As the quarter mark hits in the NHL’s regular season, the Metro Division is by far the most intriguing. At the beginning of the season, many experts predicted the same teams would rise to the top. As the holiday approaches, the Metro Division has five teams currently in the playoff picture. This shows not only the depth but how competitive the Metro Division has become.
The upstart New Jersey Devils lead the way, with the familiar faces of Pittsburgh and Columbus right on their heals. The Islanders and Capitals round out the wild card spot. Will the Metro Division have five teams in the playoffs this season? Only time will tell. One thing is for sure it will be a fight night in and night out inside the Metro Division.
NHL Playoff Predictions
New Jersey Devils – 70%: The surprise team thus far this season has been the New Jersey Devils. Nobody would have thought the Devils would be sitting in first place with the season hitting the 20 game mark. New Jersey has become a young, talented, and fast team. Last season many veteran players were not happy with their performance on the ice and it motivated to be better this year. Their attitude was passed down to the rookies on the team, who made an impact not only in training camp but once the puck dropped on the regular season. At some point, the Devils will come back to Earth, but for now, New Jersey has a high percentage to make the playoffs.
Columbus Blue Jackets – 75%: Most people figured the Columbus Blue Jackets would be in the playoff picture as Thanksgiving approached. Tied for the division lead with the Devils, the Blue Jackets are starting to play with more consistency in their game. Trading for Artemi Panarin has proven to be one of the better acquisitions. He has brought a winning mentality to the Blue Jackets. Panarin is the player Columbus has been missing. Alongside Panarin is a cast of hard workers that include the likes of Seth Jones, Cam Atkinson, Josh Anderson, and Sonny Milano. The Blue Jackets have a great chance to finish in the playoff hunt towards the end of the season.
Pittsburgh Penguins – 75%: A team that got off to a rocky start that has ridden many waves of emotion has been the Pittsburgh Penguins. Coming into the season, the defending champs, lost many key players that helped them win back-to-back Stanley Cups. Playing that many games over two seasons definitely takes its toll on the players. Not to mention having 19 back-to-back games did not help either. The failed experiment of Antti Niemi did not help matters either. As the season progressed, the Penguins have gotten better. Pittsburgh has a winners mentality that will propel them to the playoffs.
New York Islanders – 50%: Another team with expectations entering this season was the New York Islanders. Once captain John Tavares found his game the Islanders starting clicking on all cylinders. A crucial move to help Tavares was having him play with Anders Lee and Josh Bailey. That trio was crucial in the Islanders run at the end of last season. Many thought with the addition of Jordan Eberle, Tavares and Eberle would rekindle their magic. That combination did not work well, so Eberle started playing with Mathew Barzal. With those two moves, the Islanders now have two lines that teams now have to prepare for. If New York can get more consistent goaltending, their playoff chances improve. As for now, they are a bubble team at best.
Washington Capitals – 40%: A once-dominant team is now fighting for their playoff lives. Nobody would have thought the Capitals would be struggling to just hold on to the final wild-card spot as the season hits the quarter-mark. There have been many ups and downs for the Capitals this season. This all starts with the play of their forward group. Alex Ovechkin started off the season well but has cooled off as of late. Other players like Evgeny Kuznetsov, Nicklas Backstrom, and TJ Oshie are not producing like they once did either. Another issue is the Capitals defense. Either their defense is really good or it is really bad. Once the Capitals put all the pieces together, they have a great shot at making the playoffs. As it stands right now, they will struggle to make the playoffs.
Carolina Hurricanes – 30%: Carolina came into the season as everyone’s surprise team in the Metro Division to make the playoffs. Though the Hurricanes only sit a few points back in the standings, it will be an uphill fight for Carolina to make the playoffs. There will be no way for the Hurricanes to keep up their current level. In the midst of the current winning streak, their flaws are being hidden. However, once this goes sideways all the flaws will reappear again. Carolina will end up falling short of making the playoffs.
New York Rangers – 40%: The New York Rangers have been a disappointment. How could a team with so much skill perform so badly? Was it coaching or was it something else. The Rangers have fought their way back into the playoff picture, but the uphill climb will be too much for them and they will end up falling up short. It will all fall on the players and how they handle the situation they are currently in. Though it would not shock anyone if the Rangers end of making the playoffs.
Philadelphia Flyers – 10%: Entering the season the Philadelphia Flyers had higher expectations. Right now the Flyers sit at the bottom of the division with no hope in site. The only bright for the Flyers has been the play of Claude Giroux. Playing with Sean Couturier and Jakub Voracek has allowed Giroux to take his game to the next level. The biggest question mark has been goaltending. Brian Elliott has not been the answer for the Flyers this season. If Elliott can turn his game around and the Flyers find a more consistent game, they have a shot of battling come towards the end of the season. But all signs indicate that will not happen.
Tune each week to see if the current group of playoff teams in the Metro Division can hang on to their spots.