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Sunday Standings: One of these contenders is not like the others

Between Washington, NYR, Carolina and Pittsburgh, one team is not as strong as the others in a pretty important category..

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Pittsburgh Penguins v Washington Capitals Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images

If it’s Sunday it’s time to look at the standings. Here’s how the teams of the Metropolitan division stand as of this morning.

The trends from the past week or two have continued, teams like Washington, New York (R) and Pittsburgh keep performing well. Carolina shook off a bit of a slump earlier in the month and won all their games this week to get back on a winning streak.

Of the teams at the top of the division, the other trend that remains is one of these teams is not as dominant and complete as the others.

The Rangers are getting results and near the top, but not driving a ton of success at 5v5. This doesn’t cheapen or lessen what they have accomplished, but it will be worth watching to see how long NYR can drive these results. Especially since with the NHL schedule, we know there are a lot more division games in the middle 25 games of the season and the last 25 games of the season than the first 25. Will the Rangers maintain when they play more of the top teams in the division with goaltending and timely scoring to combat giving up more chances at even strength?

This week saw the first coaching casualty in the Metro of the season when Alain Vigneault was shown the door by the Flyers after a poor start. Former Pens’ assistant coach Mike Yeo, previously a Philly assistant, has been elevated to interim head coach as the Flyers start to make some changes in an attempt to salvage their season. Philly got shutout in Yeo’s first game, but they have won their last two as they look to move on.

Last week we mentioned how this could be the week for the Islanders to get back on track, and they did go 2-1-1 to break their long overall losing streak and finally record a win at their new home. Even still, a ton of work to do, though the COVID break means they have a few games in hand on most of the rest of the division, the hole they dug is still very deep.

It was another great week for the Pens, who now are 9-2-1 in their last 12 and have really charted a course for the playoffs in these last few weeks. There are starting to be more stories now about “this could be the best coaching effort Mike Sullivan has done”, which isn’t untrue — but also seems like you read these stories every single year. Almost every season is Sullivan’s best season, his knack for getting results despite the injuries the team faces over the years has been very impressive.

Metro Games of the Week:

(Not really that great of a schedule this week, to be honest, as far as marquee matchups go)

New Jersey @ Philadelphia, Tues Dec 14th: These two teams met last week in New Jersey for a 3-0 Devils win in Yeo’s first game. Both teams could use the two points this week to keep up with the heavyweights at the top who rack up solid week after solid week. Philly needs to keep building to gain momentum, they play the Capitals and Penguins before Christmas in what could already be on the “break” side of “make or break” if their psyche is dealt a blow.

Columbus @ Edmonton Oilers, Thurs Dec 17th: This isn’t crucial for the standings, but could be a fun game to watch as both team’s are in the top-8 right now in the NHL in goals/game. It’s no surprise McDavid and the Oilers have been lighting up the scoreboard, but it might catch one by surprise to see the Blue Jackets as one of the more offensive teams in the league. This game could be a late night shootout.

Vegas Golden Knights @ New York (R), Fri Dec 17th: The Golden Knights aren’t really playing that great this season with a 14-11-0 record (they just lost at home to the previously wayward Flyers, for cryin’ out loud). But they still are a strong team with some pieces in place and collid

Penguin Playoff Chances

Here’s what some models say for Pittsburgh’s playoff hopes at this point:

Moneypuck: 85.5%
The Athletic: 94%
Ineffective Math: 96.3 Penguin point projection with a 90.9 point playoff cut line (prior to last night’s win)