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Could the Capitals Defend Their Title? - NHL Metropolitan Division Preview

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The puck drops for real when the NHL season gets underway on Wednesday, October 3. All 31 teams in the league will be chasing the holy grail of the NHL, the Stanley Cup, which the Washington Capitals hoisted for the first time in franchise history last season. More impressive was the fact that the team they beat in the Stanley Cup Finals was the Vegas Golden Knights, an expansion team in their first year of existence. The only other time an expansion team made the Stanley Cup Finals was in 1967-68 when the St. Louis Blues made the Finals before being swept aside by the Montreal Canadiens. Of course, that year, all six expansion teams were in the Western Conference as the league doubled in size.

Today, we’ll take a look at the Metropolitan Division and see how things look on paper for the teams in the division. We’ll look at each team in relative detail and see how things stack up for this season. The order that we’ll break the teams down is based on last season’s standings. To get an idea of what we think of the division, read on. Can the Capitals repeat as Stanley Cup champions? Will the division get five teams into the postseason again? Will there be any shakeup in the standings this year? Let’s take a closer look at how things may shake out.

Washington Capitals

2017 Record: 49-26-7, 105 points, 1st in Metropolitan Division

Playoff Status: Beat Columbus 4-2 in the opening round of the Eastern Conference playoffs, beat Pittsburgh 4-2 in Eastern Conference semifinals, beat Tampa Bay Lightning 4-3 in Eastern Conference Finals, beat Vegas 4-1 in Stanley Cup Finals

Washington picked up the first Stanley Cup title in franchise history to finally wash away the stigma of so many playoff meltdowns. The Capitals had to overcome adversity along the way as they were down 2-0 in the series against Columbus and 3-2 in the conference finals against the Lightning. With their backs to the wall, the Capitals tightened up, blanking Tampa Bay 3-0 in Game 6 and 4-0 in Game 7 to advance to the Stanley Cup Finals. Once they got there, Washington dropped the opening game of the series before taking the next four in a row to take the title. It wasn’t all sunshine and rainbows: days after winning the championship, head coach Barry Trotz resigned and went on to take the job with the Islanders. Todd Reirden takes over the reins as the team tries to defend their title.

The Capitals were 9th in the league in scoring last season as they averaged 3.16 goals per game. Washington was led by their captain, Alex Ovechkin, who led the league with 49 goals to go with 38 assists last season. The defending champs managed to keep all of their core pieces around for another run at the Cup. That means Evgeny Kuznetsov (27 goals, 56 assists in the regular season, 12 goals, 20 assists in the postseason), Nicklas Backstrom (21 goals, 50 assists), T.J. Oshie (18 goals, 29 assists) and Lars Eller (18 goals, 20 assists) are all back in the mix. So are gritty wingers like Tom Wilson (14 goals, 21 assists), Brett Connolly (15 goals, 12 assists) and Andre Burakovsky (12 goals, 13 assists) along with center Jakub Vrana (13 goals, 14 assists) to help out. The only opening through camp was for the fourth line center role. When you have that kind of depth, it’s a good problem to have.

Washington finished last season in the middle of the pack defensively as they were 15th in the league by allowing 2.92 goals per game. The Capitals would like to improve on that statistic this season, but they’ll need some help from their defense. John Carlson (15 goals, 53 assists) is a terrific point man on the power play and led all defensemen in points while logging 24:47 of ice time per game. Dmitry Orlov (10 goals, 21 assists), Matt Niskanen (seven goals, 22 assists) and Michael Kempny (three goals, seven assists) round out the top four. The third pairing is a little weaker: the Capitals did bring back Brooks Orpik (10 assists, 218 hits, 168 blocked shots) on a one year deal. He’ll likely be paired with Christian Djoos (three goals, 11 assists) or Madison Bowey (12 assists) on that pairing.

Braden Holtby was up and down in net last season, posting career lows in save percentage (.907) and GAA (2.99) while not recording a shutout in 54 games. He did post a 34-16-4 record on the season, finishing tied for seventh in the league in wins. Holtby rebounded in the postseason, going 16-7 with a 2.16 GAA, a .922 save percentage and two shutouts in 23 games. Last year’s backup, Philipp Grubauer (15-10-3, 2.35 GAA, .923 save percentage, three shutouts in 35 games), is now in Colorado so it will be the unproven Pheonix Copley, who has just two NHL appearances on his ledger, backing up Holtby.

