The tough Metro Division just go a new wrinkle in the mix. With six points separating the top teams from the bottom teams, the New York Islanders have become the new surprise in one of the toughest divisions in hockey. The red hot Carolina Hurricanes have come back to Earth a bit. While the Pittsburgh Penguins are showing why they are still the class of the division. Time to go inside the wild and wacky NHL Metro Division Notebook to see how the Islanders are on top.
NHL Metro Division Notebook: Watch Out for the New York Islanders
New York Islanders
How about those New York Islanders? Barry Trotz has gotten his New York Islanders playing a certain style and it is working. Trotz’s team is on a five game winning streak. During the team’s five game winning streak, the Islanders beat their nemesis the Pittsburgh Penguins twice. The Islanders are 6-0 in their first six divisional games of the year. That is saying something for such a tough division. The Islanders are playing hard each and every night. Having a steady coach behind the bench is helping this team succeed without John Tavares. Even with Mathew Barzal in a sophomore slump, the Islanders are finding ways to score goals. While Barzal isn’t scoring at a high rate, he still has a high assist total. Players like Brock Nelson, Josh Bailey, and Anders Lee have picked up the pace. Let’s see if the Islanders can keep this up.
The Pittsburgh Penguins are in a little bit of slump. After Pittsburgh swept their Canadian road trip, the Penguins lost three games in a row only picking up one point. Even with the Penguins struggling, Evgeni Malkin is producing like the MVP for not only his team, but the NHL as well. Pittsburgh’s struggles can be contributed to their defense and goaltending. Even with their All-Star defenseman Kris Letang in the lineup, their defense is still suspect. Though the Penguins won back to back Stanley Cups with this defense, the problems this team had defensively prior to the Cup runs are rearing their ugly heads again. Even in net, the Penguins have problems. While Matt Murray is playing well, the Penguins still do not have a suitable backup. Casey DeSmith is good, but Pittsburgh needs a veteran presence.
Columbus Blue Jackets
Prior to the Blue Jackets taking off to California, the Columbus hit a road block in Detroit. The California sun will hopefully change the fortunes of this team this season. Sergei Bobrovsky, the team’s All Star goalie, was benched in favor of Joonas Korpisalo. Even though Bobrovsky is the team’s number one goalie, Korpisalo was the hot goalie at the time. John Tortorella wanted to ride the hot hand which was the smart move. Korpisalo led the team to victory on back to back occasions. The team was testing Korpisalo to see if he could take on the number one role in case Bobrovsky leaves. The question will be what the Blue Jackets will do if the team remains in this current position with their free agent goalie Bobrovsky.
Best of the Rest:
Carolina Hurricanes – Even though Carolina got off to a great start, currently the team is in the midst of a losing streak. Having lost three games in a row, only picking up one point, the Hurricanes have dropped in the standings. Going on the road usually helps a team find themselves. Not so right now for the Hurricanes. Eventually, Carolina would come back to Earth. However, the Hurricanes will remain a tough team to play against the rest of the season. Despite losing three games in a row, Sebastian Aho was able to extend his point streak to 12 games to begin the season. Getting Scott Darling back between the pipes was suppose to help this team. Unfortunately this was not the case. Darling needs to rekindle the magic he had with the Blackhawks for the Hurricanes to succeed.
Washington Capitals – Forget all the talk about a Stanley Cup hangover. The Washington Capitals just start seasons slow. If you look at the stats through 11 games last season, the Capitals were 5-4-2. To begin this season, the Capitals have a record of 5-5-1. As a matter of fact, these records are pretty identically. During the Capitals Stanley Cup run of last season, it took about 20 games before the Capitals starting really showing their muscle. It may take the same about of time this season as well. Unfortunately for the Capitals, their charge will come will a new bench boss instead of a familiar face. Going 2-2 through Canada did not help the cause for Washington. Then when the team came home, the fell in a overtime to Dallas. Washington has always played well at home and maybe this stretch of games will help them right their season.
Philadelphia Flyers – Like last season, the Philadelphia Flyers are a streaky team. No one expects them to lose 10 straight games again. Prior to the Flyers heading to California, the Flyers three games in a row. However, once the Flyers landed in California things started to head in a positive direction. Winning two of three games in California while picking up five out of six points is a really successful road trip. While Claude Giroux and Jakub continue to produce, it is the play of Brian Elliott that is getting the attention. Elliott picked up back to back wins and is gaining confidence with each start. Not only that but Calvin Pickard performed well in a shootout loss to the Sharks. Philadelphia has one more game out West against the Arizona Coyotes. Philadelphia will need to keep bringing the same intensity to end the road trip with a winning record.
New York Rangers – Don’t look now but the New York Rangers are on a three game winning streak. Winning two out of three games in California has sparked the Rangers turnaround. Realistically the Rangers should won or at least picked up points in all three games in California. While both of their wins in California came via the shootout, this is the NHL and there are no style points. Usually the first game back from a road trip is tough, but the Rangers took that saying threw it right out the window. Led by a great performance by Henrik Lundqvist, the Rangers defeated the Buffalo Sabres. The Rangers are playing well defensively and getting timely goal scoring. Jimmy Vesey is starting to heat up and the match with head coach David Quinn is perfect match. Look for Vesey to get more ice time after his performance against the Sabres.
New Jersey Devils – Suffice it to say the New Jersey Devils are not playing well. As the old saying goes, hindsight is always 20/20. Everyone can go back to the off-season and play Monday morning quarterback and question the moves or non moves of Ray Shero. The Devils management staff is trying to follow a plan to improve this team for the long haul. However, letting players go like John Moore and Brian Gibbons has certainly hurt this team. The Devils have some major flaws especially on defense. In a what could somewhat a shocking move the Devils sent down Pavel Zacha to the AHL to find his game. Zacha has yet to score this season, and he needs to get his confidence back. Brett Seney is up with the big club along with Joey Anderson. Would not be surprised to see more moves if the Devils struggles continue.
Each week it is a different story in the Metro Division. Things can change not only change week to week, but game to game. This time next week another team could be in first place. Stay tuned.