Weekly Lost & Found: Racism, Jets, Islanders & Penguins

The 15th Weekly Lost & Found edition will be a bit different. We’ll be discussing three teams, one lost and two found, but the first topic for the “lost” section is bigger than hockey. No preamble this time, we’re just going to get right to it.

Lost: Racial Incidents in the Minors, Winnipeg Jets Struggle on Road

Two Players in the Minors Face Supplemental Discipline for Racist Gestures

When the final buzzer goes and the puck stops flying around the ice, both the winning and losing team tap their goalie and head off to the dressing rooms. Some guys go for press conferences, others for a nice shower. Generally, the road team heads to their next destination, and the home team back to their families. Not as your favorite hockey players, but as people.

They’re ordinary people, just like the rest of us. Maybe they’d have a chicken parm for dinner, maybe you’d have a steak. Glass of wine? Sure, just normal people. They deserve to be treated with the same respect you’d give anyone, it doesn’t change because of the jersey they wear. 

Over the past month, there have been two instances of racial gestures seen in the minor leagues. The first came on Jan. 12 in the American Hockey League (AHL), when San Jose Barracuda forward Krystof Hrabik made a gesture to Tucson Roadrunners forward Bokondji Imama. Hrabik has been suspended 30 games, and has since issued a public apology.

A second incident came on Jan. 22 in the ECHL, where Jacksonville Icemen defenseman Jacob Panetta made a gesture to South Carolina Stingrays defenseman Jordan Subban. Panetta tweeted out a two-part video statement on Twitter. Here’s part one, here’s part two.

Subban, a former Vancouver Canucks fourth-round draft pick, is one of New Jersey Devils defenseman P.K. Subban’s brothers, and P.K. was vocal on Twitter regarding the incident. Panetta has been suspended indefinitely pending a hearing.

The start of P.K. Subban’s thread regarding the incident 

This is completely unacceptable. It’s disheartening to see that it’s still happening, but it is. Hockey should be for everyone; no child should question whether or not they want to play this great game because of incidents like this. This is why there’s the Hockey Diversity Alliance, and they’ll continue to fight until we see a tangible change. 

Jets Inconsistency, Poor Road Performances Build Hill To Climb

Now we shift the focus to the Jets. They’ve been rather mediocre this season and sit at 17-14-7, sixth in the Central Division and three points back from the second wild card spot in the west. They were winless in four games this past week, despite grabbing two points courtesy of an overtime and shootout loss.

It looks like things are starting to click for Pierre-Luc Dubois following his trade from Columbus to Winnipeg. Kyle Connor is still dependable as ever. He leads the team in goals, assists and points with 22, 19 and 41, respectively.

Winnipeg Jets Celebrate Kyle Connor, Pierre-Luc Dubois, Brenden Dillon
Kyle Connor, Pierre-Luc Dubois, and Brenden Dillon celebrate a goal for the Winnipeg Jets (Photo by Darcy Finley/NHLI via Getty Images)

While their power play sits at 20.8% and roughly middle-of-the-pack, their penalty kill has been dismal and is near the NHL’s basement at 73.2%. Prior to this week, they’ve spent the whole month on the road, which hasn’t been kind to them. They are 7-8-6 on the road this season. This past week saw them score nine goals while allowing 14. For context, they played some of the top and hottest teams in the league, but despite two one-goal losses and a shootout loss, it still raises some concern. 

Related: Jets’ Revised Schedule Makes February a Crucial Month

They saw Paul Maurice resign in mid-December, but haven’t seen much drastic improvement. They have three games this week, starting with Florida and closing it out with St. Louis; both tough matchups, with the game against the Blues being an important divisional one. They’ll take on a Vancouver team in-between that’s played better since their coaching change. 

They could very well make a push, as there is still a ton of hockey left to play. Just keep an eye on them, as the top four teams in the Central are quite formidable, and the Pacific Division has proven to be tougher than anticipated ahead of the season.

