Caps Can Top the Metro Race
We’re a third of the way through the NHL season, and the usual suspects are in the lineup of the competitive Metropolitan Division race. Up in New York, fans are absolutely pining for some sort of post-season subway or bridge series, and with the Rangers atop the division and the Islanders just a few points back, they could have their wish. Over in Pittsburgh, the Penguins are also within 10 points of the lead and could make a mid-season push. But the real threat to break up the New York party looks to be in Washington.
The New York Situation
The Rangers hold a thin lead in the division, but they’re beginning to show flaws. They lost stalwart center Derek Stepan last week and promptly went out and took a 3-0 loss at the hands of the lowly Philadelphia Flyers. On Wednesday the Rangers visited their rivals in Brooklyn, and the Islanders won a thrilling 2-1 overtime game, which regenerated the excitement over the NY thing. But it also gave the Rangers their fourth loss in five games, indicating that life without Stepan won’t be pleasant.
Meanwhile, the Islanders are cruising along with four wins in their last five games. Their goalie duo of Jaroslav Halak and Thomas Greiss continues to improve, while captain John Tavares is proving he can skate just about anyone off the ice.
The thing that haunts the Islanders so is the fact that they haven’t won a playoff series in 22 years. Guess who spoiled their all-NY playoff dinner last year? The Washington Capitals.
Yes, that brings us to the Caps. There are a number of reasons to think the second-place Caps could overcome the Rangers in the Metro and be the force to contend with in division. For one, they’re angry and vengeful. They blew a 3-1 series lead to the Rangers in last year’s second round, losing in the 7th game in Madison Square Garden.
Plus, they have the maturity and personnel to make a push in the regular season and beyond. They rank in the league’s top five in winning percentage, goals scored, goals allowed and power play efficiency. No. 1 goaltender Braden Holtby leads the league in goals against (1.95) and wins (15).
And I haven’t even mentioned Alex Ovechkin and the core of off-season acquisitions and resurgent performers this year.
The Rangers, Islanders and Pens may be in the thick of the race, but I’m looking for the Caps to emerge on top.
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