Six points separate last place from first place in the Metropolitan Division. Those at the top have not succeeded so much to pull away from the bottom. Those towards the bottom were mostly successful to collectively narrow the gap between the penthouse and the basement. Yet, one team is back on top: the New Jersey Devils. It is not by much. It may not last. But they are in first at the start of this new week.
It really is a tight-looking race. This coming week could cause a whole lot of movement. For that, here is this week’s schedule. Games within the division - which may have a big impact on these standings - are in bold.
For this week’s snapshot, I will highlight the team’s leading scorer for each team. Just something in addition to summarizing what each team has done and what is coming up for them.
New Jersey Devils - Leading scorer: Taylor Hall (5 goals, 12 assists, 51 SOG) Taylor Hall has the moves, the drive, the initiative, and the talent to be New Jersey’s top forward. And he has been their top forward in this young season.
The New Jersey Devils fell in a shootout to Calgary to end a Western Canada road trip at an “OK” 1-1-1. The Devils flopped in the third period to St. Louis to lose 3-1. And a losing streak was extended to four as the Devils lost late in overtime to Edmonton, 3-2. But the Devils ended that streak with a 2-1 win over Florida on Saturday. What you may have noticed is that all of those games were close on the scoreboard. That 3-1 loss to St. Louis includes the empty net goal. The Devils pulled four points out of four close games amid a very busy schedule. They’ve clawed their way back to first place based on this. We’ll see soon enough whether they can continue to do so or if the dream ends.
In this coming week, the Devils will end a run of eight games in twelve days by visiting Chicago tonight. This game marks the start of a four-game road trip that will take the Devils to Toronto on Thursday, who may or may not still be hot, and a less-hot Winnipeg for an afternoon game on Saturday. At least they will receive more than one day off after Sunday’s game.
Columbus Blue Jackets - Leading scorer: Artemi Panarin (3 goals, 10 assists, 56 SOG). Columbus made a big move to bring in Panarin and it appears he has made his mark. I would not be concerned about his low goal total; he will not likely be shooting around 5% for a whole season.
The Columbus Blue Jackets started this week in first and slipped down a spot. The opportunity was there to create a hole on first. They failed as they lost to the Rangers, lost to Nashville, and lost to Carolina. The Blue Jackets avoided a total loss by beating Detroit in a shootout. With the standings as tight as they are, every point appears to matter at the moment. That second point in Detroit is huge for the time being.
The Blue Jackets will have a short week after dealing with two back-to-back sets last week. They’ll visit Montreal on Tuesday before hosting the Rangers for a potential revenge game on Friday. The Blue Jackets should strive for points in both lest they fall further in the standings.
Pittsburgh Penguins - Leading scorer: Phil Kessel (7 goals, 15 assists, 78 SOG). Phil Kessel has been fantastic for Pittsburgh. He’s a dynamic offensive winger; the perfect complement to a team that already has two all-world forwards that teams have to worry about. Kessel has been doing plenty of damage in even strength and power play situations (11 points in both). Should he keep it up, Pittsburgh is more threatening than some may realize.
In this past week, Pittsburgh was not as threatening as they could be. They downed Arizona before falling 4-1 to Washington and dropping a shootout against Nashville. While Nashville is hot right now, the Pens missed an opportunity to really stand out in a division that they have the resources (and a big PDO turnaround) to take hold. They’re still within striking distance, although the number of games played hurts them a bit.
The Pens could climb to the top of the Metropolitan mountain in this coming week. They’ll host Buffalo, they’ll visit Ottawa, and then they’ll host Chicago. These are games the Penguins could win. I’m sure they’d love to pay Chicago back for the 10-1 beatdown the Blackhawks gave them in October.
New York Islanders - Leading scorer: John Tavares (13 goals, 6 assists, 54 SOG). Trade Tavares? Please. The Isles would be silly to do so between their position and Tavares enjoying his hockey right now. He is tied for second in the entire league in goal scoring. Teams cannot stop him, they can only hope to contain him and hope his 24% shooting percentage falls. It likely will; but Tavares will continue to give defenses nightmares when the Islanders are the opponent.
The Islanders won their week with a big win to start and end it. In a game full of goals, the Islanders beat Colorado 6-4. The Isles just smacked down St. Louis (!) 5-2 last night. In between, the Isles fell in overtime to Edmonton and were crushed by Dallas 5-0 on Friday night. Yes, the Isles lost 5-0 to Dallas and then smacked St. Louis down 5-2 on the next night. Anything can happen in the NHL. All the same, the 2-1-1 week moved the Isles one spot and put them within striking distance of first place.
