2017 NHL Playoff Preview: Metro Division
These teams are going to beat each other up, maybe literally.
Our first of four NHL playoff previews begins with the rough-and-tumble Metro Division.
This is going to be a very difficult bracket from which to emerge. Arguably, the Metropolitan was the toughest division in the National Hockey League all season. Four of the top seven or eight teams in the league resided here, but one, the New York Rangers, will play through the Atlantic bracket.
As for the other three, the Capitals, Penguins, and Blue Jackets, they will welcome the Maple Leafs into their mix as they slug it out. One figures the emergent team will have a great chance at the Stanley Cup.
|1 Washington Capitals vs. WC2 Toronto Maple Leafs|
Washington turned on the jets as the season wore on, blowing past the Metro Division contenders to win the President’s Trophy in consecutive years. The addition of Kevin Shattenkirk gave the Caps another offensive weapon that they needed. As we have seen very clearly, Alex Ovechkin alone can’t win a Cup. With Shattenkirk and a strong Braden Holtby in goal, Washington looks on paper like the best team in hockey.
But you know what we always say here: games aren’t played on paper. Toronto has a chance in this series, and in a very limited sample size, they won one of three games against the Caps. That means little now as it’s a brand new season.
The Leafs played hard to get into this position after flipping in and out of a playoff spot for weeks and months. A big part of the reason why they’re here is their offense, led by Auston Matthews, Nazem Kadri, and James van Riemsdyk. Toronto can pot goals with the best of them, but one thing that bodes ill for them is their goaltending. The Caps are miles ahead of the Leafs in this department under Holtby. Toronto’s primary goalie has been Frederik Andersen, who is 26th in the NHL in goals against average.
In order for Toronto to make this a series, Matthews and company have to crack Holtby.