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The Greyhound

NHL Season Preview: Metropolitan Division

Henrik “The King” Lundqvist, Photo via Flicker

While everyone is obsessing over the NFL, the NHL has suddenly become must-watch TV.

The Metropolitan Division will be very competitive throughout the entire season. Last year, New York City and Long Island were the hotbeds for American hockey. The Rangers finally showed their might and the Islanders suddenly became relevant. Everybody loves to hate the Pittsburgh Penguins, even though they’re always near the top of the standings. The Philadelphia Flyers are a combination of a bunch of bruisers and some star talent, which is a mix that can give any team fits when playing. The Columbus Blue Jackets look to rebound from last year, when it seemed like every single one of their players got hurt. Columbus was a feel-good story two seasons ago when they pushed the Penguins in the playoffs, but last year was a step back. The New Jersey Devils and the Carolina Hurricanes aren’t getting any favors by playing in this division. These two teams are probably fighting for pride, and the right to hope for another Connor McDavid type of prospect before the NHL rigs the draft and Edmonton gets another first overall pick.

Here are my predictions for the very interesting Metropolitan Division:


  1. New York Rangers: They made it all the way to Game 7 of the Eastern Conference finals before bowing out to the Tampa Bay Lightning. Most of the team is returning hungry to not only make it to the Stanley Cup finals, but to finally WIN one. Whenever you are talking about the Rangers you must talk about star goaltender “King” Henrik Lundqvist. He is arguably one of, if not the best goaltender in the league. The Rangers have a great security blanket of Lundqvist in net, which allows this team to win games even if they are not playing their best. We saw last season that this team and core of players are very dangerous to play against; they’re fast, strong and have a sense of comfort with everyone else on the team. When everything is clicking, the Rangers are a formidable opponent that could win the Cup.
  1. Pittsburgh Penguins: This team is always loaded. Key acquisition Phil Kessel is a prolific scorer, and if paired with Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin it puts him on the best forwards line in the NHL. Kessel’s scoring this year will probably be a product of how dominating his forward line is. The Penguins have a lot of big name, big price-tag players, yet they don’t possess depth to battle more balanced teams in the league, especially in the playoffs. Marc-Andre Flurey has never been great in his own right, even though he won a Stanley Cup. Their top tier guys will produce, but behind them other players really need to step up in order to make a run at the Stanley Cup. They will be great in the regular season, and with a new coach they won’t choke as badly in the playoffs this year.
  1. Washington Capitals: Washington is always associated with choking when playoffs come around, but they are usually fine during the regular season. Russian superstar Alexander Ovechkin is the best overall scorer in the league and All-American hero TJ Oshie got acquired to play right beside him. The Capitals’ power play is lethal, and the team needs those power plays to be converted if they want a shot at winning. The issue with the Caps is that they rely too much on their power play being classy. The Caps must find was to score in addition to their lethal power play in if they want to find wins this season.
  1. New York Islanders: After a season where they were the feel-good story, they moved off of Long Island and into the Barclays Center in Brooklyn. This team need to focus on continuing to develop and avoid blowing up and allowing Columbus to leapfrog them in the standings. John Tavares needs to play like an MVP-caliber player in order for the Islanders to become division winners and make a deep run in the playoffs where anything can happen. Kyle Okposo’s contract situation figures to play into most personnel decisions in the future.
  1. Columbus Blue Jackets: Yes, Ohio has a hockey team. And yes, they’re pretty good. Not a big sport fan base (except for THE Ohio State), but Columbus is starting to turn into a big hockey town. They missed out on the playoffs last year, mostly due to injuries, following a great run in the playoffs. In order for this team to compete, they need Russian goalie Sergi Bobrovsky (anyone remember the Sochi Olympic Games?) to step up and be the goalie they’re paying $80 million for. This team figures to be better given the fact they’re getting players back healthy and additions like Brendan Saad give this team real hope to potentially secure a trip to the playoffs.
  1. Philadelphia Flyers: Philly’s genetic makeup has always been rough and tough bruisers who love to fight. They should have that mentality for defense, while offense is continuing to look for scorers behind Claude Giroux and Jakub Voráček. Steve Mason had a great year last year in net and is trying to prove last year was not a one-hit-wonder. The interesting piece is how new head coach Dave Hakstol will fare coming from the college ranks. If this team does not compete with Pittsburgh and the Rangers, then the Philly fans will be on his case. Much like their hated rivals the Penguins, one of the Flyers greatest weaknesses is that there is a lack of depth behind their big stars.
  1. Carolina Hurricanes: The first of the bottom-dwellers in the division. This team is stuck in paying massive contracts to Erik Staal and Cam Ward, both of whom have severely underperformed. They have pieces to build on in the likes of Jeff Skinner and Elias Lindholm, but they’re a long way from being a force in the NHL. If their young players develop, and they get out of those bad contracts then they may have a shot down the line. But until they do it’s pretty simple: they’re not making the playoffs.
  2. New Jersey Devils: There’s no way to sugar-coat this: this team is bad. And they’re going to be bad for years to come unless the hockey gods bless them with a “can’t miss prospect.” Corey Schneider is a high-quality goaltender that has no support around him. The excitement for the team is the new GM Ray Shero, who has a mountain to climb to get this team back to relevance. There are little prospects to build on and a team that has no identity besides Schneider in net. They need to find an identity and move on from some of their aging players like Patrick Elias.
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NHL Season Preview: Metropolitan Division