.
Sean Raggio lives for hockey. He will be covering the Seattle Kraken, and is a co-host of “What’s Kraken” for THW. Sean gained experience in writing for television, print and radio while studying journalism at Quinnipiac University and being an active member in the student media organizations there. If you have any questions or comments, feel free to reach out on Twitter! A link can be found at the bottom of his articles, such as this one.