Washington was effective on the power play last season, ranking 7th with the man advantage as they cashed in 22.5 percent of their chances. Carlson led the team with 32 power play points while Ovechkin added 31 and Kuznetsov put up 30. The Capitals were in the middle of the pack in penalty killing last season, finishing 15th in the league. Washington successfully killed off 80.3 percent of their shorthanded situations.

Pittsburgh Penguins

2017 Record: 47-29-6, 100 points, 2nd in Metropolitan Division

Playoff Status: Beat Philadelphia 4-2 in Eastern Conference first round, lost 4-2 to Washington in Eastern Conference semifinals

Pittsburgh put together another solid season in the regular season, but they had an earlier than expected exit in the postseason. After all, the Penguins had won back to back Stanley Cup titles heading into the 2017-18 campaign. Perhaps the toll of those back-to-back long playoff runs took a toll on Pittsburgh. Now, with more rest than they’ve had heading into the previous two seasons, the Penguins hope to regroup and make another run. They moved a few key pieces like Conor Sheary and Matt Hunwick in the offseason: can Pittsburgh push back into title contention?

The Penguins were one of the highest scoring teams in the league last season, finishing fourth with an average of 3.32 goals per game. Pittsburgh is still loaded at forward, led by the tandem of Evgeni Malkin (42 goals, 56 assists) and Sidney Crosby (29 goals, 60 assists) anchoring the top two lines. Crosby likely will center Patric Hornqvist (29 goals, 20 assists) and rising star Jake Guentzel (22 goals, 26 assists, ten playoff goals) on the top line. Malkin has no slouches on his line as he’ll be paired with Carl Hagelin (10 goals, 21 assists) and Phil Kessel (34 goals, 58 assists) alongside. Derick Brassard (21 goals, 25 assists), Bryan Rust (13 goals, 25 assists), Matt Cullen (11 goals, 11 assists), Dominik Simon (four goals, eight assists), Riley Sheahan (11 goals, 21 assists) and Daniel Sprong (two goals, assist) should make up the bottom six forwards.

Defensively, Pittsburgh would like to play better than they did last season. The Penguins finished last season 20th in the league in scoring defense as they allowed 3.05 goals per contest. The defense corps has to be more aggressive at clearing the front of the net. Brian Dumoulin (five goals, 13 assists) is expected to pair with offensive whiz Kris Letang (nine goals, 42 assists) on the team’s top pairing. Olli Maatta (seven goals, 22 assists) and Jack Johnson (three goals, eight assists, 101 hits, 135 blocked shots with Columbus) should be the second pairing. Jamie Oleksiak (five goals, 12 assists) and Justin Schultz (four goals, 23 assists) should be the third pairing on the blue line group for Pittsburgh.

Goaltending will again be in the spotlight for the Penguins, especially after seeing former goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury take the expansion Golden Knights to the Stanley Cup Finals last season. Matt Murray is expected to be the #1 goalie again in the Steel City. He was 27-16-3 with a 2.92 GAA; a .907 save percentage and one shutout in 49 games last season. Tristan Jarry stepped up last season and was solid in his rookie season. He went 14-6-2 with a 2.77 GAA, a .908 save percentage and two shutouts in 26 games.

The Penguins were an elite team on the power play last season. Pittsburgh ranked 1st in the league by converting 26.2 percent of their chances with the man advantage. In shorthanded situations, the Penguins were in the middle of the pack as they were 17th in the league. Pittsburgh successfully killed off 80.2 percent of their shorthanded situations last season.

Philadelphia Flyers

2017 Record: 42-26-14, 98 points, 3rd in Metropolitan Division

Playoff Status: Lost to Pittsburgh 4-2 in Eastern Conference first round

Philadelphia has alternated making the postseason with missing them in the last six seasons. The Flyers haven’t won a playoff series since 2011-12. The Flyers left a fair amount of points on the ice last season as they broke the double-digit mark for OT/shootout losses for the fifth straight season. Philadelphia saw players like Valtteri Filppula, Brandon Manning, Matt Read, Johnny Oduya, and Petr Mrazek leave via free agency. The Flyers had just one big signing as they brought James Van Riemsdyk in from Toronto. Can the Broad Street Bullies do enough to get back to the postseason for the second straight year?

