This article is going to change things up a bit.
It’s not only going to analyze the Penguins, but it’s going to analyze the entire division: the Metropolitan Division.
How good can the Metropolitan Division be this year? My answer: it’s going to be really good. Scary good. I think it will be NL Central-esque.
Let’s talk about the NL Central really quick for those of you that are not familiar with baseball. The NL Central, like the other divisions in baseball, contains 5 teams. Now, what is interesting about this division, which include Pittsburgh’s team, the Pirates, is that it includes the best 3 teams in the MLB. Not in just in the division, not just in the National League, but in the entire MLB.
The St. Louis Cardinals won the division winning 100 games, the Pirates came in at 2nd with a franchise-tying record 98 wins, and the Cubs were nipping at the Pirates heels ending with 97 wins. The Cubs, who came in 3rd place in the NL Central division, would have placed first in any other division in the MLB.
Currently, the NL Central has been talked about as one of the best divisions in MLB history, and with pretty good reasoning too.
So, why am I talking about baseball on a Penguins blog?! Well, because I think the Metropolitan Division may just be the NL Central of the NHL. There are just too many great teams. Let’s take a look at the teams in the Metropolitan Division:
Pittsburgh Penguins: The Penguins have, arguably, the strongest offense on paper in the NHL. They are rolling with 4 lines that can score, which is not a very common scheme in the NHL. But hey, when you have Crosby and Malkin on your team (and now Kessel for that matter), you may as well build a team that’s meant to score goals. The Penguins should be a huge threat offensively, and could very well win the division this year.
New York Islanders: The Islanders aren’t a joke any more. A few years ago, the Penguins would play the Islanders and the biggest question was “how many goals are the Penguins going to score?” Well, not any more. This Islanders team is dangerous. They are moving into a new arena, which will provide some sort of “hype” for this team. They finished last year 3rd in the division and finished tied for 3rd in the NHL with 252 goals. They will be looking for a division title this season to put in the rafters of the Barclays Center.
New York Rangers: So yeah, the Rangers lost Martin St. Louis, Carl Hagelin,and maybe a few other guys. But this team won the President’s trophy last year, and finished 3rd in the NHL in goals for and goals against. They have tons of speed on offense, and arguably one of the best defensive lineups in the NHL. And, well, future hall-of-famer Henrik Lundqvist. The Rangers could easily take this division once again.
Columbus Blue Jackets: Yeah, yeah. They didn’t make the playoffs last year. But keep in mind they were missing top center Ryan Johansen, goalie Sergei Bobrovsky, and others for significant amount of time. Towards the end of the season, the Blue Jackets finally got healthy, and they showed the NHL how dangerous they can be. They ended the season at a just ridiculous 16-2-1 clip, making an improbable push for the playoffs, although they fell just short. Also, they acquired Brandon Saad in the offseason to bolster the offense. Look out for CBJ.
Washington Capitals: Personally, I have the Capitals taking the division this year. Alex Ovechkin will undoubtedly take the Rocket Richard (that is, unless Phil Kessel challenges him for it). TJ Oshie will be on a line with Backstrom and Ovechkin, and he will absolutely benefit from it. They have a lot of young forwards and defensemen that are primed for great seasons, and a solid goalie in Braden Holtby. Many think he will be a Vezina candidate (best goalie in the NHL after the regular season), and even though I don’t think Holtby is in the Carey Price, Henrik Lundqvist category, he is a great goaltender behind a solid defense.
Now the question becomes: who the heck wins this division?! Yeah, I have the Caps winning the division, but you could make an argument for really any of these 5 teams in the Metropolitan to win the Division, and I would believe you 100%.
This division could be the NL Central of the NHL.
It is also notable that the Flyers, Hurricanes, and Devils are also in this division. The Flyers may have a decent season, but they will not finish in the top 5. The Hurricanes should improve slightly, but they will hardly be noticeable. And then the Devils, yeah, forget about them. They have some rebuilding to do.
The way the NHL playoff format is now set up (for those of you unfamiliar with it), is that the top 3 teams of each division make the playoffs. Looking at just the Eastern Conference, the top 3 teams from the Metropolitan Division and Atlantic Division make the playoffs. Then, there are 2 “wild card” teams. These teams are the 2 teams that finish with the most points outside of the top 3 teams in each division. These teams can come from either one division, or both divisions.
Don’e be surprised if the Metropolitan Division sends 5 teams to the playoffs.
Don’t be surprised if these 5 teams are near the top of the entire NHL standings.
Don’t be surprised to see another NL Central.
It could be one of the best divisions in NHL history.
As always, thank you to those who keep up with me! I appreciate your support, and I’m glad you share my interest for hockey and for the Penguins.
Only 2 articles remain: Tomorrow I’ll be writing about what went wrong last year, and Wednesday I’ll be writing about a very simple yet important aspect of hockey: shoot the puck!
And just in case you want to get pumped up a bit…