Sport Jason Mackey: Metropolitan Division is NHL's toughest, and it might get better

21:27  13 june  2018
21:27  13 june  2018 Source:   post-gazette.com

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Mackey ' s NHL divisions breakdown. Jason Mackey | Saturday, Oct. Metropolitan Division outlook. Winner: Rangers. They lost Carl Hagelin and Martin St. Louis, but how do you bet A budding defensive star in Victor Hedman. The best offense in the NHL . Tough to find something to dislike.

The Metropolitan Division was supposed to be a gauntlet this year, and it ' s OK, this is getting ridiculous. Right now, the Atlantic Division in the NHL has two teams above .500. Ovechkin has been ridiculous, with an NHL - best -tying 23 goals overall and a 5-7-12 line in eight December games.

Brian Dumoulin can't beat Washington's Braden Holtby in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference semifinals last month.© Matt Freed/Post-Gazette Brian Dumoulin can't beat Washington's Braden Holtby in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference semifinals last month.

Poll a panel of experts, and the Central Division would more than likely emerge as the NHL’s toughest.

Inhabited by current stalwarts such as Winnipeg and Nashville, as well as past powers such as Chicago (three Stanley Cups since 2009-10) and St. Louis (398 regular-season regulation wins since then, ranking fourth), the Central is certainly no slouch.

But among the many things that Washington winning its first-ever Cup five days ago day did — erasing those many playoff foibles, cementing Alex Ovechkin’s legacy — was settling a divisional debate.

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They are going to win the Metropolitan Division and probably, at some point, have to face their long-time nemesis — the Pittsburgh Whatever the case may be, they need to get to Fleury and get some wins. Tremendous pressure by Winnipeg. — Jason Mackey (@JMackeyPG) May 19, 2018.

The NHL ’ s Metropolitan Division is an absolute gauntlet, and we ain’t seen nothin’ yet. And Columbus is very good and could get better , but is there any value at +350, which gives them a 22 percent chance to win, in such a packed division ? That’s a tough call.

The toughest place to place isn’t the Central. It’s the Metropolitan Division, which has now emerged victorious three years in a row, the first time that’s happened since Edmonton and Calgary combined to win four consecutive Cups out of the Smythe Division in 1987-90.

“The Metropolitan Division is a strong division,” Penguins general manager Jim Rutherford said Monday. “It’s going to get better, too.”

We’ll get to that shortly, but first let’s take stock of all the success the Metro has had in recent years.

Since it was formed in 2013, three of the top five teams in terms of playoff wins reside in the Metropolitan Division: the Penguins (NHL-high 46 wins), Capitals (36, tied for second) and Rangers (tied for third).

Furthermore, a Metro team has not played for the Stanley Cup just once — 2015, when the Lightning beat the Rangers in the Eastern Conference final in seven games.

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Jason Mackey from the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported on Monday that the team is looking to trade Cole Moving him now would ensure they get something in return. It won’t be a Metropolitan Division team.

Jason Mackey | Wednesday, Feb. The Penguins are not good enough against Metropolitan Division opponents. “Based on the guys who are out there on defense, I'm not sure that we're getting somebody who can necessarily do a better job than what we have — if we're healthy

During that same time, two Central teams have played for the Cup: Nashville in 2017 and Chicago in 2015, winning it all.

The current playoff format means that more than likely one team from each division will make the conference final, but Central teams have petered out early more frequently than they’ve made runs, falling in the conference finals to the Golden Knights (2018), Sharks (2016) and Kings (2014).

Why has the Metropolitan fared better?

Some of it is the Penguins-Capitals effect. During the regular season, Washington has certainly held up its share of the bargain; the Capitals’ 243 regulation wins during the regular season are more than anyone else, while the Penguins are third with 239.

But it also could be a style-of-play issue that has been echoed throughout the league. When the Rangers were winning during the middle part of the decade, they did it with speed. Ditto for the Penguins of 2015-17.

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On Wednesday he told Jason Mackey of the Pittsburgh (Again, a dream scenario would be to somehow move Greiss and get better in net without losing too The Central Division is that tough , and there’ s a genuine fear that Minnesota simply doesn’t have a high enough ceiling to break through.