The Islanders will have to wait and see whether they will by the time they get to play a game. They are off until Thursday, when they host Carolina for a divisional game. Saturday night has the Isles visit a terrifyingly powerful Tampa Bay squad. It is not an easy set of two games and the lack of action may move them down. But they’ll at least gain some games in hand (except on Carolina).
New York Rangers - Leading scorer: Mika Zibanejad (8 goals, 10 assists, 55 SOG). After blossoming as a scorer in Ottawa, Zibanejad became a Ranger last year. In this year, he appears to have broken out. He is the team’s top scorer, shooter, and one of their more talented players. With the departure of Derek Stepan, the Rangers needed someone to step up. He has done exactly that so far this season.
The Rangers are no longer in last place. They spent October face-down on the proverbial ground. What happened? They got hot. Really hot. The Rangers currently own the longest winning streak in the league with six straight wins. That will move a team on up in the standings. They beat Columbus, Boston, and Edmonton and they did so in regulation. Only two of their six wins were beyond regulation and those points were given to teams outside of the Metropolitan. This winning streak will end at some point, but the Rangers have put the other teams on notice that reports of their demise in 2017-18 were premature.
The hot streak will have to take a seat for a few days. The Rangers are idle until they visit Chicago on Wednesday night. This is on national television and between Chicago being a big market and the Rangers having won six straight, I would think there will be more eyeballs than usual on this one. It is a big game for the Rangers to really show what they’ve done. On Friday, the Rangers will visit Columbus. We’ll see if they can keep it up, but I doubt the Rangers will flop so fast after sweeping the last two weeks.
Washington Capitals - Leading scorer: Alex Ovechkin (13 goals, 6 assists, 80 SOG). Ovechkin leading the Caps in scoring? Ovechkin being a top goal scorer and shooter? Same as it ever was.
The Capitals had a shaky start to the week. They needed overtime to beat a hapless Arizona team and they lost in Buffalo, 3-1. Woof. But the Capitals were able to get back to their winning ways and did so against a far superior opponent: Pittsburgh. That made it a 2-1-0 week.
That game against Pittsburgh starts a crazy schedule for Washington. Since that game on November 10, they will not have more than one day off until November 26. They are the busiest team in the Metropolitan Division in this week. They could use this to move up in the standings or wallow where they are. Tonight they will host Edmonton, they’ll travel to Nashville (which will be hard) and Colorado (which may not be, except this team struggled against Arizona and lost to Buffalo), and then they’ll be back in DC to host Minnesota. There is a lot to gain and plenty of shame should they suffer.
Philadelphia Flyers - Leading scorer: Jakub Voracek (4 goals, 17 assists, 55 SOG). Voracek has shot the puck quite a bit, but he has made the most in setting up others to score. And why not? The man is quick, he is excellent on the puck, and he has a great mind for the game. He is a leader on offense in a franchise known for strong offenses.
The Philadelphia Flyers waited four days to play their first game last week - and they won, beating Chicago 3-1. They then lost 1-0 at home to Minnesota last night. The short week was split and with other teams around them in the standings thriving, they fell to seventh. No big deal for the moment.
The Flyers will hit the road for their next two games. They’ll have a chance to avenge their 1-0 loss on Tuesday in Minnesota. They will then go to Winnipeg on Thursday. The Flyers will return home for a matinee game against Calgary. It is a good week as any to get some better results. With it, they may move back up in the standings.
Carolina Hurricanes - Leading scorer: Justin Williams (2 goals, 11 assists, 34 SOG). The possession-strong winger sort of represents Carolina over the past few seasons. Very good in the run of play and a joy to watch. But the results - points for Williams, wins for Carolina - are lacking for one reason or another.
The Carolina Hurricanes had a very good week. They beat Florida and Columbus in regulation and took Chicago to overtime in an post-regulation loss last night. That’s five important points out of six. While the Canes are bringing up the rear in the division, they are only six points behind the Devils, who are in first place. With multiple games in hand on everyone in the division, the Canes remain a darkhorse in spite of their current standing. Of course, this would require them to keep on winning.
To do that, the Canes have three games coming up. They will be the only team in the division playing on Monday when they host Dallas. They have a chance to undercut the Islanders in a game on Thursday. They will visit the poor Buffalo squad on Saturday. I think the Canes can take some points out of this one. They may end up lurking in the distance, but it is better than being left behind entirely.
That was the week that was in the Metropolitan Division and the week to come for all eight teams. What do you think will happen in this coming week? Will the New Jersey Devils remain on top somehow after this week? If not, who will take over? Is the 1-3-0 week for Columbus the start of something going wrong? Will Washington thrive with such a busy schedule? Can someone beat the Rangers with the way they are playing right now? Will the Canes close the gap in points even further? Please leave your answers and other thoughts about the division in the comments. Thank you for reading.