Last week, the New Jersey Devils were on top of the Eastern Conference and all five teams of the Atlantic Division were in the top eight of the conference. Yet, a round of poor performances from much of the teams leaves many changes. Given the lack of wins by the division, it really shouldn't be all that surprising. I mean, going winless in your last 3 isn't a way to stay at the top of the Atlantic; but only Pittsburgh moved past the Devils. The New York Rangers and New York Islanders saw them fall below eighth place and the Philadelphia Flyers only moved up one position in the division. Read on to see the current situation and the week ahead for the Atlantic.
It's still quite tight within the division. Pittsburgh fans shouldn't be too confident with their lead as the Devils remain a point behind with two games in hand. Philadelphia has the advantage of having games in hand on everyone, but they missed a real opportunity to jump up the standings as New Jersey managed only one point in three games. The Rangers and Islanders combined for one win and fell further within the conference.
The Devils really need to get their act together this week because they play one fewer game than everyone else this week. It's good that they get the extra rest at the start of this week, but the winless streak must end ASAP. Otherwise, Philadelphia has a realistic chance at catching up and the Devils could find themselves in third as November ends. Another week without wins even gives the Islanders and Rangers to surpass them but that would require both teams to win 4 straight and that's asking a lot from them. Of course, there's a chance the Devils could re-take the division lead. Pittsburgh would have to drop at least three points and the Devils win out, for that happen.
Here's how the week looks for each team:
There's four inter-division games this week, and three of them feature the Islanders. The Islanders finally get some home games before traveling to New Jersey on Saturday. Hopefully they can end their road trip on a high note against the Leafs. What's interesting is that everyone has a back-to-back set right after Thanksgiving, and only the Rangers are on the road for both games. So most of the home fans will get to see their team during that holiday break, which is nice for us and hopefully a boost for the team.
Just looking at this on paper (well, text on a browser), the Penguins will likely retain their Atlantic Division lead unless they really flop. I mean, they were the only team in this past week to post a winning record within the division. Surely, they must be feeling confident. And healthier too, as a number of key players returned for Pittsburgh. Maybe the Devils will enjoy such a bounce when their key players return (mainly Paul Martin). Until then, Devils will just have to try and get points without them.