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Sunday Standings: Pens out in front

It’s been a great start to the season for the Penguins

Pittsburgh Penguins v Columbus Blue Jackets Photo by Ben Jackson/NHLI via Getty Images

Suddenly we’re getting deep into October, and NHL teams are starting to figure out how their start is going to unfold for the 2022-23 season. Here’s the look at the league standings this morning for the Metropolitan Division.

The Penguins are riding pretty as one of only three teams across the league that has yet to be defeated in regulation. The others are a curious bunch of Detroit (who has two OT losses) and St. Louis, who has only played three games so far. Pittsburgh’s +15 goal differential ranks first in the league too — scoring six goals in the majority of the games and getting some quality goaltending goes a long way to help!

Here’s a trip across the division to check on the other teams.

Philadelphia - Well, well, well. Lookie here, the Flyers are putting together some wins! They won two out of three games this week, trading a one-goal win against Tampa for a one-goal loss to Florida and then downing Nashville yesterday.

Carolina - The Hurricanes are still on what feels like an endless Western road trip, and suffered their first loss of the season when the Oilers put up six goals on them (point to remember for the Pens, who play in Edmonton tomorrow). But Carolina rebounded from that loss by defeating Calgary in OT to get back on track.

NY Rangers - The Rangers had a 1-0-1 week in two home games, beating Anaheim but then falling to San Jose in extra time. Quiet but fairly successful week with no travel and limited games.

New Jersey - Here come the Devils? NJ made some steps this week with a 3-0-0 record and they impressed the Islanders. Mat Barzal said after the game of the Devils, “I don’t think we’ve played a team with that kind of speed. That’s a fast hockey club over there”.

Washington - A loss to Ottawa was sandwiched in between victories over Western Conference opponents (Vancouver, LA) for Washington this week. Injuries are starting to mount with forward Connor Brown out indefinitely and joining a long list of unavailable players up front.

NY Islanders - The Islanders are having some early season struggles with a 1-2-0 record this week. The aforementioned loss to New Jersey was a poor game, NYI played better last night against Tampa but still lost. How new coach Lane Lambert navigates these somewhat choppy waters will be an interesting story to follow, especially if he’s giving out juicy quotes like this all season long.

Columbus - A 2-0-0 start to the week week was spoiled by last night’s 6-3 loss to the Penguins. Johnny Gaudreau is off to a good start with four goals and seven points in his first six games with Columbus, but Johnny Hockey isn’t going to be making any saves. Goaltending has been a problem area for the Jackets for a while now since Sergei Bobrovsky left and might continue to trouble them this season, if last night was any indication.

With the caveat that it is still super early and the samples can and will change, possibly drastically, it’s still a good time to take a look at how teams have started and are performing early.

The Flyers, it pains me to report, should have some flashing red lights around their start. They have scored 58.8% of the actual 5v5 goals in their games, yet the expected goals is painting a completely opposite picture. OK, it doesn’t actually pain me to report that their start is built on a house of cards that could collapse at any moment, it will make for the drama to be even more fun to sort through the “what went wrong” aspect.

Otherwise, the Devils are a big shock too for performing really well early. This could be something to build on for the future if they can keep it up.

Carolina, you should always expect to excel in an analytical outlook for their style of control and heavy shooting strategies, no surprise there. The Pens’ chance creation — and execution to finish — has been excellent as well.

And for as negative as the reputation of the Rangers has been as a goalie and power play reliant team, their start has to be encouraging for their perspective as well with an improved 5v5 process for the start of the season. And their goalie Igor Shesterkin only has a .901 save% through four games, so go figure! It’s still early and that will change but NYR has to be a team that has defied their narratives or expected style so far.

The week ahead

There’s a few more games between divisional opponents this week, with the Islanders and Hurricanes playing in two of those games a piece, including against each other on Friday.

The team of the week to ponder might be New Jersey. Their game against the Caps on Monday is a classic “old guard” playoff staple team in Washington. It’s the tried and true story of the new blood that is finally trying to break into the party and end the playoff stranglehold that teams like Washington (and Pittsburgh, for that matter) who have perennially kept teams like NJ out of the postseason dance. With the Devils on a three-game winning streak can they win a game like this to further put them on the map? Or will the order be restored to it’s typical setting with Washington staying ahead of the new would-be contenders?

Colorado is making an Eastern swing this week and will play a few of the Metro teams. Nice time for the Penguins to step out west. The beginning of the week in Edmonton and Calgary figure to be tougher tests then the end of the week (Vancouver has yet to win a game, Seattle has only won two of six games).