The Devils went up and down in results over the past week and in a tight division like the Atlantic - within a tight conference - a win or two can make the difference between challenging for the top or fighting to stay in the top 8. Of course, it's a bit early to fret about that. A bad week followed by a good one and a little help from opponents would make the bad week almost go away.
In any case, last week, I figured the Devils would be in third, but close to the top 2 teams in the Atlantic. Lo and behold, I ended up being right with last night's loss at Carolina.
These standings could change after this evening. The Rangers host Montreal tonight. Let's hope the Canadiens get a win in regulation because, well, we hate the Rangers and we enjoy their failure. I know I do. Oh, and it'll make it easier for the Devils in the division to get back up there. (LATE EVENING UPDATE: Merci, Les Habs!) Speaking of: look how close it is right now! While the Devils don't have a ton of games in hand on their division rivals anymore, they got a few and they are waiting right there to get up off of that thing. It'll make you feel better, Devils.
And even if the Rangers do get two points, the Devils have 3 games to make up the 4 point difference. Now, the Devils have 3 games to make up a 2 point difference. Here's what the week has in store in terms of potential:
|Team||Games This Week (H, A)||Potential Points||Last 5 Games|
Well, most of the division is going to be traveling, save for Philadelphia. In terms of inter-division match-ups, there are only two: the Islanders hosting the Rangers and the Flyers hosting the Penguins, both on Tuesday. Given the current set-up, I think we would prefer the Penguins and the Islanders to get wins that night - in conjunction to the Devils seeking victory.
For the Devils, this week sees the first half of their largest road-trip of the season. The Atlanta Thrashers visit the Rock tomorrow, but after that it's a long plane ride to Los Angeles on Saturday, a trip to Anaheim on Sunday, and a flight up to Vancouver on Tuesday. I anticipate none of those games to be gimmies. Well, maybe the Atlanta game would be one. I mean Pittsburgh used them to break their losing streak on Tuesday, maybe the Devils can sharpen up against them. Still, the Devils will have to play much sharper than they did against Carolina and Ottawa to take most, if not all, of the points over the next seven days.
As far as the division rivals go: the Rangers go right up to Buffalo on Friday and Ottawa on Saturday before going to Long Island on Tuesday. The Rangers probably should win at least 2 out of 3 given the relative weakness of their opposition. Let's hope they fail anyhow. The Flyers host the stingy Wild, the flopping Leafs, and the recently-poor Pens in their week. They should win at least 2 of those games, too. Again, let's hope they fail anyhow. Just based on the schedules, I think Devils have a tougher time of it and so winning alone may not see them higher than third place again when it's all said and done.
As far as teams below them go, while the Penguins broke their losing streak, they get to travel to Nashville and Colorado before fighting the Flyers. While both of those teams are near the bottom of their respective divisions, they aren't awful. Who knows how the Pens will perform in those games, but I doubt they catch up to the Devils unless the Devils do quite poorly and the Penguins get a streak going. And as far as the Islanders go, well, they aren't a concern at this point. Sorry, Isles fans!