Training camp and preseason has begun. As teams pare down their rosters for the regular season, it is time to dive into a decision with lots of uncertainty and considerable surprise. That is right. The time is now for the Metropolitan Division.
So, who is expected to take home this highly contested division? Let’s find out.
Even with all the improvements that the rest of the division has made, Washington is still the class of the Metropolitan. It may be closer than usual, but the Capitals have the most talent and will have quite the 1-2 punch in net this year.
Did we mention a leaner, meaner Alex Ovechkin in camp as well? That’s right. Ovechkin has lost a little weight and gained some flexibility along the way in his offseason workouts. This is probably news the rest of the Metropolitan rivals do not want to hear. However, that is the reality in which they will face this season. Also, Braden Holtby will be in his contract year. There could be some considerable changes in Washington in 2020-21.
It will be how Washington starts the year that provides the most insight. Does Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom get hot again early? That is likely needed this season with so many teams nipping at Washington’s heels.
What will it take to win the division? It probably will be a number somewhere in the 100 to 105-point range. With the balance expected, teams will jockey for position which may give Washington a chance to separate themselves a bit early.
They are still the team to beat in the regular season – at least.
Again, most expected the Pittsburgh Penguins here. Speaking of improvements, Carolina added Jake Gardiner to one of the best defensive cores in the NHL. The fact that they did for four years and at just $4.05 million per season frankly scared the league. Also, thanks to the offer sheet from the Montreal Canadiens, Sebastien Aho is under contract for five more seasons in Carolina.
Carolina advanced all the way to the conference final before being swept away by the Boston Bruins. What the Hurricanes did show was their goaltending was just good enough combined with their defense and timely offense. This will continue to be their theme during the regular season. That should make an even bigger difference in 2019-20.
The Rod Brind’amour coached team will be the hunted rather than the hunter this season. Carolina cannot just sneak up on anyone, anymore. However, if there is one team built to handle the adversity, it may just be the Hurricanes. They are in a division where their ability on defense to create offense will cause fits against teams like Philadelphia and the New York Rangers, who still have defensive shortcomings. Carolina is young too but youthful teams like New Jersey (down the middle especially) again are the teams the Hurricanes match up well.
By Chris Wassel