The NHL season is a long one, and it sometimes helps to take a minute to step back and analyze different teams’ performances on the year. With the halfway point fast approaching, there is no better time to look at all that’s good and all that’s bad for the teams in the Metropolitan Division.
Washington Capitals: (39 GP; 24-12-3)
The Good: The defending Stanley Cup Champions are currently sitting at first in the Metro and sixth in the entire league. The team has been thriving off tremendous offensive output from Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom, as well as from its defense, led by the play of John Carlson.
The Bad: The Achilles heel for the Caps is their poor job on the penalty kill. Sitting at 22nd in the league, the team kills just 77.3% of penalties against. Similarly, while it’s probably not something to worry about, starting goaltender Braden Holtby has looked pedestrian so far this season, sporting a GAA of just under 3 and a save percentage of only .910%.
Pittsburgh Penguins: (40 GP; 22-12-6)
The Good: The Penguins seemed mortal early in the season, but as of late have been a force to be reckoned with, sporting a top-5 percent rate on both penalty kill and powerplay, as well as benefiting from a surging Matt Murray. While Murray struggled mightily early in the year, he has won every game since his return from injury, leading the Penguins to a seven-game win streak.
The Bad: The word of the day for the Pens is consistency. While they have been surging recently, Pittsburgh has seemingly struggled to win with any regularity, and if Matt Murray regresses to his form from earlier in the season, young standout goaltender Casey DeSmith may find himself with a much greater workload.
Columbus Blue Jackets: (39 GP; 23-13-3)
The Good: Columbus has a lot going for them now, benefiting greatly from a contract year from Artemi Panarin, who has put up an impressive 43 points so far this season. Cam Atkinson has looked impressive as well, putting up 42 points.
The Bad: The biggest issue for this season for Columbus is the powerplay, which sits at a paltry 13.2%, good for just 30th in the league. However, greater than that, Columbus looks to the future with great uncertainty. Both Vezina-winning goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky and forward Artemi Panarin are on expiring contracts, and it seems somewhat unlikely that either or both re-sign with the team. Either one may potentially be moved at the deadline if Columbus doesn’t see themselves making a deep run in the playoffs.
New York Islanders: (39 GP; 22-13-4)
The Good: Despite the departure of former star John Tavares this past offseason, the Isles sit just a point back from third in the division this year. Aided greatly by a surging Mat Barzal and terrific goaltending from Thomas Greiss and Robin Lehner, the team seems to be flourishing under new head coach Barry Trotz
The Bad: The Isles have struggled mightily on special teams, being near the bottom of the league in both powerplay and penalty kill. Despite this, the squad is one to watch in the second half.
New York Rangers: (39 GP; 17-15-7)
The Good: The Rangers are a rebuilding team, so despite minimal success this season, several young stars, such as Brady Skjei and Filip Chytil, seem ripe to emerge.
The Bad: The team is performing poorly due in part to a Mats Zuccarello’s inability to stay healthy this season. Similarly, despite some success this season, long-time goalie Henrik Lundqvist is slowing down, sporting a relatively low .911% save percentage.
Carolina Hurricanes: (39 GP; 17-17-5)
The Good: Sebastian Aho is having a career year thus far, garnering 41 points thus far. Along with this, young forward Teuvo Teravainen has 32 points in his 39 games played. Curtis McElhinney, a waiver claim from Toronto, has looked outstanding in his starts so far this season, sporting a .924% save percentage.
The Bad: The Hurricanes offense is run almost entirely through Sebastian Aho. The team lacks much depth scoring beyond the top two scorers on the team, which has led to a low powerplay percentage for the team thus far this season.
New Jersey Devils: (39 GP; 15-17-7)
The Good: Rookie goaltender Mackenzie Blackwood has looked outstanding in his few games played since being called up to replace the injured Cory Schneider. With a .954% save percentage in his five games played, the goaltender shows a lot of promise moving forward. In addition, the Devils penalty kill is third-best in the league, killing off 84.4% of them.
The Bad: Taylor Hall, while impressive thus far this season, has not remotely touched his Hart-caliber season of last year. Beyond this, the team has struggled in net, with Cory Schneider failing to win a game in over a calendar year, and Keith Kinkaid being streaky at best.
Philadelphia Flyers: (40 GP; 15-20-5)
The Good: Claude Giroux is copying his incredible season from last year, putting up an impressive 46 points so far this year.
The Bad: Just about everything else. The team is raked with turmoil from coaching and GM changes, to having some of the worst special teams in the league on all fronts. Young talents Ivan Provorov, Shayne Gostisbehere, and Travis Konecny have been regressing, while other talents like Travis Sanheim and Nolan Patrick seem to be struggling to find their footing. In goal, the team has been raked by injury and poor play, even resorting to calling up rookie Carter Hart, who has been wildly inconsistent in his limited starts. The team has claimed goalie Mike McKenna off waivers to serve as a backup to Hart moving forward, a move akin to fixing a fault line with scotch tape. Something needs to change in Philadelphia if the team is to live up to its postseason ambitions.
Collin has been a lifelong hockey and sports fan rooting on Philadelphia for as long as he can remember. He is currently enrolled at the University of Maryland, College Park studying communications.