Pittsburgh just wins in March, man. As such, they've got an iron grip on first in the Atlantic Division. If that wasn't sweet enough, their hated cross-state rivals just sat idly by as teams just passed them by for another week.
|New York Rangers||30||15||13||2||32|
|New York Islanders||31||13||15||3||29|
(updated 3.24.2013 at 10:15 AM EST)
They've got twelve points ahead of the New Jersey Devils and they've got a little space from Montreal in the Conference Standings. The Pittsburgh Penguins have won 11 games in a row and they got four home games coming up. I don't think they'll go a perfect 15-for-15 in this month, but it's been an absolutely amazing successful run for them.
|Potential Points||Last Week||Conf. Position||SCS Playoff Prob.|
From here on out, I'm including the playoff probability percentage calculated by Sports Club Stats. They have the Penguins as a mortal lock to get in. Of course, they will. I figure they really need only four or six more points to clinch and they can do that in this very week. If not, they'll have a whole month to get three wins or the equivalent.
Within the rest of the division, the New Jersey Devils and New York Rangers had a big game on Tuesday and it was won by the Rangers. Fortunately for New Jersey, they won their remaining two games while the Rangers split them. Therefore (and with some help from other teams), the Devils are back in the top eight with a small cushion, but a cushion nonetheless, over Our Hated Rivals. The Rangers will one of their games in hand on New Jersey this week so that cushion may not last long. They had positive weeks while the New York Islanders flopped. Almost like Icarus flying to the Sun, the Isles were so close to eighth place last week but earned nothing in this week. Therefore, they fell a bit and their potential for the playoffs took a massive hit.
As for the Flyers, well, they had one game and they lost it. I don't think it's happening this year for the Orange & Black. If it is, it's going to have to start this week with three inter-division games:
|PIT||vs. PHI||vs. MTL||vs. WPG||vs. NYI|
|NJD||@ OTT||@ TBL||@ FLA|
|NYR||vs. WSH||@ PHI||@ OTT||@ MTL|
|NYI||vs. FLA||@ WSH||@ PHI||@ PIT|
|PHI||@ PIT||vs. NYR||vs. NYI||vs. BOS|
The Flyers get their hated rivals today, who have been super hot, a Rangers team that is pulling away, and an Isles team that's close to them but increasingly irrelevant to the playoff picture. After all that, they get the Boston Behemoth at the end of the week. They need to get hot and fast if they want to get back in the playoff discussion. Otherwise, this could be their death knell. As Devils fans, you'd want them to knock off the Rangers on Tuesday as the Rangers are the closest threats within the division. Other than that, appreciate that they are about to be relegated to spoiler status.
Speaking of, the Islanders are in a similar boat but with an at least easier-looking run of games. They draw Florida today, the Caps on Tuesday, and a Flyers team that could be anything on Thursday before facing the Penguins Buzzsaw on Saturday. They need points to keep their playoff dreams alive. Going three games without wins last week put a big dent in them. Getting a few wins can extend the hope for just a little while longer. Should they falter again, they may end up as spoilers as well like the Flyers.
Elsewhere in the Atlantic, it's busy for everyone not named the Devils with four games in seven nights. That Pittsburgh-Montreal game can go a long way to establishing the inside track for first in the East. It is also the biggest on-paper threat to their winning streak. Even if it ends, Devils fans should hope they defeat Winnipeg on Thursday to keep them down in terms of points. The Rangers get two teams below them in the East that they probably need to beat before facing two stiff challenges in Ottawa and Montreal. With the Rangers only four points behind New Jersey and playing an extra game, feel free to root for all of their opponents. Ottawa's the only one where their potential win most hurts the , but if the Devils beat Ottawa on Monday, it won't hurt as much.
This leaves us with our favorite team. The Devils are on the road this week with games in Ottawa, a three day break, and then a back-to-back set with Tampa Bay and Florida. The Lightning just dumped their coach so who knows how they'll approach that one and Florida are who they are. It would be massive if the Devils can get results in both games and perhaps necessary by the end of the coming week. Monday's game in Ottawa will not be easy, but a win there goes a long way for New Jersey in the standings as they sit idle for a few days. The team should try to enjoy that break in the middle because it'll be their last one longer than two days for the rest of the season.
The weeks are getting larger as the regular season only has five left. The NHL trade deadline is April 3 so this week will be the last one for teams to take full account of their roster, their position in the standings, and determine whether they should make moves. What do you think will happen in this week? How will the Devils do on the road? Will the Penguins lose a game this week or will they be perfect throughout March? Can the Isles or Flyers get back in the playoff bubble? How hard will you cheer against the Rangers? Please leave your answers and other thoughts about this upcoming week in the Atlantic Division in the comments. Thank you for reading.