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Metropolitan Division Weekly Roundup: Hot Teams Rise to the Top

The top three teams in the Metro have a point streak of seven games or longer, giving them a cushion over the rest of the division.

New York Rangers v Carolina Hurricanes Photo by Gregg Forwerck/NHLI via Getty Images

1. Washington Capitals: 32 Points (14-2-4)

The Washington Capitals have been able to build a large lead early in the season due to their ability to get games to overtime. They have played a total of nine games in overtime, posting a 5-4 record in those tames. In Monday’s game against the Arizona Coyotes, the Caps were down by three in the second period but forced overtime before losing in a shootout. They were also down in the third against the Florida Panthers last Thursday but were able to come back and win that game in overtime. When a team is able to earn points out of games they could have otherwise lost, they make it much more difficult for other teams to catch them in the standings.

Their close wins and OT losses are why the Caps have the second-best record in the last 30 days with a record of 12-1-2 for 26 points. They have also recorded a point in 13 games straight dating back to October 14th, marking the sixth time in franchise history that they have posted a 13-game point streak. This is exactly what a team needs to do to separate themselves and is why the Canes losing games to bad opponents can be so damaging.

2. New York Islanders: 27 Points (13-3-1)

The team with the second-best record in the past 30 days is the New York Islanders, just one point behind the Caps but with two fewer games played. Their 12-0-1 record is better in the long run and the Islanders have refused to let the momentum slip. The Islanders are outperforming many people’s expectations heading into the season after they let their top goaltender go in the off season, but it’s no surprise that Semyon Varlamov could step in and continue having success.

Varlamov, a former Caps goaltender, is familiar with the East Coast and many of the teams. It doesn’t hurt that the Islanders have the best goaltender coach in the league, Mitch Korn, who has tutored the likes of Dominik Hasek, Robin Lehner, Pekka Rinne, Grant Fuhr, Braden Holtby and more. Under Korn, Lehner was nominated for the Vezina, the ninth time a goalie under Korn was nominated for the award. His goalies have won five Vezinas and Hasek won two Hart trophies as the MVP of the league under his guidance.

3. Philadelphia Flyers: 23 Points (10-5-3)

The Flyers lost to the Caps last night in their fourth straight overtime game, marking their seventh straight game with a point including three wins. This has been good enough for the Flyers to rise in the standings and make up ground against the other teams in the Metro.

The biggest change from the early part of the season is the goaltending. Two weeks ago, we highlighted how both goalies were under a .900 save percentage and Alain Vigneault was constantly switching between goaltender’s mid game due to low performances.

Since the calendar flipped to November, both Flyers goalies have been playing great. Carter Hart has five starts with a 4-0-1 record and a .939 sv%, up from his .725% in the last two weeks of October. Brian Elliott has also played well with a .924 sv% in three games played. The Flyers don’t have a roster that is built to outscore opponents every night but what they can do is play hard defense to limit scoring and hope that two or three goals is going to be enough to get them into overtime where it is anyone’s game, and that’s what they have done in November. Their highest total in regulation was four goals against the Canes, but outside of that game they have had 2 or 3 goals in regulation in each of their wins.

4. Pittsburgh Penguins: 22 Points (10-6-2)

Just when you thought the Penguins could get healthy, they get struck by another round of injuries. This time, the injury bug has struck their best defenseman, Kris Letang, and their best player, Sidney Crosby. Neither Crosby nor Letang made the road trip that concludes against the New Jersey Devils on Friday and Letang is considered week-to-week.

An insane stat is that the Penguins have a better winning percentage WITHOUT Crosby at .626 compared to the .619 with him, but that’s likely due to a lower sample size. Both win percentages, needless to say, are very good.

Heading into Tuesday’s game against the Rangers the Penguins had gone 0-26 on the power play and hadn’t scored since mid-October on the man advantage. They were able to break that streak on their 29th attempt when Jared McCann converted a chance. This came with three players of the top unit on IR, which includes Patric Hornqvist.

5. Carolina Hurricanes: 21 Points (10-7-1)

The Hurricanes had six straight games against teams ranked in the bottom three of their division and came out with a record of 2-4-0 in these games, including losing three division games against the last place Devils and the last-at-the-time Rangers. In each of their four losses they allowed at least four goals and looked completely uninspired. The final loss was a 4-1 loss to the Senators in a game where they didn’t even look close to competing in Ottawa.

The Hurricanes have still been without alternate captain Jordan Martinook who drives the energy and attitude of the team and Erik Haula who was leading the team in goals when he left with an injury. The Canes were able to find success in their most recent game, an 8-2 home victory against the Senators. The Canes saw Sebastian Aho get two goals in this game and Eetu Luostarinen recorded his first NHL point, an assist on Haydn Fleury’s second NHL goal.

Luostarinen was reassigned to Charlotte, likely until Thursday against the Sabres. Luostarinen showed poise and confidence in his most recent game which saw him use an insane toe drag and create multiple chances. Both Fleury and Luostarinen both looked like they were on a mission, and could provide the Canes skill out of the wing and the blue line if they keep this up.

6. New York Rangers: 18 Points (8-6-2)

The Rangers have now earned points in their last four games. They have been performing well despite the loss of first line center Mika Zibanejad and long-time defender Marc Staal.

The Rangers have been winning with the consistent play of rookie Kaapo Kakko. Kakko has five points in his last five games including a two-goal game against the Penguins on Tuesday. He is the first 18-year-old in Rangers history to have a multi-goal game in Rangers history, including include a game winning goal in overtime off a feed from Adam Fox. Fox has points in five straight games including a goal and an assist on Tuesday.

With the Rangers’ top talent clicking, their power play has been taking off. The Rangers have the eighth best power play in the league this entire season with a 23.2% success rate. The Rangers top unit, consisting of Fox on the point, Chris Kreider, Kakko, Artemi Panarin, and Zibanejad (when healthy), produces a ton of speed and quick shots that can create matchup nightmares, much like the Caps. They have a blast from the point and two good options at the slot and dot with Zibanejad (or Ryan Strome in his absence) and Panarin at Ovechkin’s office. Good luck covering all of those lanes.

7. Columbus Blue Jackets: 16 Points (6-8-4)

The Blue Jackets lost their first game without captain Nick Foligno, who is serving a three-game suspension. Foligno was suspended and fined $90,000 for a hit on Pierre-Edouard Bellemare on Saturday. Upon seeing the hit Foligno said that he “felt sick to my stomach when I saw that I hit him in the head.” He was also assessed a major penalty and a game misconduct at the time.

In that same game, goaltender Joonas Korpisalo lost his cool and broke his stick on the post when the Avalanche scored their fourth goal with just 2:06 left in the game. Head coach John Tortorella drilled the goaltender for the play and said there would be consequences. Because of this outburst Korpisalo was benched and Elvis Merzlikins , who was exiled to Cleveland for playing time, got the start on Tuesday.

8. New Jersey Devils: 14 Points (5-8-4)

With just a 4-4-2 record in their last 10 games the Devils remain in last place in the division. Their most recent game looked promising as they held a 2-1 lead going into the third period before letting up three straight goals to the Senators to lose 4-2, the Devils’ fourth loss this season when leading after two periods. They have been outscored 42-9 (not a typo) in the final stanza this season, and those nine goals includes two that came against the Hurricanes to start November.

The Devils have the third worst win percentage in the league when leading after the second period at just .444. It doesn’t end there: they are also worst team in the league when leading after one period, with a 3-4-1 record and a horrid .375 win percentage. They always say no lead is truly safe, but that means a lot more when you are the Devils.