Today's the All Star Game, tomorrow is a day off, and the NHL regular season will start back up on Tuesday, February 1. Here are the Atlantic Division standings at the break:
Read on after the jump for an overview of the division as it is and a look at the week ahead. An open thread for the All Star Game along with this week's episode of Talking Red will appear later in the day. P.S. Looking for the January Month in Review? It's right here.
Needless to say, the Atlantic will likely send three teams at most to the playoffs this season. The Philadelphia Flyers have a decent hold on first place right now. A 5 point lead over their in-state rivals and the same number of games played puts them in the driver's seat. Pittsburgh Penguins fans best hope for a Flyers collapse while their team is hot should they want to catch up. The New York Rangers may just have to settle for making the postseason since being behind by this many points while playing two more games ahead of Pittsburgh and Philadelphia is a tough hill to climb. Not impossible, but it's going to be more and more unlikely if both the Flyers and Penguins continue their good pace.
The hole is just too deep for the New York Islanders, who have the attainable goal of getting out of the bottom 3 in the league, and the New Jersey Devils, who have the attainable goal of trying to get out of dead last. These goals won't likely be attainable this week as Everyone in the division will play the same number of games.
In case you wanted further proof of the Flyers' hold on first, they went into the break with good momentum (wins) and by increasing their lead given the chance (2 more points than the Penguins). The Islanders continue to swoon, giving the Devils the real possibility to get past them in the coming weeks. Of course, that presumes the Devils have really turned it around as opposed to just getting hot.
Everyone will play on February 1, the first day of the season starting back up. Adding to the spice of this week, some of the upcoming games are inter-division games. For Islanders and Devils fans, it's all about spoiling opposition teams from here on out.
Of particular note this week is that February 3 game between the Devils and Rangers. Our Hated Rivals are the only team in the division that the Devils have not beat yet. Hopefully that will not be true anymore on February 4. Three games in four nights isn't easy, but like everyone else in the league, they did just get a good break before hand. Plus, only Patrik Elias is working this weekend, if you can call it that. Their purpose for points this week is to keep pace with the Islanders, if not get past them entirely. If the Isles can't earn as many points as the Devils, then New Jersey will be up from 15th in the conference quite soon.
Going back to the top of the division, while the Flyers stay away from it with a game against the Bolts and two Western Conference games (savor them, Flyers fans, you won't see one in, say, June), they're in a better spot than their in-state rivals. The Penguins get to ward off two divisional opponents and a Buffalo team that needs points to continue believing that the postseason is a real possibility. All while needing to keep pace with the Flyers too. It's good to be in the driver's seat.