· Washington Capitals
o 88 Points Overall
o 1st place in Metropolitan Division
o 1st place in Eastern Conference
o 1st place in NHL
o Goals For: 187
o Goals Against: 128
–Key Acquisitions: Making perhaps the biggest move of the offseason, the Caps were able to pick up a couple of natural and proven goal scorers. TJ Oshie is fitting in nicely with more offensive talent around him. He currently sits at 16 goals and 18 assists. Justin Williams, who comes over from the Los Angeles Kings is having a very productive year himself. He sits at 19 goals and 22 assists.
–Helping the Star Power: Perhaps the greatest scorer of the generation, defenses will always put stress into covering Alex Ovechkin. While he goes against the top defensive pairings night in and night out, the captain has the brass around him to flourish no matter what. Evgeny Kuznetsov (58 points) and Nicklas Backstrom (54 points) lead the way for the highest scoring team in the league.
–Vezina Bound? : Braden Holtby is shining behind the league’s best offense. He boasts the best record in the league by far at 36-6-3. He is far away ahead of the pack for the title of “best goalie” in the game.
· New York Rangers
o 70 Points Overall
o 2nd place in Metropolitan Division
o 3rd place in Eastern Conference
o 6th place in NHL
o Goals For: 163
o Goals Against: 143
–Blueline Stability: Captain Ryan McDonagh is back in the lineup tonight, and in perfect timing as the Blackhawks roll into Madison Square Garden. The young defenseman returns after missing 4 games from a concussion suffered against friendly rivals, the Philadelphia Flyers.
– Born in the USA: Wearing the Red, White, and Blue of the Rangers are a number of players who are familiar with the colors. McDonagh is joined by Kevin Hayes, Chris Kreider, JT Miller, Derek Stepan, and Keith Yandle as American born players. The Rangers are relying heavily on these players in all assets of the game, even leadership. As mentioned earlier, McDonagh wears the ‘C’ on his chest, as well as Derek Stepan bearing an ‘A’ on his jersey.
–Where did he go? : Rick Nash has played 45 games this season, with only 12 goals to show for it. Of all the talent on this roster, I would not have picked Mats Zuccarello or Derek Brassard to be leading the way in point totals. I also would not have assumed Nash to be where he is at this point of the year.
· New York Islanders
o 62 Points Overall
o 3rd place in Metropolitan Division
o 6th place in Eastern Conference
o 10th place in NHL
o Goals For: 161
o Goals Against: 141
–Nothing more Sacred than the Home Barn: This season is the inaugural year for the Islanders calling the Barclays Center “home.” The Brooklyn Stadium is the newly opened home to the Brooklyn Nets as well. I can’t say I’ve ever been there in person, but from just watching on TV, it doesn’t feel right, personally speaking. Having a car on display in the corner behind the net? Why isn’t the scoreboard centered over the middle of the ice? It is literally over top of one of the bluelines. Behind the net where the car sits, there are no glass seats. It just seems to be a cosmetic tragedy for the average hockey fan in my eyes.
–Unquestioned Leader: Captain John Tavares leads the way for the Isles in points scored and is tied with Brock Nelson for goals scored. However, he was in the race for the Art Ross Trophy last season against Jamie Benn, which came down to literally the last 10 seconds of the season for Dallas. Tavares is not taking last year’s form, but still does lead this team. In hindsight, last season’s stats are definitely a lofty goal to repeat.
–Bolstered Back End: I really enjoy, personally, keeping tabs on the young defensemen that the Islanders boast. Nick Leddy was one of the most underrated defensemen in the entire league, coming over from Chicago. He has such a smooth stride and is a great puck mover. He makes skating the puck up and down the ice look effortless. Behind Leddy, Calvin De Haan and Thomas Hickey are in the middle of their prime. They aren’t blowing anyone away with offensive production, but both young defenders are in the green in the plus-minus department.
· Pittsburgh Penguins
o 64 Points Overall
o 4th place in Metropolitan Division
o 7th place in Eastern Conference
o 13h place in NHL
o Goals For: 148
o Goals Against: 144
–Points and PIMS: Who leads the team in Penalty Minutes? Evgeni Malkin…that’s right, Evgeni Malkin. While trailing only Sidney Crosby in points, Malkin leads the way for the Penguins with 57 minutes spent in the sin bin. We have become accustomed to guys like the Matt Cooke’s of yesteryear holding that title, but never Geno. The game must be changing.
–Back to Form: We all know that Sidney Crosby didn’t have the start we expected. Real quickly, let us have a moment of silence for a good number of fantasy hockey players….Thank you. Recently, the Pens captain has been on the rise, now leading his team in goals and points, with 25 and 30, respectively. Despite the unfortunate start to the season, it’s all about how you finish. Ask Montreal. Sid is now currently averaging 1 point per game, on the dot.
–On the Money: With a roster filled with talent, goals are expected in large quantities from Pittsburgh. Accuracy has proved key, as the Pens have 8 players who are scoring at least one goal out of every ten shots they take.
