Mike correctly identified the Metropolitan Division as a “mediocre mess” in his post this past Friday. He is not wrong. Atlantic Division teams not only own both wild card spots but they have a cushion ahead of 4th through 8th place in the division. No one has really broken away with the lone exception of the current leaders of the division: the Columbus Blue Jackets.
Columbus took care of business this past week and now enjoy a hold on first place as we enter the week of Thanksgiving.
And would you look at that, our favorite team is no longer in last place. As you can see by the “last week” column, it was another mixed bag within the division. Expect more mixing as this week’s upcoming schedule is loaded with games within the division. Those games are highlighted in yellow.
That’s a lot of yellow! And a lot of back-to-back sets to close the week. Only New Jersey does not have one; they have one for the following Sunday and Monday. Here is a summary of how each team performed last week, in order of the standings.
As a holiday treat, I will touch on their PDO - the sum of the team’s shooting and save percentage. It’s more of a rule of thumb, this number should be around 100. It would truly gravitate towards the true numbers for the team overtime. In general, if it’s high, then the team’s been a bit lucky. If it’s low, then they’ve been unfortunate (or beset with bad goaltending). The PDO number and NHL ranks will come from 5-on-5 team stats at Natural Stat Trick.
Columbus Blue Jackets - PDO: 101.6 (5th)
The Columbus Blue Jackets swept their games last week. All wins, all in regulation, and all to stay in first for another week. They won in Dallas 2-1, they pasted Florida 7-3 in Ohio, and they beat on Carolina 4-1. The team is shooting well, Sergey Bobrovsky has been great at even strength (93.3 Sv% per NHL.com), and they’re scoring by committee. Only Artemi Panarin is in the top 50 skaters in the league in scoring, yet the team is fourth in the NHL with 65 goals scored. The Blue Jackets have plenty to be thankful for (like a high but not too high PDO) and will pull wishbones that the two players I just mentioned will be re-signed somehow.
In this coming week, Columbus will get familiar with Toronto. They will go there on Monday, take a break, and then host them on Friday. The Blue Jackets will visit Pittsburgh on Saturday in what is currently a first-versus-worst matchup. This division being what it is, that will likely change by then. Still, the Blue Jackets are four points ahead of second and third place and even with games in hand by the Isles, they cannot catch Columbus. Provided the Blue Jackets do not collapse this week, they have a good chance to hold onto first for another week.
New York Islanders - PDO: 105.4 (1st)
Just like the Jackets, the New York Islanders also swept their week of games. The issue is that they only had two games. The Isles picked up two big results: 5-2 against Vancouver and a wild 7-5 win over their hated rivals. As a team, the Isles are shooting at an eye-popping 11.52% in 5-on-5 play. Thomas Greiss and Robin Lehner are stopping lots of pucks at high rates. PDOs this high tend to fall. But if the Isles can bank as many points before its over, they could still scratch and claw their way through competition. Of course, given the division as it is, a couple of bad weeks might send them down real fast if the teams stay close. Either way, they’ll go to the table on Thursday and be thankful they are in second place past mid-November.
The Islanders will have more games to play, including one of those games in hand on Columbus. The Isles will host Dallas today and then go play their hated rivals in Manhattan on Wednesday night. After T-Day, the Islanders will go to Newark to play New Jersey on Friday afternoon. They’ll follow that up with a home game against Carolina. The Isles will be local for the holidays and could step on their division foes to stay above them for another week.
New York Rangers - PDO: 100.2 (t-14th)
Last February, the New York Rangers effectively announced they were re-building. This season was supposed to be the one where they would, well, re-build. Which is code for be bad, keep the fans somewhat pleased knowing its going to be bad, and cross your fingers in the 2019 NHL Draft Lottery. By midnight of November 17, 2018, the Rangers are in third place and they aren’t shooting very hot or relying on a goaltender playing out of his mind. Granted, Henrik Lundqvist is putting up numbers of his caliber so it’s not out of his head. They are playing well. This past week reflects that. They beat Vancouver 2-1. While they lost, they tried to hang with the Isles in a high-scoring game. They bounced back with a 4-2 win over Florida. That’s a 2-1-0 week and it is enough to put them third. The fans will be thankful that 2018-19 is not ugly as they may have feared.
The New York Rangers will also be local for the holidays. They will host Dallas on Monday, meaning they will take whatever is left from them after Dallas plays the Isles the night before. The Rangers will try to get some revenge against said Islanders on Wednesday night. On Black Friday, they’ll be on national TV in Philadelphia, which could impact whether Philly is going to sniff a playoff spot in the near future. Lastly, the Rangers will close their week with Washington at Madison Square Garden. As with their cross-city rivals, a good week for them will likely mean they stay ahead of who is behind them.
Washington Capitals - PDO: 101.4 (7th)
When it comes to the percentages, the Washington Capitals are right around the Columbus Blue Jackets. When it comes to results, well, the Caps have not been as successful as Columbus. The defending 2018 Stanley Cup Champions split this past week’s schedule. They lost at home 4-1 to Arizona to start the week. The Caps then embarked on the first three games of a four-game road trip. They bounced back into the win column with a 5-2 victory in Minnesota. They went back to the ‘L’ zone in a 3-1 loss in Winnipeg. The Caps responded to that with a 3-2 overtime win in Colorado. Going 2-2 was enough for them to move up in the Metropolitan Division during the week. However, they will need more winning weeks to make gains for the top.
In this coming week, the Capitals will end their four-game road trip on Monday. They will visit Montreal. They’ll stay in D.C. on Wednesday to play Chicago and on Friday to play Detroit. They’ll leave their city to go to New York City to play the Rangers on Saturday. There are no easy games, but it is possible for the Caps to do better than split the week on paper. We’ll see if they can do so.
