Three snapshots left to go this season and the playoff picture starts to take a bit more shape. The Boston Bruins managed to clinch the first playoff spot in the Eastern Conference and the Metropolitan-leading Pittsburgh Penguins should be expected to be next very soon. Both should win their division. The rest remains up for grabs to a degree.
|Team||GP||W||L||OT||ROW||Pts.||Last Week||Ptl. Pts.|
Source: NHL.com - Links go to SBN Blogs
The Penguins decided to not be bros and beat Philadelphia on Sunday (or the Saturday prior) but they picked it up and picked up another strong week of results. Of course, Philadelphia has been hot. They have not lost a game since losing to the Devils two Tuesdays ago. Winning four straight is always good. Doing it in mid-March against tough opponents is just crucial. They go from teetering on the wild card edge to having a healthy cushion in second place in the Metropolitan Division. As much as I loathe the Second Rate Rivals, their results speak for themselves. Hence, the title picture. The New York Rangers, who had a very good week themselves, can challenge them directly. But both have set themselves apart from the pack. With only ten to twelve games left, we'll see whether they maintain those positions.
Those two weren't the only ones to have a good week. The Washington Capitals earned seven out of eight in their past week. They pulled out a shootout win in San Jose, which was enough to put them ahead of the Columbus Blue Jackets and tied with the Detroit Red Wings in points for the final wild card spot. The schedule is their enemy this week given who they have to play, that they only play twice, and both Columbus and Detroit play two more games than them. Still, they took care of business in a big way and have put themselves in the picture for the end of the season.
The Blue Jackets and Devils, on the other hand, suffered. Each only won one game in this past week and so they slipped further behind. It's not so bad for Columbus because they were hot prior to this. They have an opportunity to come right back to jump the Caps and perhaps take a wild card spot. The Devils proved Peter DeBoer's assertion that they needed to win two out of three to still be in the mix. One extra win last week and this week would put them with the Jackets and Caps. Behind them still, but not as far out. The problem is that they won only one out of three. At six points behind the final wild card spot and two teams in front of them, it's real bleak. Just as the Carolina Hurricanes, who had a decent week, aren't mathematically eliminated yet, they may be practically out of the running. While many will point to recent failures, their records are the result of the entire season of play. While decent at the time, both New Jersey and Carolina didn't have enough successful weeks. That's why they are where they are, really.
The New York Islanders only played one game and lost it big. They'll be busier this week and may have a hand in what the playoff picture looks like by next week's snapshot. It could've been worse. They could have dropped four games straight like the newest Atlantic Division wild card holders: the Toronto Maple Leafs.
|W.C.||GP||W||L||OT||ROW||Pts.||Last Week||Ptl. Pts.|
Source: NHL.com - Links go to SBN Blogs
Whereas Montreal and Tampa Bay rose from their struggles, Toronto has just been beaten. Four games last week. Four regulation losses. All that and they have played more games than Detroit, who had a great week and Columbus. They need to end their slide A.S.A.P. because they are a real risk of crashing out of the playoffs. Leafs fans should pay special attention to the upcoming schedule in the Metropolitan because these are teams they need to worry about. (Inter-Metropolitan Division games are in bold.)
|PIT||vs. STL||vs. PHX||vs. LAK||@ CBJ|
|PHI||vs. LAK||@ NYR||vs. TOR|
|NYR||vs. PHX||vs. PHI||@ CGY|
|WSH||vs. LAK||vs. BOS|
|CBJ||@ NYI||vs. DET||vs. PIT||@ CAR|
|NJD||vs. TOR||vs. PHX||@ NYI|
|CAR||vs. NYI||@ FLA||vs. CBJ|
|NYI||vs. CBJ||@ CAR||@ TBL||vs. NJD|
|TOR||@ NJD||vs. STL||@ PHI||vs. DET|
|DET||vs. MIN||@ CBJ||vs. MTL||@ TOR|
Toronto's next four games are rough: a Devils team that needs something just to keep fainting hopes alive, one of the best teams in the league in St. Louis, and a back-to-back against teams wanting to solidify the playoffs: Philadelphia and Detroit. The potential for collapse is real, Leafs fans.
Anyway, this coming week has a number of games within the division. Wednesday's night game between the Rangers and Flyers may go a long way in deciding who gets second, who gets third, and (depending on how the other games go) who has to worry more about teams behind them. Had the Devils taken care of business, today's Islanders-Blue Jackets game would make more of us support the orange and royal blue crew. It would have been nice if the Isles can spoil their first two games this week and do the job on Saturday. It may be for naught now, though.
Columbus has a fairly tough schedule too. After the Isles, they get a big game against Detroit and a tricky back-to-back with Pittsburgh and Carolina. The Penguins get two really tough opponents and a Phoenix team that's fighting for their wild card lives, so the Pens may look at the Columbus game rather seriously. The Blue Jackets need to find a way, though. The Capitals only get two games and while they are at home, it's to the Kings and Bruins. The Rangers and Flyers each only play three games and it's possible they drop a game or two at some point. They'll be watching Detroit closely before and after Tuesday night, hoping Minnesota and Montreal take points from them. This is a critical week for them.
After this, there will only be two Metropolitan Division snapshots. What does this week look like to you? Will the Penguins clinch a playoff spot by next Sunday? Who will take the other two playoff spots? Do you think a Metropolitan Division team will take a wild card spot? Can Toronto keep falling apart? What do you hope for the Devils at this point? Please leave your answers and other thoughts about the division and the upcoming schedule for this week in the comments. Thank you for reading.