Welcome back everyone to the 102nd season of the NHL! For the first time in three years the Metro will not be the owners of Lord Stanley’s Cup, but that doesn’t mean there is a lack of teams to watch out for.
The Metro again saw the league’s first overall pick (Jack Hughes) going to the New Jersey Devils for the second time in three years and also the second overall pick (Kaapo Kakko) going to the New York Rangers. There will definitely be a highly anticipated rivalry brewing between Hughes and Kakko due to the team’s close proximity and high expectations for the two players.
The Devils went on quite a shopping spree while the Rangers landed the biggest free agent in the summer, plucking Artemi Panarin away from Columbus with the biggest contract handed out in free agency. Both teams took a big step forward but still have their flaws.
Columbus has some big holes to fill after losing Sergei Bobrovsky and Matt Duchene to go along with Panarin and several other free agents over the summer. Joonas Korpisalo is now the man in net and Elvis Merzlikins will be backing him up, which may not strike fear in the rest of the league, but don’t count the Blue Jackets out just yet.
The Jackets still have depth throughout the lineup and are one of the better defensive groups in the Metro. It should be very interesting to see how coach John Tortorella is going to manage this team without some of the star power they’ve produced the last few seasons and question marks in net.
The Capitals are most expert’s pick to be at or near the top of the Metro again this season after winning the Division the last four years in a row. The Caps still have Alex Ovechkin who is a good bet for another 50 goals and the have elite talent throughout their roster capable of several NHL awards.
Braden Holtby and Niklas Backstrom are both in the final year of their contracts, but the Capitals should have the room to re-sign both players. However, former first round goalie Ilya Samsonov who is a highly anticipated prospect is currently backing up Holtby. Samsonov will likely be a well-known name within the Metro for better or worse this year.
Carolina was the last Metro team standing last season when the Hurricanes made a surprise run to the Eastern Conference Finals before losing to the Boston Bruins in four games. The Canes shook up their defense by trading Justin Faulk to the St. Louis Blues recently, but also signed Jake Gardiner and Ryan Dzingel in free agency as well as trading for Erik Haula. It will be Petr Mrazek back in net for Carolina and James Reimer will be pushing for playing time as well. The Hurricanes made a lot of noise at the right time last year, and they’ll be trying to capitalize on that this year.
The Islanders were even more surprising than the Hurricanes last year as coach Barry Trotz took the Isles from worst to first in goals against in his first year behind the bench. The Islanders lost goalie Robin Lehner to the Chicago Blackhawks but signed Semyon Varlamov to replace him to go along with Thomas Greiss. If the Islanders can repeat the same team performance as last year, they could make another run this year.
The Islanders didn’t make a big splash again this summer but construction for a new long term home recently broke ground which is the best news the Islanders could have hoped for.
The Flyers brought in a familiar face when they signed former Rangers head coach Alain Vigneault to be their new head coach. The Flyers were 29th in goals against last year and Vigneault has been a successful coach before and will have the usual suspects in Philly to use as his arsenal again this season.
The Flyers also brought in some help on defense with trades for former Penguin Matt Niskanen and Justin Braun from San Jose. The Flyers also paid a high price for forward Kevin Hayes who should add more punch up front for the Flyers.
The Flyers began this season overseas against Chicago in Prague and will only play one game until next Wednesday as they return to Philadelphia. It may take a few weeks before the Flyers can really form an identity with all the new pieces.
Which leaves only the Penguins. General Manager Jim Rutherford made a couple of moves that changed the whole complexion of the Penguins when he traded Phil Kessel to the Arizona Coyotes. It was a summer filled with rumors swirling involving all the key players and a summer in which the Penguins did not do very much to improve the roster that was swept in the first round and looked very underwhelming in the process.
This season is one that could go a number of different ways. A decline with the same core roster for the last decade is inevitable. But Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and Kris Letang are still some of the best in the NHL and the Penguins have a younger group with Jake Guentzel, Matt Murray and Marcus Pettersson taking bigger steps in their progression with more room to grow.
So with that quick recap of the Metro teams, let’s check out how the first week went for each team in this year’s first recap of the Metropolitan Division.
