The 2016-2017 NHL season is still in its infancy, each team has still played less than 10 games a piece. The top and bottom teams in the Metropolitan Division are still only separated by five points. The Carolina Hurricanes are in that bottom position, but now that the road trip is over, they will look to climb the standings with two straight games at home.
1. Pittsburgh Penguins: 9 Points (4-2-1)
The Penguins have pulled off the nightmare that the rest of the division feared. With Sidney Crosby out of the lineup until their seventh game, the Pens have nonetheless jumped out to an early division lead, overtaking the Washington Capitals atop the division after going 2-1-0 in the past week.
The Pens came out ahead this week even after being out scored 9-7 over three games; that loss, a 5-1 trouncing at Nashville, sticks out like a sore thumb. The Pens continued their balanced attack with six different players responsible for the seven goals for this week. The only player with more than one goal was someone named Scott Wilson. Who is Scott Wilson? Seriously: Google him and the first hits are an actor and a Washington Post correspondent.
2. New York Rangers: 8 Points (4-2-0)
As much as some believed Jimmy Vesey was overrated, he scored twice in three games and looks like he could be the real deal. The Rangers’ other major offseason acquisition, Mika Zibanejad, came on strong with a goal and an assist in his past two games, trailing Chris Kreider by one point and scoring at a point-per-game clip so far.
In a measuring-stick game on Saturday, the Rangers were able to fight back from down 2-0 to score four unanswered goals against the defending division champion Washington Capitals. They’ve certainly made good use of a home-heavy start to the schedule, going 3-1 at Madison Square Garden so far, and they only play two games on the road between now and November 12.
3. Washington Capitals: 7 Points (3-1-1)
The Caps in third is the most deceiving part of the standings. They are only third because they have played one fewer game than the Rangers and two fewer than the Penguins. The Caps are still likely the odds-on division favorites...at least for the regular season.
Alex Ovechkin shows no signs of slowing down, scoring in back to back games and raising his overall total to three goals in five games. If there is any doubt in his ability just look at this snipe against Henrik Lundqvist, where he blasts it through with almost no wind-up.
4. New Jersey Devils: 7 points (3-2-1)
The Devils stay constant in fourth place, but earned two wins in three games. Taylor Hall has dominated play in the last three games, scoring three goals in as many games. He followed a two-goal performance in a 5-3 win over the Arizona Coyotes with the OT game winner against the Minnesota Wild. Thanks so much for sending Hall to the Metro, Peter Chiarelli.
The surprise of the week goes to Travis Zajac who refused to be outdone by Hall and scored two goals of his own including the game winner against the Coyotes. Cory Schneider has continued his great play from last season, recording a .950 SV% while stopping 57 of 60 shots. His play kept them in the game late against Boston and earned an overtime win against the Wild.
5. Philadelphia Flyers: 7 Points (3-3-1)
Powered by a win against the Hurricanes on Saturday, the Flyers are tied with the Caps and Devils with 7 points but giving up games in hand to each. The Flyers have been able to overcome weak goaltending which allowed 12 goals in four games to escape the week 2-2-0. The wins included a six-goal performance against the Canes and a shootout win against the depleted Sabres.
Claude Giroux has yet to score a goal but leads the Flyers in points with eight assists. I want to make a joke about how he’s overpaid for not scoring, but last I checked the Canes don’t have anyone with eight points, never mind eight assists. Rookie defenseman Ivan Provorov has settled into the speed of the NHL game and recorded three helpers this week, including two against the Canes.
6. New York Islanders: 6 Points (3-3-0)
The Islanders recovered from a 1-3-0 start to make it back to .500 this week, their 2-0 record powered by early starts: they only trailed for 3:08 out of 120 minutes of game time in the past week. The Islanders were powered by strong play from John Tavares and Johnny Boychuk, who both registered 2 goals and 1 assist over the last two games.
Tavares is one of four Islanders with five points, and three other players have four, so the Islanders are getting contributions from all over the lineup.
7. Columbus Blue Jackets: 5 Points (2-2-1)
Like a phoenix from the ashes, the Blue Jackets have risen...um, one spot in the standings. The Blue Jackets followed up an 0-2-0 start to the season with a 2-0-1 second week good for a three game point streak. The Blue Jackets have done this despite only two points from Brandon Saad and a solitary assist from Boone Jenner.
How does a team turn around so quick without their top players performing? Solid goaltending doesn’t hurt. Sergei Bobrovsky registered a .963 Sv% over the past three games, including a shutout of the offensively-gifted Dallas Stars. Rookie defenseman Zach Werenski has also been a revelation, his two goals and five points each tied for the team lead.
8. Carolina Hurricanes: 4 Points (1-3-2)
The Canes continued to struggle as they finished their road trip, only earning two points in their last three games. The Canes are in desperate need of home cooking and delicious BBQ to get the ship righted and to climb back in the division.
Goaltending has again become an issue for the Canes, with Eddie Lack and Cam Ward letting up 12 goals in just three games including a six-spot against the Flyers. Though some of these goals aren’t their fault, letting up four goals a game is unacceptable. The Canes need the young players to settle down at home and start playing some smart two way hockey to earn points.