Going into the Christmas holiday and a three day respite of NHL action, I think it’s an appropriate time to look at the crowded and under-performing Metropolitan Division and to predict how the division will look come playoff time.
As of Christmas Eve, this is what the Metro division looks like…
Per usual, the Metro division standings are super tight. Although, unlike previous years the division from top to bottom is quite mediocre. With things being so tight, we can expect movement in the standings just about every single night going forward.
How will the division finish?
1 Washington Capitals
Going into the start of this season there was major speculation if the Capitals would have “Stanley Cup Hangover”, after an off season of celebrating after winning the Stanley Cup. I thought this was going to be true and boy was I wrong. As seen above in the graphic, the Capitals sit in the lead of the Metro Division with 47 points. Coming into the Christmas break the Caps are super hot, going 7-3 in their last ten games. Another statistic that is important to me when looking at good teams is goal differential. The Caps are blowing the division away in this category with a +26. Yes, I just listed off two statistics, but let it be known that I am not only a “stats guy”; when watching the Caps it seems they just dominate games. This all stems from their leaders and stars Alexander Ovechkin, Tommy Wilson, Nick Backstrom, and T.J. Oshie, just to name a few. With all this being said, I think the Caps will run away with this division at some point in the second half of the season, this team is just superior to the others in the division.
2 Pittsburgh Penguins
It’s been a weird year for the Pens so far this season. The team struggled mightily out of the gate and found themselves falling behind the top of the Metro division early. Some trades were made to shake up the team a bit and now the team seems to be back on track. The Pens currently sit in the third spot of the division, after making up a lot of ground on the division. The rising of the standings can also be credited to the under performing of many teams in the division. Going into the Christmas break the Pens are 7-2-1 in their last ten games and are on a three game winning streak. Personally, I have a really hard time to ever count the Penguins out of first making the playoffs and second, winning the Stanley Cup. Crosby is like the Tom Brady of football, it’s just hard to bet against him. With the star power and depth, this team will finish second in the division. Jim Rutherford, the GM of the Pens, will make moves before the trade deadline to make his team better, I can guarantee that. The Pens will be gearing up for another deep Stanley Cup playoff run.
3 New York Islanders
No one expected the Isles to be anywhere near a playoff spot approaching the midway point of the season, but here they are. Just two points out of the division with a game in hand over Pittsburgh for the third sport. The Isles are a team that just seems to stay in games. Barry Trotz and his coaching staff can fully be credit for the surprising start to the Isles season. The coaches have turned a team that was a defensive nightmare, to a team that stacks second in goals against in the Eastern Conference. No, I do not think the Islanders are good enough to win the Stanley cup, but this team has put themselves in a spot early in the season to make the playoffs. If the team can keep playing strong defensively and get solid goal-tending from Thomas Greiss and Robin Lehner, this team will sneak into the playoffs. Oh, and that guy Barry Trotz will help push this team into the dance. The Isles will need help though and that will come from the teams struggling below them…
4 Columbus Blue Jackets I’m really not sold on this Jackets team this year. It seems like every other week I am seeing this team go through a losing skid. Although, this previous week we have seen the opposite, the Blue Jackets go into the Christmas holiday on a four game winning streak and are 6-3-1 in their last ten games. There is something about this Jackets teams that makes me not believe in them. Maybe its the fact that Bobrovsky and Panarin openly want out of Columbus or that John Tortorella openly calls out his team to the media. I’m really not sure. But, I do have a gut feeling that this team is going to have a tough second half of the season. I am not saying they will not make playoffs, they could get a wild card spot, but I don’t see them getting into the Metro playoff picture.
5 Carolina Hurricanes It took me a lot of time to think about where this Canes team is going to end up at the end of the season. Clearly, as you can see I do not have them ranked high in the division. The only real buzz out of Carolina recently has been the celebrations after games and the jerseys they’re wearing. Those things are great, but there is not much news about the actual hockey being played. The reason being is the Canes come into the Christmas holiday with 3-6-1 record in their last ten games. In this league you cannot afford to go on losing stretches like that, too much ground is lost to other teams in the division. The Canes are an up and coming team, but they will have to wait another year to make the playoffs, this ain’t the year.
6 New York Rangers Like the Islanders, the Rangers start to the season has surprised many around the league. The Rangers have a solid mix of veterans, young players, and of course, Henrik Lundqvist. Hall of fame? That’s a debate for another time. The Rangers started off the year hot and now have cooled off dropping their last two games to Toronto and Philadelphia. This is realistically just a year of development for the Rangers under new head coach, David Quinn. At the trade deadline I would expect some of the veteran players to be traded to contending teams for prospects and draft picks. One name to keep an eye on in particular to be traded out of New York is Dorchester, Mass native Kevin Hayes. Hayes has had a great year for the Rangers and could be worth a first round pick come deadline time. The Rangers will not make the playoffs but the future is bright in the big city.
7 Philadelphia Flyers Going into this season I predicted the Flyers were going to finish the season in the second spot of the Metro division. Boy, I was really wrong. The Flyers season has been nothing short of a disaster. The two Dave’s have been fired, Hakstol and Hextall. The only positive for Flyers fans at this point is goalie phenom, Carter Hart. In Hart’s first few games he has played great and it seems there is a different buzz around the team now. Maybe a breath of fresh air? This team will not make the playoffs and it will be interesting situation to monitor for the rest of the season. A lot is up in the air in the city of brotherly love.
8 New Jersey Devils Quick little humble brag…I predicted the Devils were going to finish the 2018-19 season last in the Metro division before the season began. Well, so far it looks like this prediction might come true. The Devils have been awful this season. I put most of the blame on the general manager, no moves were made in the offseason to improve this team. The Devils are a true example of things going really south for an organization quick. No, the Devils should not fire their coach, John Hines, you can only do so much with an untalented group. This season will be a culture shock for the New Jersey Devils and they will drafting early in the entry-level draft this upcoming summer.