The NHL Metro Division Notebook is getting hot and heavy as the NHL All-Star Break inches closer. While the focus is on the top three teams, the New York Islanders are looking to be the fourth team in the mix for the playoffs from the Metro. Given the Islanders never quit, don’t be shocked to see them come the end. There is still a long road ahead for all these teams and things could change in the standings multiple times. Time to inside this week’s NHL Metro Division Notebook.
NHL Metro Division Notebook: Islanders Playoff Push
The Washington Capitals remain in first place in the Metro Division. Along thing that remains the same is the dominance by Washington over Boston. The Capitals have not lost a game to the Bruins in 14 straight games. That is remarkable considering the pieces the Bruins have. Up and down the Washington Capitals have one of the more complete teams in the Eastern Conference. While the Capitals may be a step behind the Lightning, who isn’t these days, Washington knows they can compete with Tampa Bay. The Capitals did receive some bad news as Braden Holtby left the game on Saturday after taking a stick to the left eye. Considering how scary eye injuries can be, fans of the Capitals can breathe a sigh of relief as Holtby was back at practice for the Capitals.
After having their eight game winning streak snapped, the Penguins bounced back nicely with two wins in a row. One of those wins started their five game road trip out west. Pittsburgh would fall to Los Angeles on Saturday night, but have three more games to have a successful road trip. Some news that made headlines this week was that Pittsburgh signed goaltender Casey DeSmith to a new three-year contract extension. Pittsburgh believes that Matt Murray and DeSmith are the goaltending tandem of the future. As of late, these two have been playing well. Though you have to wonder will DeSmith eventually take over the number one role from Murray some day. Once the Penguins road trip is over, the team will head into their mandatory week off to go along with the All-Star break. The time off will allow Pittsburgh to gain some rest.
Columbus Blue Jackets
Here is a team that is looking to gain respect in the Metro Division. It appears the Columbus Blue Jackets are going all in this season. However, will it be with Sergei Bobrovsky in between the pipes. Towards the end of the week, Bobrovsky and the team had a little issue, where the team suspended for a game. Surprisingly the Blue Jackets were able to defeat their opponents that evening in the Nashville Predators. The next day, Bobrovsky was back with the team after an internal discussion and everything was resolved between him and management. Though Bobrovsky didn’t start the next game, he did get the start Sunday night against the Rangers. The real question is do the Blue Jackets have enough confidence in Joonas Korpisalo so they can trade Bobrovsky? Or will they keep him as an own rental?
Best of the Rest:
New York Islanders – The New York Islanders continue to beat the odds. Prior to the season, everyone pegged the Islanders to finish near the bottom of the division considering the departure of John Tavares. However, the Islanders put a plan in place to prove the doubters wrong. As the Islanders continue to win, the team inches closer to a playoff spot. Something that was nearing impossible to think about in the off-season. Barry Trotz has got his team playing very well. Not to mention goaltender Robin Lehner continues to bring stability to the position. Lehner could receive a nice contract from the Islanders this summer. It will be a fight until the end for the Islanders with teams like Montreal, Buffalo, and Carolina also battling for a playoff spot.
Carolina Hurricanes – Even after all the losing the Hurricanes went through, Carolina is only five points behind the Islanders for the final playoff spot. Carolina is going to make sure things become interesting in the final stretch of the season. Though for those whole follow the game of hockey, it feels like deja vu again. Every season, Carolina will make a push after a losing streak and ultimately fall just short of making the playoffs. The Hurricanes are hoping to change the script this season. In fact, Carolina wants to keep the trend of five teams making the playoffs from the Metro. Carolina picked up three wins this week and that helps considering one victory was against Buffalo, a team they are chasing in the standings. Regardless of what you think of those post-game celebrations, the players are having fun.
New York Rangers – Nothing is going right for the Rangers lately. The only good thing really is that the Rangers finally defeated the Islanders inside Barclays Center. Considering how many times the Islanders and Rangers meet during the season, that is a real surprise. After the weight of the world was lifted off their shoulders, the Rangers followed that win with a loss. New York has lost five of their past six games. Just like other teams in the division, the Rangers will need to evaluate which players on their roster have the most trade value. One player who could attract some value from teams is Mats Zuccarello. He would be a great depth player to any contending team. As far as any other players go it depends if they will be brought back for the rebuild that is happening.
New Jersey Devils – The New Jersey were able to end their three game losing streak, thanks to Mackenzie Blackwood coming back into the lineup. Prior to the Flyers game on Saturday, the Devils activated not only Blackwood, but Marcus Johansson as well. With Taylor Hall still out of the lineup, the Devils will rely more and more on Nico Hischier, Kyle Palmieri, and Johansson. Do not be surprised if it is announced that Palmieri will be an injury replacement for Hall at the All-Star Game. Palmieri is having a stellar season for the Devils, and deserves to be there. More news on the injury front as Cory Schneider is practicing with the Devils. If Devils do eventually want to trade Schneider, he will need to prove his value to other teams. However, maybe the Devils trade Keith Kinkaid instead. Ray Shero has a plan that he will not be altering.
Philadelphia Flyers – Not an ideal week for the Philadelphia Flyers as they lost three of four games. The Flyers not only sit at the bottom of the Metro, but they are dead last in the Eastern Conference. Carter Hart has been a nice story for the Flyers, but he needs to be back down in the AHL so he can grow into an even better NHL player. Going forward the Flyers will need to access which players could gain the most value at the trade deadline. One of those players on the move could be Wayne Simmonds. Simmonds has been the perfect Flyer for many years. He will be a great addition to any playoff contending team. One question needs to be asked is will the Flyers trade one of the following three players Claude Giroux, Jakub Voracek, or Sean Couturier at the trade deadline.