Pittsburgh Penguins: A
The Penguins are once again in contention for their division and, they hope, the Stanley Cup. Perhaps no player has been steadier this season for the Pens than goaltender Tristan Jarry, who struggled a year ago and has bounced back nicely in this campaign.
Injuries have lingered all season for Pittsburgh, but the Pens continue to find a way to win, and that is a big reason for the high grade. If the Penguins can get fully healthy, it will be scary to see what they can do after winning so consistently with a depleted lineup.
Pittsburgh was dealt a tricky hand in the first half of the seasons, but they have battled through and deserve a ton of credit for being tied atop the Metro at the halfway mark.
Washington Capitals: B+
Washington has lost some ground on the current top three teams in the Metro, but the Capitals still find themselves in prime playoff position. The Caps are in danger of falling below the Boston Bruins, but that wouldn’t move them out of a playoff spot.
The Capitals have been solid both offensively and defensively, though the power play has been one of the worst in the NHL, but lately, Washington has dropped some games. I think there are two questions surrounding this team after half a season: can it win if Alex Ovechkin’s production dips, and can it acquire a goalie?
The Caps get a B+ for being in the playoffs but not currently in contention for a top spot. However, there is a clear formula for this team to earn a higher grade by the end of the year and make a deep run in the postseason.
The Metropolitan Division has four playoff-caliber teams, three non-playoff teams, and one that could attempt to disrupt that balance in the second half of the season. This division should provide entertaining hockey on a nightly basis as the race to the postseason ramps up.