Christmas is coming, Hanukkah has been ongoing, and it's pretty much the holiday season at this time of year. Presents can come at various points for various people and the only right thing to do with a gift is to accept it. They haven't been given, but five teams within the Metropolitan Division have enjoyed the rewards of hard-earned points in the standings in this past week. Their acceptance has created a gulf between the top half and bottom half of the division, though not as extreme as the one between second and third place. Here's how the standings look after this last week of games:
|Team||GP||W||L||OT||ROW||Pts.||Last Week||Ptl. Pts.||Weeks Won|
Source: NHL.com - Links go to SBN Blogs
Your eyes are not deciving you. Only four regulation losses were suffered by Metropolitan Division teams last week and all four were among the bottom three teams. The Pittsburgh Penguins, New York Islanders, and the New York Rangers swept their weeks. Post-regulation play in one game denied sweeps for the Washington Capitals and - surprise! - the Columbus Blue Jackets.
Fans of those five teams that were successful should be very pleased with their favorite team's current positions. The Pens remain at the top. The Islanders remain for real and solidly in second place. The Capitals remained in third place. The Rangers, who have games in hand on everyone, remain right behind the Caps and can over take them with those games in hand. The Columbus Blue Jackets remain a good distance behind the playoff picture. Staying hot is remarkably hard and they'll need to keep getting wins and points to stay in the picture. But their 8-0-1 record in December so far has pulled them out of the basement and that's good progress given where they were not too long ago.
Two of the bottom three teams didn't fare poorly: the Philadelphia Flyers and Carolina Hurricanes split the potential points they could have earned last week. But that's not too bad all things considered. The only team that had a rough week has been a team that has had rough weeks for quite some time, the New Jersey Devils. The Devils are in a bad spot: the team has been flailing, they're not playing well, and they've played more games than anyone else in the division. The Canes can't catch them mathematically but unless things change fast, they might. At this point, though, the Canes, Flyers, and Devils may not have much hope unless they get crazy hot like the Blue Jackets in 2015.
Christmas is later this week so the league will go on a break from Wednesday through Friday. It's a lighter schedule than usual, but with a bunch of games within the division (listed here in bold), there could be movement by next Sunday.
|PIT||@ FLA||@ TBL||vs. WSH|
|NYI||vs. MTL||@ BUF|
|WSH||vs. OTT||@ NYR||@ PIT|
|NYR||vs. CAR||vs. WSH||vs. NJD|
|CBJ||vs. NSH||vs. BOS|
|PHI||@ WPG||@ MIN||@ NSH|
|NJD||vs. CAR||@ NYR|
|CAR||@ NYR||@ NJD||@ TBL|
Starting from the top, the Penguins will face the two Florida teams again (they beat them both last week) but in their building back-to-back. They will return from the holiday with a home game against Washington that I'm sure Ranger fans will be hoping the home team wins. The Islanders have a lighter schedule with a tough home game against Montreal and then Team Tank on Saturday. Expect the Pens to remain at the top of the Metropolitan Divsion unless they metaphorically trip and fall over these three games.
The Capitals and Rangers will face off on Tuesday, which will be a big game for control of third place. The Rangers will still have games in hand on the Capitals by the end of the week, so it's more important for Washington to get two points. Still, the Rangers would like to take that game while causing further pain to the bottom two teams in the division. The Caps have it a bit harder with Ottawa the night before and then Pittsburgh right after Boxing Day.
Down in the lower half of the division, Columbus will try to keep the inferno of their December form going with home games against Nashville and Boston while praying that the team doesn't lose more players to injury. Philadelphia goes on the road by heading up to Winnipeg, moving a bit down to Minnesota, going home, and then going a bit more south to Nashville. Their spot is like the Devils and the need for points is now. The Devils get Carolina before Christmas, Our Hated Rivals afterwards, and who knows what else will happen with the team surrounding the holiday. In last, Carolina will try to not be the last team with fewer than ten wins in the NHL - a win this week will do it. They took the Rangers to a shootout on Saturday so it may be a spoiler's effort on Sunday. It could be against a bad Devils team they dominated but didn't beat in their last game. It may even be an old Southeast match-up against Tampa Bay. Edmonton has 7 and they're Edmonton so it may be a safe bet Carolina will do it. It's not much but they don't have much to play for.
Unlike last season, it's clear right now who is in a good spot and who is not in the Metropolitan Division. There's still a lot of hockey left to be played. What do you think of the events that happened in the last full week of the season before Christmas? Will there be any changes within the division this week? Can Columbus stay hot or will they crash back to Earth soon? Will the Rangers overtake Washington? Do you think Carolina will win a game? Please leave your answers and other thoughts about the division's play from last week and the week ahead. Thank you for reading.