With an actual winning week (2-0-1), the New Jersey Devils have retaken the Atlantic Division lead over the Pittsburgh Penguins in the past week. But it is by the slimmest of margins: tiebreakers. Meanwhile, the Philadelphia Flyers remain in third but have fallen so far as to now being in eighth place. All of their problems are catching up to them at exactly the wrong time of the season. Despite a 2-1-1 record last week, It's still bleak for the New York Rangers to make the playoffs, but they sit in tenth with a very outside shot. The New York Islanders also had a positive week but they are reasonably eliminated at this point.
It's the next-to-last weekly snapshot for this season. While the division is likely only to send three teams to the playoffs; the big question will be where they are seeded. If you're looking for a preview of tonight's Devils-Flyers game, please go here instead.
Don't be surprised if the Atlantic finishes with this same breakdown. With only 7 games remaining, it's going to take a miracle for Philadelphia to catch either New Jersey or Pittsburgh in the standings. It's a little more likely for the some mixing of the bottom three teams; especially since the Flyers are only ahead of the Rangers by 4 points. However, everyone can only control their own games.
The one game in hand the Devils have had on Pittsburgh for an incredibly long time will be played in this coming week. Unfortunately, that appears to be a home game against the Chicago Blackhawks. So while the Devils currently have the benefit of more wins than Pittsburgh and the season series; it's imperative for them to keep pace. If either team starts dropping games, then it just opens up the opportunity for the other to get in. Look for this one to be tight going into the final weekend of games. After this week, everyone will play the same amount of games from here on out.
|Potential Points||Last Week||Conf. Position|
With their recent slide, the Flyers are back atop the playoff bubble instead of fighting off Ottawa and Montreal for fifth place in East. If you ever wonder how much can change in a week, look at the Flyers. One point out of eight saw them drop from fifth to being tied with Boston in points and being in eighth by tiebreakers (Boston with a game in hand). They need to start winning this week.
The Rangers faithful, those who want to see their team make the playoffs, need to hope their team keeps getting hot. They have to leapfrog Atlanta as well as move ahead of whoever is in eighth place. Sure, 4 points looks simple on paper. But not when everyone's played the same amount of games. They need help - so look for them to cheer on any opponent of Boston, Atlanta, and Philly at this point. Meaning it's very possible Ranger fans will be hoping the Devils win their next two games. Oh, the fun of the end of the season stretch.
As far as the Islanders go, they aren't mathematically eliminated, but the playoffs are highly unlikely with an 8 point gap between eighth and eleventh. Still, if they can get hot and the Rangers botch their own games, then they could have the last laugh over their hated rivals and challenge them for tenth. If you're a Rangers fan hoping for failure - in the hopes it may cause changes within the organization - then you'll be cheering for this regardless of how terrible it is to hope for failure.
Here's the upcoming stretch of games for the Atlantic Division:
|NJD||@ PHI||vs. BOS||vs. CHI||@ CAR|
|PIT||vs. TOR||vs. TB||vs. ATL|
|PHI||vs. NJ||@ NYI||vs. MTL|
|NYR||@ NYI||@ TB||@ FLA|
|NYI||vs. NYR||vs. PHI||vs. OTT|
Plenty of intra-division games for this week, the final games in their season series. Tonight, the Devils and Flyers will wrap up their season series; the Islanders will be hoping for some sweet revenge on the Rangers on Tuesday; and the Flyers and Islanders will end their series on April Fool's Day. The only Western Conference team involved in this week will be when the Devils host Chicago on Friday, April 2.
On paper, the Devils have a very tough schedule whereas the Penguins have an easier week. The Devils will face two teams fighting to ensure the postseason (Flyers, Boston); one of the best teams in the West (Chicago); and a very annoying Carolina team that has surged since naming Eric Staal captain. Not to mention the Flyers and Carolina games are on the road and the second half of a back-to-back set. Not easy. The Penguins have two opponents who won't make the playoffs at all (Toronto, Tampa Bay), one who is on the playoff bubble (Atlanta), and all three games are at home. Basically, if you want the Devils to take the division, you're cheering for spoilers this week as well as the Devils.