Philadelphia Flyers - PDO: 100.6 (12th)
In last week’s snapshot, the Flyers were in second place and not far from first place. They are now in a fifth. Why? Because the Flyers lost this past week. Out of a potential six points, they earned one. They lost at home to Florida last Tuesday, 2-1. They were shutout at home by New Jersey, 3-0. They had an amazing four-goal third-period comeback against Tampa Bay to force overtime - and lost it there, 6-5. That’s a 0-2-1 week for a team that shoots well (shooting percentage is 9.33%) and struggles to make stops (91.3% save percentage and Brian Elliott was hurt against New Jersey). The gnashing of teeth shall continue among the Flyers faithful.
The Flyers will try to get back on track and get some better results with a three-game week coming up. They will travel up to Buffalo for a Wednesday night game. After Thanksgiving, they will host the Rangers in a game that will be on NBC. A national audience will see a game with some short-term division impact. For a team that has not won at home in their past three games, no pressure. The Flyers will end their week in Toronto on Saturday night. Again, another no pressure situation, it’s not like hockey night in Toronto is a thing. But seriously, they do need to turn it around because one point weeks are not going to cut it in this division.
Carolina Hurricanes - PDO: 96.4 (29th)
Ever since former Broad Street Hockey writer and hockey analytics maven Eric Tulsky joined Carolina, the Hurricanes have become a premier team in terms of attempt differential, shot differential, and general 5-on-5 play. They keep whiffing in two categories: shooting and goaltending. 2018-19 appears to be no different. Despite a whole lot of changes, the team is shooting at 5.58% in 5-on-5 play, which is just slightly higher than Los Angeles, the current worst team in the NHL. Their team’s save percentage is worse than Philly as they are one of seven teams below 91% right now. What this means is that the Canes have a lot of good performances, they are a difficult opponent on the ice, and they are remarkably frustrating to watch as their processes have yet to yield the desired results. This past week was not so bad. They had two games and split them. They beat Chicago in OT last Monday and they got decisively beaten at home by Columbus last night. Still, fans and presumably management have been waiting years for a breakthrough. It has yet to come. They will go to the table on Thursday and talk about how to get some of that Islanders luck to come their way.
Carolina will be busy this week. Tonight, they will host New Jersey, who also played on Saturday, so it should be a “fun” game between two possibly tired teams. Carolina will stay at home for Thanksgiving as they’ll host Toronto on Wednesday and Florida on Friday. The Canes will have to travel after that Florida game as they have the Isles in Brooklyn on Saturday. As ever, the opportunity is there. Recent history suggests that the opportunity may not be met. To quote a possibly common Canes fan mantra, “Maybe this time it will be different.”
New Jersey Devils - PDO: 99.3 (21st)
After a hot start, both the goaltending and the shooting have cooled off for the Devils. Neither percentage is even good, but neither are among the league’s worst either. Keith Kinkaid has done his best on his end. The shooting, well, that’s a team thing. It could be worse, they could be Carolina. They could also be in last place but they are not. Their seven game Road Trip from Hell ended with a 1-6-0 record as they ate a 5-2 loss in Winnipeg. The rest of their week was much better. They hosted Pittsburgh on Tuesday and beat them 4-2 to end a winless streak. They went to Philly on Thursday and shut them out 3-0 to get some revenge from the last Devils-Flyers game and get a rare road win. They played well against Detroit but could not finish (see shooting not being so hot) and they lost in OT, 3-2, in Newark. Not the best ending, but 5 points after the Winnipeg loss is a step in the right direction. It was good enough to get out of last place and back in the “mediocre mess” that is the Metropolitan Division.
In this coming week, the Devils will be quite active. They will go to Carolina for a game this evening. Both teams are coming off games so it’ll be something, I’m sure. The Devils will return home for the holiday. They’ll host Montreal before Thanksgiving and they will host the Islanders on Friday. Unlike the rest of the division, they will be idle on Saturday. That is not to say the schedule makers gave them a big break; they have a back-to-back set starting next week. But that will be in next Sunday’s snapshot. A good week for NJ can have them move up a little bit more. If that happens, they will surely be thankful.
Pittsburgh Penguins - PDO: 100.2 (t-14th)
The state of your team, Penguins! It is November 18 and they have won one (1) game all month. Over the whole season, their goaltending has been on the weaker side and their shooting has been on the higher side. Yet, it has not been enough to garner them wins as of late. In this past week, New Jersey beat them 4-2, Tampa Bay beat them 4-3, and Ottawa just beat them 6-4 last night. Clearly, they are in a slump. As with most slumps, it is hard to see the end of one. The fans may be thankful for the stars they get to watch, but they too will be hoping for an end to this slump A.S.A.P.
The Penguins will get four shots to do this week, with three of them at home. The first chance is on Monday night when they host Buffalo. The second chance is on Wednesday night when they host Dallas. The post-Thanksgiving back-to-back will be tough. They’ll go to Boston on Black Friday and then return home to host Columbus. If they do not change their fortunes soon, that Columbus game may be a first-versus-worst game. We shall see.
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 Columbus stay at the top of the mountain or will someone rise up to challenge them? Will the two New York teams stay in the playoff spots, or will they be dethroned by, say, Washington or some other team getting hot? Who is more likely to rebound from this past week’s results: Philadelphia or Pittsburgh? Can the New Jersey Devils keep inching their way up from the basement? Please leave your thoughts about all of this in the comments. Thank you all for reading.