I enjoyed the Sunday Standings series that was running here last year, the concept made a lot of sense considering there were only games played between divisional opponents last season. This year the NHL schedule is back to normal, but I missed seeing a look at the standings and think there is value in it, so let’s bring it back!
Here’s how the table looks as of this morning:
It’s been a strong start to the season for several teams in the Metropolitan. The Rangers sit in first place, despite losing 5-1 to Washington on opening night. NYR has benefited from beating up on some lower-end teams (MTL, OTT, NSH) but that’s what those games are there for.
Similarly, Carolina really hasn’t played many tough games (their wins are over NYI, NSH, MTL, CBJ) but have scored a ton of goals and won most by sizeable margins. It couldn’t have been a better start for the Hurricanes, right down to having Jesperi Kotkaniemi score a goal in his first game back in Montreal.
Then we get to the old division stalwarts in Pittsburgh and Washington, with dual 3-0-2 records. It’s a fitting mirror image of two rivals who are usually a lot more alike than either would probably stand to admit. Both the Penguins and Capitals were chosen by most various prognosticators to slip this year, perhaps to the fringe of the playoff picture as age and injury factors set in.
Reports of the demise or fall of these two powerhouse teams from about the past 15 years appear to be over-stated. The Pens are cobbling together performances and outplaying opponents despite being injured. The Caps are enjoying a huge bounce-back start by Evgeni Kuztnetsov (4G+5A in the first five games), and as a result only Carolina has a better points% to start the season than the two old typical pace-setters, who look as capable as ever.
New Jersey and Columbus were both early season surprises, getting off to very solid starts. Both have comeback to Earth a little bit, the Blue Jackets were just 1-2-0 this week, getting out-scored 11-5 in those games. The Devils pulled out a 2-1 OT win over Buffalo last night to get back on track after getting whomped 4-1 by the Caps earlier in the week, but now have to deal with their best player having a dislocated shoulder and no timetable for a return.
Then we get to the Flyers, who sit in seventh place in the division, and sixth in points%, despite a 2-0-1 start to the season. They took a step back with a 4-2 loss to Florida last night, but Philly’s pretty solid start has just been over-shadowed by others in the division like NYR and NJD getting better results so far. The Flyers also haven’t played that many games, so they’re just kinda an after-thought for now, but they will have their chance to get more of the spotlight as the season rolls along.
Bringing up the rear of the division to start the season is a team many pundits predicted would win the division in the New York Islanders. Both of the Isles’ wins have come over bad teams (CHI, AZ) and they’ve already gone 0-1-1 against division rivals Carolina and Columbus to start the year. It’s very early, but not quite the start many imagined for NYI. Another unique wrinkle is every game they have played so far has been on the road, and they don’t have a home game until November 20th, due to the league allowing extra time to make sure their new arena would have as much construction time for finishing touches as possible. That could give the Isles an advantage to weather this storm now and then play a lot of home games as the year goes on.
Who has been your biggest surprises in the division so far? What are you looking for in the next week ahead for teams to make moves up and down the standings?