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Capitals' 2017-18 Division Preview: Breaking down the rest of the Metro

Capitals' 2017-18 Division Preview: Breaking down the rest of the Metro

Last season, the Metropolitan Division was the toughest in the NHL, producing the Stanley Cup champ, the regular season champ and three of the top four teams in the overall standings.

How’s the division shaping up for 2017-18 after a summer of change for a few of its eight teams?

This week, CSN is taking a look at each club's offseason moves and predicting how they’ll do this winter.

Team: Carolina Hurricanes

2016-17 Results: 36-31-15 (87 points). Seventh in division, 12th in conference. Did not reach the playoffs.

Notable acquisitions: F Justin Williams, F Josh Jooris, G Scott Darling, D Trevor van Riemsdyk, F Marcus Kruger

Notable departures: F Jay McClement, G Eddie Lack

2017-18 Hurricanes analysis and prediction: Carolina is arguably the most improved team this offseason and also return a stong, young core. The most important move was the trade for goalie Scott Darling. The Hurricanes were ranked 26th in team save percentage last season. If Darling can provide consistency in net, that will be a huge boost. Carolina finished last season eight points out of the playoffs. Even with some questions on offense, they can easily make up that gap with the improvements they made. 

Team: New Jersey Devils

2016-17 Results: 28-40-17 (70 points). Eighth in division, 16th in conference. Did not reach the playoffs.

Notable acquisitions: F Nico Hischier, F Brian Boyle, F Marcus Johansson

Notable departures: F Michael Cammalleri, D Mirco Mueller, D Jon Merrill

2017-18 Devils analysis and prediction: After years of looking like they had no direction, there may finally be light at the end of the tunnel for New Jersey. The Devils improved tremendously on offense with Nico Hischier, the top overall draft pick, and Marcus Johansson. Did they do enough to end their five-year playoff drought? Probably not, but they did take a big step in the right direction.

Team: New York Islanders

2016-17 Results: 41-29-12 (94 points). Fifth in division, 9th in conference. Did not reach the playoffs.

Notable acquisitions: F Jordan Eberle

Notable departures: G Jean-Francois Berube, D Travis Hamonic, F Ryan Strome

2017-18 Islanders analysis and prediction: After firing Jack Capuano midseason, the Islanders went 24-12 under Doug Weight. They then proceeded to do little to help him in the offseason. Jordan Eberle is a solid addition and their three-goalie headache is now solved thanks to J.F. Berube going to Vegas. But this is a team that did not make the playoffs last year and did very little to improve, banking instead on their prospects being able to contribute enough to get them over the edge. To go with the concerns on the ice, there is also a major concern off of it as they will have to deal with the headache of John Tavares nearing free agency without an extension. The noise surrounding Tavares' status will only get louder as the season goes on. Can they compete for a playoff spot? Sure, but they will ultimately be watching the postseason from home.

More Metro Division previews:

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Caps beat the NHL-leading Bolts, 3-1

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Caps beat the NHL-leading Bolts, 3-1

If Friday’s game against the NHL-leading Lightning was the barometer many considered it to be, the Caps’ 3-1 victory proved this much: Despite an uneven recent stretch, Alex Ovechkin and Co. are still capable of beating any team in the league on any given night.

Washington has won two games in a row, three of the last four overall and seven of the last eight on home ice. The Caps now head to Toronto for a Saturday showdown with the Leafs on Hockey Night in Canada.

Tarik’s three stars of the game:

1- Alex Ovechkin, Capitals

The Caps’ captain had some good chances early but passed them up. Then, late in the first period, he called his own number. On a 3-on-2 rush, Nicklas Backstrom moved the puck to Tom Wilson on the ight wing, and Wilson fired a perfectly-placed setup to Ovechkin, who drilled a one-timer past Andrei Vasilevskiy. The goal was Ovechkin’s second in two games and moved him into a tie with Mike Bossy for 21st on the all-time goals list (573). Next up is Mark Recchi at 577 and Jari Kurri at 601.

2-Philipp Grubauer, Capitals

After a rough start—he allowed a leaky goal just 82 seconds into the game—the Caps’ backup rebounded and had an excellent game. A bunch of big stops in the second period, highlighted by a point blank save on Ondrej Palat, likely was the difference for the home team. The victory was Grubauer’s first in seven starts this season. Grubauer (25 saves) is now 4-0-1 all-time against the Bolts.

3-Jay Beagle

The fourth line center finished with a goal, a primary assist and a dominant percentage in the faceoff circle. Beagle’s goal was scored, backhanded, into an empty net late to clinch the win. The assist came on a shot that kicked off of Vasilevskiy’s pads right out to Devante Smith Pelly, who buried the rebound for a 2-1 lead. Beagle also won 13 of his 17 draws (82-percent). With a pair of points, Beagle now has 101 career points.  

Agree? Disagree? Let us know what you think in the comments.

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Barry Trotz explains why Philipp Grubauer will get the start vs. the NHL-best Bolts

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Barry Trotz explains why Philipp Grubauer will get the start vs. the NHL-best Bolts

Coach Barry Trotz did not make any changes to his forward combos or defensive pairs of ahead of Friday’s showdown with the NHL-best Lightning.

He did, however, make a significant change elsewhere: Philipp Grubauer will get the nod against the Bolts as the Caps begin a tough back-to-back set that wraps up Saturday night in Toronto.

It’ll be Grubauer’s second start on home ice this season.

“Just to change a little bit of the order there,” Trotz explained. “Grubi has worked hard. It gives him an opportunity at home.”

HOW TO WATCH CAPS-LIGHTNING

Grubauer, who turns 26 on Saturday and has family in town, is still searching for his first win of the season. He’s 0-5-1 with a 3.86 goals against average and a .876 save percentage. In fairness, though, he’s drawn some tough assignments. In fact, four of his six starts have been the backend of a back-to-back.

“More than anything,” Trotz added, “he just deserved it.”

There’s also this: Grubauer is 3-0-1 vs. the Lightning in his career, with a .923 save percentage and a 2.61 goals against average.

Asked how much matchups factor into goaltending decisions, Trotz said: “A little bit but not really. I wanted to give him a home start, so why not now?”

With Grubauer set to face Nikita Kucherov and Co., Braden Holtby figures to get the Leafs at Air Canada Centre on Saturday night.

MORE CAPITALS: HOW A PENALTY KILL DECIDED A GAME THAT WAS ALL ABOUT OFFENSE