After the first week of December, the Washington Capitals remain at the top of the Metropolitan Division. Not only do they have the most points, they have what helped the New York Rangers throughout all of last season: games in hand. Provided they can keep up the pace, they will remain in first or near first for quite sometime. Keeping up the pace is always the difficult part, though.
|Team||GP||W||L||OT||ROW||Pts.||Last Week||Ptl. Pts.||Weeks Won|
Source: NHL.com - Links go to SBN Blogs
The Capitals did not sweep the week but taking three out of four was enough to keep ahead of the two New York teams. Yes, two New York teams. The New York Islanders had a great week of results. They won three games, they beat their rivals, and they only lost their last game of the week beyond regulation. Seven out of eight points and breathing down the neck of their most hated rivals is a week any team will take. Fortunately for the New York Rangers, they lost to the Islanders beyond regulation and managed to hold on against Carolina to split this week in terms of points. They have a game in hand on their city rivals, but that will go away after this week. The Caps can still enjoy the points and games lead on New York regardless.
The Islanders made a big push up the standings but they cannot completely ignore the middle of the division just yet. The Pittsburgh Penguins are mathematically within their range provided they win all three of their games in hand. That's a big hope, though. The Pens are on a Western road trip; they'll finish it up this week before hosting the team that beat them already on that trip: L.A. Still, it's too early to count out the Pens. The New Jersey Devils are also not too far away. Like the Pens, they split their week and they have games in hand on the Isles. Unlike the Pens, they're not as close and losing their most recent game to Philadelphia really emboldens the Flyers from joining this middle group in the division. The Philadelphia Flyers nearly swept the week; they can settle for just being one of the few teams in the Metropolitan that earned more than half of potential points last week. While the Devils have a game in hand, two points isn't much protection. We'll see if the Flyers continue to push up the standings.
Meanwhile, after threatening Philly for a few weeks both the Carolina Hurricanes and Columbus Blue Jackets are settled at the bottom of the division for the time being. They're not at all easy opponents. They can definitely get some results, as the Blue Jackets have in the prior week. And Carolina just beat Montreal last night after dropping games to the Rangers and Devils. It'll just be some time (and probably some great run of results) before either gets out of the seventh and eighth positions. Instead, it'll be a weekly battle as to who doesn't end up at the bottom. Columbus won that one in this past week.
After a week of three teams earning more than half of the potential points and four teams splitting their week, the upcoming schedule could make a difference in the Metropolitan. It's light on games within the division, but heavier on road trips. Here's the week ahead with games within the division in bold:
|WSH||vs. DET||@ FLA||@ TBL|
|NYR||vs. OTT||@ VAN||@ EDM||@ CGY|
|NYI||@ PHI||@ CBJ|
|PIT||@ ANA||@ COL||vs. LAK|
|NJD||vs. FLA||@ TOR||vs. DET|
|PHI||vs. NYI||@ STL||@ DAL|
|CBJ||vs. LAK||@ WPG||vs. NYI|
|CAR||vs. ARI||@ DAL||@ ANA||@ ARI|
Starting at the top, the Washington Capitals will return home on Tuesday to play Detroit before hitting up the state of Florida and their two teams. They will try to keep their pace of results as the New York Rangers have a busy week ahead. The Rangers will host Ottawa today before travelling to Western Canada. This isn't an easy trip as Devils fans know all too well, but they are winnable games for the Blueshirts. The New York Islanders will get more games in hand with only two games coming up in the next seven days. They are also the only two games within the Metropolitan in this week. They'll have a chance to keep Philly down on Tuesday and keep Columbus down on Saturday. Short of a collapse by the Rangers, the Isles will likely stay in third for another week. If they can win those games, they can remain in some kind of striking distance.
The Pittsburgh Penguins will finish their road trip with games in Anaheim and Colorado before hosting Los Angeles later this week. That's a tough week on paper; though the Pens can still make it a successful trip with three out of the next four points. The Philadelphia Flyers have an even tougher week on paper. They get to host the Islanders, who have been playing very well, before visiting St. Louis and Dallas back-to-back. Both the Blues and Stars are excellent teams, any result from that set should be seen as a success. In between the two Pennsylvanian teams are the Devils. They'll host Florida tonight, visit their former architect and franchise legend Lou Lamoriello on Tuesday when they play Toronto, and then host Detroit on Friday. The Devils could come out of this positively, but it'll require them to turn things around at home.
Down at the bottom of the division, the Canes will also embark on a road trip into the West. They'll host Arizona today before hitting up Dallas, Anaheim, and then Arizona again at the end of the week. It'll be a tough trip, but a good week will get them not only seventh place but also a lot more respect. Meanwhile, the Blue Jackets have an interesting swing. They'll host Los Angeles, travel to Manitoba for a game against Winnipeg, and then return to Ohio for the Islanders game on Saturday.
Everyone in the division will see a bump to their travel miles in this coming week. We'll see whether they also see a bump in points. What do you think will happen in the division next? Can the Caps remain in first place? Will the Rangers get back to their earlier form in this season and take over? What about the Islanders; will they stay among the top three or slink back into the middle of the standings? Can the Flyers join that middle? Who will end up at the bottom after this week? Please leave your answers and other thoughts about the week that was and the week that will be in the Metropolitan Division in the comments. Thank you for reading.