Your eyes are not deciving you. This is the weekly Metropolitan Division snapshot for January 26 through February 1. Yes, it is indeed January 27. There was only one game within the division yesterday. It didn't go well unless you support the New York Rangers for some reason. Don't worry, Blueshirt fans, I've included the results of that game in this snapshot.
|Team||GP||W||L||OT||ROW||Pts.||Last Week||Ptl. Pts.|
Source: NHL.com (as of 8:30 PM 1/26/14) - Links go to SBN Blogs
Did it help the Rangers? Yes, it did. The Rangers now have a small cushion over the rest of the Metropolitan Division. It will likely not last as the Rangers have played more games than nearly everyone else in the division. The games in hand can easily make up a three point difference. But a small cushion in this division is like an oasis in the desert. One does not complain when one finds one.
As for the New Jersey Devils, who lost 7-3 on national television on Sunday, you can see the damage of the loss. Had the Devils held on or added to their 3-1 lead in the first period and won the game, they would be tied with the Rangers in points and second in the division by virtue of playing fewer games than the Rangers. Since they did not, they remain in sixth place with the no-longer-winless Washington Capitals right behind them in seventh; tied with the Carolina Hurricanes, who have two games in hand, in points; and right behind no-longer-undefeated Columbus Blue Jackets and the slipping Philadelphia Flyers. There's plenty of hockey to make up these difference. But a win at Yankee Stadium would have been worth more than just mere bragging rights.
Looking elsewhere in the division, two streaks have ended. Columbus managed to get results over L.A. and Philadelphia, but lost to Buffalo on Saturday. Their run has definitely put them in the mix for a playoff spot. The hope is that they don't follow a big winning streak with a big run of failures and/or lackluster performances. On the opposite end, Washington laid a 5-0 smackdown on Montreal on Saturday night. It's the team's first win since two weeks ago and it helps them secure seventh. Further losing could have put them at risk of falling below the New York Islanders.
Meanwhile, two streaks have begun. On the downside, there are the Philadelphia Flyers. They dropped both games of their back-to-back set with Carolina and Columbus. They followed that up by getting smashed by Boston 6-1. They had a bag skate before a charity event on Sunday. Needless to say, they need to get back on track soon. Just ask Washington how an extended winless streak can bring down a team in the standings. On the upside, there are the Carolina Hurricanes. They won three in a row, beating Philly, Buffalo, and Ottawa. They're in an advantageous position with fewer games played than anyone except for Columbus. Should they extend this streak, they could be ending up in the top three by next Sunday. That's obviously bad news for Philly, New Jersey, and Washington.
And at the top are the Pittsburgh Penguins. They split their week. It's OK. They don't have to keep doing well. Short of a meltdown, they have the Metropolitan Division crown on lockdown.
Here's the upcoming schedule of games for this week. Again, Sunday's result is included. With that in mind, it's a bit clearer as what teams Devils fans should cheer for beyond their own team. Inter-divisional games are in bold.
|PIT||vs. BUF||@ LAK||@ PHX|
|NYR||7-3 W||@ NYI||vs. NYI|
|CBJ||@ CAR||vs. OTT||vs. WSH||vs. FLA|
|PHI||vs. DET||@ ANA||@ LAK|
|CAR||vs. CBJ||@ MTL||vs. STL|
|NJD||3-7 L||@ STL||@ DAL||@ NSH|
|WSH||@ BUF||@ CBJ||@ DET|
|NYI||vs. BOS||vs. NYR||@ NYR|
First, the Devils need to hope the Islanders take care of business. This will not be easy for them. They get Boston ahead of their "home" and home with the Rangers. With the Rangers just playing at Yankee Stadium, they may have a bit of an advantage by being used to the outdoor rink. Still, as much as it risks adding one more team to the playoff mix, the Isles can make a lot of fans in the Metropolitan Division if they take points from the Rangers this week. Not just for rivalry - I want the Rangers to suffer - feelings but also to help make that second playoff spot up for grabs again.
Second, who you think is "for real" should determine who you want to win Monday's Carolina-Columbus game and Thursday's Washington-Columbus game. It's tricky. Those are three teams right in the vicinity of the Devils. While one may be inclined to hope the Jackets fall, the Canes or Caps rising in their place also affects the Devils' own place in the standings. Personally, I don't think much of Washington or Carolina. I don't know how strong they really are within the division. I don't know how long they can keep pace. So I am someone inclined to hope they make the Jackets fall.
Third, the Devils have to come out of this road trip with more than half of the points. They had a potential of eight points this week. They already lost one game so they got three more games. They get a really tough game on Tuesday in St. Louis. Dallas could prove to be really tricky. Nashville could be far better than the team that lost 5-0 at the Rock months earlier. This will be a challenge. But if they can do that, then they can keep pace within the division at worst and move up at best. Good luck.
Elsewhere, Philly is going to have a hard time turning that losing streak around. Detroit has a wildcard spot to play for and the Red Wings aren't a bad team. Los Angeles and Anaheim are among the best in the West. Maybe they'll turn it around. Like the Devils' trip, it'll be hard. After Carolina's inter-division game, they get Montreal (try to figure them out) and St. Louis. That winning streak may not last for long. Pittsburgh will get some tough games later in the week but for them, they're able to do whatever they want right now with respect to the division.
What do you think will happen in the Metropolitan Division this week? Who do you think benefits the most from their schedule? Who do you want to win beyond the Devils to help New Jersey's cause in the standings? Which teams will finish second and third in the Metropolitan by Saturday evening? Please leave your answers and other thoughts about the division and this current week of the schedule in the comments. Thank you for reading. The division snapshot should return to Sundays next week.