We are now past the first full week of the 2018-19 National Hockey League regular season. As is tradition, the weekly Metropolitan Division snapshot returns to All About the Jersey. The purpose of this post is to take a quick look at how every team in the division, including our beloved New Jersey Devils, have performed in this past week, where they are in the standings, and what do they have coming up next. This way you, the reader, knows who is hot, who is struggling, who has work to do, and who to root for beyond the Devils.
For those who are new to the snapshot, this post consists of a snapshot of the division standings as of Saturday night or Sunday morning after all games involving the division have concluded. I note the team’s record from this past week, how many potential points they could earn this week, and a running count of how many weeks did they win. To win a week, the team has to win more than half of the potential points. The division leader at the time of the snapshot gets the headline photo - so do not be surprised that you’re seeing a Carolina player on a Devils blog. No one said the photo would be flattering, by the way.
Do be surprised that it is Carolina at all. The Carolina Hurricanes have consistently missed the playoffs since 2009. If they are ever near or at the top, it would be at the beginning of the season where a quick start leads to some odder results than usual. However, the Canes are going to try their best to show that this year is finally their year to make the postseason. A 4-0-1 start is a great one to work with. As Columbus and Pittsburgh stumbled a bit, they have a small cushion already. But there’s a lot of hockey to be played - especially by the New Jersey Devils. Here is this upcoming week’s schedule, with games within the division highlighted in yellow.
As the Devils started their season in Gothenburg, Sweden, the NHL schedule makers kindly gave them a long break to get back to Newark and prepare for their first game in New Jersey. They also kindly gave them a Washington Capitals team that played the night before and two days off before a four-game week. They will be making up some games in hand this week as other teams have breaks. As you can see above, four teams only have two games this week with the Columbus Blue Jackets and Washington Capitals having four and three days off before then, respectively. Of note on the schedule, the New York Islanders are on their California road trip as the Carolina Hurricanes will continue on a road trip of their own.
Like in past weekly snapshots, summaries of all eight teams follow as in order of the standings.
The Canes started off their season with an overtime loss to the Islanders. That has been their only blemish so far. They have won four straight games with a road victory over Columbus the night after that Isles game in Raleigh. They dropped an 8-5 hammer on the Rangers; they beat Vancouver 5-3; and they just edged Minnesota in a 5-4 OT victory. Given the other results in the division, the Canes are on top. Sebastian Aho has been a real standout. He already has four goals and six assists, which places him in the top ten in scoring in the NHL.
This has been a long time coming for the Canes faithful and analytics-minded hockey fans. “Advanced” stats have found the Carolina Hurricanes to be better than their past records indicated. The run of play has not been a problem for the Canes. They have the systems, they have the blueline, and they have had plenty of underlying numbers in their favor. They have been a difficult opponent - but they struggled with scoring on their shots and their goaltending has not been good enough. So far, the Canes have been lighting the lamp. It remains to be seen if that will last and if the goalies can at least be league-average. So far, so good.
In this coming week, the Canes continue their three-game road trip with a game in Winnipeg tonight and a game in Tampa Bay on Tuesday. Neither will be easy but points out of both will be further evidence that these Hurricanes may be different. They’ll get a break before hosting Colorado next Saturday. Let’s see whether they’ll keep it up or start to fade in this coming week.
Columbus Blue Jackets
While the offseason was filled with rumors about the futures of Artemi Panarin and Sergei Bobrovsky in Ohio plus an injury to Seth Jones, there was some reason to doubt the Columbus Blue Jackets. On the ice, they went to work and earned results early on. It has been a net positive, at least. They beat Detroit in OT before losing to Carolina at home. The Blue Jackets won their second home game, 5-2 over Colorado, and traveled to the Sunshine state. They beat Florida 5-4 with the winner coming late in regulation. They went into Tampa Bay on Saturday and got wrecked in an 8-2 defeat. 3-2-0 is not exactly a great start but it could have been worse.
The Jackets will get four days off to start this week. That is more than enough time for them to travel from Florida to Ohio and get ready for two home games. Their Thursday night game is against Philadelphia, which is meaningful early on as these two teams probably see each other as possible direct foes for a playoff spot. The games in October cost as much as the ones in March. They’ll host Chicago on Saturday to finish a short week for them.
By way of playing one fewer game than Washington, the Pittsburgh Penguins start this week in third place. They also start it coming off a shootout loss to Montreal. Pittsburgh’s season has so far been a 7-6 OT win over Washington, a big 5-1 loss to Montreal (!), a 4-2 regulation win over Vegas, and a 4-3 SO loss to Montreal. I guess the Habs have the Pens’ number this season? No one other than Carolina and New Jersey really did well at the start of the season, so this mixed set of results is enough for them to be in third.
The Penguins will seek to make this short week more positive. They’ll host Vancouver on Tuesday and they will visit Toronto on Thursday. That game in Toronto is the first of what will be a four-game road trip through western Canada. But the majority of that will be after this week. They may fall by way of being idle but counting out Pittsburgh has been a poor choice for the better part of the last decade.
