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The Metropolitan Division has some great potential this season. Between historically great teams like the Rangers and the Penguins, the teams at the top of this division will provide intense competition come playoff season.
The Pittsburgh Penguins have been a recent powerhouse in the league and look to continue their dominance. They made the playoffs on a Wild Card seed before falling to the Rangers in 5 games. This season, they are poised to make a stronger run with the addition of sniper Phil Kessel to their already potent offense in addition to the development of defensemen Pouliot and Matta. We project the Penguins to be 2nd in the Metropolitan Division.
The New York Rangers were the strongest team in the regular season last year, winning 53 games before losing to the Lightning in 7 games in the Conference Finals. Their strength lies with the young offensive core of Nash, Stepan, Zuccarello, and Brassard. In addition, the Rangers have Henrik Lundqvist, one of the best goalies in the league. The question this year is if Lundqvist can sustain his elite play as he ages. This is a great time to be a Rangers fan, and we see them making 1st in the Metropolitan Division.
The New York Islanders are developing into a very competitive team after a long dry spell without playoff appearances. Last season they finished 3rd in the Metropolitan Division before losing to the Capitals in first round. The positives for the Islanders this season include Tavares, alongside young players such as Strome, Nelson, and Anders Lee. The Islanders also have a solid defensive core centered about Leddy and Boychuck. As long as the defensive prospects such as Pulock and Mayfield step in, the season looks good for New York. We see them 5th in Metropolitan division and the 2nd Wild Card.
The Washington Capitals last season finished 2nd in the Metropolitan Division, and lost to Rangers in the second round in 7. The Capitals look to make it further in the Stanley Cup Finals this year, and their odds are better with the acquisitions of Oshie and Williams to boost their offense, while still having Holtby, Backstrom, and Ovechkin to continue their solid play. Hopefully Burakovsky and Kuznetzov can build on their solid rookie years; the Caps can also determine a strong back up goalie between Grubauer or Peters. Look for them 4th in the Metropolitan Division and entering the playoffs as the first wild card.
The Philadelphia Flyers finished last season with a record of 33-31-18, netting them 6th in the Metropolitan Division. Although the Flyers can rely on the elite offensive duo of Giroux and Voracek and look to their new coach Hakstol, the success of the Flyers will depend on how the aging defense can perform this year and if goalie Mason can maintain consistenc. We see them finishing 7th in the Metropolitan Division and missing the playoffs.
The New Jersey Devils were not up to playoff standards last year, finishing with a below-500 record and 7th in the Metropolitan Division. Devils fans, however, can look forward to potential star Zacha, who was drafted 6th overall in the 2015 draft. They can also continue to rely on elite goaltender Schneider. For the Devils to win, they need to adjust to the regime changes in their new coach and general manager. We see them finishing 6th in the Metropolitan Division.
The Columbus Blue Jackets have the potential to become an elite team; however, they need to perform stronger at home (they went 19-20-2 at home last year) and they need someone to lead a shallow defensive lineup. The Blue Jackets acquired Saad from the Blackhawks, who, along with Foligno and Johansen, should give the Blue Jackets a much-needed infusion of offense. Also, look out for prospect Milano and Bjorkstrand who has high expectations this year. Bobrovsky also needs to stay consistent in net for the Blue Jackets to do well. We see the Blue Jackets achieving 4h in the Metropolitan Division this season.
Carolina did not perform very well last season, finishing with only 30 wins and falling to 26th overall in the league. They still have some positives, such as Hanifin, the Staal brothers, Faulk, and Lindholm, but the Hurricanes do not have enough in the scoring department, and Cam Ward is starting to show chinks in his armor in net. Carolina should hope to improve into a playoff-caliber team this year, but we don’t think that will happen quite yet. We see them finishing 8th in the Metropolitan Division.
Austin Petronack, CSN Staff
Josh Mehr, Contributor