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Metropolitan Division Weekly Roundup: The Rangers Lead, Then Everyone Else Falls In Line

After Thanksgiving the standings are tightening up with five teams separated by only four points.

NHL: St. Louis Blues at Washington Capitals Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

The Rangers have continued to maintain their stranglehold on the Metro. However, behind the Rangers, only four points separate the second place team from the sixth place team. At this point in the season, all it takes is for a team to rattle off one win streak and the standings can drastically change.

1. New York Rangers: 33 Points (16-7-1)

The Rangers continue to open up their lead on the division, now up to four points (albeit having played two more games than the second-place Penguins). New York now only trails the Montreal Canadiens by one point for the league’s best record. The Rangers have felt the loss of Mika Zibanejad, who suffered a broken leg earlier this month. Since losing their top center, the Rangers have failed to win back to back games. However, the Blueshirts have proven that they can still win tough games. Last night the Rangers overcame a two goal deficit to beat the Carolina Hurricanes in a game where they just refused to quit.

NHL: Ottawa Senators at New York Rangers Adam Hunger-USA TODAY Sports

Moving forward the Rangers need Henrik Lundqvist to return to his normal form. The all-world Swede posted a .908 save percentage last week, down from his season average of .916. Lundqvist is normally one of the top goalies in the NHL but ranks a surprisingly low 29th in the NHL in save percentage this season among goalies who have played at least three games.

2. Pittsburgh Penguins: 29 Points (13-6-3)

The only consistent thing about the Pens’ play in November has been inconsistency. The Penguins have been unable to string back to back wins together since they beat the Sharks and Oilers on November 5 and 8. Since then the Penguins have followed up each win with either a regulation loss or an overtime loss. Since the win against the Oilers, the Pens’ longest point streak has only been two games: a win against the Islanders on the 18th and a shootout loss to the Sabres the next night.

One thing has remained a constant night in and night out: Sidney Crosby leads the team by example. Crosby is top five in points per 60 minutes with 3.09 and second in the league in goals/60 with 2.32 at even strength. He is not only producing on the score sheet, but in puck possession as well. Crosby is also seventh among players who have played at least ten games 58.4% Corsi-for percentage.

3. Washington Capitals: 28 Points (13-6-2)

The Washington Capitals are tied with the Blue Jackets in points, but currently hold the tie breaker with more regulation and overtime wins. The Capitals entered Thanksgiving week with a slew of questions on how they would be able to deal with multiple injuries and a lack of roster flexibility. The Caps responded well and earned a record of 2-1-0 dropping a lone game to the Leafs on Saturday.

The Caps have been without T.J. Oshie; however, they have not missed his scoring ability. The Caps were able to post a 9.8% shooting percentage, behind only the Devils in the Metro in the past week. A majority of the scoring was done by Alex Ovechkin who posted his first hat trick of the season against the Blues on Wednesday. Oshie is now practicing with the team and hopes to return next week to help rejuvenate the power play unit.

4. Columbus Blue Jackets: 28 Points (12-5-4)

The Blue Jackets continue to be one of the most exciting and confounding teams in the league. Despite only dropping two games in regulation through all of November, most refuse to believe they are the real deal. They aren’t just feasting on bad teams, either. Last night the Blue Jackets walloped one of the top teams in the East, the Tampa Bay Lightning, by a score of 5-1.

Though earlier in the season the Blue Jackets were riding an insanely high shooting percentage, their PDO was a very sustainable 100.4 over the past week which saw the team go 2-1-1. Despite the Blue Jackets coming back down to Earth a bit, they are still able to pick up points in a majority of their games. If Sergei Bobrovsky can stay healthy this season, the Blue Jackets will be in great shape to make the playoffs.

To that end: Sports Club Stats has them at 93% to make the postseason, and 10.3% - third-best odds of anyone - to win the Stanley Cup.

The Columbus Blue Jackets. Third-favorites for the Stanley Cup. What a time to be alive.

5. New Jersey Devils: 25 Points (10-7-5)

Despite Taylor Hall’s absence, the Devils were able to put together a three-game point streak that ended last night with a regulation loss to the Jets. This season the Devils have suffered from a low shooting percentage but have been bailed out by their goaltending.

NHL: New Jersey Devils at Winnipeg Jets Bruce Fedyck-USA TODAY Sports

This week, New Jersey flipped the script. The Devils had a 12.5% shooting percentage which was second only to the Ducks. Meanwhile, Cory Schneider posted a .871 save percentage, which was the worst of any goalie in the Metro who played more than one game. The Devils are hoping to get Hall back either Thursday or Saturday which will drastically improve their chances to win these high scoring games.

6. Philadelphia Flyers: 25 Points (11-10-3)

The Flyers are beginning to separate themselves from the pack with back to back wins. Their most recent game saw the Bruins come back from a 0-2 goal deficit, but the Flyers hung on and won the game in a shootout. The Flyers’ shooting percentage has stayed at just over 8% with their goaltending still letting up three goals per game on average.

So where are the Flyers wins coming from? The Flyers have been one of the most physical teams all season. In this last week alone, the Flyers had the third most hits in the league with 123 and the third most blocked shots with 79. As the season progresses hits start to take more of a toll on teams and becomes a greater advantage. The Flyers may not have the puck much, but they do a good job of forcing unproductive possessions from the opposition.

7. Carolina Hurricanes: 22 Points (9-9-4)

After a five-game win streak, the Canes fell on hard times. The road has continued to be an enemy, with the Canes dropping their last three road games. The main culprit of the down turn has been a lack of scoring. The Canes 6% shooting percentage was third worst in the league, and worst in the Metro over the last week. The only player who has not felt a scoring slump, of all people, is Viktor Stalberg who has four goals in his last five games.

NHL: Carolina Hurricanes at New York Rangers Andy Marlin-USA TODAY Sports

Unfortunately for the Canes, they lost one of their top point scorers, Jordan Staal, to a concussion. All hope is not lost for Carolina: goaltending has actually become a bright spot over the past couple of weeks. Emergency backup, Michael Leighton, won his first game in six seasons, and Cam Ward’s November save percentage is .935.

8. New York Islanders: 18 Points (7-10-9)

Another week of hockey, and another week of the Islanders being at the bottom. Andrew Ladd was brought in to play with John Tavares, but currently finds himself on the fourth line with the likes of Cal Clutterbuck and Casey Cizikas.

Ladd’s issue is representative of the entire team’s issue this season. Outside of Tavares and Josh Bailey, the team has not been producing. Over the last week, the Isles’ shooting percentage of 7% was second worst in the division, behind only the Canes, and the team only averaged two goals per game. The Isles were able to pick up an overtime win over the Flames on Monday; however, their last regulation win came on November 7th, more than three weeks ago.