Thanksgiving is in the past as we enter the final week of November 2018. There was a lot of hockey played by the eight teams of the Metropolitan Division in this past week. A new team has taken the top spot by sweeping their week as part of an ongoing five-game winning streak. You may have even heard of them. They are the defending 2017-18 Stanley Cup Champion, Washington Capitals. They jumped all the way from fourth last week to first for this week’s Metropolitan Division snapshot.
The three teams they jumped did not have the best of weeks and that made it possible for the Caps to fire up the standings. It is still a somewhat tight division with eight points separating first from last. That’s how the several divisional games broke from this past week. This upcoming week’s schedule is a bit lighter. Games within the Metropolitan Division are highlighted in yellow:
There is very little action save for Monday and Saturday, where more than half of the division will be playing someone. The busiest team will be New Jersey, who unfortunately gets four games in the form of two back-to-back sets.
To add a little flair to this week’s snapshot, I will be highlighting each team’s current top goalscorer as per NHL.com. Some you know, some you may not. Let’s learn together:
Washington Capitals - Alex Ovechkin (17 goals)
The amazing thing about Ovechkin is not that he’s among league leaders in goals. Or that he is in the top ten for most shots on net (87). It’s that he’s 33 and he’s still bombing away for the Caps as he has been for almost a decade and a half now. Time always wins the war, but Ovechkin is not slowing down anytime soon.
The Washington Capitals have won all four of their games last week. They beat Montreal in overtime, 5-4; they dropped Chicago 4-2; they defeated Detroit 3-1; and, yesterday, they prevailed over the Rangers by a 4-2 score. These are not blowouts or routs but the Caps are hot and they’re getting results all the same. Because the three teams ahead of them last Sunday all stumbled a bit, the Caps are now above them all. It is not a safe lead as they’re one point ahead of second, but it is something. The Capitals have a light week ahead of them, though they can keep two in the Metro down by keeping their streak alive. They have the Islanders on Monday and New Jersey on Friday. They may fall a bit just by having only two games; but the defending Champions are back to where they would like to be for the time being.
Columbus Blue Jackets - Cam Atkinson (14 goals)
Cam Atkinson has been a scoring winger for multiple seasons for Columbus. He’s firing on a higher level so far this season. His previous high in shots in a season was 240 in 2016-17; he played 82 games in that season. That’s a rate of roughly 2.9 shots per game. Atkinson’s current shot count is 81 shots in 21 games. That’s a rate of roughly 3.8 per game. He may not be a “name” in the larger league, but the Columbus faithful know it all too well. So do several opponents.
The Columbus Blue Jackets had two games with Toronto last week and one with Pittsburgh. As the 1-2-0 record indicates, it did not go well. Columbus lost 4-2 in Toronto last Monday. They beat Toronto 4-2 last Friday for some revenge. Then Pittsburgh beat them 4-2 last night. The loss to Pittsburgh gives the Pens a little hope and allowed Washington to jump them in the standings. It’s not a huge deal as the Blue Jackets are behind the Caps by one point, but it is notable. They can catch them this week as Columbus has three games coming up: a game in Detroit on Monday, a home game with Minnesota on Thursday, and a trip to Brooklyn on Saturday. The latter of the three could make a statement about whether the Blue Jackets can stay ahead of the New York upstarts or possibly be usurped by them in the short term. We shall see.
New York Islanders - Brock Nelson (9 goals)
As per Natural Stat Trick, the New York Islanders have the league’s highest team shooting percentage in 5-on-5 play plus a top-five team save percentage. This has resulted in many wins for a team that appears to be over-achieving. Nelson is listed at 48th in goals, which is a result of so many being tied for the most goals, the third-most goals (see Atkinson), the fourth-most, etc. This is a result of the goal-scoring wealth being spread throughout the lineup. Six other skaters have at least five goals this season and the only regulars to have zero goals are two defensemen. Nelson. like the team, has a high shooting percentage of 19.6% at the moment. How long will the good times roll? We’ll see.
