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Predicting the Metro Division; the Surprises, the Strong & the Falls

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Pittsburgh Penguins Bryan Rust Sidney Crosby

The old lions, the upstarts, the middle child, and the wannabes. Welcome to life in the Metropolitan Division as the long-running domination of the Pittsburgh Penguins and Washington Capitals will collide with the arrival of the New York Islanders and Carolina Hurricanes.

The division probably took a step back from the multiple Stanley Cup contender-laden lineups from last season, including the Boston Bruins. Now the division has an air of transition, just like those Pittsburgh Penguins and the rosters of a few of their longtime rivals.

The times they are a-changin’.

After the Penguins and Washington kept the Stanley Cup in the division from 2016-2018, the New York Islanders and Carolina Hurricanes have supplanted the stalwarts as the last team standing each spring.

Both teams are largely intact for 2021-22, though Carolina suffered a significant loss when Dougie Hamilton took the money and ran to New Jersey.

Of course, the Penguins will be without Sidney Crosby for the start of the season and Evgeni Malkin for a longer but yet to be determined amount of time.

The Penguins injuries combined with additions by the Philadelphia Flyers and New York Rangers should make for an interesting horse race.

Las Vegas oddsmakers at MGM set the OVER/UNDER on points for the division, and if you think they know what they’re doing, the Penguins are fifth in the Metro, though Las Vegas also thinks the Metro Division will be a jumbled mess.

  1. New York Islanders 97 1/2
  2. Carolina Hurricanes 96 1/2
  3. Washington Capitals 96 1/2
  4. New York Rangers 95 1/2
  5. Pittsburgh Penguins 95 1/2
  6. Philadelphia Flyers 94 1/2
  7. New Jersey Devils 88 1/2
  8. Columbus Blue Jackets 76 1/2

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PHN’s Metro Division Predictions

After the top two, it gets jumbled.

1. New York Islanders

Despite not announcing their moves for weeks, the Islanders kept forwards Kyle Palmieri, Casey Czikas, and Anthony Beauvillier. They signed Zach Parise. Defenseman Andy Greene re-signed, and Adam Pelech got a splashy payday, too. Anders Lee, who missed the playoffs after a season-ending injury in March, will also return.

The long-rumored trade for Vladimir Tarasenko fell through, but the Islanders are essentially the same team that took the Tampa Bay Lightning to the matt in the NHL Semi-Final.

2. Carolina Hurricanes

The big out was Hamilton, but Carolina signed Jesper Kotkaniemi to an RFA offer sheet. GM Don Waddell replaced Hamilton with a few new faces, including Ian Cole, Ethan Bear, and the lightning rod for controversy and turmoil, Tony DeAngelo.

If DeAngelo can shut up and play, he’s a 50-point NHL defenseman. The bunch of jerks in Carolina probably upgraded in goal, too. Frederik Andersen and Antti Raanta are now between the pipes.

Speed, finish, culture, some grit, and plenty of push on defense will make Carolina a good regular-season team.

3. Washington Capitals

It’s easier to pick the Washington Capitals to snag the last guaranteed playoff spot because of Alex Ovechkin. Ovechkin doesn’t miss games, and Washington treats the regular season with an intensity that other teams don’t.

The Capitals generally don’t suffer the injury issues which plague the Penguins and haven’t lost much during the offseason. Ovechkin and Tom Wilson will sidesaddle Nick Backstrom or Evgeny Kuznetsov on the top line. The other center will pivot T.J. Oshie and Anthony Mantha.

That’s a pretty good top-six. The defense is still soft, but goalies Ilya Samsonov and Vitek Vanecek are a year older and probably a bit better, too.

4. New York Rangers

Here’s your best bet for a surprise. The Rangers needed a major attitude adjustment, and they got it. Ryan Reaves may only play five minutes per game, but combined with Barclay Goodrow in the top-nine, teams will no longer run over the Rangers. That pair will add 10 pounds to each player.

The Rangers kids, (Norris Trophy winner) Adam Fox, (2020 first-overall pick) Alexis Lafreniere, Vitaly Kravstov, Kaapo Kakko,  will join Artemi Panarin, Mika Zibanejad, and Chris Kreider.