The Penguins began this season with a four game home stand that will last until Saturday. Buffalo was the first opponent for the Penguins to prove that they are a different team than the one from the first round defeat against the Islanders. Buffalo proved otherwise as the Sabres swallowed the Penguins and only allowed one goal to Evgeni Malkin while former Penguin Conor Sheary scored two of his own and the Sabres got their first regulation victory over Pittsburgh in six years.
If the Penguins wanted to show they were a different team than last year, it only took until the second game. The Penguins hosted the Blue Jackets two days after their disappointing loss to Buffalo and made Elvis Merzlikins first career start one to forget. The Penguins scored five 2nd period goals en route to a 7-2 blowout over the rival Blue Jackets.
It wasn’t all good news, however, as Evgeni Malkin left the game after colliding with Letang and then a collision along the boards and did not return. Nick Bjugstad also left later in the game with an apparent injury and Mike Sullivan had no update after the game on either player.
The Penguins will have a two day break before hosting the Winnipeg Jets on Tuesday night and the Anaheim Ducks on Thursday and then playing a back-to-back in Minnesota on Saturday night before playing in Winnipeg on Sunday night.
The Capitals take the honors of leading after a short first week by going 2-0-1 in three games. The Caps began their season in St. Louis as the Blues raised their first Stanley Cup banner. The Blues came out strong with the first two goals of the game in the first ten minutes of the 1st period before Ovechkin got his first goal of the year later in the period. The Capitals would tie it at two and head to overtime before Jakub Vrana scored 2:51 in to give the Caps their first win of the year against the Stanley Cup Champs.
Ilya Samsonov made his NHL debut against the Islanders on Long Island two nights later and made 25 saves in the Capitals’ 2-1 victory. He allowed a 1st period goal to the Islanders before shutting them down the remainder of the game for his first career win in his first game.
Braden Holtby was back in net the following night in the Capitals home opener against the Hurricanes. The Capitals scored a goal in the 1st and 2nd period before watching the Hurricanes score two in the 3rd period to force overtime. Jake Gardiner would score his first goal with Carolina with less than a minute remaining in OT to hand Holtby and the Capitals the OTL.
The Capitals begin a stretch of four games against the Central Division this week. The Caps host the Dallas Stars in DC on Tuesday before heading to Nashville to play the Predators on Thursday. The Capitals will then finish their season series in Dallas on Saturday night.
The Rangers jumped out to a fast start in 2019-20 by winning their first two games of the season. Mika Zibanejad jumped out as the early points leader in the NHL with back-to-back four point games.
New addition Artemi Panarin scored a goal and former Jets defensemen Jacob Trouba scored a goal in his first game against his former team as the Rangers outscored the Jets 3-1 in the 3rd period to defeat the Jets by a 6-4 final score at MSG. Zibanejad had one goal and three assists in the game and Brett Howden broke the 4-4 tie with less than five minutes remaining in the game.
Zibanejad would record his second career hat trick against his first team in Ottawa two days later. Zibanejad also added assist to give him four goals and four assists in the first two games of the year. Panarin added a PPG in the 3rd period and Alexandar Georgiev made 31 saves as the Rangers defeated the Senators 4-1.
The Rangers have an extended break and have an entire week off as their next game is Saturday afternoon at home against the Oilers. The Rangers then get another extended break as their next game is five days later in Newark against the Devils. That’s only one game in the next eleven days for the Rangers.
The Hurricanes started their new campaign right where they left off last season. The Canes opened the year at home against Montreal and scored the game’s first two goals before allowing the Habs to score three in a row in the 2nd period and trail 3-2 after 40 minutes. Erik Haula would then score his first with Carolina and the game would need a shootout to declare a winner. Dougie Hamilton scored the only goal of the skills competition as the first shooter and Petr Mrazek stopped all three shots he faced as the Canes completed the comeback.
Carolina played their first Metro opponent on Saturday night when the Capitals hosted the Hurricanes. The Capitals led 2-0 after 40 minutes before Erik Haula got the Canes on the board with a PPG early in the 3rd period. Jaccob Slavin would tie the game near the midpoint of the 3rd period and the game would head to overtime. There were lots of penalties in the game and the Canes killed off an early Jordan Staal penalty in OT before Jake Gardiner fired a wrist shot past Holtby with less than one minute remaining to give the Hurricanes their second straight overtime win to begin the new season.
