Football is going strong in week five, baseball is in the playoffs, and excitement is brewing for the best time of the sports calendar… that said, all I can think about is hockey. Here’s our first preview of the season… my personal favorite, the former Atlantic, the Metropolitan division.
2014 NHL Predictions: Metropolitan Division Preview
The Pittsburgh Penguins dumped one of their big three, the New York Rangers lost a ton of depth, the Philadelphia Flyers are again relying on Steve Mason to have career-best success, and my New Jersey Devils added a bunch of key pieces. Hell, even the New York Islanders have a goalie. It’s going to be a fun 2014 NHL season, so let’s get out divisional previews rolling with the Metropolitan division.
1. New York Rangers (101 points) – I think they’ve turned a corner in terms of sustainable success. They lost some cap hit players but nothing too important to their general scheme. They’ve got arguably the best goaltender in the division, and I think they’ll avoid a Stanley Cup runner up hangover. New York, to me, appears to be the class of this parity-riddled division.
2. Pittsburgh Penguins (98 points) – They let go of James Neal and both Sydney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin are banged up to start the season. Goaltending issues did them in again, while the defense got a little weaker this offseason. When you have Malkin and Crosby you’re going to win hockey games, but I think the Pens took a big step back coming into this season.
3. New Jersey Devils (93 points) – I do this every year and get accused of favoritism, but why not? Even if we’re a little off, we crushed the 82 points projection from Vegas last year and made our money with ease. I think the Devils can easily be a playoff team this year. Cory Schneider is an elite goaltender, chip on his shoulder in a starting role and ready to prove himself. The defense is an exciting fusion of young talent and veteran leadership. Offensively, the Devils added some depth and Adam Henrique seems poised for a breakout season. This team reminds me of those old Stanley Cup teams from a decade ago, and I think that depth will prove invaluable this season. The rest of this division is very good, but is anyone truly great? The Devils are my pick to shuffle up the divisional standings this year.
4. Columbus Blue Jackets (93 points) – I think this division is going to be incredibly tight. Columbus has the goaltending to beat anyone, while their young talent is turning into seasoned leadership. These guys are tough, can score, and most importantly, they can shut down anyone. If Sergei Bobrovsky continues playing the way he has over the last two years, the Jackets can be a playoff team again.
5. New York Islanders (92 points) – The New York Islanders finally have a goalie! Gone are the lingering memories of Rick DiPietro. Gone are the 8-7 losses to Pittsburgh. Gone are the low expectations of a team playing in half a hockey rink on Long Island. I’ve got the Islanders really achieving this year, and maybe making a run at the playoffs.
6. Philadelphia Flyers (90 points) – I don’t believe in Steve Mason, last season aside. The Flyers defense continues to be suspect, and I think he’s in for a mediocre year after carrying the Flyers into playoff relevance last year. I don’t think Giroux is a good leader, and losing Scottie Hartnell hurt this team. I’ve got tempered expectations for one of the most consistent teams in hockey over the last ten years.
7. Washington Capitals (87 points) – Expecting Alexander Ovechkin to carry this team is getting old. I don’t think the Capitals have done enough to contend in one of the most loaded divisions in hockey. They’ll settle in, continue complaining to the media, and continue to be mediocre. In it til the end, I see the Caps falling short.
8. Carolina Hurricanes (81 points) – There’s a controversial platoon brewing here that I think might take some time to figure out. Meanwhile, their -23 goal differential a year ago and 230 goals allowed has be questioning whether it will matter who is between the pipes. The Canes have slipped from perpetual mediocrity to the basement of a very competitive division.
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