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Metropolitan Division Check Up: Week 1

The 2016-2017 season is underway, but which teams are already trying to separate themselves from the pack, and how far back are the Canes?

NHL: Washington Capitals at Pittsburgh Penguins Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

A week into the season, standings don’t mean a whole lot. Everyone is close to everyone else, each team is a well-timed hot streak away from being near the top of the division, and teams’ positions in the standings can swing wildly based off one game. Case in point: The Metropolitan division leaders have five points, and seven of the eight teams have earned at least a point. With the Hurricanes on a lengthy road trip forced by the State Fair, we’ll look around at how the rest of the Metro has performed thus far.

1. Washington Capitals: 5 points (2-0-1)

This year marked the first time that Alex Ovechkin was on the ice for a Stanley Cup banner ceremony. Unfortunately for him, it was in Pittsburgh. Despite that, the Caps have had another red-hot start earning points in all three games. The lone blemish on their record is a shootout loss to the Penguins on the first night of the season.

The Capitals are almost universally expected to make the playoffs this year and contend for the division title. The real question for the Caps every year is how they will perform in the playoffs.

NHL: Colorado Avalanche at Washington Capitals Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

2. Pittsburgh Penguins: 5 points (2-1-1)

The defending champs were handed their first curve ball before the season even started. Their captain, Sidney Crosby, suffered a concussion in a preseason practice and has yet to play a game.

However, the team didn’t miss a beat, and have managed five points in four games. The entire team has chipped in to help cover the loss of Crosby. Eleven players have scored a point this season, and three players - Conor Sheary, Evgeni Malkin and Matt Cullen - each have 1 goal and 2 assists to lead the team with three points apiece.

3. New York Rangers: 4 points (2-1-0)

The Rangers are perfect at home so far this season. Abandoning their typical stingy defensive style, they have been in some scorefests: 24 total goals have been scored in their three games, and their two wins have been by 5-3 and 7-4 scores.

New York Islanders v New York Rangers Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

Chris Kreider has been the biggest surprise for the Rangers this season. Through three games he is averaging two points per game, leading the team with three goals and three assists. The big name free agent signing of the offseason, Jimmy Vesey, has gotten off to a good start. He scored his first NHL goal on Monday against the San Jose Sharks.

4. New Jersey Devils: 3 points (1-1-1)

So far, the early returns on one of the biggest trades of the offseason are quite good for the Devils. Former first overall pick and top line winger Taylor Hall has fit right in so far, taking the team lead in goals by scoring both in a 2-1 victory Tuesday over the Ducks.

Hall and three other players lead the Devils with two points apiece, and nine Devils have at least a point in their first three games. After a one-game trip to Boston tomorrow, the Devils start a four-game homestand against the Minnesota Wild on Saturday.

5. Philadelphia Flyers: 3 points (1-1-1)

Like the Canes, the Flyers started the year on a tough road trip of their own. It wasn’t as long in terms of games played, but the Flyers faced a tough troika of the Chicago Blackhawks, Los Angeles Kings, and Arizona Coyotes, and were unbeaten in regulation before last night, when they went down 4-0 to the Blackhawks, rallied to tie the game, then gave up three unanswered to lose 7-4.

The Flyers look to rebuild the momentum as they begin a stretch of five of their next six at home. The Hurricanes will travel to Philadelphia on Saturday, as their second to last stop during the State Fair road trip.

6. Carolina Hurricanes: 2 Points (0-1-2)

The opening road trip often seems to doom the Hurricanes’ season before it gets started. The Canes managed to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory in the first two games, leading both games by three goals but eventually falling in two disappointing overtime losses.

NHL: Carolina Hurricanes at Winnipeg Jets Bruce Fedyck-USA TODAY Sports

The game against the Oilers marked the halfway point for the road trip. The Canes finish up against the Flames, Flyers and Red Wings before finally playing their first home game on the 28th against the Rangers. The Canes will need to win two out of the next three to be in good shape for the long run.

7. New York Islanders: 2 points (1-3-0)

The Isles have surprisingly struggled to start their season. Their only win, against the Ducks on Sunday, came in overtime, and the usually dependable defense pairing of Travis Hamonic and Nick Leddy are an eye-popping minus-14 combined in just four games. Even more surprising is that they’re underperforming against a home-heavy schedule, a stretch of 10 home games out of 11 between now and November 7. The Isles will need to turn it around in a hurry or they run the risk of needing to get back on track on the road later in the season.

8. Columbus Blue Jackets: 0 points (0-2-0)

The Columbus Blue Jackets have had one of the roughest starts to season a team can have, losing their first two games to the Bruins and Sharks by a combined score of 9-5. The start has been so bad that after the team’s first game, coach John Tortorella said “We weren’t even close.”

Please recall that this is the team that last season set an NHL record with eight straight regulation losses to start the season, which cost Todd Richards his job and led to Tortorella’s hiring.

And history, frighteningly, could repeat itself this season. The Jackets’ next six games come against playoff teams from last season, hosting the Blackhawks on Friday before hitting the road for four road games in seven days against the Stars and the three California teams. They’re back home against the Stars on November 1, but they have some work to do to avoid being cast adrift before Thanksgiving for the second straight season.