The NHL season is well underway. Everyone in the league has at least 10 games under their belts and there are some interesting observations for some teams through those games. The Metropolitan Division itself has had a few surprises of its own. Here’s a look at grades for each team in the Metro Division through the first month of the season.
Carolina Hurricanes (5-7-0): C-
The Hurricanes started the month of October significantly better than the previous season, where they only managed two points. That’s about where it ends for the Canes. The team has only put up more than three goals in one game this season and guys that should be producing, such as Jordan Staal and Jeff Skinner, have combined for six points all season. They’re near the bottom of the league in goals scored and don’t seem to have much going their way. Things look bleak in Raleigh.
Columbus Blue Jackets (2-10-0): F
If there’s a team in the NHL that has nothing going their way, it’s Columbus. They are near dead last in almost every team stat, including goal-differential, which is an abysmal minus-26. They lost their first eight games of the season and former Vezina winner Sergei Bobrovsky looks like a shade of the way he once played. The Jackets finished last season as the best team in the NHL down the stretch, going 16-3-1 in their last 20, and finishing with 89 points through an injury-riddled season. They even made a big offseason addition in Brandon Saad, but that is almost an afterthought when talking about the awful start they are in the midst of.
New Jersey Devils (6-5-1): B-
Here is your Metropolitan Division surprise. Through the amount of players the Devils lost last season, the new general manager, the new coach and the amount of new players the team gained, I, along with many others, saw this as a rebuilding year in which the Devils would be pretty bad. Through the first month of the season, that’s hardly been the case. After going winless in the first four games of the season, the Devils have now gone 6-2-0 in their last eight games. That includes two shootout wins, which is virtually unheard of for the Devils. Their power play is among the top 10 in the league and Corey Schneider is playing exceptionally well. It might be just a fad, but the Devils have been playing some good hockey as of late. Given their expectations this season, they’ve earned a B-.
New York Islanders (7-3-3): B
The Islanders have been average, and quite frankly, right where I expected them to be at this point in the season. The brightest spot has been their special teams, which are absolutely on fire. Their power play is ranked second in the NHL (27.6 percent) and their penalty kill is ranked first in the NHL (90.9 percent). The bad news is that the power play has accounted for over 20 percent of their goals so far this season. That suddenly has become a huge problem, because their leading power-play scorer and leading overall scorer, John Tavares, is now out of the lineup with a mysterious illness. The Islanders need to find a way to score more even-strength goals, and they should be smooth sailing the rest of the way.
New York Rangers (8-2-2): B+
This season has been the typical storyline for a Rangers team that has prided itself on defensive play for a while now. Rick Nash has been virtually non-existent all season, Mats Zucarello leads the team in points, and Oscar Lindberg has been turning heads as a rookie. Then there’s Henrik Lundqvist, who has just been outstanding all season. Among starting goalies, he is first in save percentage (.943) and fourth in goals-against average (1.87). That says a lot about his play, considering the Rangers are 23rd in shots allowed per game (31.3). It’s hard to ignore the Rangers’ record, but Lundqvist is the main reason this team found themselves with an B+, without him, they could easily be a run-of-the-mill team.
Philadelphia Flyers (4-6-2): D+
It’s never easy in Philadelphia. The Flyers started the season with some promise. Aside from one bad game, they earned a point against the defending conference champs, and beat the Rangers and Blackhawks. That’s about where the fun ended. The Flyers can’t score, period. They are 29th in goals per game (1.92), 25th in goals allowed per game (3.08), 28th in power-play percentage (11.1 percent), and 21st in penalty kill (77.1 percent). To add to the pain, Mark Streit is the leading scorer with seven points, Jakub Voracek has no goals through 12 games, and even Wayne Simmonds has just a goal and is a team-worst minus-7. They’ve also been atrocious in the third period. It’s a miracle the team even has four wins, because things look very bad in the City of Brotherly Love right now.
Pittsburgh Penguins (7-4-0): B+
The Penguins struggled out of the gates this season, going 0-3-0 and scoring just three goals in their first three games. Since then, however, the team looks like they were shot out of cannon. They’ve lost one game in their last eight, and Evgeni Malkin and Phil Kessel are really starting to hit their stride. That’s something the rest of the division will not like to hear. The scariest part of this whole thing is that Sidney Crosby has been relatively quiet so far, with points in just two games this season. The Penguins still have some questions on the defensive side of the equation, but if they get their first line to start producing, they could be very dangerous.
Washington Capitals (8-3-0): A
The Capitals are no doubt the most complete team in the division right now. They are just clicking on all cylinders. Evgeny Kusnetsov has been on an absolute tear lately with points in five of his last six games, which included a three- and a five-point night. T.J. Oshie seems to be meshing very well on the already dangerous Washington power play, John Carlson is among the league leaders in points among defensemen, and Alexander Ovechkin has all but one point on the power play, which is very interesting because Washington still has the fourth ranked power play. Oh, and don’t forget Brayden Holtby, who is sixth in the league in goals-against average. The Caps are more than deserving of being the best team on this list.