Found: New York Islanders Starting To Win Games, Pittsburgh Penguins Keep Rolling

Islanders Winning Games, Have Many In-Hand

Before we start, we’d be remiss if we didn’t pass along our condolences to the friends, teammates, and most importantly family of Islanders legend Clark Gillies, who passed away on Jan. 21. He was a key component to the Isles’ dynasty of the early 1980s, and embodied what it meant to be an Islander. He was 67 years old.

Clark Gillies
MONTREAL, CANADA – CIRCA 1983: Clark Gillies #9 of the New York Islanders sets up a screen in front of the net during a game against the Montreal Canadiens Circa 1983 at the Montreal Forum in Montreal, Quebec, Canada. (Photo by Denis Brodeur/NHLI via Getty Images)

It’s been a tough-go this season for the Islanders. They’ve seen repeated personnel losses due to COVID-19 protocol, and found themselves on the sixth Weekly Lost & Found edition due to a six-game losing streak-turned 11-game winless streak. Luckily for themselves and their fans, they’ve managed to turn things around of late. 

They’re 7-2-1 in their past 10 games and won three-of-four games this past week. Their wins, including one in a shootout, came against the struggling Philadelphia Flyers and bottom-feeding Arizona Coyotes. The Toronto Maple Leafs handed them their loss. 

They scored 12 goals and allowed seven on the week, which is a good sign considering their 2.32 goals-for per game is one of the lowest in the league. While yes, the Flyers and Yotes struggle, the puck still has to find the pack of the net. The Isles are still one of the stronger defensive teams in the league, and their 82.6% penalty kill reflects that.

Despite the general lack of scoring, their goaltending tandem of Ilya Sorokin and Semyon Varlamov has been solid. Sorokin leads the way, having played 23 games with four shutouts, a 2.26 goals-against average (GAA) and .928 save percentage (SV%). The seasoned-veteran Varlamov has seen 12 games and holds a 2.65 GAA .914 SV%. 

Ilya Sorokin New York Islanders
Ilya Sorokin, New York Islanders (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

As has been in seasons past, the team’s defense and goaltending is what will take them far. Despite sitting in seventh in the Metropolitan Division, their 34 games are the least amount played by any team in the NHL. It’ll be a struggle to make the playoffs, but if they can’t make it, they’ll for sure be a team to play spoiler. 

Penguins Stay Hot, Sidney Crosby Leads the Way

The Penguins keep showing up here because they’re just playing that well. They started out the season 10-8-5, and since Dec. 4 have gone 16-2-0. Over the past week, they won all four games, one in a shootout, and are riding a five-game winning streak. 

Captain Sidney Crosby has been playing solidly, as we’re so accustomed to seeing, and has scored five goals, including a hat trick, and seven points this week. Evgeni Malkin, recently making his season debut, has six points in six games. Defensively, their penalty kill has been stellar at 89.1%.

Sidney Crosby Pittsburgh Penguins
Sidney Crosby, Pittsburgh Penguins (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Tristan Jarry is still playing the best professional hockey of his career, while Case DeSmith’s numbers still aren’t great. Interestingly, 29-year-old Louis Domingue, who’s on his sixth NHL team and regularly bounces between the NHL and AHL, played a game and allowed a lone goal with 40 saves. 

The Pens play four games this upcoming week, and face two bottom-dwelling teams in the Coyotes and Seattle Kraken. Then, they’ll face a Detroit Red Wings team that’s gone 3-4-3 in their past 10 games. Their toughest test should come against the Los Angeles Kings who’ve been surprisingly solid this season in the Pacific. 

Crosby’s squad is 12-5-2 on home ice this season. Between that and most of their opponents this week, they look to be the favorites. If they keep their current trajectory, they have a shot at the President’s Trophy. That’s a long way from what we, the THW Staff, predicted ahead of this season, but hey, that’s why they’re predictions. If that core is really running out of time, then they’re making a real strong push to bring another Stanley Cup to the Steel City. 

Related: Penguins’ Guentzel a Worthy NHL All-Star

As has been done in past editions, sometimes we have to step away from the NHL in the Weekly Lost & Found. This was one of those times. As for the teams discussed, the Jets need to turn things around on the road in the immediate future. The Islanders, while playing well, still need to find ways to score. If Pittsburgh sticks to what they’re doing, the President’s Trophy will remain within their grasp.

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