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Division Snapshot 12/24 - 12/31

There is a good reason why I didn't do this on Monday and that reason is: Oops, I forgot. That actually isn't a good reason. But it's not a huge deal because doing a week out from today takes right to the end of the 2008 year. A good stopping point to sit back, mull a good "Hmmmmmm," and consider where the Devils stand. For now, here's how the Atlantic looks:

Atlantic Standings

New York Rangers 37 22 12 3 47
Philadelphia 34 19 8 7 45
New Jersey 32 19 10 3 41
Pittsburgh 34 18 12 4 40
New York Islanders 34 10 21 3 23

(updated 12.24.2008 at 9:07 AM EST)

OK, the Devils moved up a spot from last time thanks to their continued success - 7 out of 10 points in their last 5 - and the Penguins not playing as many games (as well as failing to Toronto). Not bad. But the Devils don't have third on lockdown by any means. Fortunately, the Devils still have a couple games in hand on everyone, most particularly 5 on Our Hated Rivals. Also, even with the loss last night, Pittsburgh got blanked by Tampa Bay and the Rangers choked with a capital C against the Capitals (but got a point), so the Devils didn't lose too much ground there. The Flyers did beat Ottawa, so Philly continues to surge up the standings. And I do mean surge, the Devils have handed the Orange and Black their only non-win in their past 5 games. So big thanks to Travis Zajac for that one. Here's what the next 7 days has in store for each team:

Team Games This Week (H, A) Potential Points Last 5 Games
NYR 2 (2,0) 4 3-1-1
PHI 3 (0,3) 6 4-0-1
NJ 4 (1,3) 8 3-1-1
PIT 3 (1,2) 6 2-3-0
NYI 4 (2,2) 8 0-4-1

Two of the Devils' games in the coming week are within the division: Friday hosting Pittsburgh and going to MSG on Saturday night to take on Our Hated Rivals. Wins there would be massive, among other things, for the Devils' drive to the top. Then they go on the road to take on St. Louis and Dallas on back to back nights to end the year. Something tells me Dallas would want revenge. The Devils also benefit from the fact that the teams closest to NJ don't play as many games. So the Devils winning over Pittsburgh and the Rangers would really benefit as it gives their opposition less of a chance to expand/retake their leads.

Of course, this is all assuming the Devils win their games and their rivals win all non-Devils games (though I will laugh and laugh and laugh if the Rangers lose to the Devils and the Islanders at home to close out the year). Still, it's possible for the Devils to get within 3-5 points within the Rangers and with 4 games in hand on them, which would be great. Philly will look to continue destroying everyone, so I don't expect them to leap frog the Flyers anytime soon. Hopefully they will in the new year; but it'll be a challenge if the Flyers continue their current form even if the Devils do the game. Looking ahead into January, the Devils' schedule starts to get crowded with games:

Team Games Played Games in January
NYR 37 12
PHI 34 12
NJ 32 14
PIT 34 14
NYI 34 11

Assuming I counted everything correctly, the Devils will make up the difference in games with Philadelphia and the Islanders (not that means much). So unless the Devils prosper where the Flyer fail, the Flyers are going to have a lead with the disadvantage of having the same number of games played. Some of the difference between the Devils and Rangers will be made up, but the Rangers will have a lead in games over New Jersey when January is done. And the Devils will have 2 in hand on Pittsburgh regardless. This makes January a crucial month for the Devils to continue rolling on like they have been in this December.