NHL Weekly Stock Up, Stock Down: 12/31-1/06by Christopher Gallagher January 8, 2022 0 comments
The NHL choose to extend its holiday break due to the surging amount of COVID-19 cases across the league. This forced the number of postponed games during the 2021 season to climb above 50. In addition, players are constantly being placed and activated from the protocols daily, continuing to affect teams. On Wednesday, the Edmonton Oilers sent superstar forward Connor McDavid to the reserve list. On Friday, the Toronto Maple Leafs also lost Mitch Marner after he tested positive for the virus. However, with the league changing its protocols, fully vaccinated players can now return after five days instead of ten.
Back with our weekly stock-up stock-down article, the Pittsburgh Penguins have begun to surge after the return of captain Sidney Crosby. The team has won 10 games in a row to sit in the first wild card spot in the Eastern Conference. Furthermore, the New York Rangers continue to prove that they are genuine Stanley Cup contenders. Getting scoring from all areas of their young lineup, Gerard Gallant‘s group has won three of their last four games as they chase the Washington Capitals for the top spot in the Metropolitan Division.
Stock Up: Pittsburgh Penguins
The Penguins have come alive after the return of Crosby from offseason wrist surgery. Winners of their last ten games, the team defeated the St Louis Blues on Wednesday before knocking off the Philadelphia Flyers on Thursday. One of the stories of the season for Mike Sullivan‘s group has been the play of winger Evan Rodrigues.
He has broken out during their hot streak in his fourth year with the team. The 28-year-old has already surpassed his career-high in goals with 15 tallies in 33 games. Furthermore, Jake Guentzel and Bryan Rust have remained two of the game’s elite goal scorers. The former is pacing the Penguins with 18 goals while the latter has broken out from a slow start to add five in his last three games.
Stock Down: Edmonton Oilers
Nothing is going right for the Oilers right now. The team has gone 2-6-2 in their last ten games to fall to fourth in the Pacific Division. Struggling to score goals, they are averaging just 2.5 goals per game since they sat atop their division on December 1st. They are once again unable to get depth scoring behind their two superstar forwards in McDavid and Leon Draisaitl. Ryan Nugent Hopkins has just one goal in his last seven games, while Jesse Puljujarvi has gone scoreless over his last five.
Mikko Koskinen has struggled mightily in between the pipes. Recently called out by head coach Dave Tippett, the veteran netminder currently carries just a 3.19 goals-against average and a .900 save percentage. Rumors are beginning to swirl of a shakeup behind the bench amidst their losing skid. Expected to contend for a Stanley Cup, if the group fails to find their groove, look for general manager Ken Holland to scour the market for roster additions.
Stock Up: Tampa Bay Lightning
Tampa Bay continues to prove itself to be the most formidable team across the NHL. Chasing their third Stanley Cup in a row, the Lightning have earned points in three of their last four games to leapfrog the Florida Panthers for the top spot in the Atlantic Division. In the middle of one of the finest seasons of his 14 year NHL career, Steven Stamkos is leading the way for the group. The former Rocket Richard winner has racked up 41 points in 35 games while playing alongside Anthony Cirelli and Alex Killorn.
Furthermore, Victor Hedman continues to make a case for his second Norris Trophy. The former second overall pick is leading all defensemen with 36 points while playing over 25 minutes per night. Paired with the rock-solid play of goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy and the return of Nikita Kucherov from a two-month injury stint, and this team looks locked in to make history.
Stock Down: Columbus Blue Jackets
One of the most challenging teams to gauge across the NHL, the Blue Jackets are scoring goals rapidly. They are currently 12th in the league with over three averaged per game. Along with this, the group is also top five in shooting percentage at over ten percent. However, Columbus has struggled to sustain leads, leading to just 31 points through the season’s quarter mark. They took a 4-0 lead on the Carolina Hurricanes on Tuesday before surrendering seven unanswered.
Along with this, they also fell 3-1 to the New Jersey Devils on Thursday Night after mustering an impressive 18 shots during the first period. A young roster with quality pieces, Brad Larsen‘s team will be a tough group for any team to square off against all year long. However, until they continue to add pieces to their roster and learn to close out hockey games, the team will be near the bottom of the league.
Stock Up: Nashville Predators
A team that was not expected by many to compete for a playoff spot, the Predators got out to just a 10-8-1 start. However, John Hynes’ group has been red hot since returning to play from the holiday hiatus. The group has earned points in four straight games. On Tuesday, they knocked off the Vegas Golden Knights before defeating the Los Angeles Kings on Thursday Night. One of the best defensive clubs in hockey, they are averaging just 2.65 goals against per game.
Nashville also ranks inside the top ten in the NHL in penalty kill percentage and shots on goal allowed in each contest. Rock-solid for the team in net in his first season as the number one option, Juuse Saros has entered his name into the Vezina conversation. The 26-year-old is currently tied for second among goaltenders with 17 wins while also racking up two shutouts.
Stock Down: Detroit Red Wings
Beginning to free fall down the standings after entering the new year at 15-3-3, the Red Wings are currently outside the Eastern Conference playoff picture. The team dropped back-to-back games to the Capitals and their divisional rival in the Boston Bruins. Struggling on special teams, the group ranks 31st in the NHL in power-play percentage. In addition, they are clicking at just a 14 percent rate with the extra man. Along with this, Detroit also ranks 22nd in the league in penalty killing.
Remaining a bright spot for the team all year long, rookies Lucas Raymond and Moritz Seider continue to produce. With 51 points combined through their first 34 games, both players are early favorites for the league’s Calder Trophy. Set to open up a three-game California road trip on Saturday night, Jeff Blashill’s group has been a fun story. However, Detroit is still a few years away from truly competing in the top-heavy Atlantic Division.
Follow Chris Gallagher on Twitter @ChrisGally06
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