So the New York Islanders have rattled off 7 wins in a row. Is anyone out there an Islanders fan that can tell me why? I like Mat Barzal, and I know they have a great unheralded D-corps. That’s not enough to explain their showing last year or their current dominance. The Metropolitan Division has become what Soccer fans call the “Group of Death”. The Capitals look like juggernauts in spite of Braden Holtby’s soggy goaltending. John Carlson looks MVP calibre, Alex Ovechkin looks like, well, Alex Ovechkin and the rest of the team all look like they’re ready to challenge for another championship. Pittsburgh is sitting in a Wild Card spot, but they’ve been marred by injuries to people like Evgeni Malkin, Alex Galchenyuk and Brian Dumoulin. Galchenyuk and Dumoulin just came off IR, so I would expect them to get a minor boost. Matt Murray developing into a thoroughly mediocre keeper is tragic or comedic depending on who you cheer for.
The bottom feeders of the Metro (Rangers, Devils) are borderline dangerous and forgivable for their lack of success. Both teams tried hard to improve through acquisitions (Artemi Panarin in New York, PK Subban in New Jersey) and through the draft (Kappo Kakko and Jack Hughes respectively). The Devils technically are the worst team in the NHL, but unlike other league punching bags like Minnesota, Ottawa or Chicago at least they have hope and are trying to improve.
Speaking of bottom feeders, the Red Wings just snapped an 8 game losing skid with a victory over the Edmonton Oilers. It’s not quite that time of year yet, but we have to start asking – are they for real? – about some teams. The aforementioned Islanders are no longer a case of are they a playoff team, but are they a legit Stanley Cup contender. Has Edmonton turned a corner? Are they still a lottery pick team? Was this just a burst from McDavid and Draisatl or can the whole team come together to achieve relevance?
Another team that could be a contender is the Buffalo Sabres. Their cornerstone high draft picks of Jack Eichel and Rasmus Dahlin are developing right on schedule. Carter Hutton got lit up like a Christmas tree immediately after I endorsed him as waiver wire option for a starting goalie. They’re currently sitting in second place in the Atlantic. No one in the Atlantic seems to want to step up and challenge Boston. There’s a mix of mediocre teams in the 4-6 slots – Montreal, Florida, Tampa Bay – wait, what? Yeah. Tampa Bay has not impressed anyone this year.
Scary injuries across the board to the likes of Vladimir Tarasenko and Gabriel Landeskog. Victor Hedman apparently left last night’s game with an injury as well – no word on the severity as yet. As far as waiver wire pickups go, well, I just snagged Montreal’s Joel Armia who has a pretty quiet 6 goals and 8 points in 9 games to go with a tidy +5. Toronto’s Ilya Mikheyev has seen increased opportunities and powerplay time in the wake of John Tavares’ injury and Kasperi Kapanen being demoted after failing to mesh with some of the Leafs top line forwards.