There was only one change in the order of teams in the Metropolitan division at the end of this week from how it looked at the beginning of the week, which was Pittsburgh hoping the Islanders to flip third and fourth places. But don’t confuse that with an uninteresting week of action. Here’s the standings as of this morning.
New Jersey (1-1-0): The schedule was kind to the Devils this week, who only played two games - both of which were at home. They started the week out beating Chicago 3-0 but then lost a 6-4 contest to the NY Islanders. Overall December has been mostly inactive so far for NJD, who are only 2-1-1 in the month (and the wins coming over CHI and PHI). We’ll learn a lot more about the Devils by the end of December, in the coming weeks they play all of: NYR, Dallas, Carolina, Pittsburgh and have two matchups against Boston.
Carolina (1-0-1): Speaking of slack weeks, the Hurricanes haven’t had much to do lately thanks to their schedule too. The good news for them is they don’t often lose in regulation, which has helped buoy their season. Carolina has played 18 road games so far this season, compared to only nine home games so far, and done a lot without starting goalie Frederik Anderson, whose return is getting closer. Schedule and injury situations turning favorable could mean that the Hurricanes have already taken the roughest part of the year, and come out of it in a very good position to improve on shortly.
Pittsburgh (3-0-0): The Pens are feelin’ good after winning the last five games. Nevermind that their last four games have all come against teams outside of the playoff bubble right now, good teams are supposed to stack points and take care of business against the lesser teams. That is exactly what the Pens have been doing in the month of December so far. However, those days are done, the level of competition is amping up in a significant way with the rest of Pittsburgh’s December (DAL, NYR, CAR, NYI, DET, NJD). Sidney Crosby is leading the way, with 5G+2A in five December games, including two game winning goals. The Pens’ captain is getting into early MVP talk with his stellar play, often putting the team on his back and carrying them to wins.
NY Islanders (2-2-0) : The Islanders have been the mystery team for me as far as not knowing how good or bad they are going to be from day to day and week to week for that matter. This week they beat the bad Blackhawks 3-0, but then got shelled 7-4 by what has been a recently struggling St. Louis team. NYI followed that down note up by beating the division leading Devils 6-4, before losing 3-0 last night to Carolina in a game where the Isles could only muster 16 total shots on goal in a meek losing effort. There’s little rhyme or reason to them, they are capable of beating good teams but also just as likely to lose on any given night.
NY Rangers (3-0-0): The Rangers badly needed a great week to steady their season, and they found it with wins over STL. VGK and COL, by a combined 13-6 margin. They were probably a bit fortunate to catch the Avalanche when the defending champions are seriously banged up, but Igor Shesterkin still had to make 41 saves and stand on his head to help pull out the win. A lot of the teams in the middle of the pack had great weeks, NYR would have been in deep trouble if they couldn’t match what teams like the Pens and Caps are doing these days.
Washington (3-0-0): This three-game winning streak is the longest for the Capitals in the 2022-23 season. Putting together a string of results has been almost impossible for them up to this point, having a “one step forward, one step back” type of season in the first 25 games. Washington didn’t have the most fiercesome competition this week (EDM, PHI, SEA) but wins are wins and the most important thing at this point.
Philadelphia (1-1-1): Colorado stumbled out of Philadelphia as losers on Monday (no doubt a low point for their season). The Flyers couldn’t keep the positive momentum scoring just one goal in each loss later in the week in games against Washington and then Vegas (the latter an OT loss).
Columbus (1-3-0): It is getting ugly out in Ohio. They salvaged at least something positive with a home win over Calgary on Friday, but earlier in the week lost to Detroit, Pittsburgh and Buffalo. The Sabres game was extra embarrassing, giving up nine goals (five to Tage Thompson) and looking completely non-competitive. CBJ has played the least amount of games so far this season, which is trouble, because things are likely to get worse before they get better, and this season is a lost cause already.
This doesn’t account for last night’s games (PIT+CAR win, NYI loss) but is a nice way to see how teams have been tracking lately.
Point projections over the past fortnight. pic.twitter.com/WCj8jd9TEg— Micah Blake McCurdy (@IneffectiveMath) December 10, 2022
One piece of good news for the Metropolitan Division is that the Atlantic is not going so well. Boston and Toronto are taking up a lot of oxygen by both winning a lot, and that’s already helped make the chase in the Atlantic spread out.
Currently, the fifth place Metropolitan team (NYR) has more points than then fourth place Atlantic team (DET), which would mean two wildcards could come from the Metropolitan Division.
It’s been a disappointing and surprisingly bad start for last year’s Presidents Trophy winners, the Florida Panthers, who currently sit in fifth in the Atlantic with just 30 points in 28 games. If they get it on track that could be an area where the Atlantic division rises, but so far it’s not been going so well for them.