Metropolitan Division Quick Notes
October 11th, 2022
My love for the Carolina Hurricanes has not changed this year. Even though Carolina lost some significant pieces in Tony Deangelo, Vinny Trochek, Nino Neiderreiter, and Max Domi, I feel they have upgraded in the places they needed by adding Brent Burns, Max Paccioretty, Ondrej Kase, and Paul Stastny. As great as this team was last year, they lacked leadership and experience in the playoffs which has been a major issue for them over the past few years. This team is Cup ready and Rod Brind’amour should be on his last chance to get there. Brind’amour won this franchise’s first Stanley Cup as captain in ‘05-’06 and I believe he will win it as their coach. I don’t believe this team has any true weaknesses and if Frederik Andersen can stay healthy for the playoffs my money is on them. Last year they started 9-0 and 14-2 in their first sixteen overall and have an opportunity to start just as hot this season. I will be playing them to win the division and have already played them to win the cup. I’m a bit higher on Washington than all the other league rankings I’ve seen. Yes, this team has gotten older but I believe the talent is still there. Washington is dealing with some injuries early but Darcy Keumper should be a difference maker for them. The majority of this team is over 30 years old making them the second oldest team in the league behind division rivals the Pittsburgh Penguins. I believe this will play to Washington’s advantage as they are a team who have been together for years. Alex Ovechkin is 37 this season and while most of these vets are locked up for another few years, this could in fact be the last year of relevance for them as a whole in Washington. Nicklas Backstrom, TJ Oshie, and Tom Wilson will start the season on the LTIR and can see this working almost as the Nikita Kucherov situation for Tampa Bay two years ago. Washington should be able to hold their own during the regular season until everyone returns giving them a boost late in the season. I won’t expect as much as an offensive outburst from them and project much tighter games for them but I see Washington quietly making waves in the regular season. The argument here is that the Rangers should be number two if not number one in the division and I refuse to believe it. I do not see the Rangers being better than Carolina and had Freddy Andersen played in their playoff matchup last season I don’t believe the Rangers would have made it out of game six. Gerard Gallant was the difference maker for the Rangers last year as people forget how bad the Rangers underperformed in their two years prior under David Quinn. Chris Kreider, a consistent twenty goal scorer, put up 52 goals last year in an effort he will not repeat. The Rangers began fading in the playoffs last season and without an injury to Sidney Crosby in game five and Tristan Jarry and Casey DeSmith both being injured for the Penguins, the Rangers would have never made it out of the first round. The Rangers next matchup against the Hurricanes saw another favorable matchup with Freddy Andersen not playing due to injury as well. Once the Rangers met the Lightning in the Conference Finals we saw just how easily this Rangers team can be shut down. I am sorry Rangers fans, but Igor Shesterkin is not Andrei Vasilevskiy, at least not yet. Andrei Vasilevskiy won game six for the Lightning and while Shesterkin played great, those two goals he gave up were on him, especially the second. Igor is a top Vezina candidate this year again and I do believe the Rangers have a better chance in the playoffs than Washington and Pittsburgh because of him. I project Washington, the Rangers, and Pittsburgh to occupy the 2-3-4 spots in the Metro division. The dark horse in this division are the New York Islanders who can and should give each of these three teams a run for their money. The Islanders are coming off a season that saw them start on the road while their new home of UBS arena was being built. Unfortunately, when opening night came for the Islanders, they were riddled with covid and the league refused to postpone the games (I believe for financial reasons). The Islanders are only a year removed from back to back Eastern Conference Finals appearances in which they lost to the eventual cup winning Lightning both times. Had the Islanders won game 7 against the Lightning (1-0 loss), the Islanders no doubt would have beaten Montreal to be the Stanley Cup Champions. While the league was shocked over Barry Trotz’s firing this offseason it makes sense. Trotz is a defensive minded coach who turned this team around from where they were in ‘17-’18 as the worst defensive team in the league to the best, finishing no worse than tenth in his four year tenure. The problem is they never finished higher than 20th in terms of scoring and new head coach Lane Lambert should turn that around. If Lambert can keep the defensive structure that Trotz brought in, at least somewhat, he’ll bring out the offensive capabilities that this Islanders front nine have the potential for pushing them into a wild card spot. While everyone talks about Igor Shesterkin, the Islanders goaltending tandem of Ilya Sorokin and Semyon Varlamov are the best 1-2 punch in the league. The Islanders could and will be the most surprising team in this division.
The Johnny Gaudreau signing makes Columbus a long term contender who aren’t quite there yet. Columbus needs help on the blue line but should produce a lot of high scoring games. The Devils are building and should make their strides over the coming years but this year isn’t it. Philly should sell whatever relevant pieces they have left and will be a draft lottery contender. .