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Metro ride: Checking in with the rest of the Blue Jackets' division

Columbus in midst of stretch where 10 of 15 are against division rivals

by Jeff Svoboda @JacketsInsider /

For years, the NHL's Metropolitan Division has been one of the most difficult to work through in the entire league, and this season is no different. 

A division that boasted the Stanley Cup winner each season from 2016-18 this year has one of the teams tied for first in the NHL in points (Washington), a team that already has a 17-game point streak under its belt (New York Islanders), and two teams in Carolina and Pittsburgh that have been among the most difficult to play against in the league.

 Philadelphia and the New York Rangers also have turned in good stretches of play, while New Jersey is battling back from a rough start. That's a lot of good competition for the Blue Jackets, who have started to find their identity a bit with a 4-2-1 mark in the last six games but still sit in seventh place overall with 24 points. 

Last night's loss vs. the Flyers kicked off a stretch of 15 games in which Columbus will play Metropolitan foes 10 times. By the time the run ends Dec. 27 with a game at Washington, the Blue Jackets' results in those 10 games will help tell the story of the season.  

"This is who we're competing with to get into the playoffs," CBJ captain Nick Foligno said. "This is a great opportunity for us to make up some room. It's a great chance for us to climb back into it and put ourselves where we expect to be. It's one game at a time, but when you get a chance to play against your division, you have to make them count." 

The stretch will include three games vs. Washington, two each against Pittsburgh and the Islanders, and single games vs. the Flyers, the Rangers and the Devils.  

Here's a look at the season in a nutshell for each of the seven other Metro teams.  

Washington (17-4-5, 39 points) 

Major storyline: How good has John Carlson been? The four-time defending Metro champs are back where they always are, and the defenseman has been one of the reasons. He leads all NHL blueliners with 28 assists and 36 points, giving him an 10-point edge among everyone at the position. 

What else to know: The Caps are again one of the top scoring teams in the NHL, and Alex Ovechkin is still Ovi with 16 goals, good for a tie for fourth in the NHL. Braden Holtby has taken just two losses in regulation as the Caps just find ways to win games.  

New York Islanders (16-5-2, 34 points) 

Major storyline: All the people who expected the Isles to take a backslide have had egg on their faces, as the team's 17-game point streak set a franchise record. Defense is again the team's major calling card, with New York fourth in the NHL in goals allowed per game at 2.52 and Thomas Greiss posting a .930 save percentage. 

What else to know: The team's scoring has been by committee, with the team averaging 2.91 goals per game, and eight players in double figures in scoring. The addition of former CBJ center Derick Brassard has been huge, as he has 17 points in 23 games.  

Pittsburgh (14-7-4, 32 points) 

Major storyline: Injuries, injuries, injuries. Such names as Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Alex Galchenyuk and Kris Letang as well as a boatload of others have missed time, yet the Pens are still in the thick of the race thanks to a defense that has been the NHL's best at 5-on-5.  

What else to know: The Penguins are still sixth in the league in scoring with 3.52 goals per game after Wednesday's eight-goal outing vs. Vancouver. Jake Guentzel has 14 goals to lead the way and place second in the Metro in tallies, while the team's depth has stepped up with 11 players in double figures in points. 

Carolina (15-9-1, 31 points) 

Major storyline: The Canes started hot with five wins in a row to start the year, and last year's surprise conference finalist is proving that was no fluke. With 3.36 goals per game, the Canes are eighth in the league in scoring and third in the NHL in percentage of high-danger chances per Natural Stat Trick. 

What else to know: Sebastian Aho has shaken off a slow start to post 12 goals, tied for third among Metro scorers, while a trio of players - Andrei Svechnikov, Teuvo Teravainen and defenseman Dougie Hamilton - has at least 26 points.  

Philadelphia (13-7-5, 31 points) 

Major storyline: The Flyers went into the season thinking they had found their franchise goalie in Carter Hart, but the 21-year-old has been average with a .900 save percentage, though his 2.54 goals-against average is one of the better numbers in the league. He's won just seven of 16 appearances.  

What else to know: Goal-scoring has been an issue of late as the Flyers have two or fewer goals in five of the last eight games. No one on the team has 10 goals, though eight players are in double figures in points. 

New York Rangers (12-9-2, 26 points) 

Major storyline: Artemi Panarin has been as advertised. The former Blue Jackets star has a 12-20-32 line through his first 23 games to lead a Rangers team that is ninth in the NHL with 3.35 goals per game.  

What else to know: Ryan Strome is also averaging almost a point per game for a team that certainly is fun; in addition to being one of the NHL's top scoring squads, the Rangers allow 3.44 goals per game, tied for third worst in the NHL with...  

New Jersey (8-11-4, 20 points) 

Major storyline: It's been one of disappointment as a rebuilt Devils team just hasn't taken off. PK Subban has five points and is minus-6, No. 1 overall pick Jack Hughes and Nikita Gusev haven't scored as hoped, and veteran goalie Cory Schneider has been demoted.  

What else to know: It's hard to pick what's been the biggest disappointment, with the Devils 29th in the league in scoring (2.52 goals) and tied for 29th in defense, not to mention 26th in power play and 22nd in penalty kill.  

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