NHL First Quarter Analysis: Metropolitan Division Part One

Two NHL Metropolitan division foes go at it as Islanders Romanov checks Devils Bastian

The NHL season is rolling along full steam ahead; teams have now played past the season’s quarter mark. Some teams have played just as expected when the puck dropped for the new season. Other teams have been surprising by either overachieving or underachieving through the NHL first quarter. Today we look at the performance and storylines of the teams in the NHL Metropolitan Division.

NHL Metropolitan Division – First Quarter Analysis

Carolina Hurricanes

2nd Place with 33 Points 14-6-5

The Carolina Hurricanes entered the season as heavy contenders to win the Stanley Cup. Through the NHL First Quarter, the Hurricanes are on pace for a 108-point season, slightly down from the franchise record of 116 points last season. Key offseason addition, Max Pacioretty, ruptured his Achilles tendon in August and was slated to miss six months. Starting goalie Frederik Andersen last suited up on November 6th as he deals with an undisclosed injury. Rookie goaltender Pyotr Kochetkov has been proving himself at the NHL level since. The Hurricanes recently signed the rookie to a four-year contract extension worth $2M/AAV.

Hurricanes Need More Secondary Scoring

Three forwards have been driving the offence for the Hurricanes. Martin Necas leads the team with 28 points in 25 games, Sebastian Aho has 26 points, and Andrei Svechnikov leads Carolina with 15 goals. The three forwards have combined for 37 goals, while the rest of the Hurricanes’ forwards have combined for just 24 goals. The good news is Pacioretty has recently resumed skating and will give Carolina an immediate boost offensively once available. Teuvo Teravainen recently came off the injured reserve, although he hadn’t scored in 14 games prior to his injury. The losses of Nino Niederreiter, Vincent Trocheck, and Max Domi over the off-season have also made an impact.

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Carolina Remains Defensively Sound

The Hurricanes are a team that doesn’t allow their opponents to generate much offence. Carolina ranks 7th, allowing an average of 2.76 goals per game. At 26.4 shots on goal allowed per game, the Hurricanes don’t give up many chances. Another key offseason acquisition, Brent Burns leads the Hurricanes’ defence 63.1 Corsi For %. In fact, all players on Carolina’s roster aside from Maxime Lajoie have a Corsi For percentage above 50%,  showing how well they prevent opponents from generating scoring chances.


The Hurricanes look strong as the season progresses, and a return to full health will only benefit the club. Carolina will press the New Jersey Devils for the Metropolitan title, but a second-place finish, as our Puck Drop Preview predicted, is more likely. Expect Hurricane’s front office to try to add some secondary scoring pieces ahead of the NHL trade deadline.

Columbus Blue Jackets

8th Place with 18 Points 8-13-2

The Columbus Blue Jackets made some noise during the offseason landing highly sought after free-agent Johnny Gaudreau. After putting that kind of money on the table, it was evident that the front office had serious playoff ambitions for this season. Unfortunately for the Blue Jackets, the season has been anything but successful.

Injuries Decimate Blue Jackets’ Season

Right from the opening night, the Blue Jackets were dealt a blow as sniper Patrik Laine suffered his first injury setback of the season. If that wasn’t enough, Jakub Voracek has suffered a potentially career-ending concussion, and Columbus’ best defenceman Zach Werenski will miss the rest of the season with a separated shoulder and a torn labrum. In total, Columbus has required the services of an absurd 32 players through the season’s first quarter alone.

Blue Jackets’ Horrid Defensively

With four of the Blue Jackets defencemen sitting on the IR, their depth at the position has stood out as a weakness. Columbus ranks 31st in the league, allowing an average of 3.96 goals per game. A quick look at their goalies’ stats suggests that the goaltending has been awful this season. However, Columbus’ goalies have been left under siege as the Blue Jackets give up 36.3 shots on goal per game. Elvis Merzlikins is having a dreadful season with a 4.74 GAA and a .864 SV%. Joonas Korpisalo, the other half of the Blue Jackets’ tandem, has been slightly better, with a 3.51 GAA and a.905 SV%.