Offensively, the Flyers were slightly better than average last season as they finished 13th with an average of 3.06 goals per game. Claude Giroux (34 goals, 68 assists) tied for the league lead in assists and was second in scoring to Edmonton’s Connor McDavid. He’ll be flanked on the top line by Sean Couturier (31 goals, 45 assists) and Travis Konecny (24 goals, 23 assists) this season. Oskar Lindblom (two goals, four assists), Nolan Patrick (13 goals, 17 assists) and Jakub Voracek (20 goals, 65 assists) could make up the second line. Wayne Simmonds (24 goals, 22 assists) and rookie Mikhail Vorobyev could line up with Van Riemsdyk (36 goals, 18 assists with Toronto) as a third scoring line. The grind line should be Jori Lehtera (three goals, five assists), Scott Laughton (10 goals, ten assists) and Michael Raffl (13 goals, nine assists) though that could change. Lehtera is considered a suspect in a Finnish drug ring which could render him and his $4.7 million contract expendable.

Defensively, Philadelphia looks to improve on their middle of the pack standing last season. The Flyers finished 16th in the league by allowing 2.96 goals per game. Hopefully, the blue line core gets better with experience. It’s led by Shayne Gostisbehere (13 goals, 52 assists), who was fourth in the league in scoring by a defenseman last season. He’ll be paired with Ivan Provorov, who contributed 17 goals and 24 assists last season. Robert Hagg (three goals, six assists) and Andrew MacDonald (six goals, 15 assists) should be the second pair while Travis Sanheim (two goals, eight assists) and Christian Folin (three goals, 10 assists) should be the third pairing with Radko Gudas (two goals, 14 assists) a serviceable seventh guy who can step in.

The Flyers again turn to Brian Elliott between the pipes as their #1 netminder. In 43 games last season, he was 23-11-7 with a 2.66 GAA, a .909 save percentage and one shutout. With Mrazek gone, Michal Neuvirth (9-7-3, 2.60 GAA, .915 save percentage, shutout in 22 games) and Anthony Stolarz (2-1-1, 2.07 GAA, .928 save percentage, shutout in seven games) will battle for the backup job. Neuvirth has been sidelined for the last ten days or so with a groin injury: he currently has no timetable for a return.

On special teams last season, the Flyers showed they could use some help. Philadelphia was 15th in the league on the power play by converting 20.7 percent of their chances last season. The addition of Van Riemsdyk (11 goals, nine assists on the PP) can only bolster their success rate. Penalty killing was awful for the Flyers as they were third worst in the league by killing off just 75.8 percent of their shorthanded situations.

Columbus Blue Jackets

2017 Record: 45-30-7, 97 points, 4th in Metropolitan Division

Playoff Status: Lost to Washington 4-2 in Eastern Conference first round

Columbus made the playoffs for the second straight year last season and the fourth time in franchise history. The Blue Jackets had the eventual champion Capitals on the ropes in the opening round, leading 2-0 in the series. Columbus went on to lose Game 3 in double overtime as the start of four straight defeats to wipe them out of the postseason. The Blue Jackets face a couple of big questions with Artemi Panarin and Sergei Bobrovsky both in contract years. Can Columbus put things together to earn their first playoff series win in franchise history?

The Blue Jackets were a middle of the pack offensive unit last season as they finished 16th in the league by averaging 2.95 goals per contest. Columbus was led by Panarin (27 goals, 55 assists) in the scoring department: he’ll be on the top line with Pierre-Luc Dubois (20 goals, 28 assists) and Cam Atkinson (24 goals, 22 assists) this season. Nick Foligno (15 goals, 18 assists), Alexander Wennberg (eight goals, 27 assists) and Oliver Bjorkstrand (11 goals, 29 assists) likely comprise the second line. The bottom six forwards will include Boone Jenner (13 goals, 19 assists), Brandon Dubinsky (six goals, 10 assists), Josh Anderson (19 goals, 11 assists), Riley Nash (15 goals, 26 assists with Boston last season), Sonny Milano (14 goals, eight assists) and Anthony Duclair (11 goals, 12 assists): hopefully, the Blue Jackets can get some secondary scoring to help out Panarin.

