There is little debate about the makeup of the Eastern Conference playoffs. The Metro division will have five teams, while the Atlantic will have only three. The debate is, which five Metro teams will be playing games into April. Currently all eight teams sit within ten points of each other and within three of a playoff spot. Some may say this means that every team in the division is good. In reality, every team has its flaws. On this week’s PTIsles, State of The Isles podcast every call was ended with the same question; Will the Islanders make the playoffs? Nearly everyone gave an Islander centric answer. Everybody is rightfully worried about the Islanders, but not much consideration has been given to the competition. Many nights the Isles look like anything but a playoff caliber team. If we look at the rest of the division, the story is very similar. This division is full of mediocre teams who are playoff caliber but not much else. No matter how grim things look, everyone in the Metro is going through the same thing.
52 GP 30-17-5 65 Points +8 Goal differential.
Those numbers above are not the traditional numbers you would expect from the Washington Capitals, but so far, it’s still enough. A 5-6-1 October is in the rear-view mirror. The Caps are back, even if they are not reaching their usual heights, they have stood tall enough to be the favorites in the Metro again.
New Jersey Devils
51GP 27-16-8 61 points +4 Goal differentials.
This is the surprise team of the season so far. A 2-7-3 stretch from Christmas to the All-Star Break should have been enough to eliminate them from contention. They have followed that up with a three-game winning streak coming out of the break. All three of these games though, have come with Cory Schneider out of action. It is very difficult to believe Keith Kinkaid will continue his hot stretch of play, if Schneider is out long term. The other issue with the Devils is their lack of Regulation or Overtime Wins (ROW). They have three more overtime losses than do the Islanders which is a bulk of the point difference between the two clubs. They have only one more ROW victory than the Islanders.
54 GP 29-22-3 60 Points +1 Goal differential
The Pens are 10-4-0 since the ball dropped on 2018. After a few early blowouts, they also were able to get their goal differential back into the positives. This is a veteran team that looks like they are rounding into form. There will be five teams in the Metro to make the playoffs, the Pens look poised to be one of them.
Columbus Blue Jackets
52 GP 27-21-4 58 Points -12 Goal differential
We have reached the wild card section of the standings. Coming into the season, the Blue Jackets believed they were the type of team that was going to be competing with Pittsburgh and Washington but this season has been anything but. Most of their top players are having subpar years. Only Artemi Panarin and Seth Jones are averaging (significantly)more than half a point a game. As a team they are 27th in goals scored, while being only 10th in goals against. It would be difficult to expect Columbus to compete without scoring goals. They have a league leading six shootout wins which gives them the lowest ROW in the division. A good but not great year from Sergei Bobrovsky may not be enough for the Jackets.
52 GP 24-19-9 57 points 0 Goal differential
The Flyers are another team that has survived a long losing steak (10 games) to find themselves in the thick of the playoff hunt. A look at their record lets you know that they have fully taken advantage of three-point games. Their 28 loses ties for the most in the division, luckily nine of those losses were in overtime or a shootout. Outside of that the Flyers are truly a league average team. They are 15th in goals for and 14th in goals against. They do nothing extraordinary. This is the type of year and division a team like the Flyers can be successful.
New York Islanders
63 GP 26-22-5 57 points -17 Goal differential
It’s all or nothing with this team. They have scored the 3rd most goals in the league but have given up the most. Their ROW is 23.
52 GP 24-20-8 56 points -17 Goal differential
The Hurricanes seem to be the team that everyone forgets is in the playoff hunt. I’m unsure if they have even held a spot at any point in the season. They lack a true identity. They lead the league in shots per game but are only 23rd in goals scored. This tells me they don’t have enough talent up front (a look at their roster confirms this). They have a similar problem in goal. They give up the least amount of shots per game but have given up the 11th most goals in the league. They possess the puck, but don’t have the talent to make it worthwhile.
New York Rangers
52 GP 25-22-5 55 points -4 Goal differential
Reports are their 5-9-0, 2018 is enough for the Rangers to pack it in for the season. With limited assets the Rangers would be wise to accept that they are not in position to make a run this season. Their position in the standings warrant their mention today, but the same won’t be true in a few weeks.
So that is a quick look at the mediocre Metro division. Last season it took 95 points to make the playoffs. This year only Washington and New Jersey are playing at a pace that would eclipse that number. I don’t see how five teams get to 95 points. Every team is meeting in the middle. As disappointing as the Islanders have been since December 1st, taking a look around this division it is difficult to see how the Islanders don’t find a way to get into the top five of this division. If I had to guess today I would say that Washington plays New Jersey, Philadelphia crosses over to play Tampa and the Islanders play Pittsburgh. That leaves Columbus, Carolina and the Rangers on the outside looking in. .