2018 NHL Season Preview & Predictions: Metropolitan Division
The Metropolitan Division has produced the last three winners of Lord Stanley’s Cup. 2016 and 2017 the Pittsburgh Penguins won back to back. The Washington Capitals rose to the top in 2018 to win the organization’s first Stanley Cup. Can the Metropolitan Division return to the highs of hoisting the championship at season’s end?
The Hurricanes finished sixth last season in the division and will look to build off of that, as they have yet to reach the playoffs since the conference realignment in 2013. The Hurricanes won the Stanley Cup way back when in 2006, but haven’t come anywhere close since. Longtime goalie Cam Ward is gone, so Carolina will go with the pair of Scott Darling and Petr Mrazek in the net this season. The Hurricanes sit at +1000 odds of winning the Metropolitan Divison. That puts them mid-pack in about 5th in the Divison. All they can do is build on what is one of the many struggling franchises in the NHL.
Columbus Blue Jackets
The Blue Jackets finished fourth last season in the division, which also included a playoff birth for the Blue Jackets. They fell to the eventual Stanley Cup Champions Washington Capitals, after earning the number one Wild Card spot in the Eastern Conference playoffs. They were able to win two games over Washington but ultimately fell in six games. They were able to collect 97 points last season and will have to reach that point again if they want to make a return trip to the playoffs. Columbus is in a situation with the looming Free Agency of franchise goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky and star winger Artemi Panarin, that could very well regress if they aren’t able to bring those two back. Columbus sits at the third best odds to win the Metropolitan Division at +600. They also sit at +240 chances of missing the playoffs. It goes or it’s no go for this organization.
New York Islanders
The Islanders look like they are set to battle their city rival the New York Rangers for the bottom of the division. They finished second to last a season ago. They were able to hit the 80 point mark, but are still far from a playoff contention. The Islanders last went to the playoffs in the 2015-16 season. New York figures to be one of the worst teams in the league for the foreseeable future and have pretty good odds this season to not reach that 80 point-mark at -105. They also sit with the worst chances of winning the division and are by far the longshot to win it at +1800.
New York Rangers
The Rangers sit much like their rival the Islanders, they finished dead last in the Metropolitan Division last season and only managed 77 points. This was the first playoff miss for the Rangers after making it as far as the Stanley Cup Finals in 2013-14. They had three straight seasons of over 100 points, and have taken a big turn back as a team. They are in a complete rebuild these days and have a long road ahead of them if they want to return to where they were only two seasons ago. They have solid odds to reach their season predicted points total at -130. Goalie Henrik Lundquist is nearing the end of his solid career but still has the ability to keep them in games, to reach that 75 point plateau. They have a long way to go with odds at +1600 to win the Metropolitan division.
New Jersey Devils
The New Jersey Devils snuck their way into the playoffs last season as the final wild-card spot only to fall to Tampa Bay Lightning in round one four games to one. The Devils has 97 points last season and will look to reach that mark again in their quest to return to the Stanley Cup playoffs. That was their first playoff birth in five years. Their last trip prior to last season, they fell in the Stanley Cup Finals to Los Angeles. They have good chance to return to playoffs for the second consecutive year with odds at -105. They, however, have worse odds than the Carolina Hurricanes to win the Metropolitan Division at +1400.
Last season’s shocker was by far the Philadelphia Flyers, who went from no shot at the playoffs to third in the Metropolitan Division, and a playoff birth. Their playoff trip ended in the opening road where lost to the Pittsburgh Penguins in six games. They reached 98 points last season, and are looking to make a return to the playoffs. Captain Claude Giroux had a solid performance last reaching 102 points. He will look to hit that mark again and has good odds of doing so at -140 to reach at least 82.5 points. The Flyers Metropolitan Division chances are at +600, which puts them tied with the Blue Jackets chances of winning the division.
The team with the best chances of knocking off the defending Stanley Cup champions the Capitals. The Penguins are well accustomed to the Stanley Cup playoffs, as they have won two of the last three Championships. The Penguins finished 2017-18 second in the division with 100 points. Pittsburgh fell to the Capitals in the second round of the playoffs. Their chances at once again reaching the Stanley Cup Finals are high when you still have elite players Evgeni Malkin and Sydney Crosby. Matt Murray will have to return to how well he performed his first two seasons if the Penguins want to dethrone Washington. They have a ways to go with odds at +550 to win the Eastern Conference but do sit at the best odds to win the Metropolitan Division at +180.
The Washington Capitals reached the highest point any team in the NHL can. They captured the organizations first Stanley Cup in history. They marched through the Columbus Blue Jackets, Pittsburgh Penguins, Tampa Bay Lightning, and the Vegas Golden Knights to win the Cup. To return to that stage they will have to deal with Penguins once again. Captain Alex Ovechkin was a major part of the team winning it all. He has led the league in goals five of the last six seasons and shows no signs of stopping. He has another chance at claiming another Rocket Richard Trophy with odds at +550. The Capitals are eying their fourth straight Metropolitan Division title, and with odds at +240, they are near the top in the division.
Who wins it?
It’s going to come down to the two most successful teams in the division and that’s the Penguins and Capitals. The Capitals to repeat as Metropolitan Division Champions is a good pick, and their chances at returning to the Stanley cup look good as well. It’s the Capitals and Penguins Division to lose.