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Metropolitan Division Weekly Roundup: Only a handful of game remain

The Carolina Hurricanes still maintain their three point lead on the Metropolitan Division with a game in hand over the New Jersey Devils.

NHL: New York Islanders at Carolina Hurricanes James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports

1. Carolina Hurricanes: 109 Points (50-18-9) 77GP

Since losing Andrei Svechnikov the Carolina Hurricanes have struggled to find consistent offense. One of the main reasons for this is the fact that the lines had been consistent for most of the season, but after the loss of both Svechnikov and more recently Teuvo Teravainen, he has had to go back to the Blend-o-Matic.

The new lines, which includes first line Jordan Martinook, have looked more balanced. Brind’Amour has also shown more faith in rookie Jack Drury by moving him up to the third line wing as opposed to keeping him on the fourth line. Think about how he handled Martin Necas and Sebastian Aho’s development in the NHL. He prefers to have players learn the speed of the NHL and then teach them the center position. They are afforded this luxury by having Paul Stastny center the fourth-line.

The third line that Drury is currently on with Jordan Staal and Jesper Fast played just under 8:00 of even strength last night but still managed a 53.63% Corsi. Drury’s 66.45% Corsi and 68.31% goals for are the highest of any Canes player who has played more than 200 minutes. The line has just been snake bitten as seen by last night when he had a stick break on a cross-slot one-timer.

2. New Jersey Devils: 106 Points (49-21-8) 78 GP

Second-year forward Dawson Mercer scored a hat-trick against the Pittsburgh Penguins last night in their 5-1 win. This is Mercer’s first career hat trick at just 21-years of age. Mercer has 27 goals and 28 assists for 55 total points in just his second NHL season. Mercer currently plays on the top line with Tomas Tatar and Nico Hischier. This is the latest display of forward depth for the Devils who have their splash trade deadline acquisition Timo Meier on the third line with Erik Haula and Jesper Boqvist.

One of the aspects of the New Jersey Devils that has flown under the radar is their defense. They have let up just 2.75 GA/GP which is tied for eighth in the league this season. Their 54.2% Corsi ranks fourth in the league, only behind the Carolina Hurricanes, Calgary Flames, and Florida Panthers. They have also earned a 56.77% goals for which is only second behind the Carolina Hurricanes. Despite having a combined age of 26.1 years of age, the third youngest, they are playing one of the most complete systems in the league.

3. New York Rangers: 101 Points (45-21-11) 77 GP

With a 5-2 win over the Washington Capitals, the New York Rangers became the third team in the Metropolitan Division to cross the 100-point mark on the season. The Rangers inked forward Filip Chytil to a four-year contract extension with a $4.4 million cap hit. Chytil has had a career year with 22 goals and 22 assists which include three goals and four assists in his last nine games.

The move appears team friendly and is just under a $2 million raise for the 23-year-old. The Rangers are now projected to have $12.3 million in cap space next season and still need to re-sign K’Andre Miller and Alexis Lafreniere. Lafreniere has struggled with goal scoring in his career with his best season being 19 goals just last season. With two goals in his last six games, he now has 16 goals and an outside chance to hit the 20-goal mark for the first time this season.

4. New York Islanders: 87 Points (39-30-9) 78 GP

The New York Islanders have now lost two straight games and are just 5-4-1 in their last 10 games. With an opportunity to firmly grasp the top wild card position, they failed and now are hanging onto the second wild card position with two other teams eyeing the final position. The Pittsburgh Penguins are one point back and the Buffalo Sabres are six points back but with two games in hand. More and more attention is being paid to center, Bo Horvat, for the Islanders’ lack of success. Horvat has recorded just six goals and five assists in his 26 games since joining the Islanders.

His six goals are just one more than Pierre Engvall who has played 12 fewer games. He also ranks sixth on the team in points despite playing 20:46 minutes per game played, the most of any Isles forward. His possession hasn’t been that much better. His 50.2% Corsi has him tied with Matt Martin for ninth-best for all players and sixth-best for all forwards. He has had to learn on the fly with his new team and new system. However, the Isles will need him to be much better next season as a top-two center while making $8.5 million per season.

5. Pittsburgh Penguins: 86 Points (38-30-10) 78 GP

The Pittsburgh Penguins are now sitting on the outside looking in. The Penguins are a point behind both the Isles and the Panthers and much like the Isles in the final stretch of the season, they have failed to capitalize, with a 4-6-0 record in their last 10.

The Pittsburgh Penguins goaltending has struggled this season but even with starter Tristan Jarry in net last night he was only able to save 32 of the 37 shots he faced for a .865% save percentage. The Pens are now 19-19-4 in 2023. Of the good stories surrounding the Penguins over the last week was Kris Letang playing in his 1,000th NHL game.

He has had an extremely tough season suffering a stroke, losing his father, and fighting through other injuries. The stroke this season was also the second he has had in his career, luckily it was not as serious as his first. A great moment of the ceremonies was having his son read out the opening lineup. The Penguins also honored him with their traditional warmup skate routine. In his first 1,000 games, he has had 154 goals and 532 assists for 686 total points. He also has 149 career playoff games with 23 goals and 67 assists.

6. Washington Capitals: 77 Points (34-34-9) 77 GP

Washington Capitals defenseman John Carlson has now played in five games since returning from injury. He has returned to the top pairing with Martin Fehervary and leads all Caps with 23:26 TOI/GP. In his five games back he has also scored one goal and has four assists. His five total points are tied for the lead on the Caps since he returned on March 23.

Despite Carlson’s return, Washington has struggled, losing four-straight games and have now been eliminated from playoff contention for the first time since 2014. Frustrations boiled over in their last game as their captain, Alexander Ovechkin, received a 10-minute misconduct after a cross-checking penalty that also resulted in multiple fights in their 5-2 loss to the New York Rangers.

7. Philadelphia Flyers: 71 Points (29-35-13) 77 GP

The Philadelphia Flyers are going to shut down Sean Couturier before his season can even begin. Over the weekend the team made the decision that with eight games left it was not worth potentially rushing his return from multiple back surgeries. Couturier has been cleared by the team doctors to return to play, but the organization doesn’t want to take any unnecessary risk by returning him while other teams ramp up their intensity to make playoff pushes. Couturier will now have the offseason to get back up to NHL game speed. The Flyers believe he is still a big piece of the team moving forward.

One player who was able to return from injury over the weekend was Travis Konecny. On Saturday, Konecny played his first game since February 20th, as he missed 16 games with an upper-body injury. Konecny made an immediate impact with goals in his first two games back and now sits at 29 goals for the season having played just 55 games.

8. Columbus Blue Jackets: 56 Points (24-45-8) 77 GP

Despite all of the Columbus Blue Jackets’ injuries, they are still finding ways to win games in a year they are trying to tank. Kirill Marchenko scored 16 seconds into overtime on Sunday to defeat the Ottawa Senators, a team actively trying to make the playoffs. The goal was Marchenko’s 21st of the year and set a new franchise record for goals by a rookie. He is tied for the lead for rookies across the NHL and is five behind Boone Jenner who leads the Blue Jackets in goals.

Slightly behind Marchenko is fellow rookie Kent Johnson who has scored 16 goals and ranks fifth in the league for rookies. Columbus’ rookies have combined for 51 total goals which lead the NHL. The Blue Jackets have had 14 different rookies play multiple games for them this season, six of which have played 30 games or more. The team has some growing pains this season but it is giving the Blue Jackets a great chance to see what they have out of their prospects. They may even get a generational talent out of this season full of growing pains.