Columbus was an above average team when it came to keeping the puck out of their net last season. The Blue Jackets were 10th in the league by giving up an average of 2.80 goals per game. Seth Jones (16 goals, 41 assists) is the team’s #1 defenseman, but he’s out four to six weeks with a knee injury. That means Markus Nutivaara (seven goals, 16 assists) will get an early bump to the top pairing with Zach Werenski (16 goals, 21 assists) until Jones returns. Scott Harrington (two goals, three assists) and David Savard (four goals, 12 assists) make up the second pair in the early part of the season while Dean Kukan (four assists in 11 games) and Adam Clendening (two assists in five games) will be the third pairing.

Goaltending is the strength of the Blue Jackets as they have a tough duo to go up against. Bobrovsky finished last season 37-22-6 with a 2.42 GAA; a .921 save percentage and five shutouts in 65 games. He was fifth in wins and tied for fourth in shutouts last season. When he gets a breather, Joonas Korpisalo (8-8-1, 3.32 GAA, .897 save percentage in 18 games) is a serviceable backup. The Blue Jackets are in good shape when it comes to goaltending.

Special teams were below average for Columbus last season. The team was just 25th in power play percentage by converting 17.2 percent of their chances with the man advantage. The Blue Jackets were one rung lower on the penalty kill, ranking 26th with a 76.2 percent success rate in shorthanded situations.

New Jersey Devils

2017 Record: 44-29-19, 97 points, 5th in Metropolitan Division

Playoff Status: Lost to Tampa Bay 4-1 in Eastern Conference first round

New Jersey snapped a five-year playoff drought as they were a surprising postseason team last season. Their trip to the playoffs didn’t last long as top-seeded Tampa Bay blew them out of the water in five games, but the team showed some flashes. New Jersey has some holes to fill though as Patrick Maroon, Michael Grabner, Jimmy Hayes, Brian Gibbons, and John Moore all left via free agency. The Devils have a lot of cap room ($18.1 million) at the moment: will they try to make a move or two in an effort to bolster their chances at a postseason return?

The Devils were in the middle of the pack last season in scoring as they finished 14th in the league by putting up 3.02 goals per game. New Jersey’s top line looks like it will be comprised of Taylor Hall (39 goals, 54 assists), who won the Hart Trophy last season, along with Nico Hischler (20 goals, 32 assists) and Kyle Palmieri (24 goals, 20 assists) this season. Of course, the Devils need to get scoring from the rest of their forwards. Marcus Johansson (five goals, nine assists in 29 games), Pavel Zacha (eight goals, 17 assists) and Jesper Bratt (13 goals, 22 assists) should be the second line. The bottom six group is comprised of Miles Wood (19 goals, 13 assists), Travis Zajac (12 goals, 14 assists), John Quenneville (no points in two games), Blake Coleman (13 goals, 12 assists), Brian Boyle (13 goals, 10 assists) and Stefan Noesen (13 goals, 14 assists): if they can get a couple 20 goal guys out of that group, the Devils will be happy.

Defensively, New Jersey was slightly below the league norm as they were only 17th in the league in goals allowed. Opposing teams averaged 2.98 goals per contest against the Devils last season. Mirco Mueller (four assists in 28 games) is expected to pair with Sami Vatanen (four goals, 28 assists) for the team’s top pairing. Andy Greene (three goals, 10 assists) is expected to slot in next to Damon Severson (nine goals, 15 assists) on the second pair while Will Butcher (five goals, 39 assists) and Ben Lovejoy (two goals, six assists) should be the third pair. Butcher should see a lot of time on the power play.

