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Metropolitan Division Weekly Roundup: The Pack Starts to Bunch Up

The Rangers sit atop the division but only five points separate the next five teams.

NHL: Washington Capitals at Carolina Hurricanes James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports

The Rangers have regained the top spot in the Metropolitan Division, but no lead is safe. Teams are starting to put together streaks and move up and down in the standings. Currently the second place through seventh place teams are only separated by eight points, so every team is still within reach.

1. New York Rangers: 26 Points (13-4-0)

The Rangers are at the top of the division, but they may not stay there long if they can't hold onto the puck. The Rangers have been getting outpossessed terribly this season. Over the last week New York’s Corsi percentage has been the worst in the Metro, only 42.8% at even strength — a full eight points less than division-leading Carolina.

NHL: New York Rangers at Edmonton Oilers Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports

Despite being dominated in possession, the Rangers are still registering a shooting percentage of 12.3% and a team save percentage of .942. The Rangers have yet to see a regression to league averages but you'd have to think that will be coming at some point. The Rangers 106.5 PDO is likely unsustainable, but they may have built up enough of a cushion for when they return to earth.

2. Pittsburgh Penguins: 22 Points (10-3-2)

The Penguins were able to take a little bit of a breather last week as they only played in two games and split them 1-1-0. Much like the Rangers, the Penguins haven’t blown teams away in possession, possessingthe puck just under 50% of the time at even strength.

Though they aren’t suffocating teams with possession, they are playing sound hockey and are pouncing on teams’ mistakes. The Penguins registered a 30% success rate with a man advantage this week, bringing their season power play percentage to 25.5%. On the other side, the Pens successfully killed off 85.7% of their own penalties, good for third best in the division.

3. Washington Capitals: 20 Points (9-4-2)

The Caps are still within striking distance of the top spot in the Metro despite a rough week. In their last four games the Caps have only registered 3 points, which includes a 5-1 loss to the Carolina Hurricanes and an overtime loss to the Columbus Blue Jackets.

What explains their sudden poor play? Their scoring has dried up, thanks in part to a shooting percentage over the last week of just 5.3%, second-worst in the Metro. Alex Ovechkin has been held pointless in both games, and the Caps power play unit was unable to score. Much like in previous seasons, the Caps are reliant on their power play, and right now it isn't working for them.

4. New Jersey Devils: 19 Points (8-3-3)

The Devils’ strategy this season has been to play hockey that’s so boring to watch that no coach or player will be able to sit through a film session. So far it’s working. The Devils had another week of scoring a few goals but letting up even fewer. Over the last three games the Devils have scored eight times but only let up five defensively.

Buffalo Sabres v New Jersey Devils Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

As if they weren't already offensively deficient enough as it was, the Devils lost their most exciting player, Taylor Hall, to a lower body injury suffered in practice. Hall was held out of last night’s game against the Stars and the Devils have yet to speak on the severity of the injury. His injury surely won't help a team that struggles to score and has a power play unit that has only scored once in the month of November.

5. Columbus Blue Jackets: 18 Points (8-4-2)

Everything that the Devils are, the Blue Jackets are the opposite. No team in the division have had more high scoring games than Columbus. Just in the past week alone the Blue Jackets have had 15 goals for and 12 goals against. Those are the numbers Gary Bettman would love to see across the entire league.

The Blue Jackets have climbed to fifth in the division off of the back of their insane shooting percentage. The Jackets have converted on an astounding 16.3% of their shots which leads the league by over 2 full percentage points. While this makes for exciting hockey, there is a very small chance this will continue. The Blue Jackets are likely to fall in the standings as their shooting falls back down to Earth and are unable to cover up their mistakes. Speaking of which...

6. Philadelphia Flyers: 17 Points (7-7-3)

The Flyers have been unable to hold their leads as their goalies are the second and third worst goalies in the division. Just a couple of weeks ago this wasn’t an issue for the Flyers who were scoring on 10.5% of their shots. However, that percentage has gone down to a more reasonable 7.8% and the team is now dropping close games.

No one loves giving fans free hockey more than the Flyers. In the month of November over half of their games have been decided with extra hockey, with only one win and two losses occurring in regulation. Though this is good for the short term, Canes fans are all too familiar with what can happen when you lose too many games in overtime.

7. Carolina Hurricanes: 14 Points (5-6-4)

The Canes came into some good luck last week playing against backup goalies in three straight games. In these games the Canes have registered a 7.5% shooting percentage and scored a total of 8 goals. The goal totals aren’t stellar, but the defense has really stepped it up. The Canes have an active streak of seven games since they last let in a shorthanded goal.

NHL: San Jose Sharks at Carolina Hurricanes James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports

Cam Ward has also drastically improved his play. Ward registered a .945 Sv% over the past three games, raising his season total over .900. This has been a welcome turnaround for a team that has struggled with goaltending over the last few seasons. Last night’s game was hopefully the first of many Cam Ward shutouts to come this season.

8. New York Islanders: 13 Points (5-8-3)

Hey, the Canes have vacated last place! The Islanders’ struggles have continued, with only one win in the month of November. The Islanders haven’t been able to convert on their chances. In their past three games, the Islanders have an abysmal shooting percentage of 3.4%.

On top of not converting on their own chances, they have been giving their opponents too many scoring chances. Over their past three games, New York has taken 16 minor penalties. This has led to the Islanders only possessing the puck 44% of the game. Between not possessing the puck and frequent breaks in 5-on-5 play it has been impossible for the offense to get going.