Let’s check in on the standings of the Metropolitan Division.
And an outlook of the teams in the last week:
New York Rangers (3-1-0): Another winning week the Rangers, who only had one blemish when they gave up seven goals in a loss to Toronto (the Penguins weren’t the only team in the division to do that this week). Vibes are pretty high for the first place team that got to celebrate Chris Kreider somehow now scoring the third most goals in Ranger franchise history (281). Fairly low number for a team that has been around forever.
Philadelphia (2-0-1): Remember a few weeks ago the Flyers beat the Pens in a shootout and then OT? That was at the beginning of the month and has launched Philadelphia to a 6-0-1 December so far. Unlike last year, the Flyers’ season has totally petered out after an initial burst. It seems like many are waiting for them to fall off, but it hasn’t happened yet.
New York Islanders (2-1-1): Gotta love how the Islanders have won 14 out of 30 games this season, have a negative goal differential but are still towards the top of the division. They’ve gamed the system perfectly and find ways to take their games to overtime. That means points. Just don’t lose in regulation and you’ll be OK in the NHL and no one does it better to get more out of less than the Islanders.
Carolina (2-0-1): It was a “get right” week for the Hurricanes, who were 0-4-0 in Western Canada last week. One thing still to be figured out is in net, where serious questions and concern linger. Antti Raanta (who hasn’t been very good lately) is now on waivers. The goalie in Frederik Anderson who always gets hurt is now, brace yourself, on IR. No idea where the Hurricanes turn from here, but they need to figure something out. Their goals allowed is creeping towards 100 and among the highest in the division.
Washington (1-1-1): Three road games for the Caps this week running all the possible results. The “Is Alex Ovechkin cooked” storyline is picking up a lot of steam lately, with the once inevitable climb to Wayne Gretzky’s goal record looking more challenging than it once was now that Ovechkin is mired in a career-long 12 game goal drought and only has five goals on the season. Washington’s power play remained in single-digits and ranked 31st in the league, figuring that out and getting their main guy going needs to be fixed ASAP. Whether or not that can be addressed and fixed at this point looks like a different question.
New Jersey (2-1-0): Unlike Carolina, the Devils had a successful recent tour of Western Canada (winning three of four) and kept things going with more wins than losses this week. Wednesday’s 2-1 OT win over Boston could be one of those season turning points, and they built on it by taking care of business last night against Columbus.
Pittsburgh (2-1-0): This week overall wasn’t bad for the Pens, but ended on the most sour note possible last night in Toronto. The team will need a short memory and flush that one, three more games remain this week before Christmas break.
Columbus (1-2-0): In their three games this week, the Blue Jackets gave up 5, 5 and 6 goals against this week. Their only win was a game that at one point was a 5-0 lead that they completely frittered away in a third period and had to dig deep in OT to prevent one of the more embarrassing losses in a while.
A lot of online models are not big fans of teams like Philadelphia, Washington and even the Islanders keeping it together for the full season. As such, some of these recent-ish outlooks might be sunnier on the overall season projections for the Pens then what might meet the eye at this point.
Point projections over the past fortnight. pic.twitter.com/eUduk3xPdx— Micah Blake McCurdy (@IneffectiveMath) December 14, 2023
The conventional wisdom remains that teams expected to be powers (Carolina and New Jersey) will right their ship and pass up Philadelphia and NYI eventually. However, given team defense and/or goaltender issues with the former teams, it will remain to be seen if that development will be.