Coming into the season, the Metropolitan Division was labeled the toughest in the NHL. All the teams in the division are living up to the hype. As the calendar flips to the December, the race for the top three spots is heating up. Only five points separate the first and sixth place teams in the divisions. Points are at a premium every night. Time go inside the weekly NHL Metro Division notebook.
NHL Metro Division Notebook
Blue Jackets Lead the Pack
Through the first two months of the season, the Columbus Blue Jackets were in a fight for the top spot in the division. All their hard work has finally paid off. As December hits, Columbus sits a top of the division, but how long will that last. With wins at a premium, Columbus knows any slip up could drop them in the standings. Columbus had a decent week with a record of 2-2, including 1-1 in the division. A win over Carolina helped, but losing to Washington without picking up a point did not. The Blue Jackets have a big divisional match up this week with New Jersey, this could prove pivotal for their season. Any slip up against teams below them in the standings, could leave them on the outside looking in.
Back to Earth
The New Jersey Devils are a point behind the Columbus Blue Jackets in the standings. As New Jersey heads into a crucial series with the Blue Jackets, the Devils know they must up their game. Two sloppy games during the week cost the Devils the top spot this week in the standings. New Jersey is a young team, so bad games were bound to happen. How the Devils rebound from bad games will determine how far they go this season. During the week the Devils made a trade with Anaheim. Vatanen has fit right in with the Devils style of play. Going into this series with Columbus, which begins Monday, the Devils have to pick up at least three points if they want to stay close in the standings.
Champs Back In It
The forgotten team in the Metro Division, the Pittsburgh Penguins have climbed back into the top three in the standings. After all the injuries and bad games, the Penguins are back in the mix. For months, the Penguins did not look like the defending champs at all. Many poor loses left players scratching their heads. Now the Penguins are playing back to form. It did not hurt the Penguins were able to find their game against the Buffalo Sabres. Pittsburgh have won four straight and will look to continue their winning ways this week. A major concern for the Penguins will be goaltending. With Matt Murray injured for several weeks, the Penguins will lean on Tristan Jarry. With Jarry only in his rookie season, Pittsburgh will be in the market for a veteran goalie to back him up.
Best of the Rest:
– The New York Islanders sit in fourth place in the division and in the first wild card position, they sit just one point behind the Penguins for the third spot. The Islanders had the winning streak stopped by the Ottawa Senators. It was not the best game of the season, so the Islanders know they must play better with so many games remaining against divisional opponents. Before the Islanders concern themselves, with what lies ahead, they must focus on their upcoming four-game road trip. This trip could be very telling for the Islanders. If they can keep pace with the rest of the teams in the divisions, this will bold well for the Islanders as the season progresses. The Islanders can ill-afford to lose ground at this point in the season.
– Sitting right behind the Islanders in fifth place are the Washington Capitals. Washington was another team that started off the season poor and has rebounded nicely. With Braden Holtby focused in between the pipes, the Capitals are in striking distance of the top spot again in the division. Washington picked up a nice win over a divisional opponent to close the week, but they know more work needs to be done. With Ovechkin, Backstrom, Kuznetsov, and Oshie heating up, the Capitals are a team nobody wants to play right now.
-Right there in six place are the New York Rangers. The Rangers are only five points off the division lead. Despite their winning streaks, the Rangers are again playing inconsistent hockey. One night the Rangers look great and the next night they do not look as good. Everything rides on Henrik Lundqvist being excellent. As Lundqvist goes so do the Rangers. New York was able to pick up a nice win over Carolina to save their week on home ice. As this week approaches, the Rangers face three divisional opponents. Winning all three would be advised, but in a division as tough as the Metro that will be a tall ask. However, gaining any type of points would be good during this tough week.
– The Carolina Hurricanes sit in seventh place in the division. Right now the Hurricanes season is sinking quick. Carolina cannot afford to lose anymore divisional games. It is tough to play catch up in such a tight division as the Metro. Winning against the Panthers on Saturday will help boost their confidence heading into their Western road trip. As the team heads to California, wins and points will be tough to get. Carolina must get quality play from their goalie Scott Darling. The team brought him in to be the backbone of the team and he has not been that so far this season. Darling must lift his game, if the Hurricanes have any chance of catching the leaders.
– What is shocking is that the Philadelphia Flyers sit in last in the division as the team has lost 10 games in a row. Something is not working in Philly right now. While, they have picked up the so-called loser point, the Flyers are losing ground. Is it time for the Flyers to make an organizational change? That is something general manager Ron Hextall will need to evaluate. Nobody wants to speculate about a coaching change, but that is something that could be considered if things do not turn around in Philadelphia. The Flyers are young, but after the start they had nobody saw this coming. Time for the Flyers to salvage their season and it starts this week.