After the first full week of the 2019-20 NHL regular season, there is a new leader of the Metropolitan Division. The Carolina Hurricanes jumped out in front with a near-perfect week. It is very early and no one is unassailable. Which is good news for the New Jersey Devils who are entering the second full week of the season still looking for a win. Here is a snapshot of the Metropolitan Division standings after Saturday’s games:
Here is the upcoming schedule for all eight teams. A couple of teams will be heading far away from home in this week. There are only three games within the division taking place, but those games will matter for early positioning. Those three games are in bold and highlighted in yellow:
Let’s go over the week that was and the week that will be for all eight teams in the Metropolitan Division.
The Carolina Hurricanes had four games last week and were a goal away from getting a result in all of them. The Canes pulled out an overtime win at home against a powerful on-paper Tampa Bay squad to start last week. Carolina traveled to Sunrise, Florida and dropped six on the Panthers in a big win. The Canes returned to Raleigh to host the Isles and decisively defeated them 5-2. The only misstep took place last night. They hosted Columbus, who went up by one early in the third period and held on to win. The 2-3 defeat was their first loss of the season. Even with that disappointment, being atop the Metropolitan is anything but a disappointment. Good job.
However, there is no time to rest. The challenges never stop in the NHL. Carolina will head out to California for this coming week for three games. Yes, they will take on all three California based teams. They have a back-to-back with LA and SJ first. Anaheim, who started off this season well, will be their third game in four nights. Carolina will get five days off after that one. That should be welcomed as three games in four nights out West can take a toll on a team. Should the Canes come out of that by winning the week, then that would be a good statement for them to make - and it should keep them near the top of the division once again.
The Capitals slipped from the top spot. Second place is not a bad place to be in. How they secured it involved quite a lot of scoring. They opened their last week with a 4-3 overtime win in Dallas. As much as they lit the lamp in Nashville, they did not light it enough in a 6-5 defeat. They went to Dallas last night and left with two more points with a 4-1 final score. That’s a 2-1-0 week with thirteen goals scored. I do not think anyone doubted Washington’s offensive capabilities. If anyone did, then they were answered in this past week.
Capitals fans in D.C. will get to enjoy three home games coming up this week. They should be a good measuring stick as to where the team is, especially with respect to their offense. On Monday, they will host a high-flying Colorado squad. On Wednesday, they will host a Toronto squad that is not short on weapons. On Friday, they will host a Rangers team that has some talent up front. It is a favorable inter-division game on paper for the Caps as the Rangers will be playing the night before in a rivalry game in New Jersey. I would expect the Capitals to continue to challenge the Canes for the top spot in the division.
No one should really count out of the Pittsburgh Penguins. They are back in the mix in third place with two wins out of three games in this past week. The start of last week was auspicious as they lost 4-1 at home to Winnipeg. The Pens rebounded last Thursday with a 2-1 regulation win over Anaheim. It is still Anaheim’s only loss in their young season so far. Amid a bunch of teams tied at four points, Pittsburgh jumped up a bit with a 7-4 win in Minnesota - both the team’s first road game and road win of 2019-20. It was a good week despite the not-so-good start of it.
Hopefully they have something left in the tank for tonight. They will head up to Manitoba to play Winnipeg this evening. It is a chance for revenge albeit right after a game in Minnesota. After two days off, the Pens will play three home games in four nights. They will face Colorado on Wednesday, which will be aired on NBC SN. Friday and Saturday feature a home back-to-back set with Dallas and Las Vegas, respectively. While it is good to be home, they are not easy games. Of course, a successful week should quell some of the concerns that they are not what they used to be.
Philadelphia opened their season in the Czech Republic so they only had two games on the schedule in this past week to account for travel and preparation. They made the most of it for their home opener. On Wednesday, they dominated and shut out New Jersey in a 4-0 win. They did not build on it. They started their trip into Western Canada by playing Vancouver on Saturday night. Philadelphia did not win but they come back to take the game into overtime. They lost in the shootout, but still left British Columbia with a point. That’s three points in two games in their first week in North America this season.
Philadelphia’s schedule will return to more normalcy in this coming week. On Tuesday and Wednesday, they will visit Calgary and Edmonton respectively. Not only are those games challenging on their own, but both teams have started off the season really well. Yes, even (and especially) Edmonton. Philadelphia will return home for a Saturday night game with Dallas. Philly will have an advantage in that Dallas will be in Pittsburgh the night before. If they take it, the home fans will likely have something to cheer for. Perhaps also a winning week if they can get points out of the province of Alberta.