Home Forums General Hockey Discussion National Hockey League Talk. Tough life in the Metropolitan division . Games Above (Below) NHL .500 - Road. Washington. They are still making the playoffs however. Click to expand Well technically he’ s not wrong.

The Capitals weren’t able to get over the playoff hump until they retooled their roster, changed their identity and started to employ a faster pace of play than the heavier game most would identify with the Capitals.

Currently, the Devils have caught up — and then some, Penguins fans might argue. Columbus is close. The Islanders have been streaky when it comes to offense, but they have scored 1,188 goals since 2013, which ranks better than all but five teams, an indication of their ability to quickly produce offense. (The Penguins lead with 1,248, and Dallas, fourth with 1,206, is the top-ranking Central team.)

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Speed and playing fast have become paramount in today’s NHL, and a case could be made that the Metropolitan Division has done both extremely well.

Equally as important has been goaltending. The Metro has been the best there, tool.

Since 2013, Metropolitan Division netminders occupy four of the top seven spots in terms of regular-season wins. That doesn’t include Matt Murray, who has won the most Cups.

So Phil Kessel and Mike Sullivan disagreed. Big deal.

  So Phil Kessel and Mike Sullivan disagreed. Big deal. Phil Kessel and Mike Sullivan have indeed had a few disagreements involving the scoring winger’s linemates.Yeah, so … ?That was essentially the sentiment echoed by the boss of both men, Penguins general manager Jim Rutherford, in a phone interview with the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette on Monday morning.Kessel and Sullivan, player and coach, occasionally saw things differently regarding with whom Kessel should play, formulated strong opinions and — gulp — may have even voiced them.Yet for anyone who has even a sliver of experience playing competitive sports, this is hardly unique, especially when we’re talking about the professional level.“I can say throughout the three years that there could’ve been a difference of opinion at times as to the thought process of what line Phil was going to play on,” Rutherford said. “I certainly wouldn’t turn that into a rift.”And Rutherford is not.Nor is he intent on trading Kessel, who has four years remaining on a contract that will count $6.8 million against the Penguins’ salary cap — although the GM did acknowledge that if he got a tremendous offer, the same as any player not named Sidney Crosby or Evgeni Malkin, he’d at least have to listen.The most reasonable step forward here, Rutherford said, is for everyone to report to training camp in September and keep doing what they’ve been doing since Kessel became a Penguin.There was an issue, yes, or at least a few disagreements.

A division is gonna be tough man and the American League got a lot better . Your Jason Jason Anderson. You got yellow it ' s the other ends okay inept offense is better than it was last year and Do you worry you're being kind he said MacKey what does it could decrease and that was interesting.

Elite goaltender Carey Price will no doubt steal them wins, but scoring might prove tough for Eichel will have a better crowd to work with on offense, as Jason Pominville was brought in during the The Capitals took a hit this offseason after being bested by their Metropolitan Division rivals in the

Murray and Marc-Andre Fleury (a Metro goalie in four of five years) are actually the only notable division netminders without a Vezina Trophy; Braden Holtby, Sergei Bobrovsky (twice) and Henrik Lundqvist have all won it.

Puck possession really doesn’t paint a decisive picture either way, but special teams does. Metro teams occupy six of the top 15 power-play spots since 2013, five of the top 15 when it comes to killing penalties. Central teams hold just three and two spots, respectively.

Rutherford isn’t a fan of division rankings — “It’s very difficult,” he said. “Teams have injuries, different things happen. It’s not always an indication of the best team” — but he also doesn’t expect the Metro to get any easier.

For one, Rutherford brought up the idea of Lou Lamoriello taking over the Islanders; you’d have to figure he’ll have them doing more than just scoring goals in spurts. And soon.

The Flyers remain a mishmash, incredibly tough to predict, and the Rangers and Hurricanes — despite having a decent amount of young talent — are the only two teams with zero shot of competing for the division crown.

But when your top teams are those who’ve hoisted the Cup three years in a row, it’s not really a debate when you talk about the toughest place to play.

“As always,” Rutherford said, “it’ll be a very competitive division.”

Jason Mackey: jmackey@post-gazette.com and Twitter @JMackeyPG.

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