Every team would like to start off the regular season well. Every team wants their work in the offseason, training camp, and preseason games to pay off. Every organization wants their efforts to be validated. Alas, not every team can all win. Not every decision, tactic, strategy, or performance can work out. Most of all, not every team is as talented as one another, so not everyone can start out as well as they hope. But a good start is valuable as it gives teams a better position to work from instead of having to catch up over time. At the moment, the Pittsburgh Penguins can claim the best start of the 2016-17 season among the eight teams in the Metropolitan Division. They stand above the other seven with a lead in points, albeit a small one.
The Penguins secured the top spot by sweeping their previous week. They had a scare against their cross-state rivals, but they held on for their third win in a row. Other teams that can claim a good start are the New York Rangers, the New Jersey Devils, and the Washington Capitals. The Rangers sit solidly in second as they won two of their three games last week. Carolina spoiled them from a perfect week that would have put the Blueshirts right behind the Pens. But a three point lead is not too much ground to make up. Perhaps it’s more of a surprise that the Devils are in third. They had a great week of results with five out of six points. All three games were at home and while the quality of opponent varied, the Devils managed to get something out of each. Now they look good as they head into a short week of games. Right up with them are the Washington Capitals. While their trip into Western Canada got on the wrong foot, they beat Vancouver to at least split their two games last week. They remain right behind the Devils and the Rangers in points with a game in hand on both. That’s a good start too. All the same, all four teams should be pleased with how they have performed in the standings in the league’s first month.
As for the other four teams, well, their start to the season did not go as well as they would have liked. There’s plenty of hockey left in the season so there’s no need to panic provided the team gets to winning ways and soon. The Columbus Blue Jackets probably have the least to worry about. They went through all three California teams in California and came away with three out of six points. That’s not bad at all and neither is their record. A good run can really make some noise. Speaking of good runs, the Philadelphia Flyers had the opposite. The Flyers had a busy week of four games in this past week and won only one of them. Their previous two games were 5-4 losses, with the most recent one being a loss to their rivals. Philly gets to play a lot this week too. If they don’t get results they’ll be in a hole with surrounding teams holding games in hand on them. That’s a bad combination. A good week helps them out, though. The Carolina Hurricanes had a short week last week and split their games. Beating the Rangers is always appreciated and it helped them avoid the basement. Their fewer games played gives them the seventh spot over the New York Islanders for the time being. They’ll want better results soon, though. Ditto for the Isles. The Isles started off the week well by beating up on Minnesota but then dropped their back-to-back set with Montreal and Pittsburgh. It’s been a rough start despite playing all but three of their games in October at home (Washington, Rangers, and Pittsburgh). The Islanders will begin another home stand this week and it’s imperative for them to try to win this one. Otherwise, they could very well be sole owners in last.
What is happening in this coming week? Here’s the upcoming schedule. All games within the division are in bold.
Everyone is off on Halloween. So feel free to give out or receive candy instead of watching NHL hockey. Let’s start going through the schedule from the bottom first.
The New York Islanders will have four out of a five-game home stand this week, which includes one of the two inter-division matchups this week. That game on Philly may be crucial early on from both teams. Other than that one, it’s not an easy week given Tampa Bay’s quality and Edmonton’s surprisingly hot start to this season. The Carolina Hurricanes have the only other inter-division game this week against Philly and it is tonight. Carolina gets some time to prepare for road games against Ottawa and Nashville afterward. Philadelphia’s busy week has those two games within the Metropolitan on the road, a home game with Detroit before going to Brooklyn, and then a road game in Montreal. It’s not easy and, again, another bad week and Philadelphia fans may find their team closer to the bottom real soon. Columbus will have a struggling Dallas squad and a not-nearly-struggling Montreal game at home before going to St. Louis. A good week for them would make an early-season statement that 2016-17 won’t be a repeat of their 2015-16 campaign.
As for the teams in the upper half of the division, there’s plenty of action with other squads. The Washington Capitals will continue and finish their trip through Western Canada with a game in Calgary tonight and a game in Winnipeg on Tuesday. The latter essentially begins a home-and-home with Winnipeg as the Jets come to D.C. on Thursday. They’ll host Florida to end their week. On the flip side, the Devils will get four days off before going back to the Sunshine State - they started the season there - to play Florida and Tampa Bay. At least New Jersey gets their games with the Bolts out of the way early this season. On the flip side of that, the Rangers will play four games this week; at least they will not be traveling much. They’ll be at home for Tampa Bay (who played in New Jersey last night), St. Louis, and Edmonton before going to Boston. Lastly, the division leading Pittsburgh Penguins will do what Columbus did last week and take on all three California teams. It’s not an easy trip but the defending Cup champions should be able to come away from the trip with points.
That was the week that was in the Metropolitan Division and we know what the week ahead will hold. That said, what do you make of it? Will the Penguins stay on top? Can Columbus crack the top half of the division? Do you think the Devils will maintain that position with a short week? How can the Islanders pull themselves up from last? Please let me know your answers and other thoughts about what the eight teams did in the division last week and what they may do this week in the comments. Thank you for reading.