With the NHL coming out of its annual Christmas back, it is time to get back to work. Throughout the past year, some teams in the Metro Division have enjoyed more success than others. While some teams are hoping that a new year brings new results. With the calendar flipping to 2019 midnight Tuesday night, let’s take a look back at the year 2018. Time to go inside the final NHL Metro Division Notebook as we put a bow on 2018.
NHL Metro Division Notebook: Putting a Bow on 2018
The Christmas break couldn’t even stop the train known as the Washington Capitals. So far through the month of the December, the Capitals have only lost two games. That is impressive for a team that started off slow again this season. Washington had reason to start slow. The 2017-18 season ended on a high note as the Capitals won the Stanley Cup. If you do not remember anything else about 2018, you will remember one thing, it was the “Summer of Ovi.” Alex Ovechkin along with his teammates accomplished something nobody thought they would and that is win a Stanley Cup. Throughout the entire summer, it was nothing but one big party. However, once it was time to get back to work, the Capitals focused their attention from partying to playing hard on the ice. Even with all the changes the Capitals are determined to win again.
Columbus Blue Jackets
Prior to the break, the Blue Jackets were one of the hottest teams in the NHL winning four straight games. Coming out of the break, the Blue Jackets looked flat. Despite extending their winning streak to five games, the Blue Jackets fell to the Maple Leafs the next night. Columbus hopes to end 2018 on a high note with a win. Unfortunately, the Blue Jackets continue to have disappointing playoff runs. After being up 2-0 on the Washington Capitals in the first round of the playoffs, Columbus could not finish the job. The real question is can this team the way its structured ever get over the hump in the playoffs? Possibly, but if that happens it may be without Artemi Panarin and Sergei Bobrovsky. Both players are unrestricted free agents. Panarin’s agent will meet with Columbus during the All Star break to discuss his client’s future.
Over the past three seasons, the Pittsburgh Penguins enjoyed a lot of success. During that time period, the Penguins won two Stanley Cups before losing to their rival the Washington Capitals in the second round of the 2018 Stanley Cup Playoffs. In that series the Penguins looked tired from making back to back deep playoff runs. Now the Penguins looked refreshed coming into the 2018-19 season. It took some time for the Penguins to get rolling. Pittsburgh is now on a five game winning streak, winning their two games after Christmas. Pittsburgh was dominate in both of those games. Once the break was over, the Penguins announced Jake Guentzel’s new five year, $30 million contract. The way Guentzel has been playing especially in the playoffs, he is worth the AAV of $6 million. The real question is will Jim Rutherford make anymore moves to make his team better.
Best of the Rest:
New York Islanders – Lots of changes for the New York Islanders as 2018 comes to an end. A new coach in Barry Trotz, and a new general manger in Lou Lamoriello. These changes have allowed the Islanders to become a respectable team again. With Trotz behind the bench, the Islanders are showing their never quit attitude. Regardless of the Islanders make the playoffs this season, one thing is for sure, his team will be hard to play against. Coming into the season, the Islanders were already behind the eight ball, losing John Tavares via free agency to Toronto. However, the Islanders showed the Maple Leafs on Saturday night, he is not missed as Mathew Barzal scored a hat trick in the victory. The Islanders are only one point out of the final playoff spot. The question will be do the Islanders have the goaltending to get into the playoffs?
New York Rangers – Closing at the 2017-18 season, the Rangers made it clear it was time for a rebuild. Trading off expiring contracts for draft picks was only the start. The Rangers hired David Quinn to be the new head coach. If the Rangers wanted to get younger, the best way to go was to hire a college coach. Throughout this season, their has been some ups and downs. However, through this rebuilding period, the Rangers are still right there for a playoff spot. During the season, the Rangers young talent has been on display, especially Filip Chytil. Chytil had a nice stretch for the Rangers scoring goals in five straight games. Going forward the Rangers will want to build around players like Chytil, Mika Zibanejad, Chris Kreider, and Kevin Hayes. Since the Rangers do not have the talent like other teams, they will need to out work other teams.
Carolina Hurricanes – Things did not end well for the Carolina Hurricanes last season. So much turmoil under new ownerships, led to the Hurricanes falling short in making the playoffs. During the off-season even more changes came with a new head coach in Rod Brind’Amour. Carolina made some trades to change the culture in the locker room. At the beginning of the season, those changes to appear to work as the Hurricanes were in first place in the Metro. However, constant goaltending problems have led to the Hurricanes dropping games and falling in the standings. The only bright spot recently for Carolina has been Sebastian Aho and Teuvo Teravainen. Both players always find ways to get their sticks on the pucks and records points each night. Even though Carolina will outshoot their opponents in each game, scoring is still a problem that must be addressed in the new year.
New Jersey Devils – After returning to the playoffs last season, the New Jersey Devils had expectations of going back to the playoffs. Considering the start to the year, things were trending in the right direction. Unexpectedly, the Devils started to struggle. Everything started going against the Devils. All the breaks the team had last season, were just not there. Keith Kinkaid was asked to do too much because Cory Schneider, had hip surgery in May and was rushed back. Instead of taking the necessary time to recover, he tried to push through it and for that Schneider will not have a record a regular season win in over a year. The Devils are transitioning to the future as Mackenzie Blackwood is the new starting goalie. Blackwood has two wins in three starts with one shutout. The Devils has three wins in their last four games. Things maybe turning around.
Philadelphia Flyers – The Flyers also had expectations of making the playoffs again this season, but are in a free fall at the moment. Over the past month, the Flyers not only fired their general manager, but their coach as well. Chuck Fletcher was brought in to replace Ron Hextall. While Scott Gordon is the interim head coach as he replaced Dave Hakstol. With Flyers constantly dealing with goaltending issues, the team decided to bring up their prospect Carter Hart. Hart, is the future goalie of this franchise, and needs to be back in the minors as soon as possible to help his development. While Hart is playing well for the Flyers, he stills need to have a full season under his belt in the AHL. Every year it seems what holds the Flyers back in goaltending, hopefully 2019 will be different.