In the nets, the team had a near even split in games between their top two goaltenders. Cory Schneider is expected to be the starter still if he can stay healthy this season. He was 17-16-6 with a 2.93 GAA; a .907 save percentage and one shutout in 40 games last season. Keith Kinkaid stepped up when Schneider was ailing and was brilliant. He finished 26-10-3 with a 2.77 GAA, a .913 save percentage and one shutout in 41 games. It wouldn’t be a surprise to see Kinkaid get the nod as the #1 guy based on his performance down the stretch. Schneider missed the preseason as he recuperates from offseason surgery to repair torn cartilage in his hip.

New Jersey was excellent on special teams last season, and they look to maintain that performance this season. The Devils were 10th in the league on the power play as they converted 21.4 percent of their chances with the man advantage. New Jersey finished 7th in penalty killing by successfully navigating through 81.8 percent of their shorthanded situations. The Devils racked up a dozen shorthanded goals last season.

Carolina Hurricanes

2017 Record: 36-35-11, 83 points, 6th in Metropolitan Division

Playoff Status: Did Not Qualify

Carolina missed the playoffs for the ninth straight season last year, and it brought the Bill Peters era to a close. The team demoted GM Ron Francis and brought Rod Brind’Amour behind the bench in Raleigh. In addition to that, there is a slew of guys from last year’s team that are gone now, highlighted by Jeff Skinner. Lee Stempniak, Cam Ward, and Noah Hanifin are among the other names that have left Tobacco Road. There’s a lot of new faces on the Carolina squad: can Brind’Amour sculpt the pieces into a team that can snap the longest current postseason drought in the NHL?

The Hurricanes are expected to ice the youngest group of forwards in the league this season. Carolina hopes to improve on last season when they finished 23rd in the league with 2.78 goals per game. Jordan Staal (19 goals, 26 assists) is expected to center the top line with Sebastian Aho (29 goals, 36 assists) and Teuvo Teravainen (23 goals, 41 assists) on his wings. Captain Justin Williams (16 goals, 35 assists) highlights the second line with Micheal Ferland (21 goals, 20 assists with Calgary) and Phil Di Giuseppe (five goals, eight assists) also in the top six. Carolina hopes to get some production from guys like Martin Necas, last year’s first-round pick, Warren Foegele (two goals, assist in two games) and second overall pick this year, Andrei Svechnikov. Lucas Wallmark (goal in 11 games), Jordan Martinook (six goals, nine assists with Arizona) and Brock McGinn (16 goals, 14 assists) are also in the mix.

Carolina struggled last season keeping the puck out of their own net as they finished 22nd in the league by allowing 3.12 goals per game. The Hurricanes’ top pairing on the blue line is likely to be Jaccob Slavin (eight goals, 22 assists) and Justin Faulk (eight goals, 23 assists), which can be effective. Carolina picked up Dougie Hamilton (17 goals, 27 assists) from Calgary and he’ll play alongside Calvin de Haan (one goal, 11 assists in 33 games with the Islanders) on the second pairing. Haydn Fleury (eight assists) and Brett Pesce (three goals, 16 assists) are a pair of up and coming young guys on the blue line.

Goaltending is going to be a concern for the Hurricanes as longtime netminder Ward left for Chicago as a free agent. Scott Darling is going to have to bounce back in the second year of his four year deal for the Hurricanes to have much of a shot. He was 13-21-7 with a 3.18 GAA, and a .888 save percentage in 43 games last season, his first with the Hurricanes. Petr Mrazek, who was 14-13-6 with a 3.03 GAA, a .902 save percentage and four shutouts in 39 games with the Red Wings and Flyers last season, takes over the backup job here.

The Hurricanes have to be better on special teams than they were a season ago. Carolina finished the year 22nd on the power play as they converted on 18.4 percent of their chances with the man advantage last year. Having Hamilton run the point should help things in that regard. The Hurricanes were below average on the penalty kill as well: they were 23rd in that department. Carolina was successful killing off only 77.5 percent of their shorthanded situations.

New York Islanders

2017 Record: 35-37-10, 80 points, 7th in Metropolitan Division

Playoff Status: Did Not Qualify

The Islanders had a tough season last year, falling just under the .500 mark as they missed the playoffs for the second straight season. New York made a change at head coach as Doug Weight was relieved of his duties: in his place is Barry Trotz. All Trotz did last season was lead the Capitals to their first Stanley Cup in team history. The Islanders lost John Tavares to Toronto in free agency. Also, guys like Calvin de Haan, Jaroslav Halak, Nikolai Kulemin, Chris Wagner, and Brandon Davidson are all gone as well. The cupboard isn’t bare for Trotz but can he come up with a way to get the Islanders back to the postseason?