This past week was not filled with good times. At least, not completely. The Islanders started off last week with a huge 6-2 loss to Dallas at home. It got even worse with a huge shutout loss to their hated rivals, the Rangers, on Thanksgiving Eve. But the Isles bounced back and took two wins to split the week; they won in overtime in New Jersey and they cleaned off Carolina 4-1 at home. The Islanders remain in a good spot in third place with games in hand on everyone who is not New Jersey or Pittsburgh. It may have been a split week, but the times in general have been rolling well for the Isles. They’ll try to keep it going with three tough games coming up. They’ll have Washington first on Monday, a game in Boston on Thursday, and another big divisional game against Columbus on Saturday.
New York Rangers - Chris Kreider (12 goals)
Chris Kreider may have a reputation for crashing too hard to the net and hitting goalies. However, he has become a consistent 20-goal scorer in this league. He didn’t hit the mark last season but he also missed 24 games and still scored 16. With 12 goals already, the 27-year old is on pace to setting a career high in goals. His shooting is already at a career best of 17.6%, but past seasons show that above 11% is regular for him so I do not think a drop off will not be too bad for his total. His production is a reason why the Rangers are here and not near the bottom.
The Rangers had the opposite of the Islanders in terms of how their week went. Their first two games went very well. They edged Dallas 2-1 last Monday and they hammered their rivals at MSG, 5-0 to go into Thanksgiving. After then, the Rangers took two large ‘L’s. On national television, Philadelphia shut them out 4-0 on Friday. Last night, Washington made them the latest victims of their hot streak. The Rangers will try to recover in this coming week as they have two games against Ottawa. The first one will be in Manhattan and the other one will be in Kanata. Despite the off-ice drama, Ottawa are no pushovers on the ice. The Rangers will close their week in Montreal, which is a tough place to play unless it goes to overtime where Montreal has continually found ways to be beaten. The Rangers (and Isles too) would be wise to do well this week because Carolina and others are not that far behind.
Carolina Hurricanes - Michael Ferland (11 goals)
Michael Ferland was not seen as the major piece in the big draft day trade between Carolina and Calgary. But Ferland has been a major player for the Hurricanes this season. He is their leader in shots among Carolina forwards with 74. He has played on a top line in a role not unlike Jeff Skinner (who has been a beast in Buffalo this season). He is their top power play goal scorer. What’s more is that this may be a real big season for Ferland. He set a career high in goals with 21 in 72 games with Calgary last season. With 11 in 22 games, he’s on a great pace to smash that mark. And he’s not shooting that high above past seasons. He’s taking respect along with those goals.
Carolina did great last week. First, they stunned New Jersey for two quick goals and held on for the remaining 59:30 to win 2-1. Second, they rocked Toronto 5-2 in a game where the Canes took a record 29 shots in the first period and took a record of only registering 2 in the second period. Third, Jordan Martinook was a hat trick hero in a 4-1 romp of Florida. The winning ended on Saturday when they lost 4-1 to the Isles. Still, the surge of three wins moved them up into a position right behind the two New York teams. They have only two games coming up so that position may be a little weaker by way of being idle in next week’s snapshot. They can try to maintain their spot with a game in Montreal on Tuesday and a home game with Anaheim on Friday.
Pittsburgh Penguins - Jake Guentzel (11 goals)
This is not an error. It is not Sidney Crosby. It is not Evgeni Malkin. It is not Phil Kessel. It is not Patric Hornqvist. It is Jake Guentzel. Granted, those other four players are not far behind. But Guentzel has been frequently on Crosby’s wing and that is a great position on a roster as it will lead to points. He has been taking care of business.
