The Metropolitan Division continues to run circles around the rest of the National Hockey League. At the annual break, the Metro has five of the top eight records across the league—Columbus (1st), Pittsburgh (2nd), NY Rangers (4th), Washington (7th) and Philadelphia (8th).
Columbus is currently riding a 12-game winning streak and sitting atop the league standings with 50 points in 32 games. That is the longest such streak in the league this year. And, the longest in the history of the franchise. They have not lost a game since November 26th and have not lost in regulation since November 23rd. They sport the league’s best goal differential (+45) and seven of their 12 straight wins have been by more than two goals. This includes a 7-1 drubbing of division rival Pittsburgh. They’ve received tremendous goaltending from Sergei Bobrovsky and have seemed to buy into the system of John Tortorella.
Pittsburgh is right behind Columbus with 49 points in 35 games. Sporting a seven-game win streak earlier in December, they would finish the month 7-1-2 in their last 10 games. To this point, they have only lost once in regulation in the month of December. They would lead with offense, scoring four or more goals in each of their wins this month. This includes two games in which they would notch seven goals, and another with eight. Sidney Crosby is leading the league with 24 goals and a 1.31 points/game average. Evgeni Malkin ranks second in the league with 39 points.
The New York Rangers continue to win with balance. They rank second in the league with 119 Goals For but don’t have a single goal-scorer in the top 10. Michael Grabner has 14 goals, which is good for 14th. Their top point-scorer is Derek Stepan with 26—40th in the league. Their Penalty Kill and Power Play both rank 10th in the league.
The defending division champion Washington Capitals are looking to make a run and grab their second consecutive title. The biggest difference between this year and last is their lack of offensive firepower. A team with Nicklas Backstrom and Alex Ovechkin likely won’t be shut down for long, but the numbers are pretty staggering thus far. Last year the Caps would score 3.02 goals per game. This year they’re only getting 2.69 per game. They’ve actually been better defensively so far this year allowing just 2.06 goals against per game compared to 2.33 goals against per game last season.
Finally, we come to the Philadelphia Flyers. They may be the most curious of the bunch. They began the season in very much the same way they began last season—inconsistent with a disregard for team defense. Over the last two months though, they’ve been one of the hottest teams in the league. They were the first to reach a 10-game win streak earlier this month, doing so in multiple tight games. This includes a few come-from-behind wins in the third period.
Leading their offense is Jakub Voráček (6th), Claude Giroux (13th) and Wayne Simmonds (19th)—all the Top-20 in points. Simmonds is sixth in the league with 16 goals, half of them coming on the Power Play. Voráček is fifth in the league with 24 assists. Perhaps most impressively is the team’s commitment to defense over the last two months. They would win low-scoring affairs while getting timely goals from their sixth-ranked power play. Steve Mason has played well since Michal Neuvirth went down with a knee injury earlier in the season. They also have an impressive pair of 19-year-old rookies in Travis Konecny and Ivan Provorov. Provorov is anchoring the blue line and leads the team with 21:02 average TOI.
There will be no shortage of intriguing games as the season moves into the second half. These teams have been on a roll lately and will need to continue their winning ways if they all want to be in playoff contention come spring.