Carolina returns home to Raleigh this evening to take on the Tampa Bay Lightning who played in Sunrise, FL on Saturday night. The Hurricanes will then be in Sunrise on Tuesday night to play the Panthers before a back-to-back against two Metro opponents at home against the Islanders on Friday and the Blue Jackets on Saturday.
The Flyers began their season in the Czech Republic as they took on the Chicago Blackhawks in the 2019 NHL Global Series at O2 Arena in Prague. Travis Konecny got the first of his two goals to start the scoring and Carter Hart made 28 saves as the Flyers held off a late surge by the Hawks to hang on for the 4-3 victory.
The Flyers have four days to get reacquainted with the United States and then take on the Devils at home on Wednesday. The Flyers then head to other side of this continent as they begin a three game western Canada trip against the Canucks on Saturday night. The Flyers will be putting up lots of miles in the early stages of the season.
The hype surrounding the Devils did not translate to the success they expected on the ice to begin their season. It appeared to be all systems go for the Devils as they started out with four straight goals at home against the Jets before Winnipeg scored their first goal to make it 4-1 after 40 minutes. The Jets pulled off a miracle and scored three more in the 3rd period to tie it at four before Blake Wheeler scored the deciding goal in the fourth round of the shootout to stun the Devils fans. To make matters worse, oft-injured goalie Cory Schneider left in the 3rd period with an injury and did not return. He was backup in their next game in Buffalo the next night, however.
Mackenzie Blackwood would get the start 24 hours later in Buffalo and the Sabres would have their way with the Devils. The Sabres went 3/3 on the power play in the game and were up 5-1 after two periods before adding two more goals in the 3rd period and blowing out the Devils 7-2. The only bright spot was Nico Hischier recorded his 100th career point in the game.
The Devils will be looking for their first win this year when they take on the Flyers in Philly on Wednesday night. The Devils will play their second set of back-to-back games already when they take on the Oilers back at The Rock on Thursday night. The Devils close out next week in Boston on Saturday night before returning home the remainder of October.
The Islanders only played one game this week but will play four games next week. The Islanders began their season at Nassau against the Capitals on Friday night. The two teams traded goals minutes apart in the 1st period before T.J. Oshie would score a power play goal late in the 2nd period that turned out to be the winner.
The Islanders will take on the Winnipeg Jets tonight at Nassau Coliseum before hosting the Oilers on Tuesday night again at Nassau. The Islanders play their first road game on Friday in Raleigh before returing back to Long Island to play the Panthers on Saturday night.
The Blue Jackets paid a heavy price last year to win their first ever playoff series and were looking to move on quickly this year from all of their departures. This wasn’t the start that Columbus fans were hoping for as they dropped both of their games and did not look very impressive.
The Maple Leafs were in Columbus on Friday and played a tight game until the Leafs pulled away with two goals in the 3rd period to defeat the Jackets 4-1 at Nationwide Arena. The Jackets were in Pittsburgh the following night and put the spotlight on their goaltending. The Penguins put seven goals past Elvis Merzlikins in his first career start and the Penguins won 7-2 totaling 11 goals allowed in a little more than 24 hours.
Columbus returns to action at home on Monday night when the Buffalo Sabres are in town. Their next opponent will be against Anaheim at home on Friday before taking on the Hurricanes in Raleigh on Saturday.
1-1-0; 2 pts; 8 Goals For (T-9th in the NHL); 5 Goals Against (T-10th in the NHL)
1-1-0 record last week
Penguins start sluggish in 3-1 loss to Buffalo in season opener
Sid fights, Malkin gets hurt, Pittsburgh scores a lot and wins 7-2
Tuesday, October 8 - vs WPG, 7 p.m. ET
Thursday, October 10 - vs ANA, 7 p.m.
Saturday, October 12 - @ MIN, 8:30 p.m.
