In recent years, the Metropolitan Division has been one of, if not the best, divisions in the NHL. In terms of parity, no other division has matched the quality of hockey across the board. This trend has continued with the Islanders shifting around the standings several times already this season. They currently find themselves in the first wildcard spot (4th in division) with a 17-12-1 record and 35 points.
The Islanders have not been able to end a season at the top of the division despite solid play for most of the past 5 years, including two Eastern Conference Finals appearances. The last time they won their division was the 1987-88 season when they played in the Patrick Division, finishing with 88 points in 80 games. However, at the end of the first Trotz season in 2018-19, the Isles did finish 2nd behind Pittsburgh with only 1 less point (103 to PIT’s 104).
The Islanders have a 7-3 record against division opponents thus far, losing games to NJ, Philly, and Carolina. Having also beaten those three teams, we are left with some confidence in terms of playoff matchups. We have yet to play Pittsburgh or Washington, however. The Isles will face off against PIT on Dec. 27th, and WAS on Jan. 16th, both at home.
The Metro is currently dominated by the New Jersey Devils (I still can’t believe it) with 44 points, followed by a tight race between Carolina (38 pts), Pittsburgh (38 pts), Rangers (T-35 pts), and the Capitals (34 pts). There is then a pretty significant drop-off to Philly and Columbus with 25 and 22 pts respectively. Ideally, these are two teams we can count on not worrying about for the rest of the season, but it is still too early to dismiss any team completely. The Atlantic division is top-heavy, but the middle-of-the-pack teams in Detroit, Florida, and Montreal still remain a threat to a possible wildcard spot for the Islanders. Buffalo is in the mix, but they may fall back with Ottawa as the season progresses.
The upcoming schedule is not going to be a light one for the boys, despite facing off with Arizona next. We lost to them previously in an incredibly physical game, so we don’t expect an easy night there. After a trip to the desert to play ARI, VGK, and COL, the Isles have a few games back in NY before heading to the west coast, then returning to play 5 of the next 6 at UBS.
Every team in the metropolitan division plays tonight, Dec. 15th, except the Islanders. The standings will remain tight for at least the coming weeks, and likely for most of the season, but the hope is that the Islanders will separate themselves from mediocre teams by the all-star break. This team has proven they can play with the best, what remains now is proving that they can do it consistently throughout their 50th anniversary season.