2016 is upon us. It'll come this very week. Update your calendars, start practicing writing "2016" as the year, and modify lame statements of "It's [This Year], come on with [Thing]." Even with a new year coming, the leader of the Metropolitan Division isn't going change very soon. The Washington Capitals are hot and they are on top.
|Team||GP||W||L||OT||ROW||Pts.||Last Week||Ptl. Pts.||Weeks Won|
Source: NHL.com - Links go to SBN Blogs
The Capitals have won seven in a row right now. Extending a winning streak is always good. Starting a week off with a high-scoring win over the second place New York Rangers is even better. The Caps are one of three teams in the NHL with less than ten regulation losses. They could be the last team to break that mark before the All Star break in January. That speaks to their dominance so far in this league. They are the best in the Metropolitan, the East, and possibly the league. Dallas may have something to say about the latter, though.
The Caps' winning ways plus beating the Rangers means the Rangers have to worry much more about their hated rivals in Brooklyn than thinking about moving on up. The Rangers continue to be just ahead of the Islanders. They have slipped from their early success and they need to get it together. The New York Islanders are well rested, they have a game in hand on the Rangers, and they are intimidated by no one. The Isles will make up that game in hand in this week. We could see a different New York team in second place real soon.
Speaking of teams who have to watch their backs, there are the New Jersey Devils. While plenty of fans will be disappointed with the team losing in Carolina last night, they did have an average week of results. Three out of six points was enough to keep them in fourth place. However, their hectic pre-Christmas schedule means they have two more games played than the two Pennsylvania teams. Those teams have been earning more results than the Devils to the point where they are both a game behind. The Pittsburgh Penguins had two games and won them both. The Philadelphia Flyers had only one and won them both. Both could overtake each over soon; the Penguins are only ahead based on having more wins. Yet, both could send the Devils to sixth place if they keep improving - even if the Devils stand pat like they did in this past week.
Speaking of improving, the Carolina Hurricanes have continued to set themselves apart from the Columbus Blue Jackets. They've played well since the Devils smacked them down at the beginning of the month and they just got some revenge on New Jersey last night. They made Washington sweat a little at the beginning of the week. So while they split the week, they added some breathing room over the Columbus Blue Jackets. Columbus had two games, lost both of them by decisive margins, and so they take further control of eighth place. There's a lot of hockey left to be played. There's a new year coming, after all. Whatever hopes the Columbus faithful have in playing beyond April continue to fade away with each passing week.
While you may be preparing for a big party later, writing up some resolutions, or just keeping on keeping on, do make some time for hockey in this coming week. There's quite a bit of it within the Metropolitan Division. Here's the schedule for this week, games within the division are in bold.
|WSH||@ BUF||vs. BUF||@ CAR||@ CBJ|
|NYR||@ NSH||@ TBL||@ FLA|
|NYI||vs. TOR||@ TOR||@ BUF||@ PIT|
|NJD||vs. CAR||@ OTT||vs. DAL|
|PIT||@ WPG||vs. TOR||@ DET||vs. NYI|
|PHI||@ ANA||@ SJS||@ LAK|
|CAR||@ CHI||@ NJD||vs. WSH||vs. NSH|
|CBJ||@ FLA||vs. DAL||vs. WSH|
Everyone's got Friday off. That makes for a heavy Saturday slate of games. Let's start at the top anyway. The Washington Capitals will get a home-and-home with Buffalo followed by trips to Carolina and Columbus. This week could be the end of their streak - Carolina did lose to them only 1-2 last week, if could be in Raleigh? - though I doubt they'll flop this one. The New York Rangers will hit the road by going South. They'll hit up Nashville, Tampa Bay, and then Sunrise for a Saturday night against the
Jagrs Panthers. They'll be looking over their shoulders as to what the New York Islanders will do. They'll host Toronto today, visit Toronto on Tuesday, go to Buffalo on New Year's Eve, and then go to Pittsburgh for a game that could do a little more within the division than one may expect. Again, the Isles will make up their game in hand on the Rangers this week so we could see a better team in second place by next week's post.
The New Jersey Devils have one of the lighter schedules in terms of travel and dates. They don't have it lighter in terms of quality. They'll get the Hurricanes at home, they'll have to avoid repeating last-minute heroics in Ottawa on the next night, and then they host Dallas - the best team in the West and possibly the NHL - on Saturday. As they do their thing, the Pittsburgh Penguins will make up a game in hand on the Devils. They'll do so as they go up from Minnesota to Winnipeg today, come home for Toronto, go to Michigan to play Detroit on NYE, and then host the Isles. That last game could make a huge difference as to what the division will look like next week. The Philadelphia Flyers will just be on the road. They're going out to California for the week. They'll take on the hapless scorers in Anaheim, the hard-to-figure out San Jose squad on Wednesday night, and then a top possession team in Los Angeles this Saturday. The Flyers have been playing better so this trip could turn out to be another part of their turning point.
The Carolina Hurricanes will look to put further distance between them and Columbus - and possibly get into the zone where the Devils, Penguins, and Flyers occupy. It won't be easy at all. Carolina will play in Chicago tonight, get another game with New Jersey in Newark, travel to D.C. to play the possibly-still-crazy-hot Capitals, and then host Nashville at the end of the week. That's quite a bit of both possibility and challenge. The Blue Jackets may have it harder. They'll go play the Panthers today in the hopes of getting something out of Florida before they host Dallas (best in West) and Washington (best in East) later. With their form as of late, nothing will come easy for the Blue Jackets. Most of the NHL rarely is, but relatively so for the team representing Ohio.
That was the week that was and the week that will be in the Metropolitan Division. What do you think will happen beyond the Capitals staying in first place? Will the Devils fall from their fourth place position behind one or both of the Pennsylvania teams? Can the Islanders overtake the Rangers? How much further behind will the Blue Jackets be after this week? What do you hope will happen in 2016? Please leave your answers and other thoughts about this past week and this upcoming week of games in the comments. Thank you for reading.