The Rangers are going to be a high-scoring team with tempo. If they catch lightning, they could easily win the division, but there are still some unknowns, so we’re putting them fourth.

5. The Dogfight

The Pittsburgh Penguins and Philadelphia Flyers.

The Flyers added top-tier defenseman Ryan Ellis from Nashville, rough (and polarizing) defenseman Rasmus Ristolainen. They swapped Jakub Voracek on the right wing for Cam Atkinson for fun, added Derick Brassard as their third-line center.

The Flyers’ bottom six isn’t their strength with Brassard and Nate Thompson as the bottom centers, but the defense is greatly improved, and goalie Carter Hart is more likely to regain his elite form than slump to his last season mess.

We’ve written about 200,000 words on the Penguins in the last 30 days. From Crosby’s wrist surgery to Evgeni Malkin’s knee, the lack of replacement for Jared McCann, the hole at right-side defense and making sure goalie Tristan Jarry wasn’t permanently rattled by the Round One playoff meltdown.

Eventually, the Pittsburgh Penguins top-nine will be superior to the Flyers, as Crosby, Malkin, and Jeff Carter will anchor the middle. The Penguins’ best wingers (Jake Guentzel, Bryan Rust, Kasperi Kapanen) are more productive than the Flyers’ top wingers.

On paper, the Philadelphia Flyers are a little better. The Penguins’ ability to win without their best players is a proven fact.

Our only prediction is this battle will last to Game 82, but if we’re betting, the Flyers have an advantage.

No. 7-8: We think both the New Jersey Devils and Columbus Blue Jackets are prime surprise candidates. Columbus will battle the Buffalo Sabres for the most inept team, or the cast of misfits will jell into a tough team.

New Jersey is improved as 2019 first-overall pick Jack Hughes gets better, but they’re not deep, nor are they tough. Ryan Graves is likely a top-pair defenseman, and Jonathan Bernier is their top goalie.

The Strong and the Falls

The Pittsburgh Penguins and Washington Capitals are on the chopping block for a fall. Washington is much less likely to slip too far, but the Penguins are teetering on the edge.

The Islanders are strong. They may not exceed expectations or be a dominant team, but they are stout. They’re a lock to make the top three in the division.

The Flyers and the Rangers will be the surprises. Fan-pinion assumes Ristolainen is a bad defenseman. We’ll take the counter bet, and the Flyers will be a tough team to play. When a team flops as the Flyers did, there exists the danger it could happen again, which begets a house cleaning, or the team is motivated to change the script.

Watch the Flyers. And the Rangers. If both teams hit their stride, the Penguins will need their best to make the playoffs.

Coach on Hot Seat: Alain Vigneault (PHI). Everyone else is fairly safe or new. If the Flyers stumble, Vigneault is a likely scapegoat.

GM on Hot Seat: Tom Fitzgerald (NJ). Insiders have been chattering. The Devils are veering hard towards analytics, and the Hamilton signing was initiated by the numbers folks, not the GM. New Jersey ownership let Fitzgerald twist in the wind without a contract for a while, and the kindling for a power struggle is ready to be lit. Losing brings out such things.

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William Maloni
William Maloni
1 month ago

Even though you’ve written 200,000 words about the Pens, what can they (management and players)do to finish higher than you predict?????

Katz
Katz
1 month ago
Reply to  William Maloni

The difficult decisions that were not made , the horrible moves that were made , all add up to the product you will watch.

The failure was two fold;

1) Ownership preventing at least one hard but correct moving of a star while the iron was hot.

2) A very successful Coach stubbornly clinging to his vision while the hockey world changed. This caused crippling decisions and contracts , poor on ice playoff competitiveness , and resulted in a far more precipitous and steeper decline you now witness.

Katz
Katz
1 month ago
Reply to  Katz

BTW here is my best guess for the Metro

1) NYR
2) Carolina
3) NYI
4) Philadelphia
5) Washington
6) Pittsburgh

D1VE is Dumb
D1VE is Dumb
1 month ago
Reply to  Katz

Please explain how this also applies to the Blackhawks and Kings, seeing as to that is the only way a dynasty would crumble in your eyes.

