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NJ Devils & Atlantic Division Weekly Snapshot: 3/21 - 3/27

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The New Jersey Devils, finally healthy, helped their cause for the Atlantic Division title race with their sixth win of the season over the Pittsburgh Penguins.  The Devils swept the Penguins in their season series, leaving all Devils fans to rejoice.  Alas, they followed that up with one point in their next two games; so the Penguins were able to retake the lead by two points.  They're still in the hunt, though; thanks to Pittsburgh dropping a point against the Carolina Hurricanes.

The Philadelphia Flyers look to be in a good position as they've made their way up to fifth in the conference, and with a game in hand on the Ottawa Senators and Montreal Canadiens, who have 79 points as well.  Basically, they control their destiny if they keep on winning.  The New York Islanders' playoff hopes are increasingly bleak at six points behind eighth place Boston, who has two games in hand on the Islanders. But most Isles fans aren't surprised at this point.  New York Rangers supporters are, as their team slipped down behind Atlanta and remain three points outside of eighth place.  At this rate, it looks like the division is only sending three teams to the postseason this season.


Atlantic Standings

GP W L OTL PT
Pittsburgh 72 42 24 6 90
New Jersey 71 42 25 4 88
Philadelphia 71 37 29 5 79
New York Rangers 71 31 31 9 71
New York Islanders 72 29 33 10 68

(updated 3.21.2010 at 8:42 AM EDT)


Now, I'm sure you may be wondering when that game in hand on Pittsburgh is going to kick in for the Devils.  The season is down to it's last few weeks.  Well, it won't be this week, both teams play three games.  It'll be in the following week, the week running from March 28 through April 3.  The Devils will play four games and the Penguins will only play three.  What game will that be?  Well, it could very well be the first half of the back-to-back the Devils have at the end of that week: a home game against the Chicago Blackhawks.   Already I can tell you that it won't be an easy two points.

This week, with four games this week, the Philadelphia Flyers and New York Rangers use up their game in hand on the division.  The only way the Flyers can catch New Jersey is if the Devils collapse in an atrocious manner and the Flyers get hot.  With 11 games left in the season for both teams, it's very unlikely. 

Potential Points Last Week Conf. Position
PIT 6 2-1-1 2nd
NJ 6 2-1-1 4th
PHI 8 1-2-1 5th
NYR 8 1-2-0 10th
NYI 6 2-1-1 12th

 

This week is an important one for the Rangers. Their first game of the week - and arguably their one game in hand - is today against Boston on national television.  I'm sure some of you may be sick of seeing Blueshirts on NBC, but it's a vital game for them if they really want to make the playoffs.  The Rangers faithful won't be just hoping their team wins but that the Flyers get the job done against Atlanta.  The Thrashers have won their last three and basically thrown a wrench into the Rangers' fading postseason hopes.

There are a few intra-division matchups this week, all of them the end of rivalries this week. The Devils and Rangers will play their final game of the season between each other.  The Islanders and Rangers will also end their season series this week. (Aside: Wouldn't be just wonderful if the Rangers dropped both their rivalry games to guarantee that they miss the postseason?  Sometimes, I just appreciate schadenfreude in sport.) Lastly, the Battle of Pennsylvania will end the weeks for Pittsburgh and Philadelphia in a matinee.

3/21 3/22 3/23 3/24 3/25 3/26 3/27
PIT   @ DET   @ WSH     vs. PHI
NJ     vs. CBJ   vs. NYR   @ MON
PHI vs. ATL   @ OTT   vs. MIN   @ PIT
NYR @ BOS     vs. NYI @ NJ   @ TOR
NYI       @ NYR vs. CGY   @ CBJ

 

The Devils, on paper, have the easier schedule than Pittsburgh if only for not facing the Washington Capitals like Pittsburgh does this week.  However, that means little on the ice. The Devils are two points behind the Penguins with a game in hand and the same number of wins as them.  If the Devils can tie the Penguins or even get ahead of them slightly, it would be a very successful week.   A sweep of this week alone would be a huge success.  The Devils picked up 5 out of a possible 8 last week, the first time in a while they got more than half the points in a week.  Now is the time to take it to that proverbial next level.