The Metropolitan Division is the home to the best rivalry in the NHL right now, the Washington Capitals and the Pittsburgh Penguins.
With Washington not only winning their first Stanley Cup this past season, but also knocking out the Pittsburgh Penguins in the Second Round to end their hopes of a three-peat, you better believe both of these teams will be playing their best hockey against each other.
Let’s take a look at my predictions for the Metro Division this season.
1. Pittsburgh Penguins:
Sorry Crosby haters, but this season smells like nothing but revenge to me for the Penguins.
With the two-headed monster of Crosby and Malkin seeking to regain their spot at the top, and also having an extra month of off-season, unlike the previous two seasons, Pittsburgh will be firing on all cylinders come October.
Pittsburgh’s biggest down fall last season was their lack of depth on Defense.
Well Jack Johnson should definitely complement Letang, Maatta, Dumoulin, and Schultz real nicely.
Along with that, the return of Matt Cullen should also help Pittsburgh’s bottom six on offense.
If Murray plays to his ability, and injuries do not curse Pittsburgh, I see the Penguins taking this division by a hair over Washington.
2. Washington Capitals:
Well the Washington Capitals are the defending Stanley Cup Champions, and they are returning the vast majority of this roster, does that not mean they should be favorites to win it again?
Although the Capitals are still contenders for the Stanley Cup, I just do not see them taking the division this year.
By no means is this team not a strong team, but when comparing rosters to Pittsburgh, I do believe that Pittsburgh is deeper at this point.
However, if Washington’s top six can hit their stride at the right time, winning the division may not be necessary in order to make another push for the Stanley Cup.
3. Philadelphia Flyers:
The Flyers will be better than they were last season.
Acquiring James van Riemsdyk (JVR) is a huge addition to Philadelphia’s offense.
Philadelphia’s top six will be able to match pretty much any other top six in the league, however their bottom six is what is going to be a struggle for them.
Along with that, I’m not sure the Flyers Defensive core can hold off the offensive onslaught from Washington or Pittsburgh, let alone Toronto or Tampa Bay.
Add to that the need of both Neuvirth and Elliott to stay healthy in net and hold the Flyers in those tough games.
However, I do feel an improvement was made in Philadelphia, and the Flyers will once again be back in the playoffs this season.
4. New Jersey Devils:
Now with the way the Atlantic Division is right now I see there being only one Wild Card spot for each division this year.
I feel that spot will be between New Jersey, Columbus, and Carolina this season, although Carolina will have to have an incredible season to top the Devils or Blue Jackets.
With that said, this year will once again be Hall’s job to do the majority of the scoring.
The loss of Maroon will be felt, and the Devils lack of third and fourth line strength will also be felt.
But with Butcher having a year under his belt and Vatanen looking for a solid year in New Jersey, maybe just maybe the Devils can find themselves in that Wild Card spot once again.
Hopefully between Schneider, and Kinkaid in net, goaltending will not be an issue for New Jersey.
5. Columbus Blue Jackets:
I have no idea what to expect from this Columbus team.
All fairness they do have a solid top six offense consisting of Foligno, Panarin, and Atkinson, but without the help of a productive bottom six, I am not sure how Columbus can get back into the playoffs this season.
Werenski, and Jones will have to lead the way out back anchoring Murray, Savard, Harrington, and Nutivaara.
A great deal of pressure is also on Sergei Bobrovsky in net.
Without Bobrovsky playing up to his Vezina Trophy abilities, the Blue Jackets will not be playing hockey in May.
However, Columbus has been known to have a solid season when no one is expecting much from them so for right now, let’s wait and see what this team does.
6. Carolina Hurricanes:
Carolina is in an interesting position.
After a very active off-season where they saw Hanifin, Skinner, and Lindholm depart, no more than a chance at a Wild Card spot can be expected from this team.
With average goalies between Mrazek and Darling in net, Carolina better hope for a solid showing from their defense consisting of Faulk, Slavia, Hamilton, Pesce, de Haan, and van Riemsdyk.
Up front Staal will lead the way with the help from veteran Forward Justin Williams.
Throw in Aho, Svechnikov, Rask and Giuseppe, maybe this Hurricanes team can find themselves in a race for the Wild Card spot late in the season.
7. New York Islanders:
There’s no other way to put it other than, the Islanders are just not ready.
The loss of Tavares is detrimental to the Islanders, however I do have hope for them moving forward with Lou Lamoriello as General Manager.
Give Lamoriello time and the Islanders will see success again.
But right now they are simply too weak on both offense and defense, with not much after their top lines.
Along with that is the need of an elite goalie.
I’m sorry Islanders fans, but your chances of a playoff spot this season ended when Tavares went to Toronto.
8. New York Rangers:
Let the rebuild of the New York Rangers begin.
The Rangers do have a great coach with David Quinn behind the bench so there is hope.
But after Kreider, Hayes, and Zuccarello, there is not much there for the Rangers this season.
Like the Islanders, the Rangers simply need time to build their roster back up not only with Forwards, but Defenseman; Skjei, Staal, and Shattenkirk can not hold the fort down all by themselves even if Henrik Lundqvist is a brick wall.
The only option the Rangers have right now is to move forward with what they have and hope that the future has more talent coming to New York.
New Jersey: http://www.sportingnews.com
New York Islanders: http://www.sny.tv
New York Rangers: http://www.youtube.com
For advertising and sponsorship opportunities with The Game Changer Sports Network please contact Jake at Jake.Jollymore@Gmail.com