Metropolitan Division Weekly: Ovechkin passes Hull on all-time goal list

Ovechkin passes Hull, goaltender performances, and a new New York Islander arena.

The Metropolitan has been one of the toughest divisions in hockey, but with heavy hitters like Pittsburgh and Columbus struggling to make an impact and the Islanders’ fall from grace, the Metro is experiencing a bit of parity. The postseason isn’t out of reach for anyone yet, but Washington is challenging Carolina for the division crown — at least if Alex Ovechkin has anything to say about it.

Here’s how the Metro fared this week:

Carolina Hurricanes (11-2-0)

The Hurricanes had a historic start to their season, and the bunch of jerks haven’t cooled off yet. The Canes’ split their two games early in the week, with a 2-1 overtime win over the Tampa Bay Lightning on Nov. 9, and then a 2-1 loss to the Philadelphia Flyers on Nov. 12. Aside from their stellar start, the dominating storyline for the Hurricanes is the comeback season for goaltender Freddie Andersen.

Much maligned in Toronto (as all goaltenders tend to be for the Leafs), Andersen is the undisputed starter for the Canes, having started 11 games for the team, posting a .938 save percentage (SV%) and 1.77 goals-against average (GAA). Andersen isn’t the only Hurricanes player to have a hot start. Andrei Svechnikov leads the team with 15 points (7 goals, 8 assists) in 12 games. Even with Nino Niederreiter and Brett Pesce on Injured Reserve, the Canes are killing the competition. Last night, the Canes faced off against the St. Louis Blues, which ended with yet another win.

Columbus Blue Jackets (7-5-0)

The Blue Jackets had an easy schedule this week, with just two games and plenty of rest. On Nov. 12, the Jackets lost 4-3 in a close game against the Washington Capitals. With a new head coach in Brad Larsen, the Jackets have been telegraphing that they’re making a bid for the playoffs. It hasn’t been all sunshine and roses for the team, and now forward Patrik Laine is out for the next few weeks with an oblique strain. Oliver Bjorkstrand is the team’s point leader, with 14 points (5 goals, 9 assists) in 12 games.

On Nov. 11, the team announced that the organization is going to retire Rick Nash’s number 61 at a later date in the season, which gives fans something to look forward to.

The Blue Jackets lost 5-3 to the New York Rangers last night, but at least the team can celebrate with teammate Gregory Hoffman, since Nov. 13 just so happens to be his 29th birthday.

New Jersey Devils (7-4-2)

New Jersey won both of their mid-week games, in what were two games of ‘firsts.’ On Nov. 9, the Devils earned a startling 7-3 win over the Florida Panthers, which saw 19-year-old rookie Alexander Holtz earn his first NHL point. The Devils then shut out the New York Islanders 4-0 on Nov. 11, in a sweeping game where Tomas Tatar scored his first goal as a Devil after signing a two-year, $9 million contract in the off-season.

In some off-ice news, on Nov. 13 the Devils Youth Foundation, led by new-hire Executive Director Kate Whitman Annis, announced that the Newark Boys + Girls Club received a $25,000 donation, to better support and empower the community’s children and teens.

The good news didn’t last — the Devils lost, 5-2 to the Boston Bruins yesterday. It may have been a loss, but the Devils’ twitter won with this graphic ... it kind of made my day.

New York Islanders (5-4-2)

The Islanders’ week was less than ideal. The team began the week with a 5-2 loss against the Minnesota Wild on Sunday, and continued the losing trend with a shutout loss to the Devils on Thursday. The Islanders have struggled with scoring goals and although their defensive game is remarkably strong (a Hallmark of head coach Barry Trotz), the Isle’s point-leader is Brock Nelson, who has 9 points (7 goals, 2 assists) in 11 games.

New York has had a few notable transactions this week: Leo Komarov was waived for purposes of contract termination on Nov. 13th and defenseman Braydon Coburn announced his retirement on Nov. 12th. Despite their down week, the Islanders have a lot to look forward to. On Nov. 20th, UBS Arena will finally open and become the team’s new home.

New York Rangers (8-3-3)

I hate to call any team boring, but the Rangers had a slow week. While the Rangers have been looking better than they have in the past few seasons (and there are certainly plenty of Rangers fans who are already excited for a possible playoff run), the team only had two games this week. On Nov. 8, they bested the Panthers in a close, 4-3 game, and on Nov. 13, the Rangers won 5-3 over the Blue Jackets.

Adam Fox and Artemi Panarin are tied for team lead with 15 points apiece, and goaltender Igor Shesterkin has been the unsung hero (or villain) of the Metro Division. He’s been playing phenomenally, and currently holds a .929 SV%  and 2.45 GAA in 11 games. Shesterkin has stolen a few games for the Rangers already this season, and he’s consistently one of their best players every night.

Philadelphia Flyers (7-4-2)

The Flyers have bounced around the standings in the Metropolitan Division, but now they are on a soft downswing. Definitely not a free-fall, but the team was shutout against Toronto, 3-0 on Nov. 9, before losing in a close game, 2-1, against the Hurricanes on Nov. 12. That same day, the Flyers placed winger Nicolas Aube-Kubel on waivers and he was quickly claimed by the Colorado Avalanche.

Of course, when thinking about the flyers, goaltending comes to mind. Carter Hart, the Flyers’ young goaltender, has been looking for a bounce-back season after last year’s struggles. It’s clear that Hart is the starter, at least for right now, and his .932 SV% and 2.32 GAA over nine games makes a good case for that. However, former Sharks goaltender Martin Jones is also looking for a bounce-back season after struggling in San Jose on a bad Sharks team. He’s played just three games for the Flyers and in that time he has earned a .950 SV% and 1.67 GAA.

In the Flyers’ 5-2 loss to the Dallas Stars on Saturday night, Kevin Hayes, who had been out while recovering from an abdominal surgery, made his season debut.

Pittsburgh Penguins (5-4-4)

Pittsburgh has been plagued by injuries and illnesses for what feels like the whole season. Sidney Crosby was back on the team for a brief moment and already, he’s been placed back on Injured Reserve. The Penguins split their early week games with a 3-2 shootout loss versus the Chicago Blackhawks on Tuesday and a 3-2 shootout win against the Panthers on Friday. Last night, the Penguins lost 6-3 to the Ottawa Senators.

The Penguins are another team who, despite their interesting and seemingly ever-changing line up concurrent with whoever is injured at the moment, is kind of boring. Like the Islanders, the Penguins have struggled with scoring, which may be indicative of their inconsistent roster and general lack of star power down the middle. Former Boston University forward Evan Rodrigues is the Penguins’ current point leader with 11 points (6 goals, 5 assists) in 13 games.

Washington Capitals (8-2-4)

The Capitals are on a roll, playing four games this week. Their first win was on Nov. 8 against the Buffalo Sabres. Three days later, the Capitals shut out the Detroit Red Wings in an exciting game that saw Alexander Ovechkin earn his 742nd career goal, passing Brett Hull on the all-time goals list. Ovechkin now sits fourth among the NHL’s all-time goal-scorers, so perhaps unsurprisingly, he’s the team’s point leader with an incredible 24 points (12 goals, 12 assists) in 14 games.

Washington wasn’t done making history yet. On Nov. 12, rookie goaltender Zach Fucale earned a shutout in his first NHL game, making him the first Capitals goaltender to ever do so. In that same game, Axel Jonsson-Fjallby earned his first NHL point. Despite his bright NHL debut, Fucale was sent back to the Capitals’ AHL team, the Hershey Bears, yesterday.