Columbus will be involved in the draft lottery sweepstakes, which will garner more attention as the season progresses. The Blues Jackets could move pending UFA’s Gustav Nyquist and Vladislav Gavrikov before the trade deadline to acquire more draft picks ahead of a strong draft class.

New Jersey Devils

1st Place with 41 Points 20-4-1

The New Jersey Devils have been one of the NHL’s best surprises through the season’s first quarter. The Devils are playing with a purpose, and it’s been a long time since the fanbase watched a Devils squad play at such a high calibre. Oddly enough, in the first weeks of the season, Devil’s fans were calling for head coach Lindy Ruff to be fired. Instead, his team fired it up by going on a franchise-record 13-game winning streak. The Devils are playing phenomenal hockey and have the league’s second-best goal differential (+39) to prove it.

Lethal Offence and Swarming Defence

The Devils’ resurgence to the top of the Metropolitan division is coming by no fluke. Numbers don’t lie, and in New Jersey’s case, the numbers aren’t just good. They are very good. New Jersey has generated a total of 211 high-danger scoring chances for, which is well above the NHL average of 179. On the flip side, the Devils have allowed only 148 high-danger scoring chances against well below the 179 league average. Jack Hughes is developing into the superstar that the Devils’ have long needed. Hughes leads New Jersey with 29 points in 25 games. He also leads the Devils with 13 goals.

Rock Solid Goaltending

New Jersey has also benefitted from the rock-solid play of off-season acquisition Vitek Vanecek, who has an 11-2-1 record with a 2.24 GAA and a .918 SV%. When Mackenzie Blackwood went down with a knee injury on November 7, the Devil’s called up Akira Schmid from the Utica Comets. Schmid has played admirably with a perfect 5-0 record in his five appearances, an astonishing 1.42 GAA, and a .944 SV%. The sample is relatively small, but Schmid has either taken his game to new heights, or this Devil’s team is just that much better this season. Perhaps it’s a combination of the two, but either way, New Jersey’s goaltending hasn’t looked as good since the days of Hall of Famer Martin Brodeur.


Barring a monumental collapse, the Devils are on pace to set new franchise records this season. Expect a return to the postseason to be a lock for these New Jersey Devils, and while Carolina may close the gap as the season wear on, the division title is all but theirs for the taking.

New York Islanders

3rd Place with 32 Points 16-11-0

After missing out on the playoffs last spring following an Eastern Conference Final appearance the year prior, New York Islanders opted to make a change behind the bench, parting ways with head coach Barry Trotz and promoting Lane Lambert as the Islanders’ new bench boss, The move has undoubtedly given the Islanders a spark as they find themselves in a playoff spot as we pass the quarter mark of the NHL season. After playing .500 hockey in October, the Isles posted an impressive 10-5 record in November.

Goaltending Tandem Regains Elite Form

Goaltender Ilya Sorokin has found another level this season, as he is currently posting career highs with a 2.17 GAA and a .932 SV%. Sorokin has played 17 games putting up a 10-7 record. Perhaps, more importantly, is the bounce-back year Semyon Varlamov has been having. Varlamov had a shaky season last year, posting a 2.91 GAA and a .911 SV% compared to this season, where he has a 2.52 GAA and a .922 SV%.

Isles Getting Secondary Scoring

Mathew Barzal is also having a bounce-back season after an off-year by his standards. Barzal leads the Islanders with 26 points in 25 games. His playmaking skills have been on full display, as his 24 assists have him ranked fifth in the category across the NHL. Goal scoring has been spread out through the lineup. Brock Nelson leads the team with 12 goals, followed by captain Anders Lee and Zach Parise, who have eight each.


While the Islanders look like a playoff team, there are a few teams that are right behind them. One lengthy skid could be the difference between making the playoffs or missing out again. Expect the Metropolitan playoff race to be exciting to watch right up until the final days of the season.

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