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Division Snapshot 1/22 - 1/31

With the win last night, the Devils moved into first in the Atlantic Division. And so it is the All Star Break. Jersey at Imperfect Dynasty gave out some midseason awards to the team. Blez has a good poll question regarding the championship winning coaches of Devils' past. Chere says it's ridiculous that Parise is the only Devils' representative at the All Star Game (thank you Montreal fans!!!). Gulitti has a good summary of what the Devils have done recently. And I say it's a perfect time to take a look at the division and what's ahead for the rest of the month.

Since the All Star Break means the next day for regular season games is Tuesday, it doesn't make sense to just look to Wednesday. With a busy February, let's go all the way to the end of the month; I'll do a mini-snapshot on February 1, and then resume the weekly update. Here's the Atlantic.

Atlantic Standings

New Jersey 47 29 15 3 61
New York Rangers 48 28 16 4 60
Philadelphia 46 25 12 9 59
Pittsburgh 48 23 21 4 50
New York Islanders 47 13 29 5 31

(updated 1.22.2009 at 12:12 PM EST)

Looks good, right?

However, while it's got to feel nice to be in first, it's nowhere to rest one's laurels. As the standings indicate, the Rangers and the Flyers are just behind the Devils. After having games in hand for the first few Snapshots, the shoe is on the other foot and now the Devils are a game ahead of Philly. So I'm a little more concerned for them than at the Rangers. The Penguins could get hot and make this look even more messy/interesting in short order. With respect to the Islanders, well, celebrate good times, come on! They won a game this month! Here is what's possible points-wise for the rest of January.

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

The Devils get to finish the month with some challenge. They'll visit Ottawa on Tuesday and get a tough back-to-back set with a trip to Boston on Thursday, and hosting Pittsburgh on Friday (a.k.a. Doc Emrick Night!). I hope the Devils at least get one win off that back-to-back set to end the month.

The Rangers don't have it easy either. They host the Hurricanes on Tuesday and then travel to Pittsburgh, a team who beat them 3-0 last time they played. They'll have a few days off before visiting the Boston Bruins Domination Machine on Saturday. The Flyers will have, on paper, lesser opponents - but without any home support. They travel to Florida on Tuesday, and then have a back-to-back road set with Tampa Bay and St. Louis. Pittsburgh's the big inter-division player by hosting the Rangers on Wednesday and then visiting New Jersey on Friday. The Penguins faithful should hope the Devils game goes well without too many injuries or fatigue, as they go to play in Toronto the next night.

Of course, we want the Penguins to beat the Rangers silly again and have them fall to the Devils. That would be ideal and leave it up to the Devils to control their own destiny over both Pittsburgh and New York a little more. Philly is the big wild card, though.

Is it possible for the Devils to end the month in first place? Given that the teams in contention for first all have the same number of games, the Devils can control their destiny. Though, there's little margin for error through the rest of the month.

I can see 4 points being real likely over the next 3 games. But they'll need help from Rangers and Flyers shortcomings. I can see the Flyers possibly winning those 3 games, but I don't see the Rangers picking up 5 or more. In other words, I think Boston will probably beat the Devils and the Rangers. So I wouldn't be surprised if the Devils slip to either second or third place again. Of course, I was just hoping the Devils would gain some ground last week and, well, I got to see much more than that! Perhaps I will be wrong again, and the Devils stay in first. Even if the Devils slip, they won't be so far behind to retake the division.

The important thing about the team being there now, I think, is confidence. It's no longer a question of whether they are good enough to win consistently. Now, they know they can achieve first place.