As the mandatory bye weeks hit the NHL, the Metro Division has seen another lead change at the top of the division. The New York Islanders have overtaken the Washington Capitals for first place. However, the Capitals, Penguins, and Blue Jackets all still have a shot at the top spot. It will be interesting what happens after the break is over. Let’s go inside this week’s NHL Metro Division Notebook.
NHL Metro Division Notebook: Islanders Back in First PlaceN
New York Islanders – How about the New York Islanders? A team everyone left for dead coming into this season, sit in first place thanks in large part to a five game winning streak. In fact, the Islanders are showing some great resiliency this season. All season long, there has been question marks with this team. But now they are one of four teams in playoff contention from the Metro Division. The only thing that could stop this team right now is time. With a bye week coming up after Tuesday night, the Islanders may cool off. Robin Lehner and Thomas Greiss have been excellent. Both must keep this level up going forward.
Columbus Blue Jackets – The Columbus Blue Jackets find themselves in a two way tie for second place with the Washington Capitals. As it stands right now, Columbus holds the tiebreaker as they have won more games in regular than Washington. The Blue Jackets enter their bye week on the back of two straight loses. If you ask players on the Blue Jackets, they should have won both of those games. For Columbus, Cam Atkinson is having an amazing season. Atkinson is on pace to score over 30 goals. While Artemi Panarin and Pierre Luc-Dubois are both on pace to score over 20 goals. Columbus has the pieces to go all the way this season. It will be interesting to see what Columbus does at the deadline.
Washington Capitals – Thanks in large part to a five game losing streak, the Washington Capitals are now out of first place. This the first time in several years, the Capitals have lost five games in a row. Washington has just lost some of their mojo. During this losing streak, Washington has taken some bad losses. The Capitals have two more games left before their mandatory bye week. Washington is looking to end their losing streak against two tough opponents. Over the past five games, Washington has only scored nine goals. That is a low number for a team with so much fire power. Maybe the bye week is just what the doctor ordered for this team.
Best of the Rest:
Pittsburgh Penguins – The Pittsburgh Penguins are heading into their bye week sitting in the second wild card position. Prior to the break, the Penguins headed off the West Coast for a five game road trip. Pittsburgh only won of five games on the road. Considering how much momentum the Penguins had coming into this trip, they should have gotten at least one or two more wins. Unlike in past years, the Penguins have multiple players with more than 10 goals, and three players with at least 20 goals. Phil Kessel is one of those players who scored at least 20 goals. Since coming into the league, Kessel now has 11 straight seasons with at least 20 goals. Don’t be surprise if Pittsburgh is active at the deadline.
Carolina Hurricanes – Carolina is bunched in the group of teams that do not have a realistic chance of making the playoffs from the Metro Division. Do not get me wrong, Carolina plays hard each and every game, but they always fall behind the eight ball. It is always tough playing catch up especially in this day and age in the NHL. Prior to the All-Star break, Carolina is out in Western Canada. Once the Hurricanes return, it will begin the mandatory bye week. The Hurricanes hope to make up some ground the idle teams in front of them in the standings. During the week, the Hurricanes made a small trade sending Victor Rask to Minnesota for Nino Niederreiter.
New York Rangers – The Rangers are entering the bye week on a high note. New York has won three straight games. Each week it is a different story with the Rangers. One week, this team shows signs of life, while the next, the Rangers show signs of being a rebuilding team. Though the team is winning, there are definitely players on this team that could help contending teams in the playoffs. The question will be which players will get dealt at the deadline. As it stands now, the Rangers can relax before getting back to work against their divisional opponents.
Philadelphia Flyers – Another team that is riding high is the Philadelphia Flyers. The Flyers have won three games in a row, and four in their last five games. Carter Hart is playing well for the Flyers. Hart continues to give the Flyers confidence, however, there is going to come a point in time, where the Flyers must decided what to do with him. Once all the other goalies get healthy, it would be wise to send him back to the minors so he can continue to build his confidence. Hart is the goalie of the future no need burn him out. Once the break is over, all eyes will be on the Flyers and the players that could get moved.
New Jersey Devils – The New Jersey Devils continue struggle. Despite winning two games in a row, the Devils cannot carry momentum past that. In fact, when the Devils lose games, the losing streak continues to drag on. The only good thing is the Devils have a nice break to get away from the game. On another note, Taylor Hall, the MVP from last season, continues to be sidelined by injury. Therefore, Hall will miss the All-Star game, and Kyle Palmieri will go in his place. This will be Palmieri’s first trip to the All-Star game and to be honest he deserves to go for the season he is having. The bigger question will how much longer will Hall be out of the lineup?