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Metropolitan Division Weekly Roundup: They’re off and out the gates

The 2022-23 season has officially begun, so how do the teams matchup early in the new season?

NHL: Carolina Hurricanes at Edmonton Oilers Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports

1. Carolina Hurricanes: 9 Points (4-1-1)

The Canes came into the season with the usual noise around the team — them not having enough skill and questions around young players’ ability to take their game up a level. But they have done nothing but silence the doubters so far just weeks into the 2022-23 season.

Two of the players in question, Andrei Svechnikov and Martin Necas, are both scoring over a point per game pace and Svechnikov’s seven goals ties him for first in the league after Monday’s game.

Where the two look even more impressive is in their defensive games. Both players were often limited in their use by head coach Rod Brind’Amour because he couldn’t trust them defensively, along with each’s discipline issues.

However, this season, the second line that consists of Svechnikov, Jesperi Kotkaniemi, and Necas have been the Canes second best line in terms of possession. All three have a 66% Corsi For percentage which is only behind the members of the generally sheltered fourth line.

While Kotkaniemi has yet to breakout offensively he has been great with his expanded second line role so far this season. He has not scored a goal and only has two assists, but playing with Necas and Svechnikov means he doesn’t have to fill out the role of a scoring center.

The Canes can be much happier that he has 83.33% goals for and leads the team with a 57.5% faceoff win rate. So while he hasn’t been the flashiest player so far, he is doing the tough things right and playing a great two-way game.

2. Pittsburgh Penguins: 9 Points (4-2-1)

The Pittsburgh Penguins came out of the gates extremely strong to start the season and even heading into last night’s game they were in the lead in the Metro due to a plus 12 goal differential. However, the Pens have struggled in their West Coast road trip and have now lost back-to-back games to the Edmonton Oilers and the Calgary Flames. They have also suffered some injuries to a couple key players in Jason Zucker and Jake Guentzel in the last two weeks.

The Penguins have had success this season mainly due to their balanced offense. Heading into last night’s game against the Flames, six players had scored three or more goals on the season — the Canes have just three. The Penguins core’s demise has also been greatly exaggerated with Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, and Kris Letang combining for 22 points through seven games.

3. Philadelphia Flyers: 8 Points (4-2-0)

The Flyers are fully benefiting from the patented John Tortorella bump just a few weeks into the season, having won four of their first six games.

And while it might be just six games into the season, Philadelphia is already getting the full Torts experience. In the third period of their most recent game, a 3-0 loss to San Jose, Tortorella benched his top forward unit for the entire third period. The Flyers were down just 2-0 heading into the third when he decided to bench Kevin Hayes and Travis Konecny who are the Flyers top producing forwards this season. The Flyers also lost forward James van Riemsdyk to an injury in the same game.

The Flyers are being led on the ice by their goaltender, Carter Hart who is looking to have a good bounce back year. He currently sits in the top five in the league in both save percentage (.949) and goals against (1.75). This has all been done while playing for a team that is the bottom 10 in shot attempts against. The Flyers are averaging 33 shots against per game.

4. Washington Capitals: 8 Points (4-3-0)

The Caps came into the season with a tough job, to put themselves in position to fight for a playoff spot without two of their top forwards in Nicklas Backstrom and Tom Wilson. Heading into the season, they also lost two additional depth forwards in Alex Johnsson-Fjallby and Brett Leason, both Caps prospects looking to make a jump to the NHL full time.

So it really hasn’t helped the Caps that they are also now without Connor Brown to a “long-term” lower body injury. How will they ever recover from this?

There may be some standings shock when looking at them at just 4-3-0 in their first seven games but with all of the injuries and having two completely new goaltenders defending the crease, the 4-3-0 record is way more impressive than it would seem on paper.

They just beat the New Jersey Devils by a score of 6-3 on Monday despite having a first line that is made up of Alex Ovechkin, Dylan Strome, and Conor Sheary. The Caps have an early pivotal road trip that runs through Halloween and that will see them come to PNC Arena for their first faceoff of the year against the Canes on October 31.

5. New Jersey Devils: 8 Points (4-3-0)

The Devils are looking to avoid going completely off the rails to start the season. They started with three straight losses before turning around and winning back-to-back games.

Fans were having little patience for the slow start which was evident when the Prudential Center started calling for Lindy Ruff’s job during the first week of the season. Looking forward it will be interesting to see how long of a leash Ruff has with management. If they hit another slump would they be willing to give Barry Trotz a call?

New Jersey has a strong forward group with talented centers like Jack Hughes, Nico Hischier and Erik Haula and one signing that had gone under the radar in the offseason was Ondrej Palat, who has slotted in on the top line with Hischier and Jesper Bratt nicely.

Bratt is still leading the team in points with nine points in six games but Palat is leading the team in goals with three. Palat sure looks like he’s worth all $6 million of his AAV.

6. New York Rangers: 8 Points (3-2-2)

The New York Rangers came into the season with the same composition and questions they had all of last season. They are a top heavy team that had to rely on historic levels of goaltending. They were smart at the trade deadline to add depth, but that depth left in the offseason. The Rangers are getting contributions from the top of their lineup with Artemi Panarirn currently leading the NHL in points with 12.

However, unlike last season, Igor Shesterkin has not been invincible in the young season. The Rangers .880 even strength save percentage is bottom five in the league, however, the Rangers underlying numbers are better than last year’s with a 54% Corsi For so far, where as last year they were consistently under 50%.

7. Columbus Blue Jackets: 6 Points (3-5-0)

The Columbus Blue Jackets came into the season with a lot of hype surrounding the splashy offseason signing of Johnny Gaudreau, who has been as good as advertised, scoring on a point per game pace and with four goals through his first seven games.

Goudreau is even more dangerous when the Blue Jackets are able to field a healthy lineup, i.e. when Patrik Laine is dressed. Laine has missed some time after he left the season opener with an elbow sprain but was able to return almost a week early from his injury last night.

The combination of Laine and Gaudreau gives the Blue Jackets an actual game breaker of a line that opposing teams have to focus on.

A healthy Laine also has downstream effects in the lineup as it pushes Gustav Nyqvist and Jakub Voracek down to the second line which should help center Jack Roslovic.

Roslovic was acquired in the trade that sent Pierre-Luc Dubois to the Winnipeg Jets, but he has struggled to be an impact player for Columbus. Through the first seven games he has one goal and four assists for five total points. Hopefully pairing him with more talent will see a sustained increase in his production.

8. New York Islanders: 4 Points (2-4-0)

The New York Islanders may have a normal October this time to open the season, but it hasn’t helped the team get off to a better start. The Isles strategy this offseason was one of patience, based on the field of thought that the long road trip to open the 2021-22 season derailed them before they could get going. They made virtually no moves in the offseason to improve the team and are locked in to most of their roster through multiple seasons.

Now it’s starting to look like that was a mistake.

The Islanders are middle of the pack when it comes to possession numbers with a 50% Corsi For, but have been getting pummeled in even-strength goaltending. They rank fourth to last in the league with a .879 save percentage while at even strength.

Right now they are worse at five-on-five than they are on the PK. They have successfully killed off all 22 of their penalties taken so far this season, one of just three teams to still have a perfect PK record.