The third week of the season doesn’t see any new faces at the top of the NHL’s Metropolitan Division, but the order has been a bit rearranged. And unlike the last two weeks, it’s goaltending, rather than goal scoring, that is determining teams’ fates.
1. New York Rangers: 14 Points (7-3-0)
The top three teams in the division have not changed, but their order has. This week, the New York Rangers, who were third last week, sit atop the division after a 3-1-0 week that gave them six points and the division lead.
The Rangers’ lone loss in the past week, predictably, came against the Carolina Hurricanes. They’ve scored 18 goals in their last four games, and taking out the two goals they scored against the Canes they lit the lamp 16 times in 3 games. This past week five players - Rick Nash, Jimmy Vesey, Brandon Pirri, Michael Grabner, and Mats Zuccarello - tallied three goals each. Good luck limiting all of those players.
2. Washington Capitals: 13 Points (6-2-1)
The Washington Capitals continued their strong play over the past week, earning a 3-1-0 record over the past week despite only a +3 goal differential. The Caps have found an unlikely hero in Marcus Johansson, who has scored five goals in the last three games.
As election season comes to a close in Washington, the Caps have introduced an election of their own. The Caps are running a bobblehead campaign to determine which bobblehead will be given away on March 21. Former Carolina Hurricane Justin Williams is up for a vote, so make sure to cast your vote on November 8th!
3. Pittsburgh Penguins: 13 Points (6-2-1)
The Pittsburgh Penguins have abdicated their throne atop the division, a victim of scheduling more than anything else as they were unbeaten (2-0) this week and, despite being a point out of first place, have a game in hand over the division-leading Rangers.
Since returning to the lineup last Tuesday, Sidney Crosby has scored four goals and an assist over the past three games. Crosby shows no signs of slowing down, scoring the Penguins’ first two goals against the Flyers to power a recovery from a 2-0 deficit and take a 5-4 win.
4. New Jersey Devils: 10 Points (4-2-2)
The surprisingly consistent Devils have found a home at fourth in the Metro division. Over the last week the Devils earned a 1-0-1 record with a win over the Tampa Bay Lightning and an overtime loss to the Florida Panthers.
So far, so good for the Devils, who saw backup Keith Kinkaid earn an unexpected point against the Blackhawks and then saw their workhorse, Cory Schneider, drop the Lightning with a 32-save performance. The Devils get a few days off but begin a swing through the erstwhile Southeast Division on Thursday, visiting the Lightning, Panthers and Hurricanes.
5. Columbus Blue Jackets: 9 Points (4-3-1)
The Columbus Blue Jackets started the season 0-2-0, but haven’t looked back since. Last night the Blue Jackets moved into fifth place with an overtime victory against the Dallas Stars. Sam Gagner scored the game tying goal on an empty-net power play with just 16 seconds remaining. Once the game got to the extra session, the Blue Jackets made quick work of the Stars, with Seth Jones scoring just 46 seconds in.
The Blue Jackets have largely been powered by the play of Gagner and Brandon Saad over the past week to go 2-1-0 and climb above .500 for the first time this season. Saad scored two goals in a 4-0 win against the Ducks, and aside from the tying goal against the Stars, Gagner was responsible for the other two tallies against Anaheim.
6. Philadelphia Flyers: 9 Points (4-5-1)
The Flyers’ goaltending issues have continued. Neither Steve Mason nor Michal Neuvirth are anywhere near a .900 save percentage for the year. Wayne Simmonds has continued his great season and has maintained a 19.4% shot percentage, which is unsustainable long-term but is keeping the Flyers in games, sometimes singlehandedly, that they have no business being in.
The Flyers’ lone win of the week came against the Carolina Hurricanes, a back-and-forth affair that was decided by a Brandon Manning shorthanded goal in the third period.
7. New York Islanders: 8 Points (4-6-0)
The islanders continue their fall, now sitting in seventh place in the Metro after being outscored 13-6 in their last four games, three of which were losses. Despite that, the Islanders’ goaltending has been playing well, with three straight 30-save performances - although one of those was a 6-1 pasting at the hands of the Lightning.
The issue for the Isles has been goal scoring. Management thought they could survive the loss of both Kyle Okposo and Frans Nielsen in free agency, but in hindsight they are struggling with goal scoring. Their big free agent acquisition, Andrew Ladd, has only produced one assist over their first 10 games.
8. Carolina Hurricanes: 7 Points (2-4-3)
The Hurricanes have continued their streak of poor October play. The Canes earned a 1-1-0 record at home with a win against the New York Rangers and a tough loss to the Philadelphia Flyers, before dropping an overtime loss on the road to the Ottawa Senators last night.
The combination of Jeff Skinner and Victor Rask is the one unquestioned good thing the Canes have going for them. Entering the Tuesday night contest against the Senators, Skinner led the league in points per game with 1.57 points per game. The Canes desperately need someone to step up and give Skinner and Rask some help shouldering the load.