Hockey is back! That’s right the greatest sport on planet earth drops the puck on the 2021-22 season tonight with two great games. It’s a new era for the NHL as this season kicks off the new TV deal with ESPN and Turner Sports. We can expect to see a different type of broadcast from both networks and it should be a refreshing change of pace than what we saw with NBC. But enough about the new TV deal, it’s time to get into a preview for the upcoming season.
As the Flyers/NHL guy here at Branded I have decided to do an in depth preview on the Flyers division to go along with my upcoming Flyers season preview and my NHL predictions blog so stay tuned for both of them. Now lets take a dive into how I think the Metro plays out this year.
Arguably the toughest division in the league with the amount of talent from top to bottom. It’s been a while since we have had a full regular season and this year we are finally going to get back to normal. This division is completely up for grabs as there really isn’t a clear favorite. Multiple teams are already dealing with some injuries to some key guys so the early part of the season may not be a great indication of who might end up winning the division.
The Penguins are going to be without Crosby, Malkin, and Guentzel(COVID). The Capitals have Ovechkin currently dealing with a minor injury while Nick Backstrom is currently on IR but could be good to go for game 1. The Flyers will be without center Kevin Hayes for at least the first month of the season. Carolina should get Trocheck back in time for the season opener but it is still uncertain. As for the rest of the division, the Rangers, Devils, Islanders, and Blue Jackets are all relativity healthy at the moment other than a few day-to-day guys but nothing major.
It is going to be a fun division to follow along with all season long and here is how I see the teams finishing at the end of the year…
I am going to get a lot of shit for this because being a Flyers fan people are going to think I am being biased. Maybe I am a little bit, but this Flyers team is setup to have a very big bounce back year. GM Chuck Fletcher made some fantastic moves during the off-season and greatly improved the Flyers biggest weakness which was defense. As long as Carter Hart can get back to playing the way we all know he is capable of the Flyers should be at the top of the division all season long. I’ll have a more in-depth preview of the Flyers season when I drop my Flyers season preview blog later this week.
2nd- New York Islanders
I can’t stand the Islanders, I don’t hate them as much as the Penguins but they have just become such an annoying team. I’m still not convinced they are even all that great but they have proven me wrong too many times before now and I am not letting them make me look like an idiot again. They constantly just find ways to win and they play a great defensive style of hockey. They have a great goaltending duo in net that will once again help carry them to a successful season.
Another team that I have refused to believe is as good as they have been. They have been a great young and exciting team over the last few years and I think they have finally found their long term answer in between the pipes with Frederik Anderson. He was great with Toronto and with a better defense in front of him in Carolina I think he will really shrine. I still have my doubts about this team and they are going to really have to battle to get into this third place spot but I think they find a way to sneak in.
I’ll always struggle to find nice things to say about this team as there really isn’t much I hate in this world more than the Pittsburgh Penguins. So instead of saying nice things I’ll say why they will finish outside of the top 3 in the division. Tristan Jarry stinks, their defense is even worse, Crosby and Malkin are hurt and old. Honestly I wanted to put them lower in the division but I just know somehow they are going to constantly be lurking around and find themselves in a playoff spot.
5th-New York Rangers
This might come as a surprise to some but I actually think the Rangers are going to be decent this season. They showed some good signs last year and if their young guys can continue to develop that should set them up for a nice season. They have great goaltending and as long as their offense can produce the way it should they may surprise more people than just me.
Yes, the Capitals still have a great offense and a solid defense but I am not sold on their goaltending. I think they are going to be in the mix with the teams I have listed above them at 4 and 5 but I just don’t see them being all that great this year. Ovie is obviously going to score a lot like he typically does but when I look at this Capitals team I just don’t see them in the playoffs this year.
7th-New Jersey Devils
The Devils are still in rebuilding mode and even with the addition of Dougie Hamilton thats not enough to get them close to a playoff spot. I’m sure they are going to show some signs of how great their future can be and Mackenzie Blackwood is going to steal some games for them for sure. But in the end they will be at the bottom of the division for another year.
8th-Columbus Blue Jackets
They were bad last year and they are going to be bad again this year. They have talent on their team for sure but I just can’t see them really competing with the top teams in this division. The good news is Patrik Laine is starting to look like he’s getting back to his goal scoring ways and their defense could really be the highlight of their season.