by PuckStopsHere on 10/02/13 at 01:01 AM ET
The name of this division is silly. It is probably the worst named division I have ever heard of in any sport. Nevertheless the NHL has given us a Metropolitan Division. The rest of the NHL names are geographic. I guess they think the Metropolitan area ranges from Ohio to New York to North Carolina. That's not any geography I have ever heard of.
I am aware that my predictions come a bit after the start of the season, but it is too early to identify any meaningful trends that will change my predictions at all.
Here are my predictions for the Metropolitan Division:
1. Pittsburgh Penguins - The most talented club in the division is led by Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, James Neal, Chris Kunitz, Kris Letang and Paul Martin. Their weakness is goaltending. Marc-Andre Fleury has fallen on hard times, but he has been a good enough goalie to have success behind a talented team. Tomas Vokoun is aging and suffering from blood clots, but he could be the solution to any goaltending problems when he becomes ready.
2. New York Rangers - Henrik Lundqvist in goal is enough to make this team compete. Their biggest name forwards in Brad Richards and Rick Nash are not coming off their best seasons of their careers, but they should be solid. Derek Stepan and Ryan Callahan are also solid forwards. Marc Staal and Ryan McDonagh are solid defencemen. I don't think they have the talent to beat the Penguins, but with strong goaltending they will give them a race.
3. New Jersey Devils - This team was a strong puck possession team last year that struggled in goal. They have added a solid goalie in Cory Schneider and that should help solve that problem. Patrik Elias and Travis Zajac are solid two-way forwards to lead their offence. Marek Zidlicky is their top offensive defenceman and Andy Greene leads them defensively. Adam Larsson is likely ready to make a big step forward at defence as well.
4. Washington Capitals - This team has some outstanding frontline talent in Alexander Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom and Mike Green. That group hasn't been able lead this team to a top season in a few years. The problem is Braden Holtby and Michal Neuvirth have not stepped forward as top goaltenders. There isn't much depth at forward. After Ovechkin and Backstrom, Troy Brouwer is their top scorer.
5. Carolina Hurricanes - If Eric Staal is healthy, he will join a pretty good group of forwards alongside Jeff Skinner and Alexander Semin. Cam Ward returns from injury to solidify the team in goal. The problem is defence. Justin Faulk may be the best healthy player on their defence and that shouldn't scare any offences.
6. New York Islanders - John Tavares is one of the better players in the NHL. Matt Moulson and Frans Nielsen provide depth. Travis Hamonic and Lubomir Visnovsky will provide some slid defence. Evgeni Nabokov is getting old (he's 38) but he has played well in past years. Imagine what Tavares could do if he was surrounded by top level talent. I think he is enough to keep this group out of the cellar.
7. Philadelphia Flyers - Claude Giroux is almost as good as Tavares and he has some solid forward depth in Jakub Voracek and Wayne Simmonds. Kimmo Timonen leads their defence but at age 38 it is hard not to expect he falls off a bit. The real weakness is in goal. It is hard to believe that Ray Emery and Steve Mason can steal many games. There should be a weakness keeping the puck out of the net.
8. Columbus Blue Jackets - This prediction says that I am not sold on Sergei Bobrovsky. He may have won the Vezina Trophy with a strong run in a shortened season but I don't think he can repeat. If he doesn't this team is in trouble. Fedor Tyutin is their top defenceman. Jack Johnson will score but he isn't very good in his own zone. Marian Gaborik is probably the only proven scorer here, but he has defensive lapses. Brandon Dubinsky may be the most reliable two-way player on the team. I think last year's playoff berth was a fluke.
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