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Metropolitan Division Weekly Roundup: Getting Back up to Speed

Teams are slowly starting to get back to action after the All-Star break, and Friday can’t get here soon enough.

2020 NHL All-Star - NHL Fan Fair & Mascot Showdown Photo by Patrick McDermott/NHLI via Getty Images

1. Washington Capitals: 73 Points (34-11-5)

After last night’s game against the Nashville Predators, the Capitals have given up the most shorthanded goals in the league this season with eight. The Caps power play has really struggled since the start of December. Their 15.2% success rate is second to last in that time, only better than the Columbus Blue Jackets, despite having the second-most chances on the power play in the league with 79. Since the start of December, they have only scored 12 power play goals, but have let up six shorthanded goals.

The shorthanded goals look even more crazy when you realize that those six have all come in the last 14 games they have played. Currently they have one more shorthanded goal allowed than the Chicago Blackhawks, Detroit Red Wings, and the New Jersey Devils — all of whom are having less than ideal seasons.

The shorthanded goal last night let the Predators tie the game before eventually won it in regulation. The main factor on the goal last night was Braden Holtby misplaying the puck. He has been one of the best goalies in the league when it comes to playing the puck and often makes tape to tape passes from behind the net to the opposing blue line, so it’s weird to see him miss these kinds of plays. If Ilya Samsonov gets the net for Friday’s game against the Ottawa Senators, Holtby will end January with a 2-3-0 record. This is his second straight month with a losing record, following a 4-5-0 mark in December.

2. Pittsburgh Penguins: 67 Points (31-14-5)

Marcus Pettersson has had a career year with the Penguins, becoming a mainstay on a defense that was struggling to find consistency in the lineup and play. Pettersson was rewarded by the Penguins on Tuesday, signing a five-year extension worth just over $20 million. The contract carries a cap hit $4.025 million through the 2024-2025 season. The last two seasons also have a modified no-trade-clause where he can submit an eight-team no-trade list.

The Penguins now have $18.7 million projected cap space next season if the cap stays the same. They still need to sign pending unrestricted free agent defenseman Justin Schultz who has been a great puck moving defenseman for them. They also need to re-sign restricted free agents Jared McCann, Dominik Kahun, Dominik Simon, Juuso Riikola, Matt Murray, and Tristan Jarry.

The last two are interesting given that they have Casey DeSmith signed and buried in the AHL, so this likely means the end of Matt Murray in Pittsburgh. The only way he would likely stay is if they signed him to a 2-year deal so he can be exposed in the expansion draft. Either way, if they trade him or keep him, they are going to need to stretch every single penny of cap space this off season.

3. New York Islanders: 63 Points (29-15-5)

The All-Star Game is always tricky, featuring the best players but often a lack of excitement when they actually start playing. I have always been a fan of the skills competition because the players seem to care about getting the title of fastest player, hardest shot, and so on, and occasionally there can be a big upset. That was the case this year when Mathew Barzal beat the three-time defending champ, Connor McDavid, in the fastest skater competition. Barzal’s lap of 13.175 seconds beat McDavid’s 13.215 time and only missed out on the fastest lap ever by .003 seconds.

Changing gears, it’s been a while since our last New York Islanders arena update. The Islanders are hoping to get a decision on where they will play for the 2020-2021 season. Their new arena in Belmont will not be ready until the following season, and they don’t have an agreement on where their games are going to be played in the meantime. Nassau County and the team would prefer that they play all their games, and postseason games, at the Nassau Coliseum. However, we know that the NHL is not a fan of the stadium as it is small, lacks suites, and has subpar camera angles.

4. Columbus Blue Jackets: 62 Points (27-16-8)

The Blue Jackets have re-signed forward Eric Robinson to a two-year $1.950 million contract that carries a $975,000 AAV against the salary cap. This has been his first major NHL stint; he has five goals and four assists in 31 games played this season. Two of his goals have been game winners and he has a 12.5% shooting percentage this season. He has made a good impact for a fourth-line player and part of the success of the Blue Jackets this season has been their ability to play all four lines and keep the pressure on teams for the full 60 minutes.

The other big reason for the Blue Jackets’ success is head coach John Tortorella, who should win the Jack Adams Award this season. He has been successful despite tons of injuries and multiple goalies. The award, voted on by the National Hockey League Broadcasters Association, will be something to keep an eye on because regardless of whether they make the playoffs, he has been the best coach by far this season.

