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Atlantic Division Snapshot 3/26 - 4/1

Last week, I harped on how the Flyers slipped a bit and now they had Pittsburgh and the Rangers breathing down their neck. Since then, the other shoe decided to drop. And it dropped on the feet of the New Jersey Devils. The Devils beat Minnesota, but they lost to Boston and Philadelphia on consecutive days. Now, the Devils' lead in the division isn't so comfortable:

Atlantic Standings

New Jersey 73 47 23 3 97
Philadelphia 72 40 22 10 90
Pittsburgh 75 40 27 8 88
New York Rangers 74 39 27 8 86
New York Islanders 73 24 41 8 56

Philly is now 7 points behind with a game in hand, so consider that lead to truly be 5 points. The Devils do have 4 games to play within this week. Unfortunately, they aren't at all easy. The Devils have lost their last 3 road games and the have 3 of those coming up. They visit Chicago on Friday, then they host Carolina on Saturday, and it ends with two rivalry games. The Devils have the Rangers at MSG next Monday and Pittsburgh at the Igloo next Wednesday. The Devils need to improve their road performances quickly, otherwise, the division is going to be a dogfight come down to the last week of April.

Team GP This Week (H,A) Potential Pts. Last 5 Games Conf. Position
NJ 4 (1,3) 8 2-3-0 2nd
4 (2,2) 8 3-2-0 4th
2 (2,0) 4 4-1-0 6th
3 (1,2) 6 4-1-0 7th
NYI 3 (1,2) 6 1-4-0 15th

As it stands, New Jersey is still in the driver's seat. All they need to do is to get points - either by winning or losing after 60 minutes of regulation. Ideally, they'd want to win and keep the Flyers back. If the Devils keep losing games, Philadelphia will have their chance to overtake New Jersey. The week ahead for the rest of the division is after the jump:

The Flyers currently enjoy a three game winning streak and with their upcoming schedule they could certainly extend it. They have 4 games and their opponents are playoff-fighting Florida Panthers, a trip to the worst team in the league in the Islanders, the opportunity to host the Eastern Conference leading Boston Bruins on Sunday, and a trip to the playoff-missing Toronto Maple Leafs. With their talent and current momentum, I don't see why Philly can't win at least 3 of these games. That's 6 points I'm predicting based on how they've been playing recently. I'm sure that view is shared by the Flyers' faithful. It is in our best interest, as Devils fans, to cheer on the opposition and hope my prediction fails miserably.

The Penguins continue to thrive with a shutout win over Calgary tonight. They remain tied with Philadelphia in points. Yet, the Flyers remain ahead with 3 games in hand on the Penguins. So Pittsburgh really needs to continue having weeks of 4-1-0 records to keep up. Fortunately, the Penguins get to stay at the Igloo for this week. Unfortunately, the Penguins only have two games: the Rangers on Saturday and the Devils next Wednesday. With the Flyers having those two extra games, the Penguins are at the mercy of their rivals' performance. Pittsburgh fans will be doing a lot of waiting and, like us, cheering on of the Flyers' opposition. Even if that doesn't happen, the playoffs are a very real possibility thanks to their play over the last weeks.

Speaking of teams playing their way up, the Rangers have been doing very well under Tortarella. They got wins over their playoff-fighting contemporaries Montreal and Buffalo last week. That win over Philadelphia last Sunday was solid. As much as I hate to type this, the possibility of the Devils seeing the Rangers again in the first round is very real. They are ahead of Montreal by 3 points and 5 ahead of Florida. So unless they crash and Montreal and Florida starts getting points quickly, the Rangers should be able to make it in. They got a trip to Atlanta on Thursday, a trip to the Igloo on Sunday, and then they host the Devils on Monday. The Rangers can use this week to cement their position or keep their fans guessing.

The Islanders remain at the bottom. And this time, their last week didn't go so well. Oh, well! The pain of the 2008-09 season ends in a few more weeks. This week, the Islanders get the toughest back-to-back in the division: they go to Detroit on Friday and then they return home to host Philadelphia. Between the trip and the quality of opponents, all I can say is ouch! And then the week ends with the first half of another back-to-back: a trip Washington on Wednesday and hosting Montreal on Thursday. Again: ouch! Offer sympathies (and hopes they beat the Flyers) to your local Islander fan.