As the NHL gets closer and closer to the trade deadline, things in the NHL Metro Division are just heating up. With the Islanders in first place, the Capitals, Blue Jackets, and Penguins are chasing them down. Those teams behind the Islanders will look to make moves to help bolster their team come playoff time. Let’s not rule out the Flyers entering the playoffs either. Their latest run has them on the outside looking. Until then, the games only get more interesting. Let’s go inside the NHL Metro Division Notebook to see if the Islanders are for rule.
NHL Metro Division Notebook: Islanders Are For Real
New York Islanders – For those thinking the New York Islanders aren’t for real, then you have to rethink your position. The Islanders have a five point lead over Washington and a seven point lead over Columbus. Not to mention a nine point lead over Pittsburgh. For a team that was suppose to finish dead last in the East, the Islanders are proving everyone wrong. From their coach to the players and everybody in between, the Islanders are on a mission they can win without John Tavares. This team has a chip on their shoulder and are currently on a three game winning streak. Every player has a role and they play it to perfection.
Washington Capitals – Since ending their seven game losing streak, the Capitals are playing like the team that won the Stanley Cup last season. While the Capitals still have holes to fill, Washington is starting to get it together at the right time. With wins in two of the past three games, Washington as able to obtain five points during the week. Just like every team in this division, Washington will look to improve come the trade deadline. Offensively the Capitals are just fine, but it is on the back end, that could use the improvement. It wouldn’t come as a shock if the Capitals move Andre Burakovsky. Even though Burakovsky has produced for Washington, he has not lived up to the expectations the Capitals had hoped he would.
Columbus Blue Jackets – Interestingly enough the Blue Jackets sit in third spot in the Metro Division. The next couple of weeks will be interesting for the Blue Jackets. It all surrounds two players. As Artemi Panarin and Sergei Bobrovsky become UFAs this summer, the question has been asked how does this team handle these two players. Now with Panarin changing agents, and joining forces with Bobrovsky’s agent, things get really interesting. Columbus does not want to lose both of them for nothing. Columbus just completed a successful three game road trip, and Panarin was vital in all three wins. The countdown is on until his departure.
Best of the Rest:
Pittsburgh Penguins – Usually around this time of the year, the Penguins are sitting inside the top three. Lately though, the Penguins have hit the skids. Currently, the Penguins are on a four game losing streak. The new players are still adjusting to a new system, but both Nick Bjugstad and Jared McCann are fitting in nicely. Matt Murray continues to deal with injuries this season, and Casey DeSmith can’t carry load by himself. Even though DeSmith has looked good at times, it wouldn’t hurt the Penguins to have a veteran goalie in the lineup. In another milestone moment, Sidney Crosby passed Mario Lemieux for most games played as a Penguin. In fact, both should be over the 1000 game mark, however, injuries sideline both of them for a period of time.
Carolina Hurricanes – Just sitting one point behind the Pittsburgh Penguins for the second wild card spot, the Hurricanes are going on the annual charge up the standings. It was a successful week for the Hurricanes as the team picked up three of four wins. One of those wins came against the Penguins. That was a huge for a young team that is looking to get back to the playoffs. Just like Columbus, the Hurricanes have a player on their roster they are looking to move before he hits the free agent market. Michael Ferland is a player Carolina may move at the deadline. With his performance for the Hurricanes this season, Ferland has earned himself more money next season.
Philadelphia Flyers – All good things must come to an end. However, it was only a brief moment. While the Flyers remain unbeaten in regulation through the past ten games, the Flyers winning streak came to an end at eight games. Even in that loss, the Flyers were able to pick up a point. The Flyers still have some work to do, but if they maintain this level of play, the second wild card spot could be theirs soon. With Claude Giroux, Jakub Voracek and Sean Couturier back together, the Flyers are rolling. These three feed so well off of each other it is amazing. Not to mention the play of Carter Hart. Unbeaten in his last nine games. Hart will remain with the team until the end of the season. He is eligible for the AHL playoffs. That is if the Flyers miss the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
New York Rangers – The New York Rangers continue to show when they out work teams, they can win hockey games. Another example of this was their wins this week against two good teams in the Boston Bruins and Toronto Maple Leafs. While there is skill on this team, the Rangers need to play as a team to win games. No one player is going to take over a game. Even with Mika Zibanejad recording points in five of the past six games, he can’t do it all himself. The Rangers score goals by committee and that is perfectly ok. The Rangers will be a team to watch come the trade deadline.
New Jersey Devils – Here is another team to keep an eye come deadline day. The New Jersey Devils have already unloaded Brian Boyle and will be looking to do the same other free agents on the team. With Taylor Hall still out of the lineup, Nico Hischier is starting to step and produce like he did during his draft year. Another player returning to the Devils lineup is Cory Schneider. After another rehab stint in the AHL, Schneider returned to action this past Thursday night. Despite losing in a shootout, Schneider played really well. He backed in up against the Wild. However, he still has not recorded a win since December 2017. It is an interesting time in New Jersey for sure.