In just over one week, there will be a flurry of action throughout the league. It is the NHL's Trade Deadline and teams will be fielding all kinds of calls to try to make their team better. For some, better for the upcoming playoff run they want to go on. For others, better for the future beyond this lost season. As for right now, the Metropolitian Division as a whole can feel good about the week they just add as management has to evaluate their team and make some tough decisions about their roster. Nearly everyone had a winning record and only one team didn't break .500. Believe it or not, that team was the Pittsburgh Penguins.
|Team||GP||W||L||OT||ROW||Pts.||Last Week||Ptl. Pts.||Weeks Won||Playoff||% McD|
Source: NHL.com - Links go to SBN Blogs
TNT claims they know drama, but real life tends to really bring it. The Pittsburgh Penguins, who were neck and neck with the New York Islanders for most of this season if not atop of the division, are now in a wild card spot. They got jumped by the New York Rangers and the hot Washington Capitals. They're now looking up at the division in a wrong way. The Penguins fans must be stunned to a degree. Even though they won their most recent game, they may have to climb back up. Worse, with only two games coming up this week, they may have to endure being below these three teams again. If there's a team that may be looking to buy despite a very tight cap, then it could be the Penguins. Just to get back up soon.
As for the top, the Islanders sort of did what they needed to do: make some space. A four point lead ahead of the second-place Rangers is a good one to have at this point of the season. Alas, the Isles lost to their hated rivals last week; combined with the games in hand they still have, the Rangers are by no means out of the running for first place. The Isles will just have to make do by continuing to do what they have been doing all season. The Washington Capitals may crash the party though. They were red-hot in sweeping their four games last week. They've been in the playoff picture, but the string of wins puts them right there in third place. They're at the mercy of having played more games than the Rangers, Penguins, and Islanders; however, if they can stretch out that streak to five or six games, then they have a better chance of sticking around.
Now let's have a frank discussion about the Philadelphia Flyers, New Jersey Devils, and the Columbus Blue Jackets. All three of these teams gained ground in the standings on the second wild card owners, Boston. Only the Flyers can really say they are on a legitimate playoff bubble. For the Devils and Blue Jackets, they have been so far behind that they needed to have successful weeks to just catch up and be in the discussion. The Blue Jackets won two out of three last week and the Devils swept their week. However, while they have closed the gap on Boston (65 points, 58 games), they have not really moved up in the standings. The Devils only got past Columbus because the latter lost on Saturday night. Even so, they're behind Ottawa, Philadelphia, and Florida - with the Blue Jackets not really far behind as they have two games in hand on the Devils and two points to make up.
Those who remember 2011 know that the difficulty isn't just in making up points for that eighth playoff spot, it's getting the help from multiple teams to allow for that change. For the Devils and Blue Jackets, they need to keep playing well while also having three to four other teams failing. Given how every game must have a winner, these teams will play each other, and that there's only six weeks left in the season after this one, getting that help in incredibly unlikely. The Devils and Blue Jackets will really need a miracle to get back in.
The Flyers, on the other hand, are much closer to Boston and they don't nearly as many teams in front of them. They do not need to play like one of the best teams in hockey over the next six weeks. They do need to play well and weeks like the one they just had will help. Especially as Florida continues to miss opportunities to really move up and Boston continues to slump. They too need help to get up, but not nearly as much as the Devils or Blue Jackets would need. Don't be surprised that next Monday the Flyers think they can go for it whereas the Devils and Blue Jackets sell off an asset or two. For those of you who follow the weekly snapshot (and/or remember February through April 2011), you may already know this. It's worth making it clear why it's so much more unlikely for the Devils and Blue Jackets than the Flyers to make a run for playoff contention.
In any case, the Devils and Blue Jackets did well in this past week and remain still unlikely to get the top 18-year old in the upcoming draft. The Carolina Hurricanes had a decent week, splitting their four games between wins and losses. Their reward was a move up the overall standings to fourth-worst, a cost of 2% to their chances. I wouldn't fret Canes fans, they're definitely a team set on finishing in the bottom five this season.
