For the first time in quite some time, the NHL will break for the All-Star Game. This break will run from January 22 through January 26. This year's All-Star Game is hosted by one of the Metropolitan Division teams, the Columbus Blue Jackets. This break will likely be welcomed by most of the division. Players can get healthy and/or rest. Teams can regroup and assess where they really are in the league after a short "week" of games. This may help most of the Metropolitan Division as last week wasn't so hot for most of them.
|Team||GP||W||L||OT||ROW||Pts.||Last Week||Ptl. Pts.||Weeks Won|
Source: NHL.com - Links go to SBN Blogs
Only two teams put up winning records from last week: the New York Islanders and the Carolina Hurricanes. The Canes edged Colorado in a shootout and got a late one to beat Ottawa; the wins sandwiched a shutout loss to Vancouver. They made another step towards respectability. The Islanders' successful week was a larger statement to the league. They're here, they're in first, and they're very good. They smacked down their hated rivals, the New York Rangers; something Capitals fans liked and the Islanders fans absolutely loved. Then they came from behind to beat down the Pittsburgh Penguins to establish some space at the top. The only downer was a loss to Montreal on the next night, but few Isles fans can complain about a week where the team established themselves again as the best team in New York and dropped the Pens. That said, those times may not last as the schedule will have the Penguins make up those games in hand on the Isles and add one more.
In between the Isles and the Canes were six teams that split their week or just failed to do so. The Penguins smashed Minnesota before the Islanders put them in their place. The Washington Capitals won their home games before losing their road games by one goal each. The Philadelphia Flyers got wins against Tampa Bay (!) and Buffalo to book end two shut out losses to Washington and Vancouver. The New Jersey Devils got some luck to shock Los Angeles before Anaheim rolled through them like so many teams have done so this season. Again, something to like, something to dislike, and it evened out for these four teams.
The other two went 1-2-0 and it made a difference in the standings. The New York Rangers would hold on to beat the Columbus Blue Jackets to avoid going winless. It was still enough for the Capitals to jump over them for third place. The other 1-2-0 team is Columbus. They were also about to go winless for the week, but then they beat Boston in Boston (really) at the end. Like the Rangers, it was still enough for a team behind them - Philadelphia - to jump ahead of them in the standings. Also like the Rangers, the solitary win keeps them close with the team just ahead of them in the standings. And both teams have plenty of games in hand on those teams. The Rangers will use up one of them in this coming week whereas Columbus will still have three in hand on the Flyers. It's very possible they will take back those spots in the standings very soon.
With the All-Star Game coming up, this week's schedule is very short. No team in the league is playing beyond Wednesday and regular season action will return on next Tuesday. That said, there's a few games that could alter the state of the Metropolitan Division before the All-Star festivities hit Ohio. Games within the division are in bold.
|PIT||vs. NYR||@ PHI||vs. CHI|
|NYR||@ PIT||vs. OTT|
|PHI||@ NYI||vs. PIT|
|CBJ||@ MIN||@ WPG|
In less than an hour of this post, the Rangers will take on Pittsburgh on national television. A win for the Penguins moves them to just one point behind the Islanders. Even if the Islanders beat Philadelphia, the next two games for the Pens would give them the chance to take back first place. It will not be easy at all as it's a rivalry game before hosting an excellent Chicago team. Oh, and the Rangers aren't pushovers either. Speaking of the Rangers, they will get to host Ottawa before the break. If they win today, then a win on Tuesday will give them a tiebreaker over the Capitals for third place even if the Caps beat the Oilers (and they should because it's the Oilers).
Down in the lower half, the Flyers' games will have a direct effect on the upper half of the division. The other three teams are on the road. The Devils will finish up their California road trip in San Jose, Carolina will visit a Toronto team that lost their last four games, and the All-Star Game hosts will go to Minnesota and Manitoba before returning to Ohio.
After the All-Star Game ends, the unofficial second half of the season begins and there will be a lot more games and action among the teams. So please try to embrace this break in the schedule as much as the players and teams will. What's your reaction to the week that was in the division? What do you think will happen in this short week? Please leave your answers and other thoughts about the division and the upcoming schedule in the comments. Thank you for reading.