New York was a high-powered offensive unit last season, ranking 8th in the league with 3.22 goals per game. The Islanders’ top line will be comprised of Mathew Barzal (22 goals, 63 assists) centering for Josh Bailey (18 goals, 53 assists) and Anthony Beauvillier (21 goals, 15 assists) on the wings. New York has a dangerous second line with Anders Lee (40 goals, 22 assists), Jordan Eberle (25 goals, 34 assists) and Brock Nelson (19 goals, 16 assists) rounding out the top six. The Islanders also have Cal Clutterbuck (eight goals, 10 assists), Casey Cizikas (seven goals, 10 assists) and the gritty Matt Martin (three goals nine assists, 147 hits in 50 games for Toronto) making up the third line. Valtteri Filppula (11 goals, 22 assists), Tom Kuhnhackl (two goals, six assists with Pittsburgh) and Leo Komarov (seven goals, 12 assists with Toronto) are the likely fourth line group. Andrew Ladd (12 goals, 17 assists) will be an addition when he comes back from injury soon.

The Islanders were a sieve defensively last season as they ranked dead last in the league by allowing 3.61 goals per contest. New York has to be more aggressive in their own zone, and that starts with their de facto top pairing of Adam Pelech (three goals, 16 assists) and Ryan Pulock (10 goals, 22 assists), who combined for a +3 rating last season. Nick Leddy (10 goals, 32 assists) and Luca Sbisa (two goals, 12 assists in 30 games with Vegas) comprise the second pairing. Thomas Hickey (five goals, 20 assists) and Johnny Boychuk (six goals, 12 assists) round out the top six on the blue line.

Goaltending was a major issue last season, which is part of why Halak left as a free agent. Thomas Greiss is back and might be the #1 guy between the pipes. He was 13-8-2 with a 3.82 GAA; a .892 save percentage and one shutout in 27 games. Greiss will likely split time with Robin Lehner, who was signed from Buffalo in free agency. Lehner was 14-26-9 with a 3.01 GAA, a .908 save percentage and three shutouts over 53 games last season.

Special teams were a set of opposites last season on the island. New York was brilliant on the power play, ranking sixth in the league by cashing in on 23.2 percent of their chances with the man advantage. On the flip side, their penalty killing was atrocious as they finished last in the league. New York was successful in killing off only 73.2 percent of their shorthanded situations last season.

New York Rangers

2017 Record: 34-39-9, 77 points, 8th in Metropolitan Division

Playoff Status: Did Not Qualify

The Rangers finished in the basement of the Metropolitan Division and started a rebuilding process. New York is going to have their work cut out for them this season as they didn’t make much in the way of moves in the offseason. After dealing away pieces like Ryan McDonagh and J.T. Miller at the trade deadline last season, it will be interesting to see if the team sticks with their rebuilding plan. It’s expected that this will be the final season for Henrik Lundqvist: will they send him out with a less than proven cast around him?

New York was 21st in the league in scoring last season as they averaged 2.82 goals per game. Mika Zibanejad (27 goals, 20 assists) is expected to center the team’s top line with Mats Zuccarello (16 goals, 37 assists) and Chris Kreider (16 goals, 21 assists in 58 games) on the wings. Vladislav Namestnikov (22 goals, 26 assists), Ryan Spooner (13 goals, 28 assists) and Pavel Buchnevich (14 goals, 29 assists) round out the top six. The bottom two lines should have a mix of guys like Jesper Fast (13 goals, 20 assists), Jimmy Vesey (17 goals, 11 assists), Kevin Hayes (25 goals, 19 assists), Vinni Lettieri (goal, four assists in 19 games) along with rookies Brett Howden and Filip Chytel. It’s hardly an awe-inspiring group at this point.

