Welcome to November. There's been a shift in time - Arizona excepted - and we can say the start of the NHL season is over. Just about everyone has played ten to twelve games. Some have been wrecked and elevated by percentages. Others have shown their true strength. What is clear after October is that the Metropolitan Division remains up for grabs, with the Washington Capitals very much involved.
|Team||GP||W||L||OT||ROW||Pts.||Last Week||Ptl. Pts.||Weeks Won|
Source: NHL.com - Links go to SBN Blogs
The Capitals are in first place - and so they get the photo for this post - by a technicality. The New York Rangers, who benefited from games in hand last season, played one more game than the men in D.C. and won one fewer game. Therefore, the Rangers get to open November in second place. But that's more than fine. First place is only a point ahead of the Caps' way. That's where they should want to be. It could happen this week, though a tie would still give the Caps the edge based on . Look for this dogfight to continue throughout the season.
Also look for those two teams just behind them to factor in as well. The New York Islanders had an off week. While they earned four out of six points, two of those points came from post-regulation losses. Losses to teams they're expected to beat in Carolina and New Jersey. They were technically two shots away from sweeping the week, which would have jumped the Rangers despite their perfect week and the Caps despite their good week. Those dropped points can matter. Again, they're right behind them so the Isles faithful have no reason to be concerned. Likewise, fans of the Pittsburgh Penguins can nod knowingly that their squad isn't too far behind those three teams either. The Penguins swept their week and can claim that they are contenders in the short term. Their winless first few games are history; they're in a position to really push their way up the standings should a few things break their way.
The New Jersey Devils are currently right behind the Penguins and perhaps could be considered in that mix as well. After all, they are only three points behind the Capitals. They didn't sweep their week, but they rebounded well after giving Columbus their second win by beating Philly and the Islanders. Others in the division should thank them for it. That being said, the Devils were in an even better position standings-wise around this time last season and you know how that ended. So I wouldn't get too hyped for the Devils yet. If they're still around after this month, then, sure. Get hyped.
Behind the Devils are two teams going in different directions and Columbus. Starting at the bottom, the Columbus Blue Jackets remain solidly at the bottom. They got their second win of the season and then proceeded to lose the next two games. If there's a reason for hope, then it's in that those two losses were by one-goal each. In prior weeks, the margins of defeat were larger. May wins come their way soon. Speaking of wins, the Philadelphia Flyers didn't get any while the Carolina Hurricanes got as many as they could. The Flyers went winless; they lost to Buffalo post-regulation, and then New Jersey and Buffalo in regulation. Whereas they're on the downswing, the Canes swept their week. They beat Detroit, the Isles, and Colorado and spirits must be higher than they were at the start of the week. If they can keep up a good pace, they can jump Philly and start commanding some more respect. NHL .500 i isn't an impossibility for Carolina in the near future.
I hope you like road games because plenty of teams in the Metropolitan Division will be flying this week. Three of them specifically to the Western part of North America. Here's the schedule for this upcoming week of games for all eight teams. Games within the division are in bold.
|WSH||@ NYR||vs. BOS||vs. TOR|
|NYR||vs. WSH||@ COL||@ ARI|
|NYI||vs. BUF||vs. NJD||@ MTL|
|PIT||@ VAN||@ EDM||@ CGY|
|NJD||@ NYI||vs. CHI|
|PHI||@ VAN||@ EDM||@ CGY||@ WPG|
|CAR||vs. TBL||vs. DAL||vs. OTT|
|CBJ||@ SJS||@ LAK||@ANA|
Your road warriors for this week are the Blue Jackets, the Flyers, and the Penguins. Columbus will be hitting up California. That's a difficult trip for anyone, especially for a team that needs points badly. That Friday night game against Anaheim may be an interesting one to see who ends up on bottom: the team that can't seem to score (Anaheim) against the team that gives a lot up (Columbus). The Penguins and Flyers will both hit up Western Canada as both teams will face Vancouver, Edmonton, and Calgary in their buildings and in groups of three games in four nights. The Flyers have it a little rougher in that they have to go to Winnipeg on Saturday; the Penguins return home after the Calgary game.
The two New York teams will get to do a little traveling as well. The Islanders have it easier in terms of travel; they just have to go to Montreal after hosting Buffalo and the Devils. That said, the Isles did play on Saturday so that Buffalo game is part of a back-to-back. The Rangers will get a little time to prepare for hosting the Capitals on Tuesday. Then they'll travel a bit more than their Brooklyn-based rivals with a back-to-back in Colorado and Arizona.
There are some teams staying local for this week. Carolina will have a chance to extend their winning streak with three straight home games. They get a nice long break after today's game with Tampa Bay. If that doesn't go well, then they'll have plenty of time to prepare for their next two games. The Devils only have two games in this week, they'll head into Brooklyn before returning home for Chicago. Not easy games, but they're not going far to play them. Lastly, Washington will only have to go to Manhattan for Tuesday's game before seeking to keep first place in the division with home games against Boston (who's been hot) and Toronto (who's been not).
The start of the season is over, but the competition within the Metropolitan Division remains tight and interesting. Who do you think will be atop of the division by next Sunday? Will it be the Capitals, or will someone else take the throne? Which team has been more surprising: New Jersey or Carolina? Will Columbus come away from California with any points? Please leave your answers and thoughts about the week that was and the week that will be for the division in the comments. Thank you for reading.