The New Jersey Devils are mired in their worst slump all season, winless in their last 6 games. In this snap shot, the Devils have earned the lowest amount of points in their last 5 games all season: 1 measly point in the overtime loss in Chicago. Amazingly, they are still in first place in the Atlantic Division thanks to Philadelphia missing opportunities to move ahead.
Philly remains the main threat with that all important game in hand. We cannot assume they'll lose that one (though they did lose to Toronto last night...), so consider the lead to truly be 4 points ahead of the Flyers. But based on points, Pittsburgh is now a contender provided both the Flyers and Devils fall on their faces in the final two weeks.
According to NHL Playoff Race, which is an excellent resource, that game in hand comes into play on April 12, the end of the season. The Flyers host the Rangers, and frankly, I really, really don't want a situation where we'd have to hope for a Rangers victory.
The Devils are somewhat in the driver's seat assuming they break the slump ASAP PDQ. They host Tampa Bay tomorrow, visit Buffalo on Saturday, and then they host Toronto on Tuesday. Assuming the Devils get their acts together and beat Tampa Bay tomorrow, that Buffalo game will be crucial. The Devils did beat them in Buffalo, but that was back in December. The Sabres need every win to have a hope of a chance to make the postseason, so that certainly won't come easily. (Note: The Chart has been updated to include games on 4/2
|Team||GP This Week (H,A)||Potential Pts.||Last 5 Games||Conf. Position|
The big benefit the Devils enjoy is that everyone plays the same amount of games in the next week. So if the Devils keep pace, they'll still keep their lead. If they continue to fail, it's just more chances for Philadelphia and Pittsburgh to move ahead. Mathematically, they can't overtake New Jersey; but I don't think any of the Devils (or the fans!) want to see either team tie the Devils and basically hope the last 2 games go well just to win the division.
So what's up ahead for the rest of the division?
Philadelphia has Toronto tomorrow night, a trip to Ottawa on Saturday, and a home game against Florida on Tuesday. I'd say their schedule is a little easier than the Devils. Then again, they lost to Toronto last night. Then again again, the Flyers will likely look for revenge. Counting on Philadelphia to falter is a fool's game and if they do against these three, well, I'll just laugh. Though the Florida game will be real interesting. Maybe their desperation will stun the Flyers?
Pittsburgh gets to travel this week: Carolina on Saturday, Florida on Sunday, and Tampa Bay on Tuesday. After a stunning 10-1-2 month, the Penguins are in a real interesting position. Marc-Andre Fluery is in a groove, the defense is doing all right in both ends, and the offense is still high powered. I don't see why they can't keep rolling. All the more reason for New Jersey to get it together quickly. Losing the division to Pittsburgh, who literally turned it up in March out of necessity, would be a massive disappointment.
The Rangers are on the outside of the division looking in, they will not be likely to catch the Devils. They'd have to leap over the two Pennsylvania teams in the first place and, oh, by the way, they still have to ensure they make the playoffs. They are lost very crucial game tonight and the Canadiens just leapfrogged over them with a win in Long Island. The Rangers are only one point ahead of 9th place Florida. So they need the away game in Boston (OUCH!) to go well on Saturday and they have a huge game afterwards- Montreal on Tuesday. They also would need Florida to slip a bit. The Rangers have looked better under Tortarella, but nothing is guaranteed yet!
The Islanders are finishing up the season back to their, uh, ways of not winning games. They are got pounded by a desperate Montreal team at home, they'll host fellow future-May-golfers on Saturday, and take a jaunt out to Carolina on Tuesday. Hopefully, the kids continue looking all right and the Islanders get a little something to put a small smile on the fans as the season ends.
The Devils haven't blown it, but tomorrow really is a must-win should the Devils want to keep the Atlantic.