Challenges for Penguins and Caps, Opportunity for Rangers: Metro in October

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If the Metropolitan Division isn’t the best division in the NHL once again, it probably still ranks as the most prominent.

You have the repeat defending champions in the Pittsburgh Penguins going toe-to-toe with the Washington Capitals, who’ve won consecutive Presidents’ Trophies. The New York Rangers are fixtures in the playoffs, and the Columbus Blue Jackets are aiming to join them. The Carolina Hurricanes hope to push one of those teams out of such status. Meanwhile, both the Philadelphia Flyers and New Jersey Devils are making strong cases for their rebuilds being ahead of schedule, while the New York Islanders hover as an intriguing wild card.

Check out the Atlantic Division outlook here, this Central Division outlook, and the Pacific Division one in this post.

Also, for an in-depth preview for the Metro, check here.

Carolina (beat Wild in season-opener at home)

Schedule

Tue, Oct 10 vs Columbus
Sat, Oct 14 @ Winnipeg
Tue, Oct 17 @ Edmonton
Thu, Oct 19 @ Calgary
Sat, Oct 21 @ Dallas
Tue, Oct 24 vs Tampa Bay
Thu, Oct 26 @ Toronto
Fri, Oct 27 vs St. Louis
Sun, Oct 29 vs Anaheim

After a slow start with their season beginning at home on Saturday, things get tougher on the weekend, following Tuesday’s game. (One must wonder if the young Hurricanes really enjoy the way this schedule fell, at least to begin.)

Beginning with that road game against the Jets, they’ll play four in a row and five of six away from Carolina. Stretching into November, they’ll play eight of 12 on the road from Oct. 14 – Nov. 10. There’s also a lengthy road trip in early December, so the Hurricanes might need to work through some self-doubt early.

On the bright side, the Hurricanes only have one back-to-back in October. Even a young team can appreciate that.

(Justin Williams doubly appreciates it.)

Columbus (Won opener at home, lost on the road to Chicago)

Schedule

Tue, Oct 10 @ Carolina
Fri, Oct 13 vs NY Rangers
Sat, Oct 14 @ Minnesota
Tue, Oct 17 @ Winnipeg
Thu, Oct 19 vs Tampa Bay
Sat, Oct 21 vs Los Angeles
Wed, Oct 25 vs Buffalo
Fri, Oct 27 vs Winnipeg
Sat, Oct 28 @ St. Louis
Mon, Oct 30 vs Boston

The road and home games seem like a reasonable mix. While they’re currently on a stretch of four of five games on the road counting that loss at the United Center to the Blackhawks, they’ll then play four straight and five of six at home.

Following that, they’ll open November with a three-game road trip.

They do face two back-to-back sets, so they’ll want to rest up between home games on Oct. 21 and Oct. 25.

New Jersey (handily won first two games  [one at home, one on the road])

Schedule

Wed, Oct 11 @ Toronto
Fri, Oct 13 vs Washington
Sat, Oct 14 @ NY Rangers
Tue, Oct 17 vs Tampa Bay
Thu, Oct 19 @ Ottawa
Fri, Oct 20 vs San Jose
Fri, Oct 27 vs Ottawa
Sat, Oct 28 vs Arizona

Sort of an odd start to the season for the Devils, as things are spaced out but New Jersey also faces three back-to-back sets in October alone. They might want to hope that the Senators are in a rut, as two of those sets feature single contests against the Sens.

Getting a week between the second and third back-to-back sets should help navigate some of the fatigue, which might make one stretch (Oct. 17 vs. Lighting plus a back-to-back on Oct. 19 and Oct. 20) tougher.

November’s likely the bigger concern, as it begins with seven of 10 games on the road.

Islanders (1-1-1 start, one road vs. two home games)

Schedule

Wed, Oct 11 @ Anaheim
Sat, Oct 14 @ San Jose
Sun, Oct 15 @ Los Angeles
Thu, Oct 19 @ NY Rangers
Sat, Oct 21 vs San Jose
Tue, Oct 24 vs Arizona
Thu, Oct 26 @ Minnesota
Sat, Oct 28 @ Nashville
Mon, Oct 30 vs Vegas

As you can see, the Islanders face some challenges, with their upcoming four-game road trip including a three-game tour of California. They also play six of their next eight away.

