Once again, the New Jersey Devils stay at the top of the Atlantic Division and technically have won all their completed games this week. The key word is completed, as the Tampa Bay game was postponed to Sunday due to a technical issue with the lights at the Prudential Center. The Pittsburgh Penguins snap their losing streak but come out at .500 with a 2-2 week; while they stay in fourth in the East and second in the division, the Rangers are coming up fast. The New York Rangers have surged up to sixth in the East and are only 7 points behind Pittsburgh. The Rangers aren't the only one moving up in the NHL, though. The Philadelphia Flyers are roaring back up the standings with 3 wins last week, and the New York Islanders are picking up points as well. The Flyers are just 1 pointsout of eighth in the conference, and the Islanders only 2 points back.
The Devils are the only safe team with a 6 point lead on Pittsburgh and at least 13 on the Rangers and the rest of the division. Since everyone won tonight, no one moved tonight, though Philadelphia got one point ahead of the Islanders earlier in the week.
|New York Rangers||45||22||17||6||50|
|New York Islanders||46||19||19||8||46|
(manually updated 1.10.2010 at 12:11 AM EST)
The Devils continue to stay at the top of the Atlantic Division and due to a lighting issue, have an outside opportunity to increase their hold of the Atlantic (and the Eastern Conference). Friday's game against Tampa Bay has been postponed to today, where the Devils and Lightning will pick up where they last left off at 6 PM at the Rock. Literally, Tampa Bay will start off up 3-0 with 9:12 left in the second period. The game will continue and the result will count. So it's four instead of three games on the books for this week. If the Devils can make the improbable comeback and get something out of this game, it'll further put them ahead in the standings (and I will laugh and laugh and laugh).
Even if the Devils don't win, which is entirely likely because they are three goals down to Tampa Bay with less than 30 minutes in the game, it's not a terrible thing. The division is idle tomorrow and the Devils would still maintain significant leads over all teams and still have games in hand over them all. Consistently trying to win yields this rewarding situation and wonderful feeling that the Devils don't need to scramble some wins together to stay competitive in the standings.
|Potential Points||Last Week||Conf. Position|
While the Rangers, Flyers, and Islander fans have to be feeling good about their team's recent fortunes, this upcoming week doesn't really favor them if they hope to catch Pittsburgh or New Jersey. Both the Devils and Penguins play more games than those three teams and unless Pittsburgh goes into another slump, the best those three teams can fight for is third place. With the Rangers having one extra game over Philly and the Isles, they too are set for third place unless they drop games. As far as the Devils go, the Penguins could mathematically catch them if they sweep their this week and if the Devils lose all their games. I find that doubtful given the week's upcoming schedule and each team's recent form:
|NJD||vs. TB||@ NYR||@ PHX||@ COL|
|PIT||@ MIN||@ CGY||@ EDM||@ VAN|
|NYR||vs. NJD||vs. OTT||@ STL|
|PHI||vs. DAL||@ TOR|
|NYI||vs. DET||vs. BUF|
There's only one inter-division game and it'll feature a lot of hate. It's the Devils and the Rangers and since it's a rivalry game, both teams would love to win it for that reason alone. The Devils winning would continue their hold on the Eastern Conference and further establish them as a Serious Contender. The Rangers, who have played very well as of late, can make this into a statement win and establish themselves further apart from the mess of teams from seventh through thirteenth in the East.
Elsewhere, the situation is clear for Philadelphia and the Islanders: win if you can or risk being left behind even further. For the top two teams in the Atlantic, win on the road and keep the Rangers at bay. Very simple at this point as January rolls on and the Olympic break looms in the distance. What's done now will determine whether March is just another month or an incredibly vital and difficult one for all the Atlantic Division teams. Except for the Devils. If they keep on winning like this, then they could be in the postseason by then.