It’s Sunday and time to take a gander across the division to reset and see how the primary competition for the Penguins is faring. This week we welcome our new overlords, the first place...New Jersey Devils?
New Jersey (3-0-0): The Devils are out west and won in all of Vancouver, Edmonton and Calgary last week to stretch their winning streak up to an impressive six games. With 17 points (5G+12A) in the first 12 games of the season, Jesper Bratt might be having a star making season.
Carolina (2-0-0): Carolina won in a shootout in Tampa on Thursday, one of only two games they had on the week. Their winning percentage is still slightly better than NJ’s, so perhaps the Hurricanes have a spiritual claim to first place early in the season as they continue to put up consistently solid regular season performances.
Philadelphia (1-1-1): It looked like the wheels were wobbling a little on the Flyers, who salvaged their week by beating Ottawa last night. Carter Hart has really stepped up and given the finest early season goalie performance across the whole league. When you have a goalie playing out of his mind you always have a chance, but the “check engine” light is different lit up on the proverbial dashboard of the Flyers, as we will show in the chart below.
NY Islanders (2-1-0): A positive week for the Islanders, who take two out of three games all on the road. NYI feels like a quiet team so far, but their +11 goal differential is one of the more impressive marks so far — they’re third in the division in goals/game which is somewhat surprising and tops in goals allowed per game, which is not as surprising.
NY Rangers (1-1-0): The Rangers seem like a team still trying to find their footing on this season. It was a neutral week, with Chris Kreider’s OT goal against the Flyers standing as the only goal of the game to give NYR an important divisional victory. But then the Rangers took a 5-2 fall to Boston in the following game.
Washington (0-2-1): Mounting injuries are really starting to take their toll on the Capitals. Recently they have had to deal with staples of the team like Backstrom, Wilson, Oshie, Carlson, Hagelin and Brown all out. The latest troubles was blowing a 2-0 third period lead to lowly Arizona by giving up the deciding goal in the final minute of regulation.
Pittsburgh (0-2-1): The Pens are desperately searching for answers right now to try and find a way to pull out a victory. Bad news is they play three game in four days in the upcoming week, all on the road where Pittsburgh is just 1-5-1 this season so far.
Columbus (0-2-0): The Blue Jackets flew all the way over to Finland to get out-scored a combined 11-4 by the mighty Colorado Avalanche. It wasn’t the happiest of homecomings for Patrik Laine, but at least they got to have a little European vacation in the middle of the year.
Division strong on expected goals
With a ton of games being played early in the season outside of the conference or division, one developing point of data is just how strong the Metropolitan Division is this season at 5v5 play. Four of the top seven teams in the league reside in the division, and it doesn’t help sooth the Pens’ recent results, but mainly from their first five games they still look impressive in a metric like this.
5v5 Expected Goals Share - November 6 pic.twitter.com/jEnbbhFduh— JFresh (@JFreshHockey) November 6, 2022
It’s the age old question when looking at teams like the Flyers and Penguins: process vs. results. Philadelphia has a terrible process but has found ways to win more games so far. Something fairly similar also happened last year, where on November 17th the Flyers were 8-4-2 and the Pens were just 5-6-4 early on in the year. By the end of the season, Pittsburgh had 42 more points.
That may not happen quite so drastically this season, but could serve as an important (and probably necessary) reminder that the first 15 games of the season don’t always serve to show where teams are going to end up at the end of the year.
It’s never to early to see how playoffs are tracking
This view doesn’t even count last night’s action, but does show the troubles that the Pens’ recent losing streak has caused.
Point projections over the past fortnight. pic.twitter.com/HpgHgggAVx— Micah Blake McCurdy (@IneffectiveMath) November 5, 2022
Pittsburgh is tracking for fifth in the division, according to this model. Every model has the teams they like a lot (WSH, in this case) and others they are not believers in (NJD) so we’ll see how it goes.
But it’s probably not too early to root for teams like the Capitals, Rangers, Islanders and Devils to lose. They are already starting to come into focus as the Pens’ biggest competition for the final handful of playoff spots this season.