· New Jersey Devils
o 65 Points Overall
o 5th place in Metropolitan Division
o 9th place in Eastern Conference
o 15th place in NHL
o Goals For: 130
o Goals Against: 136
–Snake-bit: Four of the top nine offensive leaders for the Devils are…defensemen. After Lee Stempniak, Michael Cammalleri, Adam Henrique, Kyle Palmieri, and Travis Zajac, there is a dramatic drop off in offensive success. And even those five leaders aren’t scoring at will.
–Next in Line: Cory Schneider is by no means having a Martin Brodeur worthy season. However, he does have his team in decent position to stay right in the thick of things until the end. With the kind of help he is getting from the offense, he has no choice but to stay on top of his game. His record is currently 25-17-6 with a 2.04 GAA.
–Finding the right fit: The Devils are having a rough time finding the consistently correct pieces to the puzzle. Players like Stefan Matteau, Reid Boucher, Tuomo Ruutu, Jim O’Brien, and Seth Helgeson have all had a crack at finding their spot in the lineup. However, none of them have separated themselves from the pack and solidified their position.
· Carolina Hurricanes
o 62 Points Overall
o 6th place in Metropolitan Division
o 10th place in Eastern Conference
o 16th place in NHL
o Goals For: 141
o Goals Against: 154
–End of an Era: After 12 season with the Canes, I believe it is time for Carolina to cut ties with Eric Staal. It was a good run, capped off by a Stanley Cup in 2006. Staal is not putting up numbers like he used to, which is an obvious punishment from Father Time. The Trade Deadline is about a week and a half away, and I would personally say that it’s time. Look to guys like his brother Jordan to lead short-term, and guys like Jeff Skinner and Justin Faulk long-term. That process has already begun, but the Canes need to get what they can for Staal now, before it’s too late.
–Best young defenseman in the game? :Probably my favorite defenseman in the game currently, along with Shayne Gostisbehere of the Flyers and John Klingberg of the Stars. There is no better quarterback on the Power Play than young Justin Faulk. He is a deadly offensive weapon who can make plays happen from about anywhere. He currently sits 2nd in points for the Canes with 34.
–Mess in the Crease: Similar to that of the Dallas Stars with Kari Lehtonen and Antti Niemi, the Canes have gone with a 1A and 1B in net with Cam Ward and Eddie Lack. Neither have been much to envy this season. Ward, at 16-11-7, is in the same boat as Eric Staal. They aren’t too old whatsoever, both at 31 years of age. However, what they have now is not working. Mentioned above, the Canes ought to consider letting them go and seeing what they can get before their value plummets beyond return. Let Eddie Lack have his shot at #1.
· Philadelphia Flyers
o 60 Points Overall
o 7th place in Atlantic Division
o 11th place in Eastern Conference
o 19th place in NHL
o Goals For: 137
o Goals Against: 151
–Just what the doctor ordered: The aforementioned Shayne Gostisbehere has injected energy into a previously disappointing season for Philadelphia. The Flyers may have dug themselves into too deep of a hole, as far as playoff hopes are considered. However, looking towards the future, the Flyers have their next big thing. Gostisbehere has played 38 games, and has 32 points.
–Familiar Territory: Shockingly enough, the Broad Street Bullies have familiarized themselves with, you guessed it, the penalty box. They Flyers have three players with over 80 Penalty Minutes this season with Radko Gudas, 86, and Ryan White, 81. Wayne Simmonds takes the cake with 117 minutes to think about what he has done.
–Day In, Day Out: The top three scorers for the Flyers, Claude Giroux, Jakub Voracek, and Wayne Simmonds, have shown up day after day, having yet to miss a game. That health is not something many teams can brag about, especially coming from their most vital players.
· Columbus Blue Jackets
o 53 Points Overall
o 8th place in Metropolitan Division
o 15th place in Eastern Conference
o 28th place in NHL
o Goals For: 149
o Goals Against: 180
–Off-Seasons win Championships: While a championship is well out of the question, the Blue Jackets’ offseason was a memorable one. Acquiring one of the hottest names on the market, Brandon Saad came to Columbus with lofty expectations. He had just came with a Stanley Cup ring from Chicago. He had to be an offensive genius, right? With no great players to put around him, the Jackets are just as bad as they have been in recent years. Saad’s play has suffered as well, sitting at third in points with 37. Adding insult to injury, despite the less-than-stellar season, Saad is still the only 20 goal scorer so far for CBJ.
–Money Makes the World Go ‘Round: It’s going down the drain, in the form of David Clarkson. I understand he has been injured, but in the 18 games he has played, he has only 2 points. Lest you forget, he will be making $5,250,000 over the next five years, until his contract is up in 2020.
–Johansen-Jones Trade: Who won? I think it is too early to say, but he is a key piece of the offense that just went to Nashville. Bring in Seth Jones. Highly regarded in the 2013 Draft, he went 4th overall to the Predators. He hasn’t been noticed as much as many thought he would be. As a defenseman, that’s not necessarily a bad thing. He just hasn’t stuck out. Time will tell who will be the winner in this one.