Another week, another sweep of the schedule for the New Jersey Devils. They remain the league's hottest team with 7 straight wins and only one regulation loss in the last 4 weeks. However, they remain in the same spot in the Atlantic Division just like everyone else. When the hole is so deep, it's going to take a while for there to be any movement.
The Philadelphia Flyers are building a commanding lead over their in-state rivals, the Pittsburgh Penguins. Both teams will have busy weeks ahead. In fact, everyone but New Jersey will be playing a lot. Please continue after the jump to check out what's shaking for the Atlantic Division.
The New Jersey Devils weren't the only ones who enjoyed a successful run of results last week. The New York Islanders have quietly put together some good weeks and remain right on the Devils' tails. That shouldn't be ignored by Devils fans who are only looking at the team's point deficit compared to eighth-place Carolina.
|Potential Points||Last Week||Conf. Position|
Going back to the bottom end of the division, the Islanders have an opportunity to make up the difference on the Devils this week. They can pull ahead even if the Devils sweep their third straight week. It's not going to be easy - nothing really is in the NHL - but it's entirely possible.
Speaking of not going to be easy, that's not a typo for the Penguins. They will be playing 5 games this week and it's a brutal spot. You'll see what I mean in a little bit.
Incidentally, the New York Rangers had a good week, snapping their 6-game losing streak last Sunday. However, they aren't out of the woods just yet. While they have a healthy lead on New Jersey in the division, they are 3 points behind sixth-place Montreal (who has a game in hand on the Blueshirts) and 2 points ahead of eighth-place Carolina. Unlike the Flyers and Penguins, the playoffs are not at all a guaranteed spot. Not to sound like a Rangers-hater (not that I mind being a Rangers-hater), but there's reason to believe they aren't as good as their record would indicate. They really need to pick up points to avoid dropping out because they aren't a good possession team. I'll write about this in a later post.
Now, the week ahead, and I remind you, the Penguins' schedule for this week is not made up.
|PHI||@ NYR||vs. PHX||vs. NYI||@ OTT|
|PIT||@ CHI||vs. WSH||vs. SJS||@ CAR||@ TOR|
|NYR||vs. PHI||@ CAR||@ WSH|
|NJD||@ DAL||@ TBL|
|NYI||vs. FLA||@ TOR||@ PHI||vs. WSH|
I speak for all Penguins fans: OUCH. Two back-to-backs with San Jose in the middle. Three of these games are against teams that need points: Chicago and Toronto need them to keep their playoff hopes alive; Carolina needs them to establish a playoff spot. The other two are against really good teams. And all of this without Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin along with a whole lot of other players. Good luck Penguins. You're going to need it.
The Flyers have an easier time, as only one of their four opponents this week is actually good: the hot-as-the-Devils Phoenix Coyotes. They may be able to be on the cusp of clinching a playoff spot by the end of this week. Even if they don't, I'm sure the Orange and Black faithful will be pleased with pulling further away from Pittsburgh.
Scoreboard watching doesn't favor the Devils here. The Islanders are right behind the Devils, and yet they play two teams right off the bat that they would have to jump to move up the standings. That's not really a rootable situation. While the Isles get tougher games at the end of the week, then scoreboard watching would dictate that the Penguins should get points over Carolina and Toronto. Who knows how the Penguins will be after this brutal week of games for them.
Basically, my advice to Devils fans is that they should focus on what the Devils can control: their two games this week. Hope the travel doesn't cool them off and get results. Especially against the Stars if only so Jamie Langenbrunner can fully realize what was "it" in the room.