With each team in the Division approaching the 20-game mark played, we decided it was time for a quick update on how the Metro Division, arguably the toughest group in the league, is doing. This year. We will sort the division strictly by total points, although this start of the season each team’s winning percentage may be a better indicator of their performance, in the Metro division the only change we see is in Columbus and Philadelphia. .
It’s no surprise that the Cannes are already flying high this year. In the pandemic-shortened 2020-2021 season, the Hurricanes finished the year atop the Central Division, which included both the eventual Stanley Cup winner, the Tampa Bay Lightning and the Central Division. Florida Panthers. Their general manager Don Waddell made several changes during the last offseason to improve their chances of winning now. In a move rarely seen in the NHL these days, he managed to draw Jesperi Kotkaniemi away from the Canadiens with an offer sheet and then signed former Ranger Derek Stepan. The Hurricanes also swapped their untested goalies for Frederik Andersen and former Ranger Antti Raanta. And to cap off their offseason moves, they replaced Dougie Hamilton with another former Ranger, Tony DeAngelo, further strengthening Carolina as the new Rangers South. These changes have so far yielded positive results while strengthening their depth as a center and goalkeeper.
It took the Hurricanes ten games to finally lose this season, and in all five of them since they only lost one game. In the division, they have the second most goals and have the fewest goals against. Led by dynamic forwards Sebastian Aho and Andrei Svechnikov, defenseman Tony DeAngelo who currently sits seventh overall in the NHL in points by a defenseman, and Frederik Andersen who could be at the start of a Vézina-caliber season, the Hurricanes are going to be a force to be reckoned with all year round, and quite possibly deep in the playoffs.
The season is young, but many hockey minds expected the Capitals to start slowing down. Their core has aged another year and they are one of the oldest teams in the league, but with 58 goals they lead the Metro in goals scored and are fourth overall in the NHL. Ovechkin is in pursuit of the Great One’s scoring record and remains at the top of the league, tied for second with Chris Kreider and others in the NHL. Aside from Ovechkin, the Capitals’ offense has been a group effort, with the majority of their roster having scored at least one goal so far this season. The team’s performance is all the more impressive when you realize that they are missing major contributors Nicklas Backstrom who has yet to play a game, and TJ Oshie who has been out since October. With twenty-five points in their first 17 games, the Capitals are gearing up for success. As seen below, HockeyStatMiner is a perfect explanation of why their outlook for the rest of the year is most likely positive.
Washington joins Florida as the only teams to date to have scored more than 24 points in their first 17 games. (Hurricanes, Jets, Lightning, Oilers and Rangers are still to be determined).
Since 2005 *: the teams that do this have made the playoffs 95% of the time (36/38 times).
* excluding shortened seasons
– HockeyStatMiner (@HockeyStatMiner) November 18, 2021
The Rangers were hoping to take a step forward this season, and their current record may falsely indicate that they have. However, the jury is still out for the young squad as they have shown positive glimpses of the game, but it was mainly their goalkeepers who allowed them not only to stand still but also to be successful in some stretches this year. . If you weren’t convinced Igor Shesterkin is the real deal, you absolutely should be now.
A major concern is their target differential which is currently negative. There isn’t a long history of success for teams that don’t have a positive goal differential, however there are some skaters on the team who perform admirably. Adam Fox proves his winning Norris season was no fluke, and Chris Kreider is in the midst of the hottest start of his career. While the Rangers suffered an unfortunate loss with Blais falling for the season, if the rest of their roster can start to click, the team could still maintain that position.
Only two games and two wins separate the Rangers and the Flyers in the standings today. There were a lot of concerns about the goaltenders and the Philly defense, all one had to do was look at how many goals they had allowed the previous season to understand the basis of those concerns. This likely prompted their general manager, Chuck Fletcher, to take action during the offseason to rock his roster. They ended up trading Jakub Voracek for Cam Atkinson, Nolan Patrick for Ryan Ellis and acquiring Ristolainen from the Sabers. With these changes, the Flyers have allowed 2.47 goals per game so far, almost a full goal less than their previous season average.
The unfortunate part for the team is their lack of offense. That didn’t allow them to take advantage of excellent goalie Carter Hart. Claude Giroux and Sean Couturier have racked up consistent points, but the team will need more from the other players if they are expected to make a serious push for the playoffs. With the return of Hayes and Ellis, the Flyers could get a much needed offensive boost.
Many hockey experts had written off the Blue Jackets even before the start of the season, but Columbus has a chip on his shoulder and they’re playing competitive hockey. Don’t be fooled by their near loss to the poorer coyotes earlier this week, or their placement within the division. They played the second fewest games in the metro, but scored more goals than the two teams sitting directly in front of them.
New head coach Brad Larsen scored Columbus by committee. The team is led by Oliver Bjorkstrand who is having an exceptional season, and Jakub Voracek who leads the team with thirteen assists. Earlier this month, Patrik Laine was injured and is expected to be out for 4-6 weeks, but once he returns to the lineup, the team may have the ability and firepower to fight back. for a playoff spot as long as their goalie stays consistent. .
The New Jersey Devils are the youngest team in the NHL, a fact that has been evident throughout the season so far. The ups and downs they have experienced, from absolute dominance of the Florida Panthers (the current best team in the NHL) to losing three games in a row, have their fans suffering from motion sickness. While the Devils have been deprived of their best center Jack Hughes since Game 2 of the season, other young players have taken his place.
Former 2020 first-round pick Dawson Mercer, who you may remember from his assist against Rangers last Sunday, was a pleasant surprise for the team, scoring five goals and six assists in his rookie season until now.
While many of them may not be ready for the NHL, the Devils have a depth of organization and outlook. That, combined with the presence of veteran Dougie Hamilton, Tomas Tatar and the eventual return of Jack Hughes, could see their game improve in the near future.
Although aging superstars Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin were absent at the start of the season, the Penguins have had a great start to the year. Sadly, the team were one of the first to experience a COVID-19 outbreak, which ended up sidelining eight players, including Crosby as well as their head coach Mike Sullivan.
While Malkin is still out, the squad are largely back to full health, but with a long way to go, especially in a year when much of his roster is expected to compete in the Olympics. That being said, it still makes no sense to ignore Crosby and Malkin. While the torch has certainly been passed to the new generation, it is still elite and experienced players who can still find a way, even though this season has been frustrating as seen below.
Perhaps the biggest surprise of the season, the New York Islanders currently sit last in the Metro Division. They haven’t had a lot of bright spots this year as the team’s top players struggle to produce and their goalkeepers haven’t made up for it. The bad news got worse earlier this week when Ryan Pulock, currently their most successful defenseman, suffered an injury for 4-6 weeks. Fate continued to target Islanders as Anders Lee, Josh Bailey and Ross Johnston were placed on COVID-19 protocol.
The good news for any Islanders fan reading this is that there is honestly a pretty valid excuse for the team’s poor start. With the new Long Island arena complete, the team embarked on a thirteen-game road trip to start the season and have yet to play a home game. Ethan Sears from the New York Post interviewed Barry Trotz after the last game of this period “It’s become a bit of a long nightmare lately… We are going to open this arena, I hope that will give us new energy, a new direction. Be honest, it hasn’t been easy. We need to play better. If the Islanders manage to find their rhythm, they will have no problem climbing the ranks of the Metro standings.
Statistics via NHL.com