The Penguins entered last week with one (1) win in November. They sorted that out with picking up six points in four games. They took on Buffalo, the hottest team in the NHL, and lost in overtime to them 5-4. That’s a point. The Penguins hosted Dallas before Thanksgiving and drilled them down 5-1 for a badly needed second win of the month. That’s three for the week. After Thanksgiving was a tough back-to-back set with a game in Boston and a home game with Columbus. The Pens took a point out of Boston in a 2-1 OT loss and they beat Columbus in regulation, 4-2. That makes six points and the Penguins are ever closer to being out of the basement. The Penguins will try to keep earning positive results with three games in this coming week. They will have tough back-to-back set in Winnipeg and Colorado on Tuesday and Wednesday and then a rivalry game with Philly on Saturday. The latter could be a big boost for the Pens in the division or a game to drag them down.
Philadelphia Flyers - Sean Couturier (10 goals)
Sean Couturier had a hugely productive 2017-18 with 31 goals and 76 points. It was a massive jump from the 10-15 goal and 35-40 point seasons he had. But the 25-year old is doing his best to show that last season was no fluke. He has ten already to lead the team in goalscoring and his points are not on pace to match 76 points, 67 is not too shabby either. Moreover, Couturier has been utilized as someone to match up with the other team’s best centers. Between last season and this season so far, it is absolutely a power-for-power matchup.
The Philadelphia Flyers took a step or two back in this past week. After three days of being off to think about their losing streak, they visited Buffalo last Wednesday. Buffalo was and is the hottest team in hockey and so Philly was just another victim in a 5-2 loss. Four winless games is not what you want to have in this division. They took out their frustrations on the Rangers in a 4-0 beating on national television. That ended the winless streak. But the Flyers were on the wrong end of a big shutout last night. They were wrecked 6-0 by Toronto. As such, they fell all the way to seventh. They have only two games coming up to think about all this and sort it out. They have a game with Ottawa on Tuesday, where Philly will have the advantage of Ottawa playing in New York the night before. They have Pittsburgh on this coming Saturday, which should be a rivalry game they’ll be up for. They may not make up a lot of ground, but they can limit the damage they took over the past two weeks.
New Jersey Devils - Kyle Palmieri (12 goals)
Kyle Palmieri was scorching and scoring with a four-game goal streak that totaled seven goals to start the season. He has cooled off somewhat, but Palmieri remains a top right winger on the roster and plays with Taylor Hall and Nico Hischier in addition to receiving top power play minutes. The point is that he does get opportunities to score and whether it is by a tip or a one-timer blast from the right circle, he has received them. With 66 shots, second most on the team, he is taking the appropriate initiative.
The New Jersey Devils had an opportunity to move on up in the division. Instead, they fell back to eighth. They were shocked in the first 30 seconds in Carolina and then failed to score more than one goal against them in the following 59:30. They lost that game 2-1. The Devils rebounded with a decisive 5-2 win over Montreal on Thanksgiving Eve. The Devils followed that up by trying to catch up with the Islanders on Black Friday. New Jersey forced overtime but lost their third overtime of the season so they got one point. The losses to Carolina and the Isles hurt because it kept those teams up plus the Devils failed to match the progress made by Pittsburgh. While they have games in hand, the Devils need to go on some kind of streak to make up any real ground anytime soon. The good news for them is that the division is compact so a run can allow them to do that. But it means those inter-division games are opponent. The bad news for them is that the Devils have a tough four-game set that will use up some of those games in hand and the situation coming up is challenging. They’ll get Tampa Bay tonight followed by Florida on Monday. After three days off, they’ll visit Washington and then host Winnipeg. That’s tough for any team, nevermind a Devils team that I’m not even sure as to whether or not they are good, mediocre, or not.
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. Can Washington stay hot? If not, who will cool them off with a loss? Will Columbus stay on Washington’s trail and possibly jump them? How nervous should the two New York teams be? Will Carolina or Pittsburgh make a move? Can Philadelphia stop their slide? What will the New Jersey Devils earn in this coming week? Please leave your thoughts about all of this in the comments. Thank you all for reading.