With one month remaining in the year, happy December to hockey fans everywhere. It is hard to believe that the 2021 NHL season is already almost two months, in the books. Most teams have now played over one-quarter of their respective games. As a result of this, we are finally beginning to see some groups at the top of their respective divisions distance themselves from the pack.
Maintaining their solid start to the season, the Minnesota Wild sit atop the Central Division. Furthermore, the Toronto Maple Leafs have won 15 of their last 17 games to catapult into a tie with the Florida Panthers for the top spot in the Atlantic. Back with our stock-up stock down article, this week featured a few superstar performances from players around the league to help bank wins for their respective franchise.
Be sure to check out our previous NHL Stock Up, Stock Down.
Stock Up: Toronto Maple Leafs
The Maple Leafs are the hottest group across the league right now. They have won their last five games, including a sweep of the San Jose Sharks, Los Angeles Kings, and Anaheim Ducks on their California road trip. Manhandling the Colorado Avalanche during the return of superstar forward Nathan MacKinnon and defenseman Bowen Byram on Wednesday Night, the team saw Auston Matthews score a hat trick on route to an 8-2 victory.
Finally settling in on the defensive end after an up and down start to the year in their own zone, Toronto has seen their second line pairing of Jake Muzzin and Justin Holl step up their play. Furthermore, Alexander Kerfoot has helped solidify the team’s weakness at left wing. The 27-year-old is on pace to shatter his career-high of 43 points as the Vancouver native already has 16 through 24 games.
Stock Down: Winnipeg Jets
The Jets appear to be at a crossroads early in their young season. The team has lost five of their last six games to fall to sixth place in the Central Division. Unable to get anything going offensively, the group has scored just six goals over their last five games. Winger Kyle Connor has been held off the score sheet in four of his prior five games, while center Pierre-Luc Dubois has just three points over his previous seven.
More concerning, captain Blake Wheeler has yet to find the back of the net in 17 games while star forward Mark Scheifele has just eight points. Forced to rely on their Vezina caliber netminder in Connor Hellebuyck, the 28-year-old has also struggled of late, leading to just a .918 save percentage and a 2.60 goals-against average.
Stock Up: Minnesota Wild
Shocking many through the first quarter of the season, the Wild currently sit atop the Central Division. Fresh off a 5-2 victory over the New Jersey Devils, the team is riding a five-game winning streak. In the hunt for the top seed in the West, they remain one of the best offensive clubs in the league. They currently sit in fourth in the NHL in goals per game with 3.68 averaged per contest.
Along with this, they also sit inside the top ten in the game in both shots on goal and shooting percentage. Led by last year’s Calder Trophy winner in Kirill Kaprizov, the 24-year-old has recorded ten points in his last four games to lead Minnesota with 22 through 22 games. Furthermore, Ryan Hartman has enjoyed a resurgence in his first year with the franchise as the former first-round pick already has 12 tallies.
Stock Down: Philadelphia Flyers
Losers of seven straight games, nothing seems to be going right for the Flyers right now. Struggling mightily offensively, the team has scored just seven goals in their last five games while racking up just 27 tallies in their previous 16 contests. They are one of the worst units league-wide with the extra man. Philadelphia is converting a miserable 12.5 percent of their power-play chances through 21 games to sit 29th in the NHL.
More concerning for the franchise has been the play of their struggling blue line. Often looking outmatched at times, the group has struggled without free-agent acquisition Ryan Ellis. Currently ranked dead last in the league in shots allowed per game with over 34 given up per night, Alain Vigneault‘s team has been unable to match the outstanding start to the year from second-year goaltender Carter Hart.
Stock Up: Dallas Stars
A streaky group, the Stars looked to be down and out through the early parts of the season. However, they have begun to roll of late. Racking up wins in their last six games, the team became the first franchise in NHL history to score in the first 75 seconds of four straight games.
Led by their top line of Joe Pavelski, Jason Robertson, and Roope Hintz, the veteran right-winger has nine points in his last four games to lead the team with 17. Along with this, after a career-high 43 points last year, Hintz is pacing the team with ten goals. A veteran squad with too much talent not to compete for the postseason, this is the Dallas team that hockey fans everywhere expected.
Stock Down: Buffalo Sabres
Off a 5-1 start to begin their 2021 campaign, the Sabres have begun to taper off lately. Defeated 7-4 at the hands of the Seattle Kraken and Panthers, the team has now lost seven of their last eight games. Still struggling to find a long-term answer in net, goaltending remains the most glaring issue for Don Granato’s group. Splitting time in between the pipes early on, Dustin Tokarski has posted just a 3.28 goals-against average, and a .903 save percentage.
Showing well in his six starts, veteran Craig Anderson posted a .921 save percentage and a 2.49 goals-against average. However, he remains month to month with an upper-body injury. Riddled with injuries up and down their lineup, the one positive for Buffalo fans has been the extended time their young pieces have gotten.
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