This week's schedule provides the opportunity for some real drama. You'll notice there are plenty of games within the division, which are in bold, which can make the current jockeying for position a lot more interesting. It is the time of the season for scoreboard watching, especially if you're a fan of the teams currently in second through fifth place.
|NYI||vs. VAN||vs. ARI||vs. CGY||vs. CAR|
|NYR||vs. CBJ||vs. CGY||vs. ARI||@ PHI|
|WSH||@ PHI||vs. PIT||@ CAR|
|PIT||vs. FLA||@ WSH|
|PHI||vs. WSH||@ CAR||@ TOR||vs. NYR|
|NJD||vs. ARI||vs. CGY||vs. BOS||@ CBJ|
|CBJ||@ NYR||vs. BUF||vs. MTL||vs. NJD|
|CAR||vs. PHI||vs. WSH||@ NYI|
Let's start at the top. The New York Islanders have a busy week going up against some teams running through the East right now before hosting Carolina. Vancouver and Calgary are involved in their own playoff bubbles so they can be difficult, though one looked poor in New Jersey last week and the other's possession can be described as comical. They still got to play the games, but the Isles should be able to at least maintain their lead.
The New York Rangers won't use up their games in hand on the Isles, but they will use up some on Washington and Pittsburgh. Their goal is to get wins and they can do so by crushing Columbus' faint hopes and having to avoid a massive spoiler of a game on Saturday.
The Washington Capitals have a week entirely within the division. Today could end up being a big one for the Caps and the Flyers. It can decide whether the Flyers think really can make a run for a playoff spot. It can also decide whether the Caps can make a push beyond their third place spot. They have another big game on Wednesday. The Pittsburgh Penguins only have two games this week so their chances of getting back into the top three are slim. If they want to show that everything will just be fine in western PA, beating the Caps would be a big help. Whereas a Caps win just further establishes the possibility that they can push higher from where they are. The Caps get the Hurricanes on Friday in a potential spoiler.
The Flyers' week will really go a long way as to what they'll do on March 2 and beyond for the rest of this season. It will also affect others in the Metropolitan. Another good week could hurt Washington and the Rangers and help push Carolina back to possibly get behind Arizona again. A poor week could (or should) make them re-consider the notion of "going for it." The Flyers faithful will be doing plenty of scoreboard watching for the middle of the Atlantic Division, but more of their attention will correctly be placed how their team performs.
The Devils swept last week and have a real possibility of making their homestand nearly as successful as their last long one. The one where they went 4-0-1 despite playing some of the most hideous hockey seen all season. They'll get a bad Arizona team, a Calgary team I think is overachieving, a Boston team that will need wins in the worst way, and a Columbus team that could still jump them in the standings. They can have another successful week. It's not guaranteed they'll move up in the standings, though. Columbus will keep their two games in hand on New Jersey as they will attempt to spoil the Rangers today and Montreal on Thursday. Getting the Buffalo as the creamy filling in between that tough cookie sandwich of games should mean some points for the Blue Jackets. Lastly, as noted earlier through this part of the snapshot, the Canes can play spoiler and put a big blotch on the Flyers', Capitals, and Islanders' weeks. The Isles could be the least affected since they remain at the top.
There will only be six more of these snapshots for this season and next Monday is the trade deadline. It's going to be a fun week of hockey no matter which team you support. What do you make of the division after the positive week six out of eight teams had? Can the Pittsburgh Penguins recover? Will the Philadelphia Flyers go for it? Who's going to be the spoilers this week? Please leave your answers and other thoughts about the week that was and the week that will be for the Metropolitan Division. Thank you for reading.
(P.S. Sorry for not having this up sooner - I selected 2/23 instead of today. Oops. Boston won big, Philly beat Washington, the drama continues tonight.)