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Metropolitan Division Weekly Roundup: Penultimate Edition

As we head into the last week and a half of the season the battle for the Metro is heating up.

NHL: Carolina Hurricanes at Arizona Coyotes Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

1. Carolina Hurricanes: 106 Points (49-20-8)

Coming off a game that saw multiple Hurricanes pick up injuries, a game against the Arizona Coyotes was just what the doctor ordered for the Carolina Hurricanes. The game saw Max Domi finally break through for his first goal with the Canes which was also his 100th career goal to join his dad, Tie Domi, in the century club. Vincent Trocheck also found the back of the net in the game, which means he is the fourth player to hit the 20-goal mark this season. He joins Sebastian Aho, Andrei Svechnikov, and Nino Niederreiter who have already hit that mark this season.

This helps snuff out the story that the Canes do not have secondary scoring. While the Canes are led by Aho and Svechnikov who both have 30+ goals this season, they are not overly reliant on 2-3 players to score goals. Canes fans are quick to get nervous over scoring, but these stats show there is a balanced offensive attack.

The Canes did receive good news on starting goaltender Frederick Andersen who had a negative MRI on Monday but the team won’t know if they are in the clear until later in the week. Ideally, Andersen would have a couple of games to get back up to NHL speed before going right into the playoffs, but a little rest before a hopefully deep run could be a great thing. The Canes have recalled rookie Pytor Kochetkov in his absence.

2. New York Rangers: 106 Points (50-21-6)

Now that the Rangers are tied with the Canes it looks like an ever-increasing probability that Tuesday’s game against the Carolina Hurricanes will be for the division championship. The Metro division this year has been insane with all four playoff teams well over 100 points. If the Rangers go just 3-2 over their last five games they would set a franchise record for points and could very well finish second in the division. It just goes to show just how good the division has been this season.

The Rangers have now shut-outs in their last three games beating their opponents by a score of 11-0 since last Wednesday. Their last loss came against the Hurricanes last week. The Rangers have not faltered from their position all season. They are still led by goaltender Igor Shesterkin, who will win the Vezina and should win the Hart. On offense, Chris Kreider has broken the 50-goal plateau for the first time in his career. To put this into perspective, when Auston Matthews did this last month for the Maple Leafs, it was the first time in 30 years a Leaf had attained this level. Kreider is just the fourth Ranger to hit this mark.

3. Pittsburgh Penguins: 97 Points (43-23-11)

Last Thursday in a game against the New York Islanders, starting goaltender, Tristan Jarry, fractured his foot. He is now listed as week-to-week and is likely to miss the first round of the playoffs. The injury forced the Pittsburgh Penguins to call up goaltender Louis Domingue from the AHL and forced Casey DeSmith to start games going down the stretch. If DeSmith does play in the first round it will be the first time he has played in any post-season since 2017 when he started in the AHL playoffs. He has not played in any NHL playoff games.

This doesn’t inspire hope for a team that has struggled the past few seasons in the postseason with a record of 3-11 in their last three seasons. The Pens are not exactly sprinting through the finish line of the season with a 3-6-1 record in their last 10 games. The only positive, DeSmith will have four-five more games to get up to NHL speed for the playoffs. The Penguins will not have any flexibility in the first round and will have to hope he is up to the task.

4. Washington Capitals: 96 Points (43-23-10)

The Washington Capitals have a legitimate shot to get out of the second wild-card position if they are able to beat the Vegas Golden Knights tonight. Heading into the game the Caps are just one point behind the Pittsburgh Penguins with a game in hand. That means if they win tonight they are clear of the Penguins and would control their own destiny. This is crucial because the Metro team in the wild-card spot will have to face the top team in the East, the Florida Panthers.

The Caps are coming down the stretch hot, winning six of their last seven, and could be the frisky team that no one wants to see in the playoffs. This is also after they won nine of their 13 games in March. In their 21 games over the last two months, they have scored under three goals just four times. Over this span, their 4.00 goals for per game are the most in the Metro and rank fourth in the league. The next closest team in the division is the Pittsburgh Penguins at 3.41 goals for per game.

