A Look at the Metropolitan Division

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Now that the Caps are over 1/8th of the way through the regular season, it’s a good time to start taking a look at how the other teams in the Metropolitan Division are faring.  Here’s an inside look at how the other seven teams in the Caps’ division have been playing so far: 

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New York Rangers

20161007145057new_york_rangers_90th_anniversary_logoThis familiar Post-Season foe has gotten off to a great start.  New York currently sits with a record of 9-3-0, and has a whopping 50 goals in only 12 games.  Their current team average shooting percentage is at 13.5%, making them the highest scoring team in the league by far.  The Rangers are averaging 4.23 goals per game, which is 0.73 goals higher than the next closest team in the entire league.  In seven of their nine wins, the Rangers have scored five goals or more.

J.T. Miller, the Rangers’ 2011 first round pick, is having another breakout year so far.  Up until last season, he was only playing partial seasons with the Rangers, spending the rest of the time with the Wolf Pack.  He got his first 20+ goal season last year and totaled 43 points on the year.  So far this season, he has five goals and eight assists in 13 games, giving him the top point-scorer spot on the team.

It’s hard to pinpoint where the Rangers’ scoring ability comes from, given that their first, second, and third line forwards all have at least eight points in their first 13 games.  Needless to say, as it stands so far, the Rangers have a deep scoring team that can generate points in many different ways.  Their goals-for are almost twice their goals-against, making them the biggest offensive threat in the Metropolitan Division so far.

Pittsburgh Penguins

pittsburgh_penguins_logoThe Penguins just finished up a four-game road trip, facing the Flyers first then making their rounds in California.  They came home to Pittsburgh with seven out of eight possible points, their only loss coming from an overtime decision against the L.A. Kings in Staples Center.  Pittsburgh won decisively against the Ducks and the Sharks, scoring 10 total goals in those two games and only allowing one goal against.

At 8-2-2, the Penguins hold the number two spot in the Metro Division.  Sidney Crosby missed the first six games of the season with a concussion, but in the time he has been back, the Penguins haven’t lost in regulation.  In six games, Crosby has netted eight goals and has been credited with two assists.  His teammate, Evgeni Malkin currently has six goals and six assists in the twelve games that he has played.  Matt Cullen celebrated his 40th birthday on November 2nd, netting his third goal of the season against the Ducks.  He now has 9 points in twelve games.

The Penguins lack scoring depth, but make up for it with their speedy rate of play.  They are quicker than most teams to attack, helping them to win the corner races to the puck and to burn by other teams’ defense.  Marc-Andre Fleury hasn’t had the best of seasons so far, despite his six wins.  He’s averaging over three goals against per game, and is currently sitting at a save percentage of 0.908.  Despite some flaws in their game, the Penguins have more than enough to compensate and capitalize when it matters most.

Philadelphia Flyers

nhl_philadelphia_flyers_200x200_transOffensively, the Flyers may be as big of a threat as the Rangers are.  Currently, the Flyers hold a 0.500 record of 6-6-1, with an equal number of home and away victories.  Last night in Montreal, the Flyers were responsible for the Canadiens’ second regular season loss.

While the Flyers have no problem generating a large amount of offense against their opponents, they are struggling badly in their own zone.  They are second in the Metro Division in goals per game with 3.46, but they sit at a 3.69 goals against per game, more than any other team in the division.  What seems to be happening with the Flyers is a lack of defensive prowess when their top scoring lines are on the ice.  Teams they play are able to capitalize on the opportunities presented to them when guys like Jakub Voracek, Claude Giroux, and Wayne Simmonds are on the ice.  However, despite their negative +/- stats, Giroux and Voracek have at least a point per game on average, and Simmonds is one point shy of a point per game.  They also have the best powerplay in the division so far.

Philadelphia’s biggest issue is their defensive play.  Opponents are easily able to capitalize in the Flyer’s zone, and second and third opportunities present themselves often.  Both goaltenders, Steve Mason and Michal Neuvirth, both have save percentages under 0.88.  Despite being an offensive threat to the teams that they face, the Flyers’ lack of defense and solid goaltending is a serious hole in their play.

Columbus Blue Jackets

columbus_bluejacketsFans from around the league tuned in two nights ago when they caught wind of the Montreal Canadiens losing by a sizable margin against Columbus.  The Blue Jackets ended up winning the game 10-0, setting a franchise record and getting the first 10 goal win in the past thirteen years league wide.  Four players had a two goal game for the Jackets that night.  At 10 games into the regular season, the Blue Jackets are sitting above 0.500 with a record of 5-3-2.

In terms of scoring, the Columbus offense is relatively deep compared to other teams in the Metropolitan Division.  Their neutral zone and offensive zone passing plays look much better than they did in seasons prior, and because of that they are able to generate plenty of offensive zone opportunities.  Defensively, their backchecking has been phenomenal so far this season.

