The National Hockey League’s regular season is now well underway, and local New York area teams are having tough starts in the new Metropolitan Division.
The Metropolitan Division features five teams from the old Atlantic division, the New York Rangers, New York Islanders, New Jersey Devils, Philadelphia Flyers and the Pittsburgh Penguins, as well as the Washington Capitals and the Carolina Hurricanes, of the former Southeast division.
The Penguins, Rangers and Capitals are the only teams in the division with a record over .500, making the Metropolitan the weakest division in the NHL so far. In total, the eight teams combine for 139 points.
“Playoffs are definitely feasible this year for the Flyers. The Metropolitan is so weak so they did not lose much ground after a rough start to the season,” said Kevin Wilson, a senior and Flyers fan.
Comparatively, the eight teams in the new Atlantic Division have combined for 153 points. The two Western Conference divisions, the Central and Pacific’s teams have totaled 161 and 158 points respectively, despite having only seven teams each.
In fact, the Dallas Stars and Nashville Predators are tied for last in the Central Division with 18 points, the same amount as the Rangers, who are third place in the Metropolitan Division.
The Rangers, Devils and Flyers all started the season poorly. After a nine-game road trip to start the season, due to renovations on Madison Square Garden, the Rangers found themselves with a 3-6 record under new head coach Alain Vigneault, including losses to the Devils and Flyers.
“The season started pretty bad because it took time for the team to adjust from a defensive to an offensive system,” said Mike Chiaffarelli, a senior and a Rangers fan. “He proved he was a good coach in Vancouver and hopefully he can take the rangers that far or farther.”
The Devils lost eight of nine games to start the season for a 1-5-3 record, with their lone win in a 4-0 blasting of the Rangers.
The Flyers started with a 2-7 record, with wins coming against the Rangers and the Florida Panthers.
Both the Rangers and the Devils seem to have picked up their play since the season’s initial stretch. After the season opening road trip, the Rangers won six of their next eight games, moving them into the third and final playoff spot in the Metropolitan.
The Devils have won five of nine since the first nine games to improve to 6-7-5, earning an extra point in shootout losses to the Vancouver Canucks and Toronto Maple Leafs.
On Tuesday, the Devils defeated the Rangers for the second time this season in a 4-3 contest at Madison Square Garden.
“Its Early in the season so it doesn’t matter too much. It would be nice to have bragging rights over a rival but there’s a lot more hockey to be played,” Chiaffarelli said.
Meanwhile the Flyers continue to struggle under new head coach Craig Berube, who replaced Peter Laviolette after he was fired three games into the season. The Flyers are tied for last in the Metropolitan with the Columbus Blue Jackets at 6-10-1.
“A move needed to be made to light a fire under the guys,” Wilson said. “Laviolette was a great coach and will have a job in the NHL real soon.”
After reaching the post-season for the first time since 2007, the Islanders saw themselves as high as second place in the Metropolitan during October, but improved play of other divisional rivals and four straight losses in November caused the Islanders to drop to sixth in the Metropolitan with a 7-9-3 record.
It may be too early to think about the playoffs, but the teams in the Metropolitan Division will keep in mind that the final two wild card playoff spots will go to the two teams in conference with the best records outside of the top three in each division.
The Penguins lead the division with 22 points, closely followed by the Capitals with 21 and the Rangers with 18 for the three secure Metropolitan playoff spots.
Currently both wild cards would go to teams in the Atlantic, so unless the Metropolitan Division drastically improves as a whole, it is likely that only three teams from the new division will make the playoffs.