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Weekly Metropolitan Division Snapshot: 1/25 - 1/31

The All-Star Game will take place tonight and a busier week awaits all eight teams in the Metropolitan Division. With the unofficial second half of the season starting, this week's division snapshot takes stock of who's in and out for the playoffs.

The Islanders stay on top, so they keep getting headline photos on this site for this weekly post.  Plus, scoring goals against the Flyers are always cool.
The Islanders stay on top, so they keep getting headline photos on this site for this weekly post. Plus, scoring goals against the Flyers are always cool.
Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

The All-Star Game is tonight at 5 PM EST on NBCSN.  Once that is over, the NHL regular season will continue on Tuesday.  That will unofficially begin the second half of the season.  For half of the Metropolitan Division, it will be the stretch run for them.  Four teams to battle for position, look to add players to address needs by March, and get ready for the postseason.  For the other half of the Metropolitan Division, it will be thirty-something games to evaluate where the team is and what they need to do to get better for future seasons.

Team GP W L OT ROW Pts. Last Week Ptl. Pts. Weeks Won
NYI 46 31 14 1 25 63 1-0-0 6 12
PIT 46 26 12 8 24 60 0-1-2 6 9
NYR 44 27 13 4 25 58 2-0-0 6 10
WSH 46 24 13 9 23 57 0-0-1 6 10
PHI 48 19 22 7 18 45 1-1-0 6 6
CBJ 45 20 22 3 16 43 1-1-0 6 5
NJD 47 17 22 8 15 42 1-0-0 6 4
CAR 46 16 25 5 13 37 1-0-0 6 4

Source: - Links go to SBN Blogs

Let's start with the better four teams.  Right at the top are the New York Islanders.   They have increased their hold on first place with a win and the floundering of the Pittsburgh Penguins.  For them, their goal for this second "half" is simple: maintain the gains they made for 2014-15.  Behind the Islanders are the Pittsburgh Penguins.  Their goal is to stay healthy and get their acts together.  They're going to make the playoffs, but take a look at that points column.   Third place is right behind them and if they don't start getting wins soon, it could become a NYC duo atop the Metropolitan for future months.

That third place team is the New York Rangers.  They clearly have been successful so far this season.  Because of that success, the schedule has become been their biggest friend.  All of those games in hand should come into play very soon.  It will be their opportunity to get even higher up the standings.   It'll also come into play to keep the fourth-place Washington Capitals away.  The Caps have been neck-and-neck with the Rangers for weeks now.  They'll be keeping a close eye on what Boston and Florida (seven points behind Boston, but with four games in hand) regarding the Eastern Conference wild card spot.  I think they'll be just fine in getting one of them provided they keep up their current pace.

That does it for the teams with a high probability of playing beyond the beginning of April.  There's four other teams with not much to really play for in 2014-15 outside of a draft position.  The Philadelphia Flyers have retaken the not-all-that-desirable fifth-place spot.  However, the Columbus Blue Jackets are just two points behind them with three games in hand.  The Jackets may be playing for pride and fifth-place may be worth that pride.   The New Jersey Devils ended their California road trip just fine, but they are way too far behind the playoff picture to make any kind of run.   Similarly, the Carolina Hurricanes may get a big rise in PDO from this point on, but they aren't going to get hot enough to get too far from the bottom.   None of these teams are on the level of Buffalo or Edmonton, but we could very well see all four teams picking in the top ten of the 2015 NHL Entry Draft.   Easy to root for from a distance. Not as easy if you're paying time and money to watch either team play.   Such is the reality of their situations.

The season will officially begin again on Tuesday.  Everyone but the Devils will start on Tuesday, in fact. All eight teams in the Metropolitan will have three games within five days for this week.  No one will gain or lose games in hand on other teams in the standings. Here's the upcoming schedule; games within the division are in bold.

Team 1/25 1/26 1/27 1/28 1/29 1/30 1/31
NYI vs. NYR vs. BOS @ DET
NYR @ NYI vs. MTL vs. CAR
PHI vs. PHX vs. WPG vs. TOR
NJD vs. TOR vs. PIT vs. FLA
CAR vs. TBL vs. STL @ NYR

At the top, the New York rivalry re-ignites between the best team in the area (the Islanders) and the second best (the Rangers).  Should the Rangers want to make some noise for the top of the division, this would be a big time to get a win.  The Isles will take on Boston and Detroit later on; again, their goal is to keep on keeping on.  The Penguins will be hoping they falter, though without a three-point game on Tuesday night.  The ailing Pens will try to get back to winning ways with a back-to-back between the Jets and Capitals, followed by a trip to The Rock.  The Rangers and Isles faithful will be hoping they continue to falter; and the Caps fans should be thrilled if they get two on Wednesday night.  Speaking of those other two teams, the Rangers get a tough Thursday game against Montreal followed by a potential spoiler on Saturday against Carolina.   The Capitals will have a potential spoiler from Columbus the night before that important-for-now Pittsburgh game.  The Canadiens await after that one.

As for the bottom half, the Flyers get three straight at home with fellow draft-pick-positioners Phoenix, hopeful Winnipeg, and flailing Toronto. Columbus won't gain ground by games, but they could spoil Washington before heading down to Florida.  Results between both teams will determine who is in fifth.  I think Philly will be there, they have an easier week on paper.  The Devils have three straight home games as well, though it's a bit tougher.  They'll get that same fading Toronto team first before a back-to-back with Pittsburgh and Florida.  The Pens could be a wildcard depending on who is available.  Don't sleep on Florida, they have something to play for, after all.  At the very bottom are the Canes and they have a tough week ahead. Maybe the toughest in the division with Tampa Bay, St. Louis, and the Rangers right after that St. Louis game.  That's a rough set for a team looking for silver linings for a lost season.

So who do you seeing take the division crown as January is about to end and the season seemingly moves with more urgency?  Will the Islanders stay above the rest? Can the Penguins get it together to claw their way to the top? Could the Rangers or even the Capitals crash the top?  What of the bottom half, what can they really play for at this point other than a position in the draft?  Please leave your answers and other thoughts about the Metropolitan Division and the week ahead in the comments. Thank you for reading.