Michael Hanczar
Michael Hanczar
1 month ago

Not sure Carolina got better. Tending from last season was fine, two vet goalies didn’t improve them.

Rob
Rob
1 month ago

Losing Hamilton was a big loss. The guys they brought in to replace him are good so I expect that will offset losing Hamilton if they all perform as well as they can

German Pens Fan
German Pens Fan
1 month ago

Here we go, I have two predictions for the Metro.

My heart and the Bourbon I had earlier says :

1) Bunch of Jerks
2) Pens
3) Rangers
4) Islanders
5) Caps
6) Devils
7) Flyers
8) Blue Jackets

My head and sober self would say :

1) Bunch of Jerks
2) Caps
3) Islanders
4) Pens
5) Flyers
6) Rangers
7) Devils
8) Blue Jackets

Peter Hoffman
Peter Hoffman
1 month ago

All I know is that so far Pens management is on the right track by not signing 71 and 58. It is a “show me” year. Make the second round or take huge pay cuts so we can sign some guys next summer!

Katz
Katz
1 month ago

Please save this post ;

1) Sprong scores at least 20 goals with Washington . And Simon sticks initially with the Penguins and when Crosby returns he gets minutes with 87. Sullivan is predictably stubborn

D1VE is Dumb
D1VE is Dumb
1 month ago

Also, save this post:
Katz rants over and over all season long about the Penguins needing to trade Letang and Malkin, and fire Sullivan.
I also predict that after wins he will utter some nonsense about the regular season not mattering and that it is all about the post season.

Katz
Katz
1 month ago
Reply to  D1VE is Dumb

Sho me where I said to trade Letang? As for Malkin I said they missed their window of opportunity , in hindsight I was 100% correct. 3 First Round losses since. As for Sullivan I didn’t say to Fire him I said his stubbornness will now be exposed and a losing season with acrimony will cause his leaving. He’ll be hknd in my opinion. And yes I always say in the NHL it’s all about the playoffs.

Last edited 1 month ago by Katz
Rob
Rob
1 month ago
Reply to  Katz

Lets say they did trade malkin 3 years ago. Do you really think they make it out of the first round without a #2 center?

Rob
Rob
1 month ago
Reply to  Katz

Actually, they probably miss the playoffs for the last 3 years if Malkin were traded. So the playoffs wouldn’t matter.

Rob
Rob
1 month ago
Reply to  D1VE is Dumb

He is a prophet. You should listen to what he says.

D1VE is Dumb
D1VE is Dumb
1 month ago
Reply to  Rob

I am not sure how Katz thinks you get to play in the playoffs if you are terrible in the regular season??

Katz
Katz
1 month ago
Reply to  D1VE is Dumb

They won’t make the playoffs this season. And they might as well have not showed up two of the last three. Wake up. D1VE . We’ve enjoyed greatness since Lemieux arrived. I’ve been there for Badger Bob and Scotty Bowman. Heck I was there for Johnny Wilson. I recall when the organization had ONE player in its Farm system. …Jimmy Hamilton! Unless Jarry is out of his mind good , this is a season for bumping rock bottom . They are ver small , light, and not so fast . Their Coach is ideal for the Olympics is stubborn and… Read more »

Evgeni Hulkin
Evgeni Hulkin
1 month ago

Or we win the division again cause we’re better at hockey than everyone else, it’s anyone’s guess

Rob
Rob
1 month ago

Its impossible to predict standings but fun to try. I don’t like fun, or trying. Hockey is unpredictable. I expected the penguins to miss the playoffs last year, a lot of people said that especially after injuries piled up. I am not going to think that again. They won the toughest division in hockey, then lost to an inferior Islanders team in the playoffs because the top line couldn’t score and Jarrys head was floating in outer space somewhere. What happens this season is anyone’s guess. I give up. 🤷‍♂️ PS: Dominik Simon beats out McDavid for the scoring title… Read more »

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