A new year is dawning. The last full week of NHL hockey of 2014 was completed yesterday. This week will feature a transition into 2015. For the Metropolitan Division, the picture is a bit clearer between the will-make-the-postseasons and the will-likely-nots. However, a certain hot team in Manhattan makes it a bit more interesting for the moment.
|Team||GP||W||L||OT||ROW||Pts.||Last Week||Ptl. Pts.||Weeks Won|
Source: NHL.com - Links go to SBN Blogs
The New York Rangers are the hottest team in hockey with eight straight wins. The streak has moved them into third place in the division. That they have two games in hand on everyone around them is key. It gives them not only a tiebreaker over the Washington Capitals, but a potential edge for the future. Because the Pittsburgh Penguins and New York Islanders both stumbled last week, the Rangers are not too far in the distance with a potential four points in their hand. Getting hot is great, but staying hot is remarkably difficult. But if the Rangers can pick up a few more points while still having games in hand on the two teams ahead of them, then it may not be a two-team race for the top later in 2015. As much as it pains me to write this, but well done Rangers.
Of course, this may be a fleeting moment. The Penguins and Islanders could just start get back to winning. This week's schedule has the Caps gaining one of those games in hand on the Rangers. So if New York falters now and the Capitals keep up their own good work, then third may still be theirs for the taking. At a minimum, these are the four teams that can be seriously considered for post-season play heading into the new year.
The lower half of the division, well, there are only so many high picks to try and dive for. The Philadelphia Flyers did the best among the worst as they got their road trip off to a fine start. Their loss on Saturday night to Nashville was their lone blemish. The Columbus Blue Jackets lost their first regulation game in December before Christmas. They rebounded with a big win over Boston. The New Jersey Devils got new coaches but similar results as they didn't win a game this week. Carolina Hurricanes got a shootout win over the Devils, which were sandwiched by regulation losses to New York and Tampa Bay. The Canes are mired at the bottom, such that their games in hand aren't enough to make up the difference with the Devils. We'll see if that lasts, though.
This coming week of games not only features a new year but also the Winter Classic. Washington will be taking on Chicago on national television, which should be a fun affair. I'm sure the Rangers fans will be big Blackhawk supporters to help out their standings. Here's what is coming up within the Metropolitan Division. Games within the division are in bold:
|PIT||@ NJD||vs. CAR||vs. TBL||vs. MTL|
|NYI||vs. WSH||@ WPG||@ CGY|
|NYR||@ DAL||@ FLA||vs. BUF|
|WSH||@ NYI||vs. CHI|
|PHI||@ ARI||@ COL||@ CAR||@ NJD|
|CBJ||vs. MIN||@ ARI|
|NJD||vs. PIT||@ DET||vs. MTL||vs. PHI|
|CAR||vs. MTL||@ PIT||vs. PHI|
Let's start at the top. The Penguins will have a busy week but one that's favorable early on. They'll get a Devils team in some kind of disarray (I shudder to think if they're not) first followed by a home game against the Canes on New Year's Eve. Getting back to winning ways will be helpful before a tough back-to-back set against Atlantic Division powers Tampa Bay and Montreal. At least those games are at home. Behind the Penguins are the New York Islanders. They will host Washington in what should be a great match-up before they embark on a road trip that takes them to Winnipeg and Calgary this week. The Capitals, as mentioned earlier, will go take it outside against Chicago on New Year's Day.
As the Isles will travel, the other team in New York will hit the road first by going down to Dallas and Florida before a home game on Saturday against Buffalo. That Buffalo team just stunned the Isles, so maybe that's not the gimmie some may think it to be? We'll see. Speaking of traveling, the Philadelphia Flyers will wrap up their long road trip with games at Arizona, Colorado, Carolina, and New Jersey. These are all games the Flyers really need to get results in to have a chance at getting back into the playoff picture. The problem is that the Flyers may not be all that good enough to get those results. They should be able to stay ahead of a Columbus team that has a light schedule: hosting Minnesota on New Year's Eve and visiting Arizona on Saturday.
Down at the bottom, well, they'll be taking on others in the division. Both New Jersey and Carolina will face Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, and Montreal at some point in their week. The only difference, other than the dates and venues, is that the Devils will go up to Detroit on December 31. Anyone hoping the co-coaches get some time for practices with the players will be disappointed since the Devils have another four-game week coming up. The message for both teams is the same, though: persevere.
As an old year is about to end and a new one is about to begin, this is what the Metropolitan Division looks like. Will anyone catch Pittsburgh in 2015? Can the Rangers stay hot enough to turn a two-team race into a three-team race? What about the bottom half, will any of those teams be playing for anything later in 2015? Please leave your thoughts about the week that was and the week ahead in the Metropolitan Division in the comments. Thank you for reading.