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Metro Roundup: The Haves and Have Nots

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A divide is forming in the Metro, where fourth and fifth place in the division are separated by four points.

NHL: Calgary Flames at Carolina Hurricanes James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports

1. Washington Capitals: 21 Points (9-2-3)

The John Carlson and Alex Ovechkin tour continues for Washington. On Tuesday, Ovechkin scored the overtime game winner in Toronto for his 669th career goal, moving him past Luc Robitaille for the 12th most career goals in NHL history. This came after he made some interesting comments about the Leafs heading into the game. When asked about the team he said, “It’s up to them how they want to do it and if they want to play for yourself, or is they want to win a Cup, they have to play differently.” It’s a strong but particularly interesting comment from Ovechkin who didn’t win a Cup until he rounded out his defensive skills and became a more all-around player.

At the risk of repeating myself from last week, John Carlson continued his incredible October. He closed out the month with two more goals which brought his total points to 23 for October. That is the second highest for a defender in October ever, trailing only Al MacInnis who holds the record with 25. His two goals also broke a franchise record for most points by a defender in a month. His red-hot start is incredible and has him tied for second with Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl and just one behind David Pastrnak who leads the league in total points.

2. Carolina Hurricanes: 17 Points (8-3-1)

The Canes have now won two straight games and have points in their last three to improve to an 8-3-1 record in October. This is the best October for the Hurricanes since the 2005-2006 season. It’s easy to see that not having to start your season with a long road trip leads to more favorable results. The last two games saw huge performances by two players.

First, Andrei Svechnikov who scored four goals in the last two games, including two power play goals. Those were his first two power play goals in his career, and both were game winning goals. With these four goals he now moves up to 12 points (5g, 7a) which puts him in second place on the team. If somehow you missed it, he scored a goal with The Michigan on Tuesday to tie the game, and everyone else can stop trying, it’s the goal of the year.

The second player that has powered the Canes to these three victories is Petr Mrazek. Mrazek now has a 14-0-0 record at home in his last 14 games played. His last loss was to the Calgary Flames last season. He has also stopped 59 of the last 60 shots he has faced, including all 12 high danger chances. Expect Rod Brind’Amour to ride the hot hand moving forward, meaning we could be seeing a lot more Mrazek between the pipes.

3. New York Islanders: 16 Points (8-3-0)

The Islanders have placed Tom Kuhnhackl and Matt Martin on injured reserve and called up Otto Koivula. Both players are expected to miss four to six weeks with their injuries. The Martin injury was very unfortunate. On Friday against the Senators he was skating up the ice and was checked in to the Senators bench area. The door was unlocked and came open and his knee slammed into the opening.

Koivula was selected in the fourth round in the 2016 NHL draft and can play winger or center for the New York Islanders. He scored 21 goals and 25 assists in 46 games in the AHL last season where he impressed his NHL bosses. The Islanders are thin as they are still without Jordan Eberle, Leo Komarov, and Andrew Ladd. The injuries haven’t hampered them, though, as they are currently in the middle of a league high seven-game winning streak.

4. Pittsburgh Penguins: 16 Points (8-5-0)

The Penguins finally got good news on the injury front, activating Alex Galchenyuk and Brian Dumoulin from IR before Tuesday’s game against the Flyers. Both players are impact players that eat minutes. Galchenyuk will be playing on the second line with Nick Bjugstad and Patric Hornqvist, and Dumoulin slots in the top pairing with Kris Letang. However, the Penguins are still without their number two center, Evgeni Malkin, who any other team would have in their top line.

In a non-hockey story that came out of left field, Malkin was an investor in a cryptocurrency company that failed. He lost $4million with his investment but may be subject to legal action in Russia. He was not involved in the day-to-day operations and is an American citizen so his liability may be reduced, but it may be hard to focus on hockey with all of that going on.

5. Columbus Blue Jackets: 12 Points (5-5-2)

The Jackets have, for the most part, outperformed expectations this season. They have earned 12 points and a .500 record despite having the fourth worst goal differential in the league at -12. The bad news is that they came into the season as one of the thinnest teams in the division and placed two starters, Alexandre Texier and Ryan Murray, on injured reserve this week.

The Jackets head into the next week against strong Western Conference teams in the St. Louis Blues, Calgary Flames, and Arizona Coyotes. Head coach John Tortorella has done a great job getting the team up for their games so far this season, but with four games in the next seven days against tough teams, multiple losses could see the Jackets fall way behind the median point of the division.

6. Philadelphia Flyers: 11 Points (5-5-1)

The Flyers goaltending struggles continue. In their last three games they have surrendered 16 goals, against including letting up seven against the Penguins on Tuesday. The Flyers have moved to start Brian Elliott more in their four of their five most recent games. In the game he did not start, he came on in relief against the Islanders when Carter Hart gave up five goals in 14 shots against the Islanders. In Hart’s last four games he has a 5.56 GAA which is the highest in the league over that span. He has not had a game with a .900 sv% since October 12, which was a relief appearance.

But Elliott hasn’t been outstanding in this same time period either. He has been pulled twice since October 12th, including in their last game where he was pulled after allowing six goals on 28 shots. He has a 3.74 GAA which is the 9th highest in the league for goalies that have played more than one game over this time. Neither goalie are really inspiring hope for the coaching staff, but with a get right game coming against the New Jersey Devils, they could use it to get Hart’s head right against the last place team in the league.

7. New York Rangers: 9 Points (4-5-1)

In Tuesday’s game the Rangers scratched veteran defenseman Marc Staal for the first time in his career, opting to play fresh callup Ryan Lindgren in his place. Lindgren was a second-round pick for the Boston Bruins in the 2016 Draft but was traded to the Rangers in the Rick Nash trade in 2018. He is just 21 and this is just his sixth NHL game and first of the season. He is a real stay at home guy who brings toughness with 8 career PIMS. He did register his first NHL point on Adam Fox’s first career NHL goal on Tuesday. (Hooray.)

Fox wasn’t the only player scoring his first career goal on Tuesday. Center Filip Chytil also recorded his first NHL goal against the Lightning, and it was the game winner. The win was a big one for a young team that has seven players that are 21 years old or younger. It shows them that their hard work can pay off and that playing a complete 60 is rewarded. They outshot Tampa Bay in all three periods and won the overall shot battle 42-30. This is the type of momentum building win that a coach wants to see in a young team continuing to buy in.

8. New Jersey Devils: 7 Points (2-5-3)

Everyone was worried when Jack Hughes was yet to record a point in his first five games and no goals in his first six. It’s easy to forget how hard it is for an 18-year-old to adjust to playing in the NHL at any position, let alone playing center. Hughes has now scored goals in his last two games and followed up his first goal with a one goal and two assist night, factoring in on all three of the Devils goals that night against the Coyotes.

The Devils have had a terrible October for a team that many expected to break out this season after a crazy positive offseason. Fans are now booing the power play that went one for three last night. One would imagine that former MVP Taylor Hall, whose contract is up next summer, doesn’t have much interest playing for another bad team. The Devils were hoping for a fast start to convince him to re-sign, but being second to last in the league means it’s becoming more likely that he will be traded at the deadline, which will leave a giant hole in the Devils top line.