5. New York Islanders: 80 Points (35-31-10)

Over the last week, the New York Islanders finally faced the music as they were eliminated from playoff contention. Since December they were the only team that could have caught the Washington Capitals, though the chances were slim. The Islanders' season of frustrations has seen players boil over. Most recently, Matthew Barzal was fined for unsportsmanlike conduct for actions in their game against the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Last week the Islanders lost legend Mike Bossy who passed away from lung cancer. Bossy only played in 10 seasons in the NHL but his impact in those 10 years was immense. He scored 50 or more goals in nine of those seasons, in his final season he had 38 goals. He also won four straight Stanley Cups, was a seven-time NHL All-Star and won the Lady Byng Trophy three times. He is also known for scoring 50 goals in 50 games in 1981 and was the first player to do it in 36 years. He ended up retiring due to back and knee issues, but his legacy was already cemented. The Isles honored Bossy in their first home game back last night.

6. Columbus Blue Jackets: 76 Points (35-36-6)

The Blue Jackets were without Patrik Laine and lost top defenseman Zach Werenski minutes into their game against the Anaheim Ducks. They didn’t fare well without their top forward and defenseman and lost by a score of 6-4 with back-up Jean-Francois Berube in net. This highlighted the biggest issue for Columbus this season, goaltending. Over the season they have let up 3.68 goals per game, the fourth most of any team. However, it is important to understand this shouldn’t all fall on the goalies' shoulders, the team also has a bottom 10 Corsi at just 47.3%.

Winger Jakub Voracek earned his 50th assist this past weekend. He is only the third player in franchise history to hit that mark. Only Artemi Panarin and Ray Whitney previously reached the 50 assist plateau. With 50 assists one would think that Voracek, but he only has five goals this season to bring his total to 55 total points. His playmaking has greatly helped the team and more specifically Laine. So far he has only played in 11 more games than he did last season but has more than doubled his goal total from 12 to 26 goals.

7. New Jersey Devils: 61 Points (27-42-7)

Anything that could go wrong for the Devils' goaltending has gone wrong with the Devils goaltending. The Devils knew they had some decisions to make in net and opted in favor of Jonathan Bernier and Mackenzie Blackwood. There was an early wrench in the plan as Blackwood delayed his vaccination which kept him away from the team and was replaced by Scott Wedgewood. The Devils have then gone on to have the worst even-strength save percentage at just .896. They have also used seven different goaltenders with Nico Dawes starting the most games with 23.

They have also used Blackwood (22), Jon Gillies (13), Bernier (8), Akira Schmid (4), Andrew Hammond (3), and Wedgewood (2). Meanwhile, since being waived he has split time with the Arizona Coyotes and Dallas Stars and combined for a 13-12-4 record with a .913 save percentage. The Devils aren’t getting fantastic goaltending, but it also appears they’re not creating their own luck when it comes to goaltending if someone like Wedgewood goes to the worst team in the league and increases his save percentage from .880 to .911.

8. Philadelphia Flyers: 57 Points (23-43-11)

One of the biggest talking points around the Philadelphia Flyers over the last few seasons is their unwillingness to commit to a rebuild. Well, it looks like ownership does have their finger on the pulse of their fans. This season the Flyers have had their lowest attendance rates since the 1972-73 season at just 84.3%. They are now averaging 4,000 less than they had just two seasons ago. It does make sense that fans wouldn’t choose to watch a team that has now lost 40 games in regulation for just the second time in franchise history, but the quick abandonment of the team has been surprising.

There is hope for the Flyers as they are working to re-tool on the fly. Prospect Noah Cates has now been playing with the Flyers for two weeks and has five points in 10 games played. On Sunday he recorded his first multi-point NHL game with a goal and an against the Buffalo Sabres. Cates is making a good impression with management and is really making a case to start the 2022-2023 season with the NHL squad.