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NJ Devils & Atlantic Division Weekly Snapshot -12/6 - 12/12

The New Jersey Devils didn't have the best of weeks in terms of performance. But it's not about performance, it's all about results when it comes to the standings.  The Devils went 2-1-0 and increased their lead over the Philadelphia Flyers, who debuted a new coach (Peter Laviolette) by getting their heads stomped in by Washington, 8-2; the New York Rangers, who managed to actually prevent some goals recently in a 2-1 win over Buffalo; and the New York Islanders (who continue to follow up good games with poor ones, like a 4-0 loss to Tampa Bay.  While they lost last night to Chicago in overtime, the Pittsburgh Penguins remain the class of the division and are staying ahead of New Jersey.

Atlantic Standings

Pittsburgh 30 20 9 1 41
New Jersey 27 19 7 1 39
New York Rangers 28 14 13 1 29
New York Islanders 29 11 11 7 29
Philadelphia 26 13 12 1 27

(updated 12.6.2009 at 8:50 AM EST)

The win last night against Detroit was especially big as everyone in rest of the division lost, save for the Rangers who gained no ground because they were beaten earlier.  The result is an even larger lead over the Rangers and Islanders (10 points) as well as keeping within two points of Pittsburgh.  All of this with games in hand over everyone not named Philadelphia, who are so behind the game in hand doesn't mean anything now.  

The Devils have a busy week ahead, but mathematically they could catch up to Pittsburgh while further increasing their lead over the rest of the Atlantic.

Potential Points Last Week Conf. Position
PIT 6 2-0-1 2nd
NJD 8 2-1-0 4th
NYR 6 1-1-0 9th
NYI 6 1-1-0 10th
PHI 8 0-2-0 12th

As far as the lower three teams in the division go, they need to bear down and just worry about getting points. They can't catch New Jersey or Pittsburgh anyway; and they are on the lower end of the playoff bubble in the conference.  Tampa Bay currently sits in eighth place in the Eastern Conference with 30 points.  All three teams can jump over Tampa Bay (and Ottawa, as they have 30 points too) in the coming week - a far more attainable goal than looking up at the Devils and rueing their position.

This coming week has only two inter-division matchups, both of which are important for the struggling Flyers. They have at least a game in hand on everyone and taking points from their division rivals would help them out in the long run.  Outside of that, the division just needs to keep earning points for their own sake.

12/6 12/7 12/8 12/9 12/10 12/11 12/12
PIT   vs. CAR     @MTL   vs. FLA
NJD   @BUF   vs. CAR   vs. FLA vs. PHI
NYR vs. DET     @CHI     vs. BUF
NYI     @PHI @TOR     vs. BOS
PHI   @MTL vs. NYI   vs. OTT   @NJD

This is the most difficult week for the Devils in terms of fatigue, with four games and no break larger than a day in between.  They also draw Buffalo and Philadelphia, two teams the Devils not haven't beaten but also haven't looked good against in losses to either team.  Revenge is possible, but it won't be easy.  The Penguins get a fairly easy week (on paper) and will likely keep the Atlantic Division lead for another week.  But if the Devils keep pace, that would be more than acceptable in the coming week in my opinion.  With 3 games in hand on the Penguins, the Devils can make their move later on in that case.