October is now officially over. By extension, the start of the season is over. Everyone has a game under their belts in November, which looks to be a busier month for most in the league. It is still too early to deem anyone a contender. Anyone who had a poor first month has the time to make it up. Yet, the urgency will pick up a bit. At the beginning of this new month, the Metropolitan Division is less of a mess than it was at about this time last season. Like last season, though, a familiar team is at the top: the Pittsburgh Penguins.
|Team||GP||W||L||OT||ROW||Pts||Last Week||Ptl. Pts.||Weeks Won|
Standings Source: NHL.com - Links go to SBN Blogs
The New York Islanders were holding true until this past week where they went winless. The Penguins did nothing but win. They won their last four games and, more impressively, shut out their opponents in three of those four victories. Conceding three goals over three games is very good on its own. It's even better when localized to one game as they shut out the Kings (woah) and the Sabres. The Pens are in first and deservedly so.
New Jersey Devils fans should be somewhat pleased with the recent week in terms of results. The Devils lost badly to the Pens 3-8, but they rebounded with two wins. The games themselves weren't pretty efforts. The players stated after each game that they know they could have done better. The standings do not care. New Jersey won their first shootout in well over a season against Winnipeg and beat a divisional opponent, Columbus, in regulation. Second place is theirs for the time being.
The Islanders dropped by virtue of earning no points for a whole week. No Isles fan should be unhappy with the team's start. Yet, dropping that home game against Winnipeg was a downer considering how their road trip has begun. They got shut out by the Avs, who dropped five on them. They were beaten decisively by the Sharks. New York's more successful team will get some days off before continuing their Westside road trip. A couple of points and they could be back fighting for the top.
As for the Rangers, they did win the week in spite of themselves. Monday night saw them put up horrid start and lost two players against Minnesota for dangerous play. Down four goals heading into the third, the Rangers managed to ring up five goals to steal the win. On Saturday, the Rangers could not solve Ondrej Pavelec. The Jets goalie stopped everything in 65 minutes and forced a shootout. The rare double-shutout ended with a SOL as Winnipeg prevailed in the shootout. Three points out of four is good and moved them up to the upper half of the division. The performances suggest there's plenty to work on in Rangerstown.
In the lower half of the division, four teams combined for two wins. The Washington Capitals dropped all three games and so dropped down in the standings. The Philadelphia Flyers got a statement win over Los Angeles (assuming beating the Kings is a statement) before being served regulation losses by Tampa Bay and Florida. Columbus has been ravaged by injuries and it's shown on the ice. The team has lost five in a row, including all four games in the prior week. More healthy players with talent will help right that ship, but it's bad times for the Blue Jackets. Lastly, congratulations to the Carolina Hurricanes. It took them a month, but they finally got their first win of the season: a 3-0 victory over Arizona. They have plenty of catching up to do, but they took the first step on November 1. More than anyone else in the division, they are glad October is over.
With the first full week of November ahead, let's take a look at the upcoming schedule. Those of you who like games within the division should be paying close attention to Carolina. They're the only team with all of the divisional games coming up in this week with three of them. Those games are in bold:
|PIT||@ MIN||@ WPG||@ BUF|
|NJD||vs. STL||@ STL||@ DET|
|NYI||@ ANA||@ LAK||@ ARI|
|NYR||vs. STL||vs. DET||@ TOR|
|WSH||vs. ARI||vs. CGY||@ CHI||vs. CAR|
|PHI||vs. EDM||vs. FLA||vs. COL|
|CBJ||vs. CAR||@ CAR||vs. TBL|
|CAR||vs. LAK||@ CBJ||vs. CBJ||@ WSH|
The Canes get a rough home game to start the week before getting a home-and-home with Columbus and the Caps on Saturday night. If the Canes want to make some noise in the Metropolitan, then this is the week to do so. Columbus is still hurting and the Canes can start closing that gap in the standings with wins in those two games. Washington will be coming home from a road game against a strong Chicago team; they could catch them in a bad spot too. Good luck, Canes.
Other than that, the majority of the games are against teams in the other conference. New Jersey and the Islanders arguably have the toughest weeks. The Devils get a really good St. Louis team twice in three nights, with the road game in St. Louis followed by a road game in Detroit. November is filled with back-to-back sets for the Devils; it's crucial that they try to get something from those games. The Islanders have three days off before a mean back-to-back in California before ending their road trip in Arizona. They'll have to get results to avoid dipping further, but that little break should help them prepare for it. The Rangers don't have an easy time either, but at least they don't have any back-to-backs. Instead, they get home games against the Blues and Red Wings before two days off to head up to Toronto.
Elsewhere, the Metropolitan teams have some winnable games on paper. The Flyers get to host Edmonton before a revenge game (of sorts) against Florida. Washington will host Arizona, who just lost to Carolina, and Calgary before their back-to-back at the end of the week. Pittsburgh, the team at the top, gets to visit Winnipeg and Buffalo after traveling to Minnesota. Provided they get something out the Wild game, it's likely that I'm writing that the Pens will be in first next Sunday.
What do you make of the Metropolitan Division so far? Pleased with where New Jersey is? Surprised that the Isles, Caps, and Blue Jackets each went winless in this past week? What do you think will happen in this coming week? What do you expect from the Devils given their upcoming schedule? Please leave your answers and other thoughts about the division and this week's schedule in the comments. Thank you for reading.