Drama continues to reign atop of the Metropolitan Division. The Pittsburgh Penguins did nothing wrong in this past week, but the schedule was against them. The New York Islanders did nothing wrong and by virtue of having two more games than Pittsburgh, they retook first place. However, it is no longer a two-team race thanks to a near-perfect week by that other team in New York. This is your weekly Metropolitan Division snapshot.
|Team||GP||W||L||OT||ROW||Pts.||Last Week||Ptl. Pts.||Weeks Won||Playoff||% McD|
Source: NHL.com - Links go to SBN Blogs
The New York Islanders didn't have the toughest schedule on paper. They did beat Edmonton, Buffalo, and Toronto only by one goal before decisively beating up the Columbus Blue Jackets. It's all about the result in the standings regardless of margin of victory, though. Therefore, the Islanders are at the top and with a lead that does include that game in hand the Penguins have on them. The Penguins were more decisive in their wins, but they only had two games so they suffered from the schedule.
Now look at the New York Rangers. I told you, readers of this weekly post, that they could make a play for the top. They can now. They nearly swept their week, they have a game in hand behind Pittsburgh and two on the Isles, and they can make some noise provided they keep up the results. It shouldn't be a surprise if they take second place as early as next Sunday. I'd think they'll aim higher though. That next Isles-Rangers game is going to have some serious ramifications - and it's coming up this week.
The Washington Capitals remain on the outside among the top four. They didn't have such a good week. The fact that they've played more games than the Rangers and Penguins mean their deficit in points is a little larger than what it appears to be. Nevertheless, they're in a safe place. The other fourth place team in the Eastern Conference has been struggling (Boston, 63 points, 55 games) and the Philadelphia Flyers are way behind them. Washington is on pace for a playoff spot at a minimum. If they get hot though, that now-three-team race could become a foursome.
When the New Jersey Devils were winning games a few weeks ago, a few people told me they expressed concern that they were going to win themselves out into a bad position. That they may think they're going to the postseason. The four straight losses combined with some of the roster decisions emphatically prove otherwise. However, fans of the Philadelphia Flyers absolutely should have that concern. At seven points behind the last wild card spot, owned by Boston, and only one other team to leapfrog (Florida), management may think they can go for it. I don't think they can as they're not good. We'll see what they'll do. In any case, their four-point week gives them a solid foothold on fifth in the Metropolitan.
As for the Devils, their four straight losses have dropped them into seventh place. The Columbus Blue Jackets tied them in points but by way of having played fewer games, the Jackets are ahead of them in the standings. Their chances for that #1 pick in the lottery didn't really change much though. The Devils got a bump of 1.5% and the Jackets lost a 1%. In other words, it's still really unlikely they get the Erie Superstar, but they're down in the mix. The Carolina Hurricanes continue to bring up the rear with dropping both of their games last week. The Canes remain the best chance of said Erie Superstar coming to the Metropolitan Division. If not, well, they're going to love that third or fourth overall pick anyway.
The day of romance is over, but there will be more days of hockey. It's a busy week for the Metropolitan Division as the trade deadline day comes ever closer. There will be some big rivalry games, tough weeks, and Buffalo running through it. Games within the division are in bold.
|NYI||vs. NYR||@ CAR||vs. NSH||@ WSH|
|PIT||@ CHI||vs. WSH||vs. CBJ||@ STL|
|NYR||@ NYI||vs. VAN||@ BUF|
|WSH||@ ANA||@ PIT||vs. WPG||vs. NYI|
|PHI||@ BUF||vs. CBJ||vs. BUF||vs. NSH|
|CBJ||@ PHI||@ PIT||@ MTL|
|NJD||vs. BUF||vs. VAN||vs. CAR|
|CAR||@ OTT||vs. NYI||vs. TOR||@ NJD|
It's hard to say who has it tougher between the top two teams. I'd give the edge to Pittsburgh as they have to go on the road to face Central Division powers Chicago and St. Louis in addition to a home game that Washington should really be up for playing. The Islanders don't have a soft week either. They have a massive rivalry game on Monday night that could determine the state of the division as the season winds down. Later on, they got Nashville and they go to the Capitals, who could bring themselves up with a big win.
Speaking of those teams who want a win, New York gets the benefit of another game in hand with a three-game week among the other top four teams, who have four each. Furthermore, Vancouver (who's good) and Buffalo (who's not) on their schedule is easier Washington's non-division games, which are against Anaheim and an improved Winnipeg team. If Washington wants to make a move towards the top, to get in that conversation for a guaranteed playoff spot, then they'll have to earn it this week.
Should the Flyers want to "go for it," then their next three games are big for them. They'll get Buffalo twice with Columbus in the middle. The Blue Jackets aren't cup cakes, but they're not on the same level as a really tough Nashville team, who Philly will face at week's end. The Blue Jackets can play spoilers for them, Pittsburgh, and Montreal this week. We'll see whether they can, though. The Devils will start a six-game home stand with games against Buffalo, Vancouver, and Carolina. Needless to say, great seats are still available. Before the Canes come to Newark for what could be the saddest Metropolitan Division game this week, they got Ottawa, the Isles, and Toronto first. It'll be tough since those games against the Senators and the best team in New York are a back-to-back, but I don't think Carolina will be too upset with losses.
Such is the division as it is right now and what there schedule is coming up this week. Answers as to what will happen will come quick with three games today. I'll keep you posted as to what will be different next week. What do you think will happen within the Metropolitan Division? Will the Isles stay in first? Can the Capitals close the gap with the other three teams at the top? Will the Flyers "go for it?" How many will the Devils win this week? Please leave your answers and other thoughts about the week that was and the week that will be in the division in the comments. Thank you for reading.