There are some great competitions unravelling across the four divisions of the NHL this season, but as of just past the halfway mark, the Metropolitan Division looks to be the most heated contest of them all.
In the Metropolitan Division, the Columbus Blue Jackets, Washington Capitals, New York Islanders, and Pittsburgh Penguins had a mere three points between them at the point that they all hit the 46-game mark. The Blue Jackets and Capitals led the way with 59 points while the Islanders had pulled themselves up to 58, and a recent losing streak saw the Penguins sink to two points behind the Isles. It’s so closely contested, in fact, that the mid-January NHL power rankings had them at eighth, ninth, tenth, and 12th.
With them all so close in the running, we’ve decided to look into the four Metro contenders to decipher which team is most likely to end up on top of the division.
Who are the bookies backing in the Metro?
Source: The Hockey News, via Twitter
One of the best places to turn when trying to work out the team with the best chances to win is the odds in the sportsbook. As of the 46-game mark, the NHL betting sees the Columbus Blue Jackets ahead at +200 as the favorites. But, as we’ve seen, it’s a closely contested field, with the Caps at +270, the Isles at +280, and the Pens at +290.
NHL fans may want to make the most of the bookies perceiving the Blue Jackets as the favourites because they could be closing in on losing two of their most important players. Meanwhile, the Penguins have been in the market trying to improve their team, the Islanders are flying high, and the Capitals don’t seem to be showing any signs of a Stanley Cup hangover.
Columbus could soon implode
Source: Pittsburgh Penguins, via Twitter
They may be the favourites in the odds, but both Sergei Bobrovsky and Artemi Panarin are set to become free agents this summer, with neither player showing any indication of re-signing for the Blue Jackets. Bobrovsky, one of the best goaltenders in the NHL, has even seen himself benched for a couple of games due to an undisclosed incident.
Columbus has two choices in this situation, one of which is the anticipated trades of their star players at the trade deadline. Or, the Blue Jackets could go all-in, telling Bobrovsky and Panarin that they can go at the end of the season but need them now, and reinforce the squad around them by using their $6 million in cap space, per CapFriendly, at the trade deadline.
The current Metropolitan Division leaders will most likely lose at least one of the two players before the end of February, which puts them at a disadvantage to the other teams. The Capitals have been slipping since the New Year, but still boast a very strong team, while the Islanders’ momentum, forged on speedy offence and suffocating pressing play on defence, looks set to carry them to the postseason.
The interesting team to keep an eye on, and the team with the longest odds of the bunch, is the Pittsburgh Penguins. They’ve done well to recuperate their season by getting Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin back in form and they continue to make small tweaks through trading to enhance the team. With another good run of form, the Pens could well end up on top of this division.