At points of an 82-game season, gaps will form within the standings. Some teams that have been rather successful will pull away from the rest of the pack at the top. Some teams that have been rather unfortunate or just plain bad will find themselves looking up at a metaphorical mountain to climb. Then there's a mix of teams in between that could push ahead or fall behind but haven't done so for one reason or another. Last season, the Metropolitan Division had a very large mix between second and seventh place. This season, it's a bit smaller but it's formed between four teams at the moment - and the leader of that group precariously holds onto a playoff spot. There's plenty of hockey left for that to change, but that's the current state of the Metropolitan.
|Team||GP||W||L||OT||ROW||Pts.||Last Week||Ptl. Pts.||Weeks Won|
Standings Source: NHL.com - Links to SBN Blogs
The past week in the Metropolitan saw two big streaks finally end. The Pittsburgh Penguins got blown out by the New York Rangers to snap their winning streak. Nothing says "big loss" like a 5-0 score. But the Penguins responded well. They edged Toronto and won a hilarious shootout against the Rangers on Saturday night. They not only won the week with a 2-1-0 record but established their first place position. With games in hand on the teams closest to them, the Pens are in a fine position even if they saw their winning streak go down in definitive fashion. At the other end of the division, the Columbus Blue Jackets finally won a game for the first time since mid-October. After another loss to the Capitals, they beat the Philadelphia Flyers in regulation. It didn't take long for the next win to come: it came on Saturday night against San Jose. The Jackets, like the Carolina Hurricanes, have a lot of ground to make up. Carolina didn't go winless again, but they didn't get ahead of the Jackets. Winning their week is a good and welcomed first step. Jumping past the Canes is the next step - provided they don't get better and fast.
Other than those two teams, the only other really successful squad were the New York Islanders. You can see the mess in the middle of the division in the standings. The Islanders pulled themselves away from them at least a little bit with a positive week. They had a five-game winning streak going before falling to Tampa Bay on Saturday night. Still, the Islanders can look down at the rest of the pack. A bad week won't ruin them and that's a big plus considering their recent history.
The rest of the Metropolitan Division really didn't make much change beyond the standings' version of musical chairs. The New Jersey Devils split their busy week. Yet, that busy week leaves them ahead of the rest in terms of games played, which is a bad spot to be in. If you want another reason to not be happy with that loss to Colorado, then consider that it could have put them in third with a small lead. Then again, that they're still in this mix and not in the ditch with Carolina and Columbus is a reason to not be too unhappy. The New York Rangers are ahead of New Jersey by way of fewer games played. Alas, they left two points on the table with shootout losses to Colorado and Pittsburgh. Suddenly, many in Rangerstown now hate the shootout. No word if they hate losing to Edmonton on their home ice as much, which did happen last Sunday. Behind those two, Washington beat Columbus, got beat by New Jersey, and fell to the St. Louis so they dropped a bit. The Philadelphia Flyers had only two games to play and lost both - so they fall to sixth. Yet, neither the Caps or Flyers are all that far from a playoff spot - particularly the Flyers given that they've only played 16 games.
This week's schedule could change the picture by next week's division snapshot, particularly at the end of it. Inter-division games are highlighted in bold.
|PIT||@ MTL||vs. NYI||@ NYI|
|NYI||vs. TBL||@ PIT||vs. PIT|
|NYR||vs. TBL||vs. PHI||@ BUF|
|NJD||@ WPG||@ EDM||@CGY|
|WSH||@ PHX||@ COL||vs. BUF|
|PHI||@ NYR||vs. MIN||vs. CBJ|
|CAR||vs. SJS||@ DAL||@ LAK||@ COL|
|CBJ||vs. DET||vs. BOS||@ PHI|
Friday and Saturday could go a long way in determining whether the Pens will pull ahead of everyone in the division further or if the Islanders can make another claim for the throne. Who would have thought that and Isles-Pens home-and-home would be for first place? It should be great hockey. Pittsburgh and the Islanders get difficult opponents that Tuesday: Montreal and Tampa Bay, respectively. In other inter-division games, the Rangers and Flyers will duke it out on NBCSN. This game can also go a long way in determining who's ahead of the messy middle by next Sunday. The Flyers also get the Blue Jackets on Saturday, which is an opportunity for revenge for Philly and an opportunity for the Jackets to claw their way back up the division. The other games for those two teams aren't easy. The Flyers get Minnesota right after the Rangers; the Jackets get Detroit and Boston before going to Philly. The Rangers at least have the NHL's tomato can on Friday night.
The other three teams in the division will be racking up the airline miles. The Capitals will continue their road trip through Phoenix and Colorado before returning home for the Sabres. A successful trip plus getting the dull swords to further lose their edge will help their cause greatly. The Hurricanes host San Jose before traveling to Dallas, Los Angeles, and Colorado. None are really easy games - I'd like to think the Sharks would be up for this one since losing to Columbus the night before - so the Canes are going to have to draw deep to get points. As for the team we all love on this site, the New Jersey Devils, they will play most of their four-game road trip in this week. They're going westward through Canada. Winnipeg and Calgary have good records, which belies that they are good teams. And Edmonton beat the Rangers so the game against the Oilers isn't a gimmie. Still, the Devils can come out of the week positively and at least stay on the right side of the middle.
What do you think will happen in the Metropolitan Division this week? Will the Pens still reign at the top? Will Columbus jump Carolina? Who will finish in third by next Sunday? What do you expect out of the Devils in their upcoming road trip? Please leave your answers and other thoughts about what happened in this past week in the division and this week's schedule in the comments. Thank you for reading.