With American Thanksgiving in the books, the NHL is back in action. Around this time, the way the standings look now, are pretty close to what they will resemble come April. And wouldn’t you know just like last year, the Washington Capitals are making their move again around this time. As it stands right now only three teams will make the playoffs from the Metro this year. With more parity in the NHL, do not be surprised if only three or four teams make the playoffs from this division. The further a team falls behind, the less likely that team will make the playoffs. Time to go inside this week’s version of the NHL Metro Division Notebook.
NHL Metro Division Notebook: Here Come the Champs
Well it took some time, the Washington Capitals are back to playing at a high level. Is Washington at a championship level just yet? No, but the Capitals are getting really close. Over the past seven games, the Capitals have picked up points in six of those games. Currently, Washington is on a five game winning streak. This can be attributed to the fact Tom Wilson is back in the line up. Another factor is that Washington is finally over their hangover from the summer. Wilson has been a great spark for the Capitals. He brings a different element that Washington does not have. While Wilson can cross a line with his play on the ice, he has been crucial in Washington winning this game. Wilson is on a five game point streak, and since his return from his suspension, he has points in six of seven games.
Columbus Blue Jackets
Not the best of week’s for the Columbus Blue Jackets, losing two of three games has dropped the team to second in the division. Still in a good position because Columbus has been near the top of the division since the season has begun. Cam Atkinson is taking his game to another level and proving he can be the man if indeed Artemi Panarin leaves town. Riding a seven game goal and point streak, Atkinson is worth every penny of his contract. To go along with Atkinson, Pierre-Luc DuBois is rounding into the player the Blue Jackets hoped he would. DuBois has 10 goals on the season and is now a vital piece of the offense for Columbus.
New York Islanders
It was a big week for the Islanders as the team played three divisional games, winning two of them. As a matter fact, the Islanders bounced back nicely after being blown out by the Rangers on Wednesday night. The Islanders showed the team could battle through adversity by bending but not breaking when the Devils tied the game on Friday night. During that game Mathew Barzal starting to show his form from last season. While Barzal only tallied one goal in the game, his fingerprints could be felt all over the game. As most know, playing back to back games is tough. After such a tough game against New Jersey, the Islanders dominated Carolina the next night. Throughout this season, no one player has stood out with goal scoring. It has been a scoring group by committee. Having a balanced lineup will help the Islanders keep up their strong play.
Best of the Rest:
New York Rangers – To begin the month of November, the New York Rangers picked up points in 10 straight games. Over that stretch the Rangers were able to secure victories in six straight games. Part of the reason why the Rangers were so successful was because of the play of Filip Chytil. As a matter of fact, Chytil recorded a goal in five straight games. Chytilmania is taking over Madison Square Garden and Rangers fans are loving it. This kid is the future of the Rangers organization. In fact, Chytil is only 19 years old and is developing as a player. Another player that is playing well for the Rangers is Kevin Hayes. Recall, that Hayes was an RFA in the off-season and only signed a one year deal. Hayes has been a leader for the Rangers on the ice and is the straw that stirs the drink.
Carolina Hurricanes – Coming into the seasons, the Hurricanes were not given any shot to make the playoffs. As a matter fact, with all the trades the team made, many projected Carolina to finish near the bottom of the conference. Well, that is not been the case at all. Maybe all the Hurricanes needed to do was change the culture in the locker room. This has certainly helped as the players are having more fun this season especially on home ice. If you have not seen it, every time the Hurricanes win on home ice, the team has another victory celebration. Carolina will be fighting for a playoff position all season long. As a matter of fact, Carolina is currently on a four game winning streak. While Sebastian Aho is getting all the praise, it has been Michael Ferland who is leading the team in goals.
Pittsburgh Penguins – While the Penguins did pick up points in all four games they played this week, Pittsburgh still has some holes to fix. One thing Pittsburgh will not like, is the fact the team blew a 4-1 lead to Buffalo last Monday. While Buffalo is on a nine game winning streak, there is still no excuse in blowing a lead like that. Considering the Penguins have such a high powered offense. The other loss to Boston was a hard fought game, where the Penguins were able to squeak out a point. In both victories, the Penguins were able to continue their dominance over Dallas and Columbus. With Matt Murray back on IR and missing significant team, Pittsburgh will have to rely on Casey DeSmith and Tristan Jarry between the pipes. If these two can’t get the job done, then Pittsburgh will have to trade for a goalie.
Philadelphia Flyers – Regardless of how good the Flyers look on paper, the weakness of the team will always be goaltending. While Calvin Pickard has not been bad, he has not been good either. Packard was able to pick up a win against the Rangers on Friday afternoon. But other than that high note, the Flyers have lost five of their last six games. This is nothing new, because we have seen the Flyers go through streaks like this before. Until the Flyers get solid goaltending, the team will continue to struggle. The top three players of Sean Couturier, Claude Giroux, and Jakub Voracek are having outstanding years ago, but they cannot do everything. With regards to the Flyers, the team either plays really good or really bad. In such a close division, there is still time for the Flyers to figure it out.
New Jersey Devils – Over the past week or so, the Devils are dealing with injuries. Players like Nico Hischier, Brian Boyle, and Sami Vantanen all missed time due to injuries. All these players are back in the lineup, but things are not getting before for New Jersey. Despite picking up three of four points this week, the Devils still cannot find consistency in their game. Ideally, the Devils would have liked to win both games on home ice. Unlike last season, the Devils are not finding ways to win games, where the team is being outplayed. One player who has found his game again is Pavel Zacha. Since his return from the AHL, Zacha scored four goals in three games. New Jersey is one long winning streak away from climbing in the standings. Finding consistency will be key.