Tight races mean any slips can cause a tear in the action. After being the hottest team in hockey, the New York Rangers got undone and won only one of their four games last week. The opportunity was taken by the new hottest team in hockey that isn't Boston: the Washington Capitals. They swept their week as part of a five-game winning streak and they are now in first in the Metropolitan Division. Their lead is small so it remains tight at the top.
|Team||GP||W||L||OT||ROW||Pts.||Last Week||Ptl. Pts.||Weeks Won|
Source: NHL.com - Links go to SBN Blogs
Poor Rangers, they are coming off the worst week among all eight teams in the division. The good news for them is that their previous hotness has given them a significant lead over the Pittsburgh Penguins and their archrivals, the New York Islanders. The men of Manhattan can afford a few bad weeks before they are in danger of losing their playoff position. Yet, they were at the top of the mountain and they saw that it was good for a while. I think they'll want to get back. Unfortunately, they'll have to hope the Capitals will cool off. They might soon, but Washington has demonstrated the quality necessary to be a top tier team in 2015-16. After all, they just caught the Rangers.
The middle of the division looks like, well, a middle. Three teams separated by two points. The Pittsburgh Penguins are in third by the mere fact that they have one fewer game played. They also have an edge in regulation and overtime wins (ROW). They pulled off a week where they didn't win two games but since they were post-regulation losses, they managed to end up earning more than half of the potential points. Well done? It was enough to keep just ahead of a 5-out-of-8-points-earned Islanders squad. With the Isles getting another busy week while Pittsburgh has a short one on the road, we could easily see both teams swap spots in the standings. Right behind both are the New Jersey Devils. Their one loss was to Columbus, much to the chagrin of the bottom of the division, but they got points elsewhere to keep pace. One doesn't know whether they can keep this up, but it's been fun to watch. How they took points from Montreal and Vancouver sure has been.
Down in the lower part of the Metropolitan, things have gotten competitive. It is to the point that there are no doormats here, just teams trying to crawl out of a hole. The Philadelphia Flyers did what they could to be on their way. After plenty of struggles, the Flyers had a successful week capped off by shutting out the Rangers. That's something I'm sure the Caps fans are thankful for. Should the Flyers keep up their winning ways and avoid the need for players-only meetings, they could be back in the mix sooner than one may think. The Columbus Blue Jackets remain in eighth behind the Carolina Hurricanes due to games played. Both squads did have good weeks. The Canes got five out of eight and that game in hand may get them closer to Philly. The Blue Jackets reached ten wins before Philadelphia and Carolina, but all of their losses being in regulation means they are just a bit behind. Still, their current form being in last place is far, far preferable to where they were last month when getting wins seemed to be an impossibility on some nights.
It was a solid week for most in the Metropolitan Division. December will begin in this week and we shall soon see some further moves within the division. Here's this upcoming week's games with games within the division highlighted in bold.
|WSH||@ MTL||@ WPG|
|NYR||vs. CAR||@ NYI||vs. COL|
|PIT||@ SJS||@ LAK|
|NYI||vs. COL||vs. NYR||vs. STL||@ OTT|
|NJD||vs. COL||@ CAR||vs. PHI|
|PHI||@ OTT||@ NJD||vs. CBJ|
|CAR||@ NYR||vs. NJD||vs. MTL|
|CBJ||@ MTL||vs. FLA||@ PHI|
Starting at the top, the Capitals will enjoy a nice four day break before visiting Montreal and Winnipeg. By the time they face Montreal, they could be in second place. The Rangers will hope to end their losing streak by beating Carolina or, failing that, their rivals the Islanders. Should those go awry, a home game against Colorado may help ensure they don't fall too far behind the Capitals. Assuming they keep winning, of course.
Third place should see some movement in this coming week. The Penguins kick off a four-game road trip with two of their games this week. They'll have plenty of time to prepare for San Jose and Los Angeles, not that either are easy opponents. The Islanders will have four games and can mathematically jump them. Can they do that with home games against Colorado, the Rangers, and St. Louis? Maybe, those latter two aren't easy games. A road game in Ottawa isn't simple. But if the Isles are really better than their counterparts in Western PA, then they should get ahead this week. The Devils will be the darkhorse for that spot. They'll host Colorado before visiting Carolina and hosting Philadelphia on a back-to-back. The Devils haven't faced Colorado or Carolina yet and the Philly team they'll see on Friday may be more of a challenge than they were back in October. With the way things have been going, never say never for the Newark-based squad.
The bottom three teams have three-game weeks as well. Philly will visit Ottawa before going to Newark and hosting Columbus in a back-to-back. The set may do more for the bottom three than it may do for the Devils depending on how it works out. Carolina does not have any back-to-backs but they can make the Rangers more miserable and undercut the Devils before visiting Montreal on Saturday. Doing so may get them close - or surpass - Philly. Lastly, the Blue Jackets will visit Montreal first before hosting Florida and going to Philly in a back-to-back. That's a tough set of three games, and the latter will have more of an impact within the division. It's still another week where the eighth-place team can show they are doormats to nobody.
That was the week that was and this is now the week that could be in the Metropolitan Division. What do you think will happen next? How long will the Caps' hot streak last? Can the Rangers jump them in this week? Will the Islanders and Devils take advantage of Pittsburgh having a short week? Are the Flyers really improving? Do you see Columbus climbing out of eighth this week? Please leave your thoughts about the division and what this snapshot shows in the comments. Thank you for reading.