Metro Division Power Rankings: A New Leader, and The Blue Jackets Are Still In the Upper Echelon

By Jeff Svoboda on October 30, 2017 at 1:45 pm
The Devils and Penguins continue to battle
Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

David Puddy once famously painted his face to cheer on the New Jersey Devils. 

The team could use that kind of fan support right now.

Despite leading the Metropolitan Division with an 8-2 record after 10 games, the Devils are 27th in the NHL in attendance with an average of 14,404 fans going through the Prudential Center turnstiles.

What they're missing is a first-place team with some intriguing young talent. But is it the top team in our Metro Division power rankings this week?

1. New Jersey Devils (8-2-0, 16 points, LW: 2): When I originally wrote these rankings, I had New Jersey at No. 2, but Pittsburgh's blowout loss Sunday night changed that (we'll get to that in a second). For the time being, though, the Devils just keep on ticking, winning both ends of a back-to-back this weekend vs. Ottawa and Arizona. Former Blue Jacket Brian Gibbons scored in each game, Taylor Hall had a pair of goals vs. Arizona, and Jesper Bratt had a strong week with a tally vs. the Coyotes and the shootout winner against the Senators. A week-long trip out west to Vancouver, Edmonton and Calgary will test the Devils. Signs regression could be coming: The team is being outshot by an average of 30.1-34.2 each game, advanced stats suggest the team has been more average than great, and the power play can't keep humming at 27.5 percent.

2. Pittsburgh Penguins (7-5-1, 15 points, LW: 1): Last week I wrote about why Pittsburgh should stay No. 1, and I was prepared to do the same this week. Then Pittsburgh was blown out Sunday night, taking a 7-1 punch to the face from Winnipeg that included a five-goal outburst in the first period from the Jets. It's the third time in 13 games the Pens have been beaten by at least six goals, and that has to be concerning. It had appeared the Penguins had righted the ship defensively last week, giving up a total of four goals in three games in overtime wins over Edmonton and Winnipeg and a loss vs. Minnesota. Then came Sunday's game, in which Matt Murray was pulled for Casey DeSmith, who was rudely greeted with an immediate goal on his first career shot against. The team has to do something about its goaltending situation, it seems, after the jettison of backup Antti Niemi; Murray can't be tasked with carrying the load all season. The Pens have won two straight Cups so it's far too early to panic, but there are some concerning signs.

3. Columbus Blue Jackets (7-4-0, 14 points, LW: 3): It was a solid 2-1 week for the Jackets, though you could argue the team didn't play great in wins vs. Buffalo and Winnipeg at home before a Saturday loss at St. Louis. The Jackets turned it on vs. the Sabres after some up-and-down minutes in the first half, and the win vs. the Jets was far short of a perfect game. But as head coach John Tortorella said, you have to win games like that, and the Jackets did. Most worrying might be the injury to Cam Atkinson, but there are also signs the team is playing better than its record, including a 36.8-31.0 average shots edge per game.

4. Philadelphia Flyers (6-5-0, 12 points, LW: 4): We're reaching the mushy middle of the conference to this point, and I'll keep the Flyers here despite a 1-2 week as the team still has the best goal differential of the teams in this general area. Philly had a weird week, giving up 11 combined goals in losses to Anaheim and Ottawa before a 4-2 victory vs. high-flying Toronto. Rookie center Nolan Patrick, the No. 2 pick in last year's draft, is also out with an upper-body industry. Jakub Voracek keeps racking up the points, with 14 helpers (second in the league to the red-hot Steven Stamkos) and 16 total points in 11 games. He also had this great moment with a Leafs fan Saturday.

5. Washington Capitals (5-6-1, 11 points, LW: 5): There's not a ton of reason for me to stick with the Caps in the No. 5 spot other than I think there's just more potential here than in Carolina or New York (either of them). Obviously, the Caps' track record is well known with two straight Presidents' Trophy wins, and there are still such players as Alex Ovechkin, Niklas Backstrom and Braden Holtby there. Still, the penalty kill has been abysmal (76.5 percent) and the team has been pretty strongly outshot thus far, and the team's depth (which I keep harping on) ain't what it used to be. Ovechkin has 10 goals and T.J. Oshie six, but after that no one has more than three tallies. The salary cap surgery this team had to have after last season is having an impact.

6. New York Islanders (6-4-1, 13 points, LW: 7): The Isles move up for the second week in a row after a 2-1 week that included Saturday's 6-2 thrashing of Nashville in which John Tavares recorded his second hat trick of the week to get to nine goals on the year. Anders Lee (six tallies) and Brock Nelson (five) have also chipped in with the scoring, which was my biggest concern about this Islanders team this year. If the team can stay in the playoff race, it'll be very interesting to see what happens with Tavares; it seems like the Isles can't afford to lose him in free agency this upcoming summer, but it would be hard to give him up if the team keeps itself in the thick of things.

7. Carolina Hurricanes (4-4-2, 10 points, LW: 6): I feel a bit bad for the Canes, but it's hard to know where to rank them considering how many fewer games the team has played compared to others in the division. So far, Carolina has been perfectly mediocre, with 24 goals for and 26 against. It's really fair to wonder where the forward scoring will come from for the Canes, who have seven goals from Jeff Skinner and no more than three from anyone else. It feels like a young player like Teuvo Teravainen (who has three tallies) or Sebastian Aho (no goals yet but four assists, plus he looked dangerous vs. the CBJ earlier this year) has to make a jump forward for this team to score enough. 

8. New York Rangers (3-7-2, 8 points, LW: 8): Oh boy. It's getting late early for the Rangers. Sure, this team could go on a run and win four in a row and be back at even, but we've learned in this league that it's really, really hard to climb in the standings if you've fallen too far back. And it's getting close to "too far back" at this point for the Rangers, who are coming off a 1-2 week that included a win vs. Arizona (everyone gets those right now) and losses to San Jose and fellow slow starter Montreal. The real problem has been the defense, as New York's 3.50 goals allowed per game is 25th in the NHL. Henrik Lundqvist is still allowing more than three goals per game, while Ondrej Pavalec has proved to be as mediocre as he was as a starter in Winnipeg. The turnaround has to come quickly here.