Wins are coming in bunches in the Metropolitan Division, and even a point per game pace is not enough to climb the standings. The cream is starting to rise to the top and familiar faces still lead the division on the backs of huge scoring outbursts.
1. Pittsburgh Penguins: 20 Points (9-2-2)
The Pittsburgh Penguins find themselves in a familiar spot: at the top of the division, with a game in hand on the second-place Rangers. Since the return from injury of their captain, Sidney Crosby, the Pens have yet to lose a game in regulation. On top of that, goalie Matt Murray has won 10 straight regular season games dating back to last season.
With Murray’s continued success, the big looming story in Pittsburgh is what the Penguins will do with Marc-Andre Fleury. The Penguins can only protect one of their goalies in the expansion draft, and multiple teams including the Carolina Hurricanes could use a goaltending upgrade. Could a Fleury trade be imminent, and where could he end up?
2. New York Rangers: 20 Points (10-4-0)
On the subject of the rich getting richer, the Rangers keep amassing goals and points in the standings. The Rangers have been scoring an average of 4.14 goals per game, .68 goals higher than the division’s second-place team, the Flyers, and 1.64 goals higher than the seventh-place Hurricanes.
The Rangers have an astronomically high shooting percentage of 14%. By comparison, the league average is 8.7%, and anything above 10% is generally unsustainable. On top of that, the Rangers’ 49.3% Corsi-for makes it likely that the their hot start will eventually come back to Earth in the near future, but by then they may have enough of a cushion that it .
3. Washington Capitals: 17 Points (8-3-1)
The Capitals keep rolling along quietly, another strong regular season that has them near the top of the division. The Caps have a 52% Corsi-for rating and a very sustainable 1004 PDO. In other words, the Caps have not gotten to this point in the season by pure dumb luck.
The Caps have been breezing by teams this year, winning five of their games by two or more goals, but hit their first major roadblock of the season on Tuesday with a shutout at the hands of the San Jose Sharks. The Caps now look to bounce back on a three-game road trip starting tonight in Chicago.
4. New Jersey Devils: 15 Points (6-3-3)
The Devils are have been quietly putting together a great season that’s flying way under the radar, perhaps because their reputation as a tough to watch team precedes them. The Devils have one of the league’s best goaltenders in Cory Schneider and a below average 7.5% shooting percentage, so there aren’t a ton of goals at either end of the ice when they play.
The Devils have only 28 goals scored this season, last in the division, and have allowed 27 goals, the third-fewest in the Metro. The Devils thrive off of one goal games: of their 12 games played, eight were decided by a single goal. Their 1005 PDO means that they’ve likely hit their level and this style of play will be here all year, so get ready for more of the same from Newark.
5. Philadelphia Flyers: 15 Points (6-6-2)
The Flyers are on a quest to prove that they are actual contenders in the Metro. The Flyers went 2-1-1 over the last seven days and won two of those games in extra time. One of the biggest differentiators between a team that makes the playoffs and one that doesn’t is their ability to pick up a full two points in overtime - ask the Hurricanes.
The Flyers 10.3% shooting percentage is a huge reason why they are winning games, and they’re doing so despite team goaltending which sits dead last in the league. The Flyers .871 sv% is a whole tenth below even the Canes. Their shooting percentage has been able to cover up these struggles, but their success is dependent on how long they can stay at that level.
6. Columbus Blue Jackets : 14 Points (6-3-2)
The Columbus Blue Jackets’ 14 points is one of the most confounding stories in the division. Coming into the season many had the Blue Jackets finishing last in the Metro. On top of this, the poor performance of USA Hockey and head coach John Tortorella at the World Cup of Hockey spilled over to doubt that the Blue Jackets would do anything of consequence.
After a winless start, the Blue Jackets have caught fire and are just a point out of a playoff berth. The Blue Jackets became the first team since the 1995-1996 season to win a game 10-0 when they defeated the previously-unbeaten Canadiens last Friday. I hope the team in charge of the goal cannon gets paid by the goal, because they had a busy night.
7. New York Islanders: 12 Points (5-6-2)
The Islanders continue to struggle to replace Kyle Okposo in their lineup. Okposo’s replacement, Andrew Ladd, still only has one goal and one assist through 13 games played. The Isles sit with a -3 goal differential and are stuck in a traffic jam of teams they’d need to climb over to get into a playoff position.
Unfortunately for the Islanders, their woes look likely to continue. With a PDO of 1002, their poor performance can’t be chalked up to bad luck or a bad streak. Their Corsi-for of 46.6% is the third worst in the league, and despite more than passable goaltending from Jaroslav Halak, they face a tall order to get back in the conversation.
8. Carolina Hurricanes: 10 Points (3-5-4)
The Hurricanes continue to be a fascinating case study of advanced statistics only being as good as the players who provide those stats. The Canes are one of the top possession teams in the division, with a 52.9% Corsi-for that trails only the Flyers in the division. The Canes also have the second most takeaways, second-fewest giveaways, and rank second in faceoff win percentage in the Metro.
The Canes’ 8.6% shooting percentage is right at the league average, but where they have been falling short is with goaltending. The team’s .883 sv% is third worst in the league, and unlike the Flyers, the shooting percentage just isn’t strong enough to make up the difference. On the bright side, Cam Ward has played great over the last week, posting a .941 sv% in his two starts. Maybe there is light at the end of this goaltending tunnel after all.