The Islanders only have one back-to-back in October, so there could be some “Yes!” chants if they fare well through this stretch.

Their schedule is relatively mild for a while, so it’s on this team to gain traction. That’s still a work in progress.

Rangers (Lost two of three, two of three games were at MSG)

Schedule

Tue, Oct 10 vs St. Louis
Fri, Oct 13 @ Columbus
Sat, Oct 14 vs New Jersey
Tue, Oct 17 vs Pittsburgh
Thu, Oct 19 vs NY Islanders
Sat, Oct 21 vs Nashville
Mon, Oct 23 vs San Jose
Thu, Oct 26 vs Arizona
Sat, Oct 28 @ Montreal
Tue, Oct 31 vs Vegas

Wow, what an opportunity for the Rangers.

Counting the three games they’ve already played, October is a home-packed month for the Rangers. Ten of their 13 October games take place at Madison Square Garden, including a six-game homestand beginning this coming weekend. Aside from winning their last game, the main plus of their bumpy start is that none of those losses came against Metro rivals.

Scanning their big-picture schedule, some of the heavier road runs seem concentrated in late January and beyond, so the Rangers would benefit from a strong start to 2017-18 (even if they’ve had a recent history of being a good-to-great traveling team).

Philadelphia (2-1-0, with all three games on the road)

Schedule

Tue, Oct 10 @ Nashville
Sat, Oct 14 vs Washington
Tue, Oct 17 vs Florida
Thu, Oct 19 vs Nashville
Sat, Oct 21 vs Edmonton
Tue, Oct 24 vs Anaheim
Thu, Oct 26 @ Ottawa
Sat, Oct 28 @ Toronto
Mon, Oct 30 vs Arizona

The Flyers are already showing promise in the standings, but when you consider that every game’s been on the road, these upstarts look especially intriguing so far.

(It’s noticeable that they’ve fired at least 31 shots on goal in all three contests and kept two of three opponents under 30, to boot.)

This four-game road trip wraps up with a significant challenge: beating a winless, angry Predators team playing its first home contest of 2017-18. If they can get a point or even a win out of that, then this is quite the start.

They can put a lot of energy into that game, as their five-game homestand doesn’t begin until Saturday. Nine of 13 games are in Philly from Oct. 14 – Nov. 11. Interesting stuff, especially without any back-to-backs remaining in October.

Pittsburgh (1-1-1, two at home vs. one road)

Schedule

Wed, Oct 11 @ Washington
Thu, Oct 12 @ Tampa Bay
Sat, Oct 14 vs Florida
Tue, Oct 17 @ NY Rangers
Fri, Oct 20 @ Florida
Sat, Oct 21 @ Tampa Bay
Tue, Oct 24 vs Edmonton
Thu, Oct 26 vs Winnipeg
Sat, Oct 28 @ Minnesota
Sun, Oct 29 @ Winnipeg

The repeat champs are used to fighting through bumps on the road, but even so, there are some suspension-challenging potholes up ahead. Their three back-to-back sets in October all take place on the road, for instance.

It’s bad enough that they also play seven of their next 10 games away from home, but November looms with more challenges. That Oct. 28 game in Minnesota actually begins a five-game road trip, and a run of seven of eight games on the road.

From now until Nov. 11, they play 12 of 16 games on the road and deal with five back-to-back sets. If this team has a strong record in mid-November, give them some kudos. If things are rough, these breaks could be a factor.

Washington (2-0-1, two road vs. one home)

Schedule

Wed, Oct 11 vs Pittsburgh
Fri, Oct 13 @ New Jersey
Sat, Oct 14 @ Philadelphia
Tue, Oct 17 vs Toronto
Fri, Oct 20 @ Detroit
Sat, Oct 21 vs Florida
Thu, Oct 26 @ Vancouver
Sat, Oct 28 @ Edmonton
Sun, Oct 29 @ Calgary

Counting the three previous games, the Capitals play eight home games vs. four road contests to start the season, so getting at least a point in their first three contests is a nice plus.

Washington’s schedule isn’t much easier than that of the Penguins, as they also face three back-to-back sets (mostly on the road) in October. Things lighten up for the Caps in November, though, especially with a lot of home games in late-November to early December.

Maybe Ovechkin can keep his hot streak going when the Capitals can use some power-play goals to ease the challenges early on?