The New Jersey Devils had one very eventful week with Patrik Elias becoming the franchise's all-time leading scorer and Martin Brodeur setting a new all-time record for wins in the NHL. Overall, the last week has been very good to New Jersey. Last night's loss was their first in their last 5 games. Thanks to Philadelphia slipping quite a bit, the Devils still have a nice cushion in the Atlantic:
|New York Rangers||71||37||26||8||82|
|New York Islanders||70||24||38||8||56|
(updated 3.19.2009 at 3:14 PM EDT)
The Devils have one less game to play, but it's still not an easy week. Minnesota visits the Rock on Friday and like Carolina, the Wild are in the middle of a playoff fight. Expect them to battle hard. Then comes Sunday and Monday, probably the toughest back-to-back the Devils have had all season. They visit Boston on Sunday and they visit Philadelphia the very next night. The best team in the East, followed by a hated rival that is behind them in the division. Should the Devils want to really take a stab at first in the conference, they may need to win both of those games. That's a lot easier said than it is done!
|Team||GP This Week (H,A)||Potential Pts.||Last 5 Games||Conf. Position|
Still, mathematically, the Devils' lead over Philadelphia is still a minimum of 9 points. So it is not crucial as of now that the Devils need to beat Philly. The Devils will remain in first place after this week. However, it is important to keep pace as the season winds down.
A perfect example of that would be Phildelphia themselves! Take a look at last week's division snapshot and the one from the week before that. Philly was sitting pretty in second, while Pittsburgh got hot enough to get into the mix and the Rangers were treading a little water. In this past week, while the Devils went 3-1, the Flyers went 1-3! They split against the Rangers, but lost to Washington and Detroit. Even though they have 3 games in hand they have on Pittsburgh, the Penguins are right there with the Rangers breathing down their neck! All of this within seven days of hockey!
The Flyers visit Buffalo on Friday, and then they get a back-to-back against rivals: Sunday in Pittsburgh (and on NBC), and then they host New Jersey on the next night on Versus. National audiences will get to see whether the Flyers can avoid falling down just as the season winds down. For their sake, they have to get points and fast. Otherwise, that game in hand on New Jersey won't mean much when they're sitting in third or fourth!
Pittsburgh continues to be engulfed in flames. Before last night's game, the Devils were 8-2-0 in their last 10 games. Only Pittsburgh had a better record in that time span with 8-0-2! Beating everyone from Boston to Florida to Atlanta. Yes, the brave Penguins finally lost two games in this past week; but they still got points. Because they have continued to do so well, their playoff hopes are a lot brighter. And they have a real chance of leapfrogging over Philadelphia - you know they want to do that. They have a light week, though, only hosting Los Angeles on Friday and the Flyers on Sunday. The team will be rested, though, so expect the team to stay hot. Given that the number of games played doesn't favor Pittsburgh, they really need to in order to move up in the division!
The Rangers are waking up to the task, which makes sense with John Tortarella behind the bench. They got some important wins to help them claw their way up in the conference in the past week. Now, they get a three game homestand against Buffalo, Minnesota, and Ottawa. The Buffalo game will be important as a Rangers win would really put the screws to a team who is increasingly on the outside looking in.
The Islanders are there and they are doing pretty well all things considered. They continue to surprise opponents like Chicago, Phoenix, Toronto (though it was a shootout loss) and Montreal. I know the fans want that #1 pick and they want to see John Tavares in an Islander uniform. Still, you can't fault the Islanders' current effort. They get two straight road games, in Carolina and Ottawa, for this Friday and Saturday. Then they return home to host Minnesota on Wednesday. Who knows, maybe they can squeeze into fourteenth in the East. It's only 5 points away!
Regardless, the Devils should pull off at least 3 points in this coming week and that should be more than enough to stay ahead of the pack. And if Philadelphia continues to falter, then it's all for the better. If there's anything to learn, it's that a bad week can turn the comfortable lead into