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Metropolitan Division Weekly Roundup: Carolina Hurricanes Fall Back to Earth

The Carolina Hurricanes now have just a two point lead over the New Jersey Devils for the lead in the Metropolitan Division

NHL: JAN 10 Devils at Hurricanes Photo by Katherine Gawlik/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

1. Carolina Hurricanes: 57 Points (25-9-7)

The Carolina Hurricanes are no longer invincible and are in the midst of a four-game losing streak and a 0-3-1 record. The frustrating part is the fact that the Canes have gotten Max Pacioretty back from a torn Achilles tendon. Patches has three goals in his first three games with the Canes, but has yet to play in a win.

The Canes have largely been undone by their goaltending. After winning Rookie of the Month and Third Star of the Week to end December respectively, both Pyotr Kochetkov and Antti Raanta have fallen flat in 2023. They rank 54th and 55th in the NHL in save percentage. Kochetkov leads Raanta .852 to .848. The issue with Kochetkov is that he’s been letting in the easy goals. Three of those happened in one game against the Rangers. Last night he let up the first goal by not sealing the post.

The goaltending has completely undone good offensive performances. During the four-game losing streak, they have still scored three or more goals per game. The last time the Canes scored fewer than three goals was on December 13th, when they beat the Detroit Red Wings by a score of 1-0.

2. New Jersey Devils: 55 Points (26-12-3)

The New Jersey Devils are bouncing back after a rough patch and have now won three of their last four games. Despite not scoring last night, Jack Hughes has been one of the hottest players in the NHL. His goal streak came to an end last night at five games. However, in those five games, he had eight goals and 10 total points. He now has 26 goals and 49 points at the halfway point of the season. He is on pace to be the first new 50-goal scorer outside of Leon Draisaitl and Auston Matthews since 2013.

The Devils are playing as a resilient team and have now overcome a multi-goal deficit in back-to-back games. Last night was even more impressive as they overcame giving up two short-handed goals. They won in large part because of Dawson Mercer. Mercer, who is in his second NHL season, had his first career multi-goal game and second career three-point game. The 21-year-old is a natural center who has been playing on the second line with Jack Hughes this season.

3. New York Rangers: 53 Points (23-12-7)

The New York Rangers were able to beat the Minnesota Wild in Ryan Reaves's return to the Garden. Reaves had aired his grievances over the situation in New York and his eventual trade heading into the game, but it's hard as an outside observer to think the Rangers handled anything incorrectly. As soon as they had the talent to replace Reaves with, he eventually became a more frequent healthy scratch. After a couple of weeks of not using him, they moved on and he now is in a place with more playing time. I can’t think of a better handling of a 13th forward than what he has gotten.

The Rangers also re-signed forward Jimmy Vesey to a two-year contract with an $800k cap hit. Vesey has always wanted to be a Ranger and forced his way out of Nashville after being drafted by the Nashville Predators. This was in contrast to the Preds wanting to use him on the top line. Now after a couple of journeyman seasons, he’s back with the Rangers and was willing to take a discount to stay with the team for two more seasons. He has flown under the radar this season, but already has seven goals and seven assists this season. He is just one point shy of his point total from all of last season with the Devils.

4. Washington Capitals: 52 Points (23-14-6)

The past week saw a roster shakeup for the Washington Capitals. Both Nicklas Backstrom and Tom Wilson made their much anticipated season debuts. Over the weekend, the Caps sent down Aliaksei Protas and waived Joe Snively, who later cleared. The most intriguing absence on the ice Sunday was Anthony Mantha. Mantha was healthy scratched for the first time in his Washington Capitals career in a 1-0 win over the Columbus Blue Jackets. He described the scratch as a “wakeup call.”

Neither Backstrom nor Wilson found the scoresheet in their season debuts. The Caps are in much better shape at the halfway point than most had expected. Heading into the season without half of their top-six, the Caps had every reason to be completely out of the playoff picture. Instead, they sit in fourth place in the division poised to be able to make a push for the playoffs and avoid chances of having to cross over to the Atlantic Division bracket.

5. Pittsburgh Penguins: 48 Points (21-13-6)

Pittsburgh Penguins defenseman Kris Letang has had a tough season. Most recently he stepped away from the team just before the Winter Classic due to the passing of his father, Claude Fouquet. The Penguins were supposed to return home after their game against the Arizona Coyotes on Sunday, but that’s not what happened. Despite having been away from home for over a week, the team made the decision to fly to Montreal to support and be with Letang.

It was no small feat for the team to be able to join Letang, their 10-day road trip was all in the US. The team had to fly out the passports to the players to be able to get them to Canada. The whole trip was a bit of a whirlwind. The team was able to make it to Montreal at 4:00 am Monday, the morning of the funeral. The Penguins then flew home and practiced early yesterday before playing the Vancouver Canucks yesterday evening.

6. New York Islanders: 47 Points (22-17-3)

The New York Islanders had an unsuccessful West Coast road trip with a 1-3-0 record. Their return home didn’t go much better as they lost in a shootout against the Dallas Stars. They have now lost three straight and three of their last four. The Isles have still been receiving great goaltending, but have struggled offensively.

The Islanders are ahead of the Canes all season in offense with 3.15 goals per game vs the Canes' 3.10 goals for per game. However, when looking at the stats recently, their numbers have continued to fall. Since the start of December, the Canes have moved up to 3.61 while the Isles have fallen to just 3 goals for per game which is 24th in the league. They haven’t scored more than two goals since December 27th.

7. Philadelphia Flyers: 39 Points (16-18-7)

The Philadelphia Flyers are a very strong 6-4-0 in their last 10 games which sees them seven points out of the final playoff position in the Eastern Conference. That’s still a huge deficit to overcome in the NHL, but the line is still in sight. Travis Konecny is on fire, he has 16 goals in his last 20 games. He now leads the Flyers in goals (21) and total points (43). He also leads all Flyers forwards in ice time 20:16, which is almost two minutes more than the next forward. Despite Konecny having a career year, he was not named to the NHL All-Star game’s initial roster.

That went to center Kevin Hayes. Hayes has been in the dog house with head coach John Tortorella and now rumors are swirling that he is on the trade block. It should also come as no shock that Tortorella hates the All-Star Game. Tony DeAngelo also found himself on the wrong side of Torts as he was benched after just 7:05 of ice time against the Toronto Maple Leafs when he had four turnovers, one of which directly led to a goal against.

8. Columbus Blue Jackets: 26 Points (12-26-2)

The Columbus Blue Jackets are in the middle of a trying year where they are re-setting and rebuilding. Moments like Saturday come few and far between but are huge for team morale and culture. Rookie Kirill Marchenko earned his first NHL hat trick in a win over the Carolina Hurricanes. Marchenko also has nine goals in his first eighteen games. The win for the Blue Jackets and the offensive explosion of three goals was just the third time that the Jackets have scored three or more goals since December 12th.

Last Monday during the 2023 Winter Classic the NHL announced the location for the 2024 Winter Classic, Seattle. The Kraken will host the Vegas Golden Knights at T-Mobile Park. This will be the second outdoor game for the Golden Knights. Now there will only be three teams in the NHL that have not participated in an outdoor game, The Florida Panthers, Arizona Coyotes, and the Columbus Blue Jackets. While it is nice to see new markets get outdoor games, it's tough that established markets aren’t getting their opportunity. Why not have a game at Ohio State in Columbus against the Detroit Red Wings?