The biggest stories for the Blue Jackets, however, would be their goaltending and special teams.  Aside from his first game, Sergei Bobrovsky is off to one of his strongest starts in his career.  So far, the Russian goaltender has three shutouts on the season, and has a save percentage of 0.947.  On average, he only allows 1.79 goals per game, helping the Blue Jackets to be second in the division in GAA.

Teams should be weary about taking a penalty against the Blue Jackets.  Currently, Columbus’ powerplay is nearly 40% effective, further exemplifying their offensive zone playmaking.  Alternatively, when the Blue Jacket’s go short-handed, they kill off more than 90% of the opponents’ powerplays.  Their play disruption and puck clearing is second to none in the Metropolitan Division.  When playing against the Blue Jackets, teams will need to capitalize on 5-on-5 play, otherwise they will get burned by Columbus’ special teams.

New Jersey Devils

new_jersey_devils_logoLast season, New Jersey’s claim to fame was their low GAA during the regular season.  However, despite their powerful defensive presence, the Devils severely lacked in offense.  During the offseason, they traded Defenseman Adam Larsson to the Oilers for Taylor Hall in hopes to remedy their lack of scoring.  So far, Taylor Hall has eight points in his first 10 games for the franchise, however the Devils are still last in the division in goals per game.

So far this season, the Devils are 5-3-3.  All but one of their losses was decided by only one goal, however, so their record doesn’t necessarily reflect how well they have matched up against their opponents.  Like last season, the Devils don’t allow too many goals per game, sitting at about 2.4 GAA, which is middle of the pack for the Metropolitan Division.  With Cory Schneider in net, who has a respectable 0.927 save percentage, any opposing offense won’t have the easiest time scoring against this New Jersey team.

The addition of Taylor Hall has had a noticeable effect on the team’s offense.  Compared to last season’s stats, the Devils are up about six shots per game so far this year.  Unfortunately for New Jersey, their offensive depth is still lacking, and because of that they still aren’t much of an offensive threat.  Teams can expect a close, well-fought game when playing against these New Jersey Devils.

New York Islanders

logo_new_york_islandersOffensively, the Islanders look very similar to the way that they did during the 2015-16 regular season, averaging about 2.75 goals per game and getting nearly 30 shots per game.  The biggest difference between this years’ Islanders team and last years’ is their possession game.  As it stands right now, the Islanders are dead last in the league in Corsi at 45.28%.

The Islanders, who are 4-6-2 right now, are having a lot of trouble maintaining control of the puck.  Most of the players on the team right now have more giveaways than takeaways, and their puck control in the neutral zone has looked dismal so far.  While breaking the puck out of their own zone and setting up plays in the offensive zone, the Islanders turn the puck over way too much.  One other big factor that hurts this team is the penalties.  New York is second to last in the division in their penalty kill, and they lead the division in penalties with 137 PIM.

Despite their early season woes, the Islanders’ problems are solvable without having to make any player moves.  If the Islanders can solve their possession and passing games, they will be a threat in the division.  Their two goalies, Thomas Greiss and Jaroslav Halak, are solid in net, but have been let down due to penalties taken and turnovers which result in odd-man breaks.  If the Islanders can fix their game and play smarter hockey, they will be a tough foe to face.

Carolina Hurricanes

1280px-carolina_hurricanesAccording to the statistics right now, the Hurricanes are dead last in the division.  They have a record of 3-5-3, and are in second to last in goals for and goals against per game.  On paper, they should not be doing this badly, but there are a couple of factors that are contributing to this slow start for Carolina.

The Hurricanes started off the season with a very poor schedule.  Their first four games were all in Western Canada, and then played two more away games when they came back to the east.  It’s hard for any team to have a road trip to start the season, especially when that road trip is six games long and crosses three different time zones.  Also, despite starting 1-3-2, the Hurricanes have been picking it up in recent games.  Every team that they’ve played, they’ve kept the games close.  With a strong first line consisting of Jeff Skinner, Victor Rask, and Lee Stempniak, and good all-around defensemen like Noah Hanifin and Justin Faulk, the Hurricanes have the potential to fight their way into a playoff spot by April.

Right now, aside from the schedule, the biggest issue for the Hurricanes is their goaltending.  Cam Ward currently has a save percentage of 0.888 and a GAA of 3.11.  Backup goalie Eddie Lack is doing even worse, with a save percentage of about 0.85 and a GAA of 4.00 in the five games he’s played in.  Despite the Hurricanes allowing the fewest shots against in the division, their goaltending is letting them down.  If the Hurricanes can solve their goaltending issue, they will become a threat to anyone that plays against them.

By Justin Green

 

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