The NHL Metropolitan Division has thus far been defined by dominance from the favorite and injuries holding back other potential contenders. The Pittsburgh Penguins are off and running to another big year, and have a 12-point lead in this division. But in the rest of the Metropolitan leaves this division confined to only the minimum three teams in the playoffs.
With the new NHL alignment having just two divisions per conference, the top three are guaranteed postseason spots, but the final two berths in the East can go either way. As of today, the NHL Atlantic Division would get five teams in. Here’s how the rest of the Metropolitan is shaking out…
*Philadelphia would be in the playoffs as the third-place team with 36 points, but the Flyers have both the Carolina Hurricanes and the New Jersey Devils just one point back, the New York Rangers two back and the Columbus Blue Jackets are at 32.
Injuries are a big factor. Columbus has been without forward Nathan Horton all year, and Marian Gaboriki has also been banged up. Horton and Gaborik were supposed to provide scoring punch to a defense-oriented team, although with Horton’s injury history I’m not sure what else the Blue Jackets were expecting.
The Rangers are missing Ryan Callahan with a knee injury and that won’t change until next month at the earliest. Philly lost defenseman Chris Pronger at the start of the year, and even Pittsburgh hasn’t been immune. The Pens are missing Kris Letang, one of the league’s best passing defenseman.