There has been an uptick in posts noting how tight the Metropolitan Division has been all season. Those who read the weekly Metropolitan Division snapshot has known this for quite sometime. Expect those posts to continue because there is just eight points separating the first place Washington Capitals and the last place Carolina Hurricanes. Eight. Here are the standings as of this morning:
Nobody in the Metropolitan Division has a game today so there will be no changes. There will be plenty of action in the rest of the week, especially on December 23 as everybody is playing. Those games within the division are highlighted in yellow in this week’s schedule:
For this week’s gimmick, I will highlight the leading goalscorer for each team as per NHL.com. Ties in goals on each team, if there are any, will be broken by whoever has the most points.
Washington Capitals: Alexander Ovechkin: 34 GP, 23 G, 14 A, 156 SOG (14.74 Sh%)
Ovechkin is arguably the greatest goalscorer of his generation. Once again, he leads the Capitals by far in both goals (#2 on Washington has 11 goals) and shots (#2 has 99).
The Capitals are heating up again. After dropping their first game of last week to the Islanders, 3-1; the Caps have won three straight. They took care of business against Colorado, 5-2; they went up to Boston and beat them 5-3; and they prevailed in OT against Anaheim. That’s a 3-1-0 week and post-regulation result against Anaheim was enough to have them take first place in the Metropolitan Division. It’s where the Capitals would like to be, presumably. Washington will take their winning streak and hit the road. They’re going to Dallas, Arizona, and Las Vegas right before the holiday. That Vegas game could be tough given that it’s right after the Arizona game and given that the Golden Knights have been anything but an easy opponent. Should the Capitals keep up their winning ways, they could be opening presents while in first place again.
New Jersey Devils: Brian Gibbons: 32 GP, 12 G, 8 A, 43 SOG (27.9 Sh%)
This week’s gimmick is honestly an excuse to highlight Brian Gibbons among some “name” players. That Gibbons has continued to be a producer for the Devils matches the very good surprise that the team has been this season. We’ll see how long it lasts.
From a bigger picture, the New Jersey Devils may seem lucky to be where they are in the standings. But this past week of results was anything but fortunate. The Devils earned these last five points in the previous three games. New Jersey smacked down a very hot Los Angeles team, 5-1, to start their week. The big win was dampened by Taylor Hall suffering a knee contusion. On top of Marcus Johansson and Kyle Palmieri out, the Devils offense looked to suffer big against Montreal and Dallas. Yet, the Devils put up 32 shots and lost in overtime, 1-2, to Montreal; and they worked for the bounces in a 5-2 win over Dallas. Combined with having played one fewer game than Columbus, the Devils are in second place in a very tight division. The win against Dallas was the first of six straight home games for the Devils. They’ll host Anaheim tomorrow; their hatred rivals, the New York Rangers, in a big game on Thursday; and Chicago on Saturday. It is not easy but they’ll at least be in a familiar place to try and keep up their feel-good season so far.
Columbus Blue Jackets: Josh Anderson: 31 GP, 12 G, 7 A, 101 SOG (11.88%)
Josh Anderson played his first full season with the Jackets last season, where he put up 17 goals and 119 shots on net in 78 games. Anderson is well on his way of breaking both of those marks well before 78 games played in 2017-18. He’s emerged as Columbus’ brighter talents at wing as the team continues to show that they are contenders.
In a division like this one, a slip up here and there could be trouble. The Columbus Blue Jackets were the only team to post up a losing record in this past week. Edmonton outright embarrassed them in Ohio, 7-2; and they lost a close one in Carolina, 2-1, last night. The Blue Jackets did pick up an important 6-4 win over the Islanders to keep them back a bit. While Columbus is in third place, the pressure is on to make sure they keep on getting results. The two New York teams are only two points behind them and the teams behind them aren’t that far away either. In an 82-game season, there will be some disappointing weeks. Columbus needs to make sure they don’t string together. They’ll have four games in this coming week to prevent that: they’ll go to Boston tomorrow, they’ll return home for Toronto on Wednesday, they’ll visit Pittsburgh on Thursday, and they’ll host Philadelphia on Saturday. That back-to-back set in the middle of the week will be tough and the Penguins should be up for that one as it could mean moving up in the standings. The Philly game could also be a challenge if Philly stays as hot as they are.
New York Rangers: Michael Grabner: 33 GP, 16 G, 3 A, 69 SOG (23.18 Sh%)
Grabner broke out big-time in 2010-11 with 34 goals in his first full season in the NHL with the Islanders. The speedster has not reached that total since, however, he did score 20 in 2011-12 and 27 with the Rangers in 2016-17. So far, the 30-year old’s stick is as hot as ever. It remains to be seen how long that will last, similar to Gibbons, but you can count on him flying up-ice whenever he can. Strangely: no shorthanded goals yet this season for Grabner.
The first half of last week did not go so well for the Rangers. They lost to Dallas in a shootout at home to start the week. The Rangers went to Ottawa and suffered another road loss, 3-2. The Rangers salvaged the week with a regulation 4-2 win over Los Angeles and a 3-2 overtime win on the road against Boston. The week was ultimately positive and their superior ROW puts them ahead of their cross-city rivals in the standings for the time being. The Rangers have done well to make up for their horrid start. The challenge is keeping it up. With two home games out of three coming up, they should be able to do so. They’ll host Anaheim on Tuesday, who will be coming off a game in New Jersey the night before. The Rangers will travel to Newark to play the Devils on Thursday in what will be a big game within the division. The Rangers will return to Manhattan to host Toronto on Saturday.
