With the calendar flipping to 2019, the Metro Division is starting to heat up especially at the top. Currently, it is a three team race for the division title. Washington, Pittsburgh, and Columbus continue to win and making things interesting in the second half of the season. Of course let’s not forget about the rest of the teams vying for a wild card spot. Right now the only team that has a chance is the New York Islanders. Even though this division is weaker than years past, it is still very competitive. Time to go inside this week’s NHL Metro Division Notebook.
NHL Metro Division Notebook: Three Team Race at the Top
The Washington Capitals remain in first place with the Pittsburgh Penguins right on their heels. Right before the New Year, the Capitals got a big victory over the Nashville Predators before heading on a three game road trip. The trip didn’t go exactly as planned as the Capitals only picked up three of six points. Washington did end things on a high note with a win over Detroit. During the road trip Alex Ovechkin was able to pick his 30th goal of the season. Ovechkin has recorded 30 or more goals in each of his 14 seasons in the NHL. That is an unbelievable stat. Ovechkin will not participate in the NHL All-Star game this year. Some believe, since the NHL did not let the players go to the Olympics, Ovechkin isn’t going their All-Star Game.
Even with the Pittsburgh Penguins eight game winning streak, the Penguins could only keep pace with the Capitals and not surpass them in the standings. Pittsburgh was looking to extend their winning streak to nine games, unfortunately that did not happen as the Penguins fell to Chicago. Sidney Crosby will be the only Penguin going to the NHL All-Star game, but over the past eight games the entire team has been playing like All-Stars. Even since Marcus Pettersson entered the lineup, the Penguins have become more sound defensively. All the trades the Penguins made to improve this team earlier in the year are starting to pay off. Even the goaltending is improving. Ever since Matt Murray came back from injury, he has been flawless for Pittsburgh.
Columbus Blue Jackets
With Pittsburgh and Washington continuing to win, this has put pressure on Columbus to win as well. After having a rough week after Christmas, things go better for Columbus as the Blue Jackets picked up two wins during the week. In addition, the Blue Jackets received good news on the NHL All-Star front. Seth Jones and Cam Atkinson will represent the Blue Jackets at the All-Star Game in San Jose. Both players are having great years and the future is bright for this organization. Columbus may use Artemi Panarin and Sergei Bobrovsky as “own rentals.” The time is now for the Blue Jackets to win a Stanley Cup. See what you can do with these two guys in the lineup and hopefully you can trade them after the season if they don’t want to stay.
Best of the Rest:
New York Islanders – What a job Barry Trotz is doing with the New York Islanders. The Islanders sit in the first wild card spot in the Eastern Conference. New York sits one point ahead of Montreal and just one point behind Columbus for third place in the Metro. The Islanders have won six in a row and eight of their last nine games. If the Islanders get into the playoffs, Trotz has to be considered for the Jack Adams Trophy for coach of the year. Over these past nine games, Mathew Barzal is finding his game again. Barzal has eight goals and three assists over that stretch. In addition, Barzal will be representing the Islanders at the All-Star game. Not to mention the Islanders are getting some great goaltending from Robin Lehner and Thomas Greiss.
Carolina Hurricanes – Quietly the Carolina Hurricanes have won four games in a row. Even though the Hurricanes still sit seven points out of a playoff spot, Carolina is playing better hockey as of late. Carolina has won three big divisional games, one of those wins came over the Columbus Blue Jackets. Sebastian Aho continues to be great asset for the team. He will be going to San Jose for the NHL All-Star game. He deserves to go with the season he is putting together. Without Aho, the Hurricanes would not be where they are. As the second half of the season begins for the Hurricanes, Carolina will look to continue their march up the standings. Though it will not be easy as the Hurricanes have tough stretch of games coming up.
New York Rangers – After picking up big road victories before the start of the new year, the Rangers have now lost three games in a row. In those three games, the Rangers have given up five goals or more in each of those games. In those three games, the Rangers were outscored 18-3. While it is a rebuilding year, the compete level that needs to be there in every game, was not there. As previously mentioned, the Rangers do not have the talent to keep up with some of the better teams in the league, so they will need to outwork each team they play. With the Rangers in full rebuild mode, it is time for the team to transition away from Henrik Lundqvist as the starting goalie. Lundqvist is having a year worthy of an All-Star appearance and wouldn’t you know he was selected to represent the Metro Division.
New Jersey Devils – The start of the new year didn’t go exactly as the Devils wanted. After ending 2018 on a three game winning streak, the Devils have started off 2019 and their four game road trip losing two out of three games. To make matters worse Mackenzie Blackwood was injured in the Devils shootout win over Arizona. While it is unknown whether or not Blackwood will go on IR, he will definitely miss the next game as Cam Johnson was called up from the AHL. Taylor Hall remains on IR with a lower-body injury, he was elected to represent the Metro at the NHL All-Star game. Though it is unclear if Hall will go or not. If Hall does not go, then there is a good chance Kyle Palmieri will replace at the game. Nico Hischier is heating up as he has goals in his past two games.
Philadelphia Flyers – Things are just going from bad to worse for the Philadelphia Flyers. The Flyers are in the midst of a four game losing streak. Even with Carter Hart up, the Flyers goaltending has only improved slightly. Staying with the Flyers goalie situation, Mike McKenna will be joining the Flyers. McKenna is a journeyman goalie, who has the ability to play well in between the pipes. While McKenna, is not the answer long-term, he can help ease the load-off Carter Hart. The only good thing coming from this is that Claude Giroux representing will be going to the All-Star game to represent the Metro Division. If the Flyers can get everything together, they have a bright future ahead of them.