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2013 NHL Metropolitan Division Preview 

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Can someone explain to me how Carolina is a Metropolitan team? Regardless, the Metropolitan Division has potential to be the best or the worst division in the NHL this year.

How They Will Finish: 

8. New Jersey Devils +1600

Poor Corey Schneider. He finally gets a chance to be a full time starting goalie and he gets stuck on this Devils team. While their defense will keep them in games they are going to struggle mightily to score. While they added Jaromir Jagr, Michael Ryder and Ryan Clowe to the fold, losing Ilya Kovalchuk to an abrupt retirement is going to make it far more difficult to improve upon a 28th ranked offense that averaged just 2.29 goals per game. Schneider is going to have to win the Vezina to give this team any chance of sniffing the playoffs.

7. Carolina Hurricanes +1400

The Canes need to improve in a multitude of areas. While they have some nice offensive pieces in place, their defense is abysmal. Last year they allowed the second most goals per game. Of course Cam Ward’s health didn’t help that. Now they have acknowledged his inability to stay healthy by bringing in Tuukka Rask’s backup Anton Khudobin to provide some depth. While he has only started in 21 NHL games, he sports a 2.03 Goals Against Average, and a .933 save percentage. Of course that was while he was playing behind a stout Bruins defense. If they can get some consistency between the pipes they can be competitive, but their defensemen need to pick their games up for them to actually be a threat.

6. New York Rangers +700

This team has the potential to finish dead last in this division. Outside of Henrik Lundqvist there just isn’t much to like about this team. Former Canucks coach Alain Vigneault will bring his offensive minded scheme to a team that has made its hay playing tough defense. He will try to push the pace with an aging group of offensive players that has lost it’s best offensive player in Marian Gaborik. Maybe his scheme will help improve the Rangers 23rd ranked power play from last year, but the personnel in place doesn’t suggest that. Instead of building around Lundqvist’s dominance Vigneault may leave him out to dry with an offensive game plan. Sorry Rangers fans but after this season, it will be 21 years… and counting.

5. New York Islanders +700

This team has all the makings of one that is going to take a step backwards. They emerged as a sexy pick after pushing the Penguins in the playoffs last year. There is some hype surrounding them and superstar John Tavares is good enough to carry the offense on his back. However, they traded their captain and top defenseman Mark Streit in the offseason which is going to really hurt their ability to protect 38 year old Evgeni Nabokov in net. They should score plenty of goals, but they are going to give up too many to live up to the hype.

4. Columbus Blue Jackets +1200

The Blue Jackets could be a sneaky good team this year. The additions of Nathan Horton and Marian Gaborik should help improve their 28th ranked power play from a season ago. Of course their success hinges upon Sergei Bobrovsky. If he can repeat his Vezina winning performance from a year ago, they could make a run at the playoffs.

3. Philadelphia Flyers +1200

The Flyers have seemingly reloaded for this season. They could be a legit threat to go deep into the playoffs, but once again their biggest question is between the pipes. They brought in Ray Emery who is coming off an exceptional season splitting starts for the Stanley Cup champs. But how well will the 31 year old netminder (happy birthday yesterday by the way) handle a much bigger load, and much more pressure?

2. Washington Capitals +700

I don’t feel great about picking the Capitals to finish in second place in this division but someone has to. They replaced Mike Ribeiro with Mikhail Grabovski as their second line center but they still don’t seem to have enough depth to be a legit cup contender. Where they need to continue to succeed is on the power play. They scored on 26.7% of their power play opportunities last year which is absurdly high. They are going to need to click at that same level, while improving upon the 4th worst penalty kill unit also while getting a super human season from Ovechkin to help their even strength game, if they want to compete with the Penguins. There are a lot of ifs with this team but they have the potential to at least compete in the regular season.

1. Pittsburgh Penguins -140

There are just three things that could hold this loaded offense back; Marc-Andre Fleury, the Bruins and the Penguins. Fleury constantly melts down in big moments. He has shown flashes of greatness but they are becoming more and more rare as the years go on. After last year’s playoff matchup with the Bruins this team is up in it’s own head. The Bruins took them out of their game and I’m not 100% convinced they won’t start the season out of their game. The start to the Penguins season will be very telling. If they struggle it will be because they are still overthinking things. Obviously it would be no shock if they went out and dominated all regular season long, but the Bruins may have done some real damage to their psyche. If they don’t have someone step up as a real leader for this team, they could be in trouble. While I am picking the Penguins to win this division and I think they deserve to be the favorites in the east, I would not be totally surprised if they missed the playoffs altogether. I need to see how they come out in their first few games to know what Penguins team has arrived to play this season.

Best Future Bets:

Columbus to win the East 16-1


Sunday, September 29, 2013

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