5. Carolina Hurricanes: 61 Points (29-18-3)

The Hurricanes have a lot to be happy with from both the NHL and the AHL all-star games. First Jaccob Slavin, winner of the mid-season media voting for best defensive defenseman, won the shooting accuracy challenge. Then, in the AHL, goaltender Alex Nedeljkovic impressed and won the CCM Top Goaltender award at the AHL All-Star Classic. Jake Bean also helped the Atlantic Division to win the tournament.

In the past week while teams have been off, there has also been a lot of speculation around Erik Haula and a potential trade amid rumors that he has been clashing with Rod Brind’Amour. Haula is in a contract year working to try to improve his value as much as possible, while fighting an injury and now may be fighting for top six time. He could be frustrated, but it would be hard to think all the sudden he is flying off the handle.

The other side of the coin is that the Hurricanes are still below league average in shooting percentage at just 7.4%, so why would they want to trade their fifth best goal scorer with a team-high shooting percentage? The Canes want to add at the deadline and Haula would be one of the top five forwards to be traded at the deadline, so unless they are getting a player with term it wouldn’t make sense. The one player that would benefit the most from rest is Haula, I said it last week and I will keep saying it, keeping him and his knee fresh and feeling good is how the team will get through a brutal February schedule.

6. Philadelphia Flyers: 60 Points (27-17-6)

The Flyers are meeting with the league to discuss their scheduling to reduce their back-to-back games. They have a league high 17 sets of back-to-backs in the 2019-2020 season. They are also not the only team with 17 back-to-backs; the Penguins also have that many. Four teams, including the Hurricanes, have 16 back-to-backs, so the Flyers don’t have it that much worse than every other team when it comes to rest. One of their biggest issues is their Disney On Ice road trip that is very similar to the Canes State Fair road trip, but takes place around the holidays and not at the beginning of the season. That is something they can’t avoid because the arena has the deal, which the NHL has to work around.

The Flyers also announced the formation of the Flyers Broadcast Network. They are planning to launch five new podcasts and you can stream their Flyers Radio content 24/7. You would have to hope that the content coming out of the network is better than the branding, because holy cow that logo is TERRIBLE. It’s crowded and doesn’t make a ton of sense until you stare at it like a magic eye photo. They then go minimalist with the font, but you are already bashed over the head with the other 80% of it. Woof.

7. New York Rangers: 50 Points (23-21-4)

Chris Kreider and Jaccob Slavin seemed to make friends pretty quickly at the All-Star Game. First, they were chatting it up in the locker room, but they also sat on the bench together at the skills competition and were seen chatting. Not saying that the Canes are going to trade futures within the division to acquire the forward at the deadline, but it was fun to watch and speculate, right? It was also great to just see Slavin enjoying his time and getting to spend friendly time with players that were outside of the organization.

The Rangers are going to be in their third season of fire selling at the deadline. This season it would seem that Kreider, Jesper Fast, and Alexandar Georgiev. The only one that is kind that could be a bit of a surprise is Fast. He will be a good bottom six addition for plenty of teams and could also eat some penalty kill minutes. I would think that he could be a good fit in the Atlantic with the Panthers, or one of the plenty of teams in the Pacific fighting for a chance. One team that knows the Rangers well is the Arizona Coyotes, and they could be a great fit again here.

8. New Jersey Devils: 43 Points (18-24-7)

The Canes benefited for a couple years under the all teams must have one representative at the All-Star game, but this year it really hurt them. Case in point: the Devils’ representative, Nico Hischier, got in with 12 goals and 30 total points. His 12 goals would tie him with rookie Martin Necas for fourth on the Hurricanee, but his 30 points would rank fifth. It’s unfortunate that Andrei Svechnikov couldn’t also get in to showcase his skills since he has been lighting up the league with highlight goals. He is still so unknown people are saying that Quinn Hughes was a better pick than him because he doesn’t get enough coverage.

Speaking of Canada, the Devils played a game in Ottawa that drew under 10,000 attendees. That was the second time that the Senators have failed to draw 10,000 fans. It’s frustrating that all the media will rush to their defense and say it’s the owner’s fault, but the Canes and other southern teams don’t get a pass when the team is struggling in a smaller market. If it was another US market, I wouldn’t point to it or comment, but it does feel a little nice when the shoe is on the other foot.