Now that the bye weeks are over in the NHL, the Metro Division continues to be the toughest division in hockey. There is no more room for error amongst the top three teams in the division. Points continue to be at a premier as the divisional games ramp up. Let’s dive into the action even further by examining the week that was in the NHL Metro Division.
NHL Metro Division Notebook
Stretching the Lead
The Washington Capitals continue to be the kings of the Metro for another week. Despite losing three games, including two in the division, the Capitals were able to pick up two points. This has allows Washington to stretch their lead even further in the division. Though losing is a bad thing for most teams, Washington has been fighting all year to win games and climb up the standings. Washington knows that to be mentality stronger for the playoffs, the players must go through adversity now. What has been impressive this season has been Alex Ovechkin’s commitment to defense. While Ovechkin is still getting his points, he is playing a 200 foot game. Ovechkin wants to win and the fact that he is improving his game late in his career is a credit to him.
As a young team the New Jersey Devils continue to battle through adversity. After suffering a six game losing streak, the Devils were able to win two games in a row which allowed them to climb back in the standings. Despite losing to Flyers, the Devils picked up two wins inside the division. While the Devils gave back a point to Washington, New Jersey was able to pick up the extra point in the standings. Taylor Hall continues to show his skills as a leader as he continues to come up big for the Devils. New Jersey has some injury woes to deal with it. Keith Kinkaid, and Brian Gibbons were both placed on IR with injuries. Cory Schneider continues to battle an illness though he be back in the net soon. Ken Appleby filled in nicely for the injured Kinkaid on Saturday.
Not Far Off
With only one game during the week, the Columbus Blue Jackets continue to maintain their position in the top three of the division. As the teams below Columbus continue to nip at their heels, Columbus needs to keep winning and gain points. The Blue Jackets were able to halt their five game losing streak with their win over the Stars. Seth Jones continues to impress this season. Jones is turning into one of the best defensemen in the league. He third in team in points and is being put into all situations by head coach John Tortorella. Pierre-Lic Dubois is coming into his own this season. The third overall pick from 2016 is finally feeling comfortable in the NHL. While he will need to gain some size going forward, Dubois is showing why he got selected where he did in 2016.
Best of the Rest:
-The Philadelphia Flyers are inching closer to the top of the division. Right now, the Flyers sit in the first wild card spot thanks to winning three out of their last four games. Flyers are within one point of Columbus and two points of the Devils. Continuously picking up divisional victories allows the Flyers to climb up the standings. Most did not think this was possible after the Flyers lost 11 games in a row a few months back. The Flyers top line continues to be one of the more dominant lines in the league. However, what has been most impressive this season has been how well their young defense has played. Led by Shayne Gostisbehere and Ivan Provorov, the defense for the Flyers has only been getting better. These young players are ahead of the curve, the Flyers have been able to gain confidence through the season.
-The New York Rangers sit in the second wild card position as they embark on their California road trip. Despite winning two of three games this week, the news was not all good for the Rangers. Kevin Shattenkirk had to undergo knee surgery and will be out indefinitely. Through 46 games this season, Shattenkirk has five goals and 18 assists after signing a four year contract. With this injury, the Rangers can now evaluate their young defensemen on their team. Rick Nash is making up for lost time. Through the week, Nash scored 4 goals over two games after going goalless in 10 games. New York now has two key players out of their lineup for a long period of time. This will mean others will need to step up if the Rangers want to maintain their position in the standings.
-California was not kind to the Pittsburgh Penguins. While it is never easy to go through California and win all through three, picking up one win is an accomplishment. Pittsburgh is still within striking distance of the playoffs. Tied with points with the Rangers, the Penguins could not gain any ground in the standings. What has plagued the Penguins all season has been goaltending. While Matt Murray has been playing, the backup position is just not quite right. They will need a veteran goalie to come in to balance the load for Murray. As far as the rest of the team goes, the Penguins defensively needs to be better. The Penguins offensively are playing better, but GM Jim Rutherford will need to make a move if his team wants to get back to the playoffs.
-The New York Islanders had a decent week. New York had a record of 2-2 during the week. What was shocking was how dominant the Islanders were in their victory over the Blackhawks Saturday night. New York offensively is starting to produce more as more players get involved. The Islanders are just not relying on John Tavares, Mathew Barzal, and Josh Bailey. Anders Lee, Jordan Eberle, and others are getting more involved. New York will need more consistency from their secondary scorers as the season continues. One thing that must get better is their goaltending. Instead of flipping back and forth between Jaroslav Halak and Thomas Greiss. The coaching must pick one and stick with them.
-The Carolina Hurricanes are still within striking distance of the playoffs. Coming off the bye week the Hurricanes split back to back games. Carolina has been without the services of Sebastian Aho. Aho was injured during the game against Calgary and has been sideline with a concussion and a lower body injury. This is where the veteran leadership of Justin Williams and Jordan Staal will come into play. The players will look to those two to rally the team and how to play without a key player in their lineup. One of the smartest thing Carolina could do would be to start Cam Ward going forward. Ward has been more consistent than Scott Darling. Though Carolina paid a price to bring Darling in, Ward has been better this season so far.