The Rangers weren’t very good on the defensive end either last season as they finished 28th in the league by allowing 3.27 goals per game. Kevin Shattenkirk (five goals, 18 assists in 46 games) is expected to be the #1 guy on the blueline. He’ll be paired with Brady Skjei (four goals, 25 assists, 127 hits, 119 blocked shots) on the top pairing. Marc Staal (goal, seven assists) and Adam McQuaid (goal, three assists in 38 games for Boston) are the second pair while Brendan Smith (goal, seven assists in 44 games) and Anthony DeAngelo (eight assists in 32 games) are expected to man the third pairing.

Lundqvist is the rock in net for the Rangers once again as he logs his 14th season for the Blueshirts. He played in 63 games last season for New York, going 26-26-7 with a 2.98 GAA, a .915 save percentage and two shutouts. With Ondrej Pavelec retiring in the offseason, the Rangers will have to turn to a new backup goaltender. The first guy in line is Alexandar Georgiev, who was 4-4-1 with a 3.15 GAA and a .918 save percentage in 10 games last season.

For all their problems last season, the Rangers were good on special teams. New York finished 12th on the power play as they converted 21.2 percent of their chances with the man advantage last season. The Rangers were solid shorthanded as the team was 10th in penalty killing by successfully killing off 81.4 percent of their shorthanded situations.

Outlook

Washington and Pittsburgh should have a reasonably comfortable time punching their tickets back to the postseason this year. The third guaranteed spot in the division could well go to Columbus, provided that the team can stay focused despite the looming contract issues of Bobrovsky and Panarin. Philadelphia has talent, but they can’t keep leaving points on the ice at the end of games like they did last season. New Jersey seems primed for regression unless they can develop more scoring. Also, Schneider has to prove he’s healthy and Kinkaid has to show that last year wasn’t a fluke. That’s a lot to ask for a team that didn’t clinch a playoff spot until the final weekend of the season. The Islanders have talent offensively, but they have questions on the back end, especially in the net, after giving up the most goals in the league last season.

Theoretically, the best options for playoff teams are Washington, Pittsburgh, and Columbus with Philadelphia battling with the Islanders for a wild card spot. New Jersey will battle but fall short, Carolina has too many new faces to work with to contend, and the Rangers are clearly in a rebuild. That’s likely a disappointing swan song for Lundqvist in the Big Apple.

Is there anything you think shakes out differently in the Metropolitan Division this season?

 

 

 

Chris Kubala

Christopher Kubala has been crunching stats and following sports for over 30 years. His in depth analysis and passion for sports have led him to writing books about sports, regularly being featured on sports talk radio and as the go-to person for any obscure trivia. He keeps an eye on transactions and statistics like a hawk, especially when it comes to football, both the NFL and college, the NHL, the NBA and college basketball and MLB.

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#772 Kentucky
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#757 Saint Mary's 129
#758 Villanova -5.5
7:20pm
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#779 Montana
#780 Michigan
9:20pm
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#769 Seton Hall 142.5
#770 Wofford -3
9:40pm
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#759 ODU 129
#760 Purdue -13
9:50pm
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#787 Baylor 135
#788 Syracuse -2.5
9:57pm
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Friday, Mar 22
NCAAB
#805 Iowa 139
#806 Cincinnati -3.5
12:15pm
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#803 Oklahoma 142
#804 Ole Miss -2
12:40pm
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#819 Northern Kentucky
#820 Texas Tech
1:30pm
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#827 Cal Irvine 118
#828 Kansas State -5
2:00pm
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#807 Colgate
#808 Tennessee
2:45pm
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#801 Gardner-Webb
#802 Virginia
3:10pm
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#825 Oregon 116
#826 Wisconsin -1
4:30pm
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#811 Washington 134
#812 Utah State -2.5
6:50pm
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#815 Georgia State 142
#816 Houston -12
7:20pm
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#821 Liberty 135
#822 Mississippi St -7
7:27pm
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#809 Iona
#810 North Carolina (UNC)
9:20pm
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#799 UCF -1.5
#800 VCU 124.5
9:40pm
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#813 Ohio State 140
#814 Iowa State -5.5
9:50pm
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#823 St. Louis 126
#824 Virginia Tech -10.5
9:57pm
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