Say this for the Metropolitan Division: it’s never boring.
Two teams are on three-game (or more) point streaks, and multiple teams are on multi-game losing streaks. This past week saw some significant injuries, with three teams losing a major contributor in their lineup. A 4-1 homestand has the Hurricanes back in the picture, just one point out of sixth place and three points out of fifth place.
1. New York Rangers: 29 Points (14-5-1)
Last week the Rangers lost two straight games for the first time this season. More importantly, they lost breakout player Mika Zibanejad for six to eight weeks after suffering a broken leg in a game against the Florida Panthers. Facing uncertainty after Zibanejad’s injury, the Rangers bounced back and beat the Pittsburgh Penguins 5-2 on Monday.
The Rangers, who many counted out before the season, still aren’t showing many signs of slowing down. For the third straight week, the Rangers had a double digit shooting percentage, with their 13.0% weekly shooting percentage actually knocking their season number down (!) to 13.7%. The rest of the division is biding its time until the Rangers are human again, but after more than a month of this ridiculously high shooting percentage, is this what they can expect all season?
2. Pittsburgh Penguins: 25 Points (11-5-3)
The Pens are now in their second week of playing .500 hockey, and while they’re in second place, they have a couple of teams hot on their trail. Following a seven game point streak earlier this season, the Pens have posted a record of 2-3-1. Since the streak ended on November 10th, the Pens have had a 5.7% shooting percentage (3rd-worst in the league), have been outscored 20-13, and have seen their goal differential for the season fall down to -1 which is fifth in the division.
It’s not all bad news for the Pens, though. Sidney Crosby is still tied for the league lead with 12 goals, and has averaged 1.28 points per game this season. The Pens power play is still in the top five in the league at 25%, and they are outpossessing teams 57%-43% at even strength.
3. Washington Capitals: 24 Points (11-5-2)
Much like the Rangers, the Caps are dealing with a boatload of injury problems. T.J. Oshie is week-to-week and Lars Eller is listed as day-to-day, both with upper-body injuries. Because the Caps have only $700k in cap room, they have had to get creative on how to fill the roster holes and the on ice roles vacated by Oshie and Eller. The Caps have even started giving defenseman Nate Schmidt looks at playing wing.
Oshie’s loss is a big one for the Caps. He is second on the team with eight goals, and plays a significant role on the power play. Losing Oshie off the power play is bad news for the Caps, whose unit was just starting to get going again. Last week the Caps power play climbed to 25%, up from the 5.9% it was at earlier in November.
4. Columbus Blue Jackets: 23 Points (10-4-3)
The Blue Jackets are currently on a five game point streak and have a record of 7-1-2 in their last 10 games. Over this time period, six different players have averaged over a point per game and the team has outscored their opponents 31-15. So how is a team that many thought would be a bottom dweller succeeding?
The Blue Jackets’ power play is the best in the league, converting 31.1% of opportunities, and the team’s shooting percentage is 12%, second in the division behind the Rangers and two points ahead of anyone else in the division. On top of that, Sergei Bobrovsky and Curtis McIlhinney have combined for a .930 save percentage, ranking fourth in the league. Much like the Rangers, those numbers are likely unsustainable long-term, but for now they are far and away the most surprising team in the division.
5. New Jersey Devils: 21 Points (9-6-3)
Since losing Taylor Hall, the Devils have only gotten one point in four games and have lost three straight. The Devils desperately miss Hall’s scoring ability as they have only been able to score two goals per game since his injury.
The Devils have won most of their games this season with great goaltending and winning low scoring affairs. The low scoring has continued, but the goaltending has fallen off a bit. In October, Cory Schneider had a .941 save percentage, but in November he has seen it fall to .903. That combination has the Devils in trouble, now out of a playoff spot and moving in the wrong direction.
6. Philadelphia Flyers: 21 Points (9-8-3)
The Flyers are losing ground in the Metro and fast, although they stemmed the tide with a 3-1 win at Florida last night. Their goaltending is the worst in the league with only a .884 sv% and a 3.16 GAA. Earlier in the season the team was able to cover up their shaky goaltending with a 9.8% shooting percentage, but since the start of November that number has fallen to 8.3%.
Along with their goalies struggling, young defenseman Shayne Gostisbehere has been having problems in his own zone. The team went as far as scratching Gostisbehere in their loss Thursday to the Jets. The Flyers have never been afraid of making a big trade to spark the locker room, so stay tuned.
7. Carolina Hurricanes: 20 Points (8-6-4)
Don’t look now, but the Canes now have a five game win streak, their first since 2014. The team has been powered by the strong play of Cam Ward, who was named the second star of the week by the NHL on Monday. Over the past five games Ward has posted a .962 sv% and a 1.00 GAA, good for best in the division and 3rd best in the league by anyone who played more than one game.
It appears that some home cooking - and some solid defensive play against the top teams in the league - was all the offense needed to jump into gear. The team has increased their season shooting percentage to an 8.6%, up from 7.5% just a week ago. This is closer to a sustainable level of play for the Canes, whose PDO over the last two weeks is at 105.5 which brings their season PDO to a 98.5.
8. New York Islanders: 16 Points (6-8-4)
The Isles continue their slide, and now solidly occupy the bottom spot in the Metro. Like other teams in the division, they are streaking; however, they are moving quickly in the wrong direction. The team lost 4 straight, two of those in overtime, before stopping the bleeding with a 14-round shootout win last night in Anaheim, the longest shootout in either team’s history. The Isles have been miserable trying to put the puck in the net, scoring just seven goals in five games.
The talk around the Isles has now switched to who is going to get fired: coach Jack Capuano, GM Garth Snow, or both. In a normal situation, a GM will make a trade to try to give a coach a chance at saving his job, but with Snow himself also on the hot seat, he may not receive the chance to hire another coach. Things are getting interesting in Brooklyn very quickly.