Well, the Devils have their hot streak cooled by Washington last night. They remain in first as February starts to get so busy, it should be spelled biz-zay.
OK. While the Devils lost yesterday, the Rangers failed against the Thrashers in the shootout (something I thought they specialized in?), the Flyers lost to Boston tonight, and the Penguins defeated Tampa Bay in overtime to complete a massive comeback. Mostly beneficial for the Devils, despite the loss. Four points ahead of the Rangers isn't much, but they benefit as now New Jersey has a game in hand on Our Hated Rivals. This is what's possible for everyone in the Atlantic:
|Team||Games This Week (H, A)||Potential Points||Last 5 Games|
It looks like the Devils will likely go another week in first place short of a massive collapse. The Rangers have the only chance to truly catch up, but only if the Devils pick up 1 point and the Rangers win all three games. They will visit Dallas on Friday, come to the Rock on Monday, and then host the Capitals on Wednesday. February 9 is going to be a huge game. Because it's a rivalry. Because it'll affect the division. And because we hate the Rangers and we want to see them lose miserably at the sticks of the glorious New Jersey Devils hockey club.
OK, so I get a little carried away. Still. I don't see the Rangers winning all of those games, especially considering they haven't won in their last 3 games.
The Flyers certainly can't make up the difference, all they do is play in Boston and in Atlanta on consecutive nights. Even if they win both, which is unlikely in of itself, they can't make up the difference mathematically. They will continue to have games in hand on both the Devils and Rangers, that will come in handy for them later.
The Penguins did well tonight, but the future for them isn't so clear. They get to stay at the Igloo, which is good for them. Unfortunately, they get to face Columbus and their hot goaltender Steve Mason on Friday; Detroit on Sunday; and San Jose on Wednesday. A team itching to make the playoffs, followed by games against two of the best teams in the league. Definitely not what you want to see if you're in a position of needing points quickly. While they can't move up in the division, they can better position themselves within the conference. If the Penguins can come out with more than 3, then I'd say good job to them.
The Islanders have a winning streak! Whooooooooo. The team has won their last 4 games, and picked up 9 out of a possible 10 points in their last 5. They have a busy week and perhaps they can continue shocking NHL teams with winning hockey. They visit Florida on Friday; visit Tampa Bay on Sunday; host LA on Tuesday; and take a trip to the Rock on Wednesday. I'm pretty confident the Isles won't win that last one. They are likely near-impossible to move up to fourth place at this point. Still, it's good to see they aren't mailing every game in from here on out.
Essentially, short of a collapse, the Devils will most likely remain in first. And this week is a good opportunity to extend their lead on the rest of the Atlantic. If they can get 6 or more points (while beating the hell out of the Rangers, of course), they will likely increase their current 4 point lead. The Flyers only play 2 games, so even 5 points earned helps against them. The Rangers play a fewer game, they have a stronger opponent in Washington, and the Devils can really put the screws to them with a win on Monday.
The next set of games for New Jersey include the first 60% of a 5 game homestand. First it's a trip to Atlanta on Friday, and all the rest are at home: LA on Saturday, the Rangers on Monday, and the Islanders on Wednesday. 3 wins is definitely doable. 4 is even not out of the question. Believe me, we want that for that all important lead in the division. Leads at this point are good. They are our friends. They can make any future short slumps less painful. Let's hope the Devils answer this opportunity.