Atop of the Metropolitan Division, the drama remains between two teams: the Pittsburgh Penguins and New York Islanders. The Penguins have been holding on of first by way of tiebreakers, as they have played one less game than the Isles and two more regulation/overtime wins. After the first week of December, there was movement below them with someone else taking third place and someone familiar back at the very bottom.
|Team||GP||W||L||OT||ROW||Pts.||Last Week||Ptl. Pts.||Weeks Won|
Source: NHL.com - Link goes to SBN Blogs
The Washington Capitals have moved up to take hold of third place with a successful week. The Isles and Pens did well, but the Caps were the ones that excelled their way to a new spot. They finally won consecutive games in regulation with wins over the Carolina Hurricanes and New Jersey Devils. As the New York Rangers were mostly idle for the week and lost their two games, the Caps leapfrogged them. They're not particularly safe, but being ahead is better than catching up. As there's a significant gap between the Pens-Isles duel and the rest of the division, the Caps can at least work towards building some space over the Rangers. The Rangers can bounce back provided that their two losses last week isn't a precursor to something else. Though with two games coming up, that may wait a bit. A good time for the Caps to establish some distance in the standings.
As for the rest of the pack, well, it's not pretty. The Devils did win a game for the first time since November 21. That was enough to maintain their spot, which could fade away behind the Capitals and Rangers should those teams start getting results. Of course, that spot isn't all that safe either. The Philadelphia Flyers, who have a game in hand on the Devils, went through California and came away with three out of six points. That's a nice return given the state of their team.
The bottom of the division featured a swap. The Columbus Blue Jackets may be bloody but they were the most successful team in the Metropolitan Division last week. They won all of their games, beating Florida twice and weathering the storm in a 3-1 win over Tampa Bay. Sergei Bobrovsky is back and that's good for them. The Carolina Hurricanes weren't too shabby. They played two games and split them; a result against Nashville's not bad. Alas, the extra game by Columbus leading to an extra two points put the Canes back in eighth. At least they aren't failing as they remain in the back. Who knows, maybe they'll make a charge for sixth or fifth place in time?
This week's schedule could provide those opportunities as the bottom half of the division has plenty of games within the division. Those games are highlighted in bold.
|PIT||@ NYR||vs. CGY||@ CBJ|
|NYI||@ MIN||@ STL||vs. CHI|
|WSH||@ TBL||vs. CBJ||vs. TBL|
|NYR||vs. PIT||@ VAN|
|NJD||@ CAR||vs. CHI||@ PHI||@ DAL|
|PHI||@ CBJ||vs. NJD||vs. CAR|
|CBJ||vs. PHI||@ WSH||vs. PIT|
|CAR||vs. DET||vs. NJD||@ TBL||@ PHI|
The Hurricanes, Blue Jackets, and Flyers all have three games within the division in this week and the Devils have two. Some of them are against each other, like the Devils-Hurricanes on Monday, Blue Jackets-Flyers on Tuesday, the Devils-Flyers on Thursday, and Hurricanes-Flyers on Saturday. Among those four teams, the Devils may have the most difficult schedule as they get Chicago the night after a game in Carolina and then a trip to Dallas on Saturday. The Stars may be struggling but they remain talented. The Canes don't have it easy either as they host Detroit the night before the Devils come to Raleigh and then they travel south to Tampa Bay on Thursday. The Blue Jackets get better teams down the week, ending with Pittsburgh.
As for the upper-half of the division, each team has something going for it. The Capitals will become very familiar with Tampa Bay by next Sunday as they play them twice this week. The Rangers only have two games and they are difficult ones. After playing the technically-top team in the division, they begin a four-game road trip with Vancouver on Saturday night. They'll benefit by games-in-hand, but results now could mean fewer "big games" later. The Penguins get the Rangers first, a few days off, and then a potential trap in a back-to-back with lucky Calgary and Columbus. It is a preferable schedule on paper than what the Islanders have though. The only team in the division without a game within the Metropolitan gets to visit Minnesota and St. Louis before hosting Chicago. That's not a friendly run of Western Conference opponents. But with the way they're playing, don't be so surprised if the Isles are neck-and-neck with the Pens by next week.
What do you make of the week that was? Will the Capitals be able to establish a lead on third place? Who will end up in last by week's end? Will this be the week the Penguins get ahead of the Islanders beyond tiebreakers, or can the Isles stick around? Please leave your answers and other thoughts about the division, the week that was, and the week ahead in the comments. Thank you for reading.