Tomorrow is the NHL Trade Deadline. By 3 PM EST, the rosters will be set for the rest of the season. It's important to know where all teams are. In the Metropolitan Division, the divide between those set for the playoffs and those who are not have been clear for weeks now. Four teams will get in and four will most likely not. Nevertheless, management of each of those eight teams will evaluate what they have and make some tough decisions within the next 48 hours to try and improve their roster. Whether it's for this season or future seasons vary by team and their current position.
|Team||GP||W||L||OT||ROW||Pts.||Last Week||Ptl. Pts.||Weeks Won||Playoff||% McD|
Source: NHL.com, NHL Lottery Simulator for %McD odds - Link goes to SBN Blog
Starting from the bottom for a change, the Carolina Hurricanes had a the opportunity to play spoiler and they did so to the fullest. They made the week more difficult for the Philadelphia Flyers, they shutout the Washington Capitals which I'm sure Pittsburgh Penguins fans appreciate, and they beat the New York Islanders to leave them vulnerable for their cross-town rivals. Most of all, the Canes now have an opportunity to finally pull themselves out of eighth place. They have some actual pride to play for regardless of what they'll do on March 2. It's good to see.
On the flipside, the Columbus Blue Jackets may be hitting bottom soon. The team continues to pick up injuries. They are winless in their last five games; picking up only one point out of a potential of eight last week. That point was against the New York Rangers, but that didn't lead to despair for them. The Blue Jackets are perilously close to being dead last in the division. That would mean better odds in the lottery, but 2014-15 continues to be a miserable season for them.
The New Jersey Devils faithful probably don't have too many nice things to say about the season. However, they did have a successful week in that the team earned five out of eight points. Four of those in shutout wins over Arizona and Columbus. Alas, their odds according to the NHL Lottery Simulator and their overall position has not changed. The Devils appear to be pulling away from the likes of Columbus, Toronto, and Carolina in terms of points. But they're not moving up either. Games in hand would only close the gap, not make it up. Unfortunately for New Jersey, Cory Schneider can only play out of his mind for so long. So while the Devils continue to creep up on the Philadelphia Flyers, that will only continue provided the Devils keep pace or do better than the Flyers. And that will require either Schneider to remain super-amazing, the team to start scoring a bunch, or legitimately get better. I suspect it'll be D) none of the above and they'll crash back to reality. We'll see what happens starting this week.
Speaking of the Flyers, they split this past week. A successful one would be crucial for keeping any faint playoff hopes alive. While they beat the Rangers and Capitals, dropping games to Carolina and Toronto has hurt the cause. With Boston (71 points, 62 games) winning a bit more, a six point gap may be larger than it initially looks. The Flyers management will have to make some tough decisions regarding whether they'll "go for it." Trading Kimmo Timonen before he played a game suggests they won't. We'll see what they end up doing soon enough.
Up at the upper half, the Washington Capitals not only did not stay hot, but they got cold. They lost all of their games last week. As a result, they're back in the wild card spot. They still have a five point lead on the Bruins so they don't have to sweat about dropping to that second spot. Only if they continue to falter and Boston keeps up getting results. On the flipside, the Pittsburgh Penguins won both of their games last week to propel themselves into third place. That should allay concerns about the team. They have games in hand plus a three point lead over Washington so only something going awry in a significant away should mean they're safe for now. Unfortunately for them, trying to claw their way back to second place will be more of a challenge.
Ah, the New York Rangers. They had a four game winning streak until they visited Philadelphia last night. The Flyers beat them in regulation for only their second regulation loss in February. That defeat would be their only blotch on their record in this past week. They beat everyone else and managed to be in a tie with their cross-city rivals for a day or two. And while they don't have any games in hand on the Penguins, it's not a big deal because they have a three point lead on them. They still have three games in hand on their rivals, and they're only down two points. As much as you don't want to see it and I don't want to post it, we may see the Rangers take first place sooner rather than later. And to think, all of this without a king.