New York Islanders: Anders Lee: 33 GP, 20 G, 15 A, 81 SOG (24.69 Sh%)
Anders Lee was drafted by the Islanders in the sixth round of the 2009 NHL draft. Since 2013-14, Lee has become a solid scorer for the Isles. In his 294 games with the team, he has scored 104 goals and put up 76 assists. Last season, Lee put up 34 in 81 games. While his stick was hot then (17.8 Sh% for the season), it’s even hotter now. He’s become an important part of the Islanders as they battle to make the postseason in this division.
The Islanders split their previous week. Not as bad as Columbus or Pittsburgh losing their weeks, but given that everyone else won their week, that does not help too much. The start of their week was good with a 3-1 win over the Capitals. The end of their week was also good, which was an overtime win over Los Angeles. The back-to-back set in the middle of the week was not as they lost 5-2 to Dallas and 6-4 in Columbus. As a result, they remain smack dab in the middle of the Metro. And it isn’t clear whether they are on their way up or down. The good news is that the Isles will get to exert their dominance at home in the hopes of moving up in the Metropolitan Division. That win over Los Angeles starts a five-game home stand for the Brooklynites. The Islanders will host Detroit, Anaheim, and Winnipeg (in a 1 PM start) in this coming week. Should they take care of business at home, maybe they will place higher than fifth.
Pittsburgh Penguins: Phil Kessel: 34 GP, 15 G, 23 A, 131 SOG (11.45 Sh%)
Pittsburgh has five players with at least ten goals and Phil Kessel leads them all with fifteen. The fast winger has been the team’s most prolific shooter as well as their top scorer in points. When Pittsburgh eventually (eventually, right?) gets going as a squad, it will become more apparent how dangerous of an opponent Kessel and the Pens are.
The Penguins had a losing week and are now only two points ahead of the two bottom teams in the Metropolitan Division. That’s how tight things are. That’s what a bad week can do. At least the Penguins are on the right track. They lost to Colorado 2-1 at home before traveling to Vegas and Arizona. In Vegas, they saw their old friend, Marc-Andre Fleury, and lost to them 1-2. The Penguins responded with a 4-2 win in Arizona. The two losses sent them down a spot in the standings and have a seemingly bigger hill to climb even though they are not far back in terms of points. The Penguins have three games to make it up in this week. On Monday, they’ll visit Colorado in the hopes of avenging their regulation loss to them last week. On Thursday, the Penguins will host Columbus, which could have an impact in the division standings. On Saturday, the Penguins will host Anaheim - who will probably be sick of Metropolitan Division teams by that point.
Philadelphia Flyers: Sean Couturier: 32 GP, 15 G, 15 A, 96 SOG (15.62 Sh%)
Sean Couturier has blossomed as a do-everything player for the Flyers. Defense? He does it. Offense? He chips in, although he is likely to set career highs in this season. Kill penalties? Yep. Power play? Sure. While others get more attention the team, Couturier has become an important player on the Flyers as they are constructed.
How do you respond to a ten game winless streak? Winning six straight is a great one. The Flyers have played three of a five game home stand last week and they won them all. They beat Toronto 4-2 in regulation, they beat Buffalo 2-1 in regulation, and they beat Dallas 2-1 in overtime. Dallas is the first team in this winning streak to take points from Philly, in fact. The six game winning streak puts the Flyers ahead of Carolina due to tiebreakers in seventh place; but they are right on the heels of many teams. It speaks to how far they fell behind and how much they have caught up. The Flyers will seek to continue to their winning ways with home games against Los Angeles and Detroit in this coming week. They do have a road back-to-back with Buffalo and Columbus to close out the week. A positive week here and we could see the Flyers move up further in the division.
Carolina Hurricanes: Jeff Skinner: 32 GP, 11 G, 11 A, 120 SOG (9.16 Sh%)
As a team, Carolina has struggled to score this season. It is fitting that their leading goal scorer, Jeff Skinner, is the only one among the eight goal scoring leaders I listed that has a shooting percentage below 10%. Skinner is definitely a quick winger who will create many shots in a game. For whatever reason, the finishing just has not been there. Should he (and the team) receive some better puck luck, then it’ll be clearer how tough the Canes can be in addition to Skinner having better numbers.
Carolina wrapped up a six-game road trip in this past week and did so in a positive fashion. While they lost to Anaheim on Monday 3-2 in regulation, they picked up a shootout win over Vegas and beat Buffalo 5-4 in overtime. On the night after the win in Buffalo, Carolina hosted Columbus and beat them 2-1. That’s a 3-1-0 week and it keeps them in pace with a scoring-hot Flyers team in the standings. It also means they’re eight points back of first place Washington; keeping the division incredibly tight. Carolina now has a three-game winning streak and will also look to extend it in this coming week. The Canes will hit the road again to visit Toronto on Tuesday and Nashville on Thursday. They’ll return home to host Buffalo on Saturday. If they can keep up the winning, then they could be entering Christmas ahead of last place. Won’t that be a nice gift for the Canes fans?
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? Who will take first place by the holidays? Who is more likely to extend their winning streaks among Washington, Philadelphia, and Carolina? Will Columbus and/or Pittsburgh bounce back? What will the New York teams do? Most of all, what do you think the Devils will do in this coming week? Please leave your answers and other thoughts about the division in the comments. Thank you for reading.