Happy New Year, THW faithful! Despite COVID-19 postponements still wreaking havoc on the NHL schedule, games are back to being played, and some teams are heating up while others are cooling off. We’re at the three-month mark here with the 12th edition of the Weekly Lost & Found, and now returning to our normal two teams are lost, and two are found system.
There will be some returners this time around. We’ll be looking at two teams from the Pacific Division and two from the Metropolitan Division. First one of 2022, let’s kick it off.
Lost: Ducks Raise Caution, Kraken Keep Drowning
Ducks Have Promising Numbers, but Some Signs Raise Skeptical Flags
Between the Christmas break and COVID-19 postponements, the Anaheim Ducks haven’t won a game since Dec. 15 against the Seattle Kraken. That’s four straight losses, two of which in overtime. Three of those losses came over the past week, and they only scored four goals over those three games.
They are still getting decent production out of their top players. Troy Terry leads the team as their only double-digit goal scorer with 18, which is 10 more than the next four players who are tied with eight. He’s also the leading scorer with 31 points in 34 games.
What helps drive the bus is special teams. They’re a top-five team in both power play and penalty kill percentage. While their 32.4 shots-against per game is top-10 in the NHL, their goaltending duo of John Gibson and Anthony Stolarz has been dependable.
So why are they being analyzed as a lost team, it seems like they’ve only hit a speed bump? Well, maybe that’s true. However, it could be a sign that the team may not be as ready for the next step as they appear.
Their record is 4-3-3 over their past 10 games. While they’re 11th in the NHL in points and second in their division, they’re 16th in points percentage. Add that to the fact that their entire division, minus-Seattle, is performing above expectations. They have five teams within six points of them. Of their 17 wins, 11 are regulation.
This isn’t to write off their success thus far and to say they’re going to drop off immensely. It’s to raise some caution that one of the league’s most exciting, up-and-coming teams may not be trending in the right direction. The New York Rangers showed some similarities last season before dropping off at the end.
The Ducks, as they stand, aren’t in as dark of a position as some other teams who’ve made this list, past, and present. This is a cautionary warning that a playoff spot may not be as certain as it appears entering the new year. This week they’ll play three games of a four-game homestand. Look for a better showing, despite being without their captain due to COVID protocol.
Despite Losses Piling Up, Kraken Should Stay Course
Oh, where to begin with the Kraken. They joined the Ducks in an appearance back in the fifth Weekly Lost & Found and find themself in the same slot this time around. They haven’t won since Dec. 14. They’re winless in their last five, including three games this past week, and 2-6-2 in their previous 10 games.
Jordan Eberle and Jaden Schwartz have found their games and are the leading scorers on this team that they’re supposed to be. They need a lot more out of a lot of players. Joonas Donskoi has been relatively well but has yet to score a goal. Marcus Johansson hasn’t brought the offensive production that was hoped, and their highest-scoring defenseman, Vince Dunn, has just 12 points.
To make matters worse, they lost their heart-and-soul as Brandon Tanev is out for the year with a torn ACL. Add that to what has seemed like a rotating cast of players out on COVID protocol, and the Kraken has been forced into playing what little organizational depth they have; just 34 contracts on the books.
It’s the same old song and dance with goaltending: it’s just not good enough. Between Philipp Grubauer and Chris Driedger, they allowed 12 of the 14 goals-against (two were empty netters) over the past three losses. The narrative that head coach Dave Hakstol is overplaying Grubauer has been prevalent for a while now, though some of it may not have been his fault, thanks to COVID.
Though, it gets to a point where you need your goalies to make a save. Two goalies with above a 3.30 goals-against average (GAA) and sub-.900 save percentage (SV%) just isn’t going to cut it.
The Kraken are last in the Pacific Division by 11 points, and it’s tough to say if they’ll make any substantial push away from that spot. If anything, they should look to give some of their prospects a better shot than just fourth-line minutes when they get the nod.
What they should not do is give away assets to try and win a few more games now. Their best bet is to play with what they have and let things run their course naturally. This week, their lone game is at home against Ottawa, and not to sound like a broken record, it’s one they need to win.
Found: Penguins Enjoying League-Best 8-Game Winning Streak
The Penguins have been getting a lot of attention on the Weekly Lost & Found of late, and it’s hard not to mention them at this point. Despite missing five games to COVID postponement, last playing on Dec. 19, they’re in the midst of an eight-game winning streak.
Evan Rodrigues is still having a fantastic season and just teamed up with Bryan Rust to combine for six Pens goals in their Jan. 2 victory over the San Jose Sharks in their first game post-break. They each had a hat trick, and Rust tacked on two assists. Rodrigues also won over half his faceoffs. Jake Guentzel is now riding a 14-game point streak.
What’s remarkable is that they’re winning with a rather mediocre power play, which is firing off at 15.9%, 27th in the NHL. They’re top-10 in the NHL in shots per game, and faceoff percentage, so they have their opportunities, they just haven’t been able to convert. The penalty kill is where they shine as they’re leading the league, killing 91% of power plays against.
Tristan Jarry is currently in COVID protocol, and while Casey DeSmith’s numbers aren’t as strong, he looks to be the starter until Jarry returns. DeSmith got the win over the Sharks but did allow five goals. Though, if the Pens can keep exploding offensively like this, they should be fine until Jarry is cleared.
They comfortably hold the top wild card spot in the Eastern Conference and have three games to bolster their lead this week. They’ll see the St. Louis Blues at home, then the Philadelphia Flyers and Dallas Stars on the road. The Blues may be a tougher test, especially without Jarry, but the Flyers and Stars are games they’ll want to capitalize on.
Hurricanes’ Consistency Key To Winning Ways
To be fair, they’ve probably deserved to make an appearance here sooner. When you’re as consistently good for as long as the Hurricanes have been, sometimes the nod goes to teams who’ve had a newer hot streak when in such a limited capacity as a two-team listing. Nonetheless, it’s time for the Hurricanes to make their Weekly Lost & Found landfall.
Where do we begin? This week, they played two games that added to their now four-game winning streak. The first, in their return from break, was shutting out the Montreal Canadiens, and the second saw them score seven unanswered goals to beat the Columbus Blue Jackets. Unfortunately for Jackets fans, that meltdown was in Columbus.
The team’s youth is leading them forward. At 24 years old, Sebastian Aho leads the way with 15 goals and 34 points in 28 games. Tony DeAngelo has returned to the NHL in a big way. The 25-year-old is leading their defenders with 22 points in 24 games. Even youngster Seth Jarvis, just 19 years old, has played well with 14 points in 22 games to begin his NHL career.
Goaltending, led by Frederik Andersen, and team defense is the biggest factor to their success. Their 66 goals against and 2.13 goals against per game are the best in the NHL. They also possess the second-best penalty kill in the NHL, which frustrates their opponents with an 89.5% penalty kill.
The Canes lead the NHL in wins, regulation wins, goal differential, and points percentage. They’ve been consistent all season long, and it’s paying off for them in a big way. They will play the Calgary Flames and Florida Panthers at the end of the week, and there isn’t much indication that they’ll be slowing down any time soon.
Being on this edition, these four teams look to be safe from showing up in the next one, check back every Monday to find out who’s Lost & Found in the NHL. Hopefully, we’ll be seeing a lot more hockey than not over this next week. Be sure to stick with The Hockey Writers for written, and podcast coverage of your favorite teams, prospects, and more as we hit the “dog days” of the season.
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.