At the top are the New York Islanders, but for how long? A hot streak got the Rangers breathing down their necks. A 2-2-0 week isn't bad, but the Isles faithful will surely be looking for something more definitive in terms of a lead. While they have the edge in wins and ROW (regulation or overtime wins), games played isn't on their side. It's hard to say that they need a specific upgrade at the trade deadline, but I'm sure it's something management has thought quite a bit about.
Regardless of whether a team will be a buyer, a seller, a browser, or just do nothing at all, there will be games. The final full month of the season begins today. Here's this week's schedule of games, games within the division are in bold.
|NYI||@ DAL||@ NSH||@ FLA|
|NYR||vs. NSH||@ DET|
|PIT||vs. CBJ||@ COL||@ ANA||@ LAK|
|WSH||vs. TOR||@ CBJ||vs. MIN||vs. BUF|
|PHI||vs. CGY||vs. STL||@ BOS|
|NJD||vs. NSH||vs. CBJ|
|CBJ||@ PIT||vs. WSH||@ NJD||vs. COL|
|CAR||@ CHI||vs. MIN|
If you want to be extra curious about what action could take place within the division, then check to see if there are any healthy scratches in today's Columbus-Pittsburgh game and Washington-Toronto.
Speaking of Columbus, they are the only ones to play other teams within the division this week. They get the Penguins first, then the Capitals, and then the Devils before hosting Colorado. Should Columbus just want to get a win out of the way, they're going to have play well to earn it. It's a busy week for them and they'll make up the two games they have on New Jersey. Meanwhile, the Carolina Hurricanes could end up still in eighth due in part of the number of games available. Their games aren't easy at all, what with going to a Chicago team that has made big moves ahead of the trade deadline and then going home to host a Minnesota team that wants to win.
As for the Devils, they may get a rude awakening from Nashville the day after the deadline followed by a Columbus team that may want some revenge for a 2-0 result on Saturday. It's a light week for them, which will be appreciated regardless before busier weeks ahead to close out the season. And Nashville will have played the night before, though the Preds are legitimately good so I still wouldn't get my hopes up for the Devils racking up a lot of wins soon. They may not be able to catch Philadelphia as the Flyers will have an extra game. Then again, the Flyers are going to need results against Calgary, St. Louis, and especially Boston if they want to truly "go for it." What the Flyers will do by Monday afternoon will be telling.
Washington, on paper, should end their losing streak very soon. They get a Toronto team that could be even worse very soon, a Columbus team that has been struggling recently, and a game against the Buffalo Tanks at the end. That game against Minnesota on Thursday could prove tricky for a team that doesn't have a lot of margin for error should they want to climb back into a guaranteed playoff spot in the division. Fortunately for them, Pittsburgh will have a harder time keeping up their winning streak. While the Pens can make the Blue Jackets even more miserable on Sunday, they'll have to travel westward to visit Colorado, Anaheim, and Los Angeles - not an easy run of three games at all.
The New York Rangers, believe it or not, have a light week coming up so they'll gain yet another game in hand on the Islanders. Unfortunately for the Rangers, their two games are against the West's top team in Nashville and a Detroit team that wants to move up the Atlantic. It may be easy in terms of quantity, but not in terms of quality. The Islanders, on the other hand, will be hitting the road. They'll go to Dallas on Tuesday, Nashville on Thursday, and then a trip to Florida on Saturday. Flyers and Bruins fans will likely be cheering on the Isles well after their game that afternoon is done.
While rosters may or may not change drastically on Monday, we could see a new division leader, maybe another flip-flop with the wild card, and perhaps some action in the lower half of the division. Games will continue and so will the drama that comes with standings-watching and the sport itself. What do you think will happen in this coming week of games? Will the Islanders stay on top? Can the Capitals rebound quickly from their losing streak? Will the Flyers close a gap or see it get wider? Do you think there will be a new team at the bottom? Please leave your answers and your other thoughts about the week that was and the week that is coming up for the Metropolitan Division in the comments. Thank you for reading.