The defending 2017-18 Stanley Cup Champions were hitting the scoresheet hard to start this season. First was a 7-1 beatdown on national TV against Boston to open the season. While they lost in OT, they lost 7-6 in Pittsburgh the next night. They returned home last Wednesday to put away Vegas, 5-2. With 18 goals in their first three games, their vaunted offense appeared to be the most fearsome thing in the league. Then they went to Newark on Thursday night, played like utter garbage, and the Devils totally embarassed them 6-0. Talk about a rude awakening. Unfortunately for the Caps, they followed their first regulation loss with their second - a 4-2 home loss to Toronto. This means they lost this past week at 1-2-0.
The Capitals will get three days off before their Wednesday night game against the Rangers. That is some time to sort some things out and prepare for what should be a victory over a rebuilding NY squad. The Caps will host Florida on Friday, which is another game they will likely be favored in. On paper, Washington has more talent - especially offensive talent - than both teams. They should be able to get back on track. We’ll see whether the game on the ice will match the paper.
New Jersey Devils
As of midnight on October 14, 2018, the Devils are the last remaining undefeated team in the NHL. They also only played two games. They were featured in Gotheburg, Sweden and beat Edmonton by a solid 5-2 score. The Devils only had one game in this past week as the team traveled back to America. They hosted Washington in their true home opener and beat them down big time. The Caps were abysmal on the puck and the Devils made them suffer in a huge 6-0 win. Two games, two wins. You cannot ask for much more given how few games there were to play.
The Devils will get to play many more games and catch up within the division right away. They will have four games in seven nights: an afternoon game today against San Jose; home games at night against Dallas and Colorado on Tuesday and Thursday, respectively; and their first road game in Philadelphia on Saturday. It is not an easy week. But if the Devils can take at least five points out of eight, they will likely be able to move up from fifth in the standings. Doing so will also garner them some respect along with helping their cause for trying to make the playoffs again.
New York Islanders
Without John Tavares and some less-than-ideal decisions by new GM Lou Lamoriello, the conventional wisdom was that the New York Islanders would have a bad season. That can still happen, but they have not started 2018-19 on the ground. They got an OT win in Carolina to start the season, they lost 4-3 to Nashville at home, they shutout San Jose 4-0 on Monday night (!), and they lost last night 5-2 in Nashville. At least the Nashville games are over, but they have banked two wins include a shutout win over a potential Cup contender in San Jose. It could be a lot worse if you’re an Islanders fan.
The Nashville game was the first of a four-game road trip that will take up this coming week. The Isles are going to California to play the three teams based there in four days. They’ll have three days off before that run happens to prepare. But they’re getting it out of the way now and if they get some points from the California swing, then they may be in a good shape to compete in the division for weeks to come. It is not an easy week at all; keep an eye on how they do.
The Flyers have been up and down to start their season. After beating Vegas 5-2 on the road, they decisively lost in Colorado 5-2, they lost by an even bigger margin to San Jose (8-2 and after San Jose lost in Brooklyn), they won in Ottawa by a solid 7-4 score, and then lost at home to Vegas by a mere 1-0 final score. So two high scoring wins, two high scoring losses, and a close loss means that the Flyers are near the bottom of the division. They are not out of any contention. After all, they have as many points as the Devils and Islanders and are just two points behind second-place Columbus. But with five games played, they’re a bit behind. It is still early for them.
The Flyers have three games coming up against teams all in the Eastern Conference. So far, the Flyers have had only the one game against Ottawa and nobody is expecting the Senators to be anybody this season. They’ll take a floundering Florida team on Tuesday, they’ll visit Columbus on Thursday, and then they’ll host the Devils on Sunday. Winning those last two games could vault them up the standings as well as make up for a not-so-hot start.
New York Rangers
The Rangers are re-building, so I guess winning one out of their first five would suit them? Lottery balls are something the Blueshirt faithful will have on their minds, especially as the season goes on. Outside of the 8-5 loss to Carolina, they have been at least competitive looking on the scoreboard. Their results are 3-2 loss to Nashville, 3-1 loss at Buffalo, 8-5 to Carolina, a 3-2 OT win over San Jose, and a 2-1 loss to Edmonton. Again, it is a re-building season in Manhattan.
The Rangers only have two games and it is a back-to-back. I do not know why it needed to be one but it is a home game with Colorado on Tuesday and a road game on national TV in Washington. The Rangers could take two more losses, which would provide more early help their cause to gain the most odds for the lottery. Only Detroit and Florida have been worse in the league standings and if/when Ottawa falters, these early lack of points could be useful. The preceding sentences may have been contributed by Sherman Abrams.
That was the week that was and the week coming up for all eight teams in the Metropolitan. Now I want to know what you think. Will Carolina hold onto first place for another week. How will the Devils do in a four-game week and where do you think they will finish in next week’s snapshot? Who among the four teams with two games coming up this week will take both games? Please leave your thoughts about all of this in the first division snapshot of the 2018-19 NHL Season. Thank you all for reading.