NHL Metro Division Notebook: Tight Race Continues

NHL Metro Division

Things are getting interesting inside the Metro Division. Every night teams inside the top five positions are changing places. Points are valuable and in order to avoid losing ground, the top teams must continue to win. If one team has a bad losing streak, that team could be on the outside a wild card position with a blink of an eye. It is time to go inside the NHL Metro Division for the week that was.

NHL Metro Division Notebook

Familiar Position

The Washington Capitals are in a familiar position as they are atop of the Metro Division. Washington continues to roll as the Capitals have only lost one game in the month of December. After having their six game winning streak ended by the New York Islanders, the Capitals started a new winning streak. After having such a poor start head coach Barry Trotz knew things needed to be shaken up. Now that Alex Ovechkin is back playing with Nicklas Backstrom it has been smooth sailing for the Capitals. Ovechkin leads the team in points with 37. Evgeny Kuznetsov is only a point behind with 36. Both players have propelled the Capitals into first place. Even with T.J Oshie sidelined because of injury, Washington has not missed a beat. Washington is hoping their grind to the top of the standings will help later on in the year.

Finding Ways to Win

The New Jersey Devils are putting the hockey world on notice as a team not to take lightly. While the Devils are a young team, they are proving to have a mindset of a veteran team. The one thing New Jersey has been able to do so well is bounce back from bad loses. New Jersey was able to win two of three games this week and pick up six points to keep up with the other teams in the Metro Division. Leading scorer Taylor Hall has been sidelined with an injury for the last three games. The team is hoping he will return to the lineup this week. Along with Hall, the Devils have been without the services of Kyle Palmieri and Marcus Johansson. Both players close to returning to the lineup. All year long the Devils have been powered by their rookies in their lineup.

Is it Panic Time?

For the Columbus Blue Jackets, it is time to find consistency in their game. Too many times, the Blue Jackets will feel comfortable in the position they are in. Head coach John Tortorella wants more from his team. After a embarrassing loss to the Edmonton Oilers, their head coach did not have much to say. There was not he could say because his team played so poorly. Columbus rebounded nicely to win against divisional rival the New York Islanders before falling to Carolina. Heading into a big week, the Blue Jackets know if they want to continue to be in the top three, they must generate wins and offense. While Artemi Panarin is doing his job, the other star players on the team must step up their play for Columbus to be successful.

Best of the Rest:

– For the New York Rangers, winning is the only option now. Anything less than that will be a disappointment. New York knows they let some games slip away this week. Two games the Rangers can point to are the loses to Dallas and Ottawa. With Ottawa not playing as well as they should be, New York played to the level of their competition that night. Not gaining any points in against Ottawa has them sitting in the first wild card position. With big games upcoming this week before the holiday break, look for New York to try to gain some ground on their competition.

-The New York Islanders sit in the second wild card spot and probably should be higher in the standings if they played better in some games. For the Islanders, bookending the week with wins was enough to salvage the week. New York had to grind out a win over the Kings on Saturday night. While it was not the most prettiest of victories, there are style points in hockey, so the Islanders will take the points and run. If the Islanders want to be better in the standings, they must get better goaltending. Thomas Greiss has not proven to be the guy this year as Jaroslav Halak has made more starts than expected. As a matter of fact the Islanders would be better off with Halak in net as his veteran presence could propel the Islanders up the standings.

-As it has been proven all season having a losing streak of two or more games will propel a team down the standings. The Pittsburgh Penguins are not immune to this theory. Having lost the last four games, the Penguins find themselves on the outside of the playoff picture. It appears the old Pittsburgh Penguins have returned. GM Jim Rutherford knows the Penguins are better, but since the team has played so much hockey over the last two seasons, it was only a matter of time before the players slowed down. While players like Crosby, Kessel, and Malkin are pulling their weight, Pittsburgh lacks the depth they had in years past to be a dangerous team. Don’t be surprised if the Penguins bring in some veteran leadership to help right the ship.

– It has been a season of streaks for the Philadelphia Flyers. The Flyers find themselves within striking distance of the final wildcard spot. Currently, the Flyers are on a six game winning streak. Philadelphia was able to get back to basics on the road and that has carried over into some home cooking. Claude Giroux is having a career season having shifted from center to the wing. As a matter of fact having Giroux on the wing has allowed Sean Couturier to shine. Prior to this season, Couturier had not lived up to the hype. That was because he was taught to think defense first and was not given the opportunity to show his offensive prowess. Now playing with Giroux, Couturier has shown he can be an offensive juggernaut for the Flyers.

-For a team that struggles with consistency, it is shocking the Carolina Hurricanes are not further down in the standings. Though Carolina sits in last place in the division, the Hurricanes are not out of the playoff picture at all. With their team recently sold, Carolina has put their four game losing streak in the rear view mirror with a three game winning streak. With things changing so quickly in the division, Carolina knows points are at a premium. Teuvo Teravainen is playing well for the Hurricanes. He leads the team in points with 24. Cam Ward has been playing more as Scott Darling continues to struggle. Carolina will want to continue their winning streak as the holiday break approaches.

Read More:

NHL Metro Division Notebook: Tight Race at the Top

Photo Credit: By Michael Miller (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0], via Wikimedia Commons

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