New York Rangers
Somehow and someway, the NHL schedule makers decided that the New York Rangers should only have one game for the week of October 6. That game was a matinee home game against Edmonton on Saturday, October 12. The Rangers lost that game 4-1. They had one job. So they slip down the standings between idling and earning nothing.
The schedule makers decided that after that one home game, the Rangers should have four days off and only two games in the following week. Their first game for this coming week is on Thursday night at New Jersey. If nothing else, the Rangers will be well-rested for their rivalry game. They will not be well-rested for their second game. It is on the very next night and it will be at Washington. The Rangers players should savor the extra days off and practices now. The light October means heavier months are ahead. As for the back-to-back itself, it could lead to some more shifts within the division.
The Columbus Blue Jackets are in sixth place thanks to the tiebreaker of Regulation/Overtime wins. The Blue Jackets won their first and second games of the season in this past week. It was enough to get them out of the basement position in the Metropolitan. Last Monday, Columbus earned their first victory through overtime against Buffalo with a final score of 4-3. The home fans were pleased. They were not as pleased when Columbus lost to Anaheim 2-1 last Friday. However, the Blue Jackets responded in the second game of their back-to-back by going on the road and handing Carolina their first regulation loss of the season. That’s a 2-1-0 week for their first won week of the season. Onward.
Not right away, though. Columbus is off until this coming Wednesday when they return to their home arena to host Dallas. Columbus has another back-to-back set at the end of the week. On Friday, they will visit Chicago. On Saturday, they will be back in Ohio to host the Islanders - the team they are just ahead of by tiebreakers. Their schedule for this week does not lend itself to making statements. It can lead to points in the standings and that would be just fine for a squad looking to surprise many after their offseason departures.
New York Islanders
The New York Islanders were busy last week with four games. They split the results. The Isles earned their first win of the season when they beat Winnipeg at home last Sunday. The Islanders followed that up with 5-2 loss to Edmonton at home. Nassau, that is; the Isles will not play at the Barclays Center except for select dates starting in November. In their first road game of the season, the Isles lost last Friday to Carolina. But the Isles ended the week on a positive note with a 3-2 shootout win over Florida. Since that second win came through the shootout, they only have one ROW. Columbus has two so the Isles start this week in seventh place.
The Islanders will have three games coming up. On Monday afternoon, the Isles will host St. Louis. That will be tricky and I cannot imagine a lot of people will be in the stands for that one. I could be wrong though. They will head out of Long Island after that game for their next two. On Thursday, the Isles will be in Winnipeg in the hopes to sweep the season set with them. On Saturday, the Isles will be in Columbus. They will have Friday off to travel so they could be more rested than Columbus that night. Whether it will be an advantage is up to them. Like Columbus, not many are expecting great things from the Isles. A successful week may help them achieve the expectations they have for themselves.
New Jersey Devils
The Devils’ start to 2019-20 is a disaster. After blowing a four-goal lead in their home opener and getting crushed in their first road game, there was hope that with three days off that the team could rebound. Nope. Despite the time to prepare for the game, the Devils were out-classed and dominated by Philadelphia in a 4-0 shutout loss. On the very next night, the Devils hosted Edmonton. They went up late in the game but Edmonton equalized on a later power play goal with some dubious refereeing involved. The Devils could not go up again and fell in the shootout to earn just one point instead of a badly-needed win. Last night, the Devils went into Boston and were shutout 3-0. The Devils added a lot of players to help their offense and they scored all of three goals in three games in this past week. The Devils fans, the People Who Matter, are angry, upset, confused, and angry (it bears mentioning twice) at the team’s poor performances. This is far from the start of the season that the Devils wanted and what was expected.
The Devils will need to dig deep to get their first win and start climbing themselves out of this early hole. While it is indeed early in the season, an early slump will catch up to a team that needs to scramble for points later. The good news is that the Devils will be at home for this week and until November 2. They will host Florida on Monday for a 1 PM game that will draw few fans to the Rock; they will host the rivals Rangers on Thursday night for a game that may be overpriced for many fans; and they will host Vancouver on Saturday for a 1 PM game that is a wholly appropriate for the day. The bad news is, well, the performances from the players and the coaches need to be much better than they have been and there is not a ton of evidence from the first five games that it will be. The Devils need wins in this coming week. Will they get them? We can only hope.
That closes the second Weekly Metropolitan Division Snapshot of the 2019-20 season. Just about everyone not named the Rangers are now in season mode with three to four games in a week and road trips here and there. What are your thoughts on the Metropolitan Division? Who will lead the Metropolitan Division by next week’s snapshot? Who has the most to prove in this week coming up? Will the Devils win a game? Please leave your answers and other thoughts about the eight teams in the division, what they did, and what is coming up for them in the comments. Thank you for reading.