With the NHL Trade Deadline now over, the focus is back on the ice. The NHL Metro Division all season long has been very competitive. Each week a different combination of teams are in the playoff picture. Currently, the Metro Division has four teams in the playoffs. Like last season, the Metro is hoping to get five teams in the playoffs. However, this year a team from the Atlantic stands in the way of this from happening. Time to go inside the NHL Metro Division Notebook to show how five teams are battling for the playoffs.
NHL Metro Division Notebook: Five Teams Battling For the Playoffs
Washington Capitals – The Washington Capitals are back in first place. While it took some time, the Capitals are playing like they did last season when the team won the Stanley Cup. Alex Ovechkin continues to rewrite the record books with his goal scoring. In a big divisional game Friday night against the Islanders, Ovechkin scored his 45th goal of the season. According to the Capitals PR, Ovechkin has 10 career 45 goal seasons, more than any other player in NHL history. Lars Eller is picking up his game up at the right time with points in four of his past six games. Not to mention the play of Nicklas Backstrom and Evgeny Kuznetsov. Both are playing at a high level.
New York Islanders – This week was a step back for Islanders. New York lost three of four games. Two of those losses came at the hands of divisional opponents in Washington and Philadelphia. The Islanders did welcome back former captain John Tavares. While the team paid tribute to their former captain. The fans let Tavares hear it. However, this little bump in the road is a test for this group. Even with Barry Trotz behind the bench, the Islanders know they need to keep winning in order to get home ice advantage. This group is young and inexperienced and that is why Trotz is here. Trotz has the ability to get this group refocused at the task at hand which is making the playoffs.
Carolina Hurricanes – Those “Bunch of Jerks” are now sitting in third place in a tough Metro Division. Thanks in large part to a five game winning streak. Over the past nine games, the Hurricanes have won eight games. This has allowed the Hurricanes to pass teams like Pittsburgh and Columbus in the standings. The Hurricanes know they still have work to do because one bad week has them on the outside look in. However, the team does sit only five points out of first place. With Sebastian Aho getting all the headlines, it has been the play of the goalies that has Carolina in this position. Petr Mrazek and Curtis McElhinney have made a great duo. Having good goaltending is something Carolina has desperately needed.
Best of the Rest:
Pittsburgh Penguins – Following a tough loss in the Stadium Series game, the Penguins were able to pick up five of six points during the week to climb back into the final playoff spot. Pittsburgh showed off their muscle in big wins over Columbus and Montreal. In those two games, the Penguins outscored their opponents 10-3. Sidney Crosby passed Jaromir Jagr for second on the Penguins all-time goals list. Crosby has now scored 440 goals for the Penguins. When everyone writes the Penguins off, they seem to play their best hockey. Still dealing with injuries on the back end, the Penguins will need to outscore their opponents and their mistakes. Jake Guentzel is having a career season as he leads the team in scoring with 31 goals. Pittsburgh still has some flaws on defense that must be cleaned up.
Columbus Blue Jackets – There is a small chance, but there is a chance the Blue Jackets could miss the playoffs. After going all in at the trade deadline, Columbus has taken some steps back. Granted it takes time for new players to learn a system, but for the Blue Jackets it is now or never. If this team does not make the playoffs, Columbus could lose all these players they brought in for nothing. After losing to Pittsburgh, Columbus picked up a hard fought victory against Philadelphia. However, they followed that up with a terrible loss to Edmonton. That was a game Columbus needed to win. Every game matters now for the Blue Jackets. Hopefully Columbus can start turning things around or it will be a long off-season for the Blue Jackets. Along with the management staff.
Philadelphia Flyers – Just like in the West, there is fake parity in the East. Granted the Flyers are playing really well. Still with all these three point games, the Flyers have been able to climb to within five points of the final wild card spot. The Flyers were able to win three of four games during the week, picking up seven of eight points. With Carter Hart out of the lineup, the Flyers had to turn back to Brian Elliott. As a matter of fact, with Cam Talbot starting against the Devils, the Flyers have now had eight starting goalies this season. A new NHL record. The Flyers still have a lot of work to do as they must pass two teams just to get in.
New York Rangers – Even with the New York Rangers in the midst of a rebuild or retooling, the Rangers will be a tough out for teams in the division. Especially when they play on Madison Square Garden ice. The Rangers gave the Washington Capitals a run for their money. And with Alexandar Georgiev between the pipes, he gives the Rangers a chance to win every night. The transition from Lundqvist to Georgiev is on. Over the past couple of weeks, Georgiev has seen more of the starts. He looks really comfortable as a number one goalie. Georgiev is learning from one of the best in Henrik Lundqvist. Who would be a better mentor than him? With Lundqvist getting closer to the end of his career, the time is right to make this transition.
New Jersey Devils – The New Jersey Devils are a walking M*A*S*H unit. After making the playoffs for the first time since 2012 last year, the Devils will miss the playoffs this season. The list of injured players continues to pile up game after game. Taylor Hall, Kyle Palmieri, Miles Wood, Nathan Bastian, Pavel Zacha, John Quenneville, Stefan Noesen, and Micro Mueller just to name a few. Hall could be lost for the rest of the season after getting surgery on his knee to clean up a small issue. Even if he ready to return it would be best to hold him out of the lineup. Now Nico Hischier got injured against Boston, his status will not be known until Monday when the team gets back to work. The Devils are playing with an AHL lineup out there.