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NHL futures betting: Analyzing the Metropolitan Division

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Since the NHL realigned their divisions in 2013, the Metropolitan Division has arguably been the most consistently competitive division of the four. 

Every year it feels like at least six of the eight teams have a legitimate chance of making the playoffs. There also hasn't been much separation among the teams in the division with any contending team capable of finishing atop the circuit. 

Oddsmakers are projecting another tight season for the division. Currently at BetMGM, six of the eight teams sit with odds between +375 and +650 to win the division

Goaltending questions arise

It's very hard to win in football without good quarterback play. The same can be said about baseball and pitching. In hockey, that game-changing position is the goaltender. 

There's only one team in this division where I'm completely sold on their goaltending. That team would be the New York Islanders who gave up just 2.23 goals per game last season. Their goalies, Semyon Varlamov and Ilya Sorokin, stopped 92.1% of the shots they faced. Both goalies return this season. 

TAMPA, FLORIDA - JUNE 13:  Mathew Barzal #13 and Semyon Varlamov #40 of the New York Islanders celebrate their teams 2-1 victory against the Tampa Bay Lightning in Game One of the Stanley Cup Semifinals during the 2021 Stanley Cup Playoffs at Amalie Arena on June 13, 2021 in Tampa, Florida. (Photo by Mike Carlson/Getty Images)
Mathew Barzal and Semyon Varlamov of the New York Islanders celebrate their team's Game 1 victory over the Tampa Bay Lightning in the 2021 playoffs. (Mike Carlson/Getty Images)

Carolina received tremendous goaltending last season as well, but none of their three goalies from last season are returning. Alex Nedeljkovic, Petr Mrazek and James Reimer combined for a +21.8 GSAx (goals saved above expectation) last season. 

However, Nedeljkovic is now in Detroit, Mrazek is in Toronto and Reimer is in San Jose. They've been replaced by the duo of Frederik Andersen and Antti Raanta. Both goaltenders dealt with injuries last season. Andersen lost his starting job in Toronto for the playoffs. When they played, they had a combined GSAx of -13.06. Carolina currently sits as the favorite to win the division at +375, but their goaltending is a question mark entering the season. 

Goaltending sunk the season for Philadelphia last year when Carter Hart was the worst statistical goaltender in the league. Hart was very solid in his first two years in the league, so there's hope for a bounce-back campaign for the young netminder. 

In Pittsburgh, goaltending was decent enough during the regular season. However, Tristan Jarry basically singlehandedly lost them a playoff series against the Islanders. Will he be able to rebound?

Young netminders like Igor Shesterkin of the Rangers and Ilya Samsonov of the Capitals have shown flashes of talent, but there's still more they have to prove. 

Changing of the guard?

Since 2005, the faces of the NHL have been Sidney Crosby and Alexander Ovechkin. They've been among the best players in the league and their teams have been among the most consistent contenders in the sport. With players like Connor McDavid and Auston Matthews taking the mantle, are their teams fading out as well?

Pittsburgh currently sits as the second favorite to win this division at +400. Washington sits at +500. The two teams finished tied atop their division last season with 77 points. 

The Penguins will have their work cut out for them to begin the season. Crosby is likely to miss a few games due to a wrist injury. Evgeni Malkin will miss the first few months of the season due to a knee injury. The team will rely on 36-year-old Jeff Carter to carry the load. Carter hasn't reached 20 goals since the 2016-17 season. Combined with the goaltending questions mentioned earlier, Pittsburgh has plenty of question marks entering the season. 

BOSTON, MA - MAY 21: Alex Ovechkin #8 of the Washington Capitals looks on before Game Four of the First Round of the 2021 Stanley Cup Playoffs against the Boston Bruins at TD Garden on May 21, 2021 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Adam Glanzman/Getty Images)
Alex Ovechkin of the Washington Capitals looks on before a 2021 playoff game against the Boston Bruins. (Adam Glanzman/Getty Images)

As for Washington, there are less questions there in terms of injury, but the aging of their core is a valid concern. Nevertheless, Ovechkin was still on pace for over 40 goals in a full year last year while Nicklas Backstrom played at nearly a point per game. They still have something left. 

What's the verdict?

This division is a real toss-up. I think the Devils will be improved, but don't view them as legitimate contenders to win this division. Columbus should struggle as they sold off many of their top players. 

I believe the Rangers are a fade at their price of +500. This team has not shown enough over the past few years to be in the company of teams like Washington, Pittsburgh, Carolina and the Islanders. It's a young team and I like their new coach, but I think the roster actually got worse over the offseason with the loss of Pavel Buchnevich.

Outside of that, I think the prices are fair and most importantly, they accurately represent the state of this division. It's wide-open and I believe there are five teams who can finish any combination of one through five. 

Philadelphia at +650 has potential to look good if Hart bounces back and meets his potential. I'd lean toward Carolina at +375 or the Islanders at +425 at current prices. However, I can't blame someone for going with the known commodity in Pittsburgh or Washington at their current prices of +400 or +500 respectively.

Stats from Hockey-Reference and Evolving-Hockey

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