A Look At How NHL Teams Have Responded After COVID-19 Pauses This Season

Photo: NHL.com

With the Washington Capitals having a week off in between games after the Philadelphia Flyers and Buffalo Sabres both shut down temporarily due to COVID-19, they are just one of many teams to have a long layoff with pauses in their schedule. Of course, every team is different, but how have most responded to not playing a game for a long stretch and having players unhealthy? NoVa Caps takes a look.

NOTE: The Dallas Stars had their first four games of the season postponed while the Flyers, Sabres, Minnesota Wild, Colorado Avalanche, New Jersey Devils are all currently on COVID-19 pauses, so these teams will not be included.

Carolina Hurricanes

The Hurricanes had four players (forward Warren Foegele, forward Jordan Martinook, defenseman Jaccob Slavin, and forward Teuvo Teravainen) test positive for COVID-19 on January 19 and did not play for another 10 days.

After going 2-1-o in their first three games before their pause, the Hurricanes won their first four games back and are 6-2-0 since returning to play. Their .750 win percentage since returning is tied for sixth in the NHL. The Hurricanes’ 3.50 goals-per-game average during that time is tied for fifth but their 3.00 goals-against per game average is tied for 16th despite averaging 32.3 shots-per-game (fourth) and 27.6 shots-against per game (eighth).

The Hurricanes’ 24% power-play efficiency since their COVID-19 break ranks 14th and their 78.1% penalty-killing rate over that span is 17th. Their 55.7% faceoff-winning percentage is third. Since they have returned, their +86 shot-attempts differential leads the NHL.

Foegele, 24, has three goals, five points, and a +5 rating in five games since testing positive for COVID-19 and missing the team’s first three games back from their pause. Martinook, 28, has recorded two assists and a -2 rating in five games. Slavin, 26, has racked up just one assist and a +1 rating in five games. Teravainen, 26, has been held off of the scoresheet and posted a -1 rating in five games since returning.

The Hurricanes’ opponents since returning have an average of a points percentage of nearly .600, making their performance since the pause even more impressive.

Vegas Golden Knights

The Golden Knights had three games postponed after three coaches and defenseman Alex Pietrangelo went into the NHL’s COVID-19 protocol on January 28. They went 10 days without playing a game.

After going 5-1-1 in their first seven games before their season came to a pause, the Golden Knights have picked up right where they left off as they have gone 3-1-0 in four games since returning on February 5. Their .750 points percentage over that stretch is tied for the best in the NHL.

The Golden Knights’ average of 3.50 goals-per-game since their pause is tied for eighth in the league while their average of 2.50 goals-against per game is tied for 11th. Their 22.2% power-play conversion rate is 12th but their 80% penalty-killing efficiency is tied for 13th. In the four games they have played since returning, the Golden Knights have averaged 30.3 shots-per-game (tied for 12th) and 28 shots-against per game (eighth). Their 45.1% faceoff-winning percentage over that stretch ranks 24th out of 28 teams. The Golden Knights have a +10 shot attempts differential since returning.

Pietrangelo, 31, recorded a -1 rating in his return to the lineup, a 1-0 loss to the Anaheim Ducks on Thursday night.

The Golden Knights’ opponents have an average points percentage of .462 points this season.

Of course, the Capitals’ situation is different as the pause in their schedule has not been self-inflicted and they do not have any players currently in quarantine. Yet, there are definitely some similarities between the Capitals and the Golden Knights and Hurricanes as they have all had significant layoffs during their pauses. Though, the Capitals are arguably in a stronger division than either of the other two teams.

Perhaps the pause came at the right time for the Capitals as they were outscored 16-9 during a three-game regulation losing streak after a 6-0-3 start to the season and having some key players out of the lineup. With an opportunity to reset and get healthy, there should be plenty of optimism heading into the resumption of the Capitals’ season as center Evgeny Kuznetsov (who missed eight games on COVID-19 protocol), goaltender Ilya Samsonov (who missed eight games with COVID-19), and defenseman Justin Schultz (missed four games with an upper-body injury) are all healthy.

By Harrison Brown

About Harrison Brown

Harrison is a diehard Caps fan and a hockey fanatic with a passion for sports writing. He attended his first game at age 8 and has been a season ticket holder since the 2010-2011 season. His fondest Caps memory was watching the Capitals hoist the Stanley Cup in Las Vegas. In his spare time, he enjoys travel, photography, and hanging out with his two dogs. Follow Harrison on Twitter @HarrisonB927077
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