- 9/23/19, D Zach Trotman - IR; Sports hernia
- 9/27/19, RW Bryan Rust - IR, Hand
- 9/30/19, C Justin Almeida - IR; Shoulder
- 10/4/19, C Evgeni Malkin - Day-to-day; Undisclosed injury
- 10/4/19, C Nick Bjugstad - Day-to-day; Undisclosed injury
2-0-1, 5 pts; 7 GF (T-12th); 6 GA (T-17th)
2-0-1 record last week
WSH: 3 OT
Caps Upset Champs on Opening Night
Samsonov’s a Winner
CAR: 3 OT
Washington Finally Falls 3-2 to Carolina in OT
Tuesday, October 8 - vs DAL, 7 p.m.
Thursday, October 10 - @ NSH, 8 p.m.
Saturday, October 12 - @ DAL, 8 p.m.
- 9/12/19, D Michal Kempny - IR; Torn left hamstring
2-0-0, 4 pts; 10 GF (T-2nd); 5GA (T-10th)
2-0 record last week
Well That Was A Lot of Fun
Mika Zibanejad Is Insane
Saturday, October 12 - vs EDM, 1 p.m.
9/30/19, D Yegor Rykov - IR; Undisclosed injury
2-0, 4 pts; 7 GF (T-12th); 5 GA (T-10th)
2-0 record last week
CAR: 4 SO
Canes prevail in wild shootout win
CAR: 3 OT
Gardiner, Canes stun Caps in OT
Sunday, October 6 - vs TBL, 5 p.m.
Tuesday, October 8 - @ FLA, 7 p.m.
Friday, October 11 - vs NYI, 7:30 p.m.
Saturday, October 12 - vs CBJ, 7 p.m.
- 9/12/19, D Trevor van Riemsdyk - IR; Shoulder
1-0-0, 2 pts; 4 GF (T-21st); 3 GA (T-5th)
1-0 record last week
*2019 NHL Global Series at O2 Arena in Prague, Czech Republic
Czech this out!
Wednesday, October 9 - vs NJD, 7:30 p.m.
Saturday, October 12 - @ VAN, 10 p.m.
- 9/12/19, C Nolan Patrick - IR; Migraine disorder
- 9/30/19, D Andy Welinski - IR; Undisclosed injury
0-1-1, 1 pt; 6 GF (T-14th); 12GA (T-30th)
0-1-1 record last week
WPG: 5 SO
New Jersey Devils Choked in Third Period; Lost Home Opener to Winnipeg in Shootout
Devils Doomed by Poor Defense, Nonexistent Offense in 7-2 Loss to Sabres
Wednesday, October 9 - @ PHI, 7:30 p.m.
Thursday, October 10 - vs EDM, 7 p.m.
Saturday, October 12 - @ BOS, 7 p.m.
- 9/30/19, D Brian Strait - IR; Concussion
0-1-0, 0 pts; 1 GF (T-30th); 2 GA (T-2nd)
0-1 record last week
Home opener spoiled and locked away
Sunday, October 6 - vs WPG, 7 p.m.
Tuesday, October 8 - vs EDM, 7 p.m.
Friday, October 11 - @ CAR, 7:30 p.m.
Saturday, October 12 - vs FLA, 7 p.m.
- 9/12/19, LW Andrew Ladd - IR; Torn ACL
- 9/30/19, D Bode Wilde - IR; Ankle
- 10/2/19, D Noah Dobson - Day-to-day; Lower-body injury
0-2-0, 0 pts; 3 GF (T-23th); 11 GA (29th)
0-2 record last week
Jackets drop home opener
Penguins chase Elvis, Jackets out of building in rout
Monday, October 7 - vs BUF, 7 p.m.
Friday, October 11 - vs ANA, 7 p.m.
Saturday, October 12 - @ CAR, 7 p.m.
- 9/24/19, C Brandon Dubinsky - IR; Wrist
- 9/30/19, C Liam Foudy - IR; Upper-body injury
Which Metropolitan game is the most intriguing this week?
This poll is closed
10.6.19 - TBL @ CAR, 5 p.m. ET
10.8.19 - WPG @ PIT, 7 p.m.
10.9.19 - NJD @ PHI, 7:30 p.m.
10.10.19 - WSH @ NSH, 8 p.m.
10.11.19 - NYI @ CAR, 7:30 p.m.
10.12.19 - NJD @ BOS, 7 p.m.
10.12.19 - CBJ @ CAR, 7:30 p.m.