We’re nearly at the all-star break and if you take one quick glimpse of the standings, you might be surprised to see the metro representation at the top.
Washington isn’t too surprising considering Ovi is still doing Ovi things and they’ve got arguably the Norris front runner in John Carlson. Carolina is looking equally as scary as last year when they made the conference finals, although the loss of Dougie Hamilton hurts a lot considering he might have been the primary challenger of Carlson for the Norris this year. Additionally, the Islanders are still a defensive nightmare and look like their headed to another playoff appearance on the backs of great goaltending and brilliant coaching from Barry Trotz.
Of all these Metro teams, Columbus is pretty damn surprising, especially when you look at how much they lost in terms of player assets this off-season. While Bobrovsky has been nothing short of terrible this year thus far for the Panthers, there’s no doubt he was a force during his time with the Jackets. The Panarin departure is even more impactful, especially when you look at how he’s playing a massive role in helping the Rangers (yet another Metro team) look like a potential bubble team. Losing Duchene definitely doesn’t help either, considering he’s still got a respectable 31 points in 44 games on a disappointing Nashville team.
So how are the Jackets doing it? Well first of all, they’ve got two absolute studs on defense named Seth Jones and Zach Werenski. Both guys are in the top 20 in the league in terms of time on ice per game, and they’re playing a huge part in making the Blue Jackets the 2nd ranked team in goals against. Let’s not forget about Joonas Korpisalo and Elvis Merzlikins either who, just like the spelling of their names, have been some of the hardest goaltenders to figure out this year.
Pittsburgh somehow maintained a top 5 position in the league without Sidney Crosby in the lineup and look like a serious threat in the East with contributions throughout their whole lineup and big-time performances from under-the-radar guys like Bryan Rust, Tristan Jarry and John Marino. Their cross-state rival Philadelphia Flyers also look pretty damn scary now that they’re getting some adequate goaltending. Some of their recent additions are finally starting to show up and they’re looking like a serious threat, especially when you consider they’ve beaten the top 4 teams in the NHL over the last fortnight.
The Rangers have been exciting to watch to say the least, with superstar Artemi Panarin shouldering a ton of the load and they’ve been getting a few surprising performances from guys like Ryan Strome and Tony DeAngelo. While they likely won’t factor into the playoff picture this year, you can guarantee that there won’t be any easy Ws with the Rangers in town. The Devils can pretty much be forgotten at this point in the season, considering they’ve practically showed their cards by firing both their head coach and GM and trading away their only superstar in Taylor Hall.
So, what can we take away from the fact that 6/8 Metro teams are represented in the NHL standings top 10? Well, this playoff race is going to be an absolute bloodbath. A couple of these teams look like surefire contenders, but the rest of the pack are going to be neck and neck until the last day of the regular season. Whether it’s a fight for divisional positioning or just a shot at a wild card spot, every point is crucial for each of these teams and we can certainly look forward to some hard-fought hockey, regardless of opponent.