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Weekly Metropolitan Division Snapshot: 3/15 - 3/21

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After weeks and weeks of holding onto first place, the New York Rangers have topped the New York Islanders in the Metropolitan Division. All this is explained, the week that was, and the weekly schedule are in this week's Metropolitan Division snapshot.

Yes, it was against Buffalo.  But this win over the Sabres secured a three point lead to hold first in the division. All points matter.
Yes, it was against Buffalo. But this win over the Sabres secured a three point lead to hold first in the division. All points matter.
Kevin Hoffman-USA TODAY Sports

I hate the headline photo.  I am a New Jersey Devils fan and I'd like to think I have some kind of a soul. Naturally, I hate the reality of this.  Yet, the weekly Metropolitan Division snapshot - and most of this very blog - is not about what we feel but what's real.  The New York Rangers are in first place.  Not only in the division, but also of the entire National Hockey League by way of tiebreakers.  They won all of their games and they have a tight grip on first place because of it.

Team GP W L OT ROW Pts. Last Week Ptl. Pts. Weeks Won Playoff % McD
NYR 67 43 17 7 40 93 4-0-0 6 16 M1 -
NYI 71 43 24 4 36 90 1-3-0 4 15 M2 -
PIT 68 39 19 10 36 88 1-1-1 8 13 M3 -
WSH 69 36 23 10 33 82 0-2-0 8 13 W2 -
PHI 70 29 27 14 26 72 1-2-1 8 10 -10 6.0%
NJD 69 29 29 11 25 69 2-1-1 6 9 -13 6.5%
CBJ 68 30 34 4 24 64 3-0-0 8 8 -18 7.5%
CAR 67 25 34 8 21 58 1-2-1 8 6 -24 8.5%

Source: NHL.com - Links go to SBN Blogs

I know the reply will be to hate the game, but I love hockey so I admit to hating the player.  From a neutral standpoint, it's hard to do that.  Again, the Rangers won all four of their games. They did their job, they did it well, and they got rewarded.  Helping them out was a three-game slide by the New York Islanders.  The Isles were holding onto first place for so long by such slim margins.  A bad week risked a drop and it did.   And now look at the games played (GP) column.  I've been banging on for months about how important it was to note that the Rangers have games in hand.  They have four on their cross-city rivals and three on the Pittsburgh Penguins - who split their week and could be the next to jump the Isles.  That always kept them in the mix when they got close enough in points.  Now, it could help them keep first place even when they're not sweeping the week.  Provided the Rangers don't get into a slump, they have the inside track.  Again, I hate writing all of that as much as you hate reading all of that.

There was one other change of note within the division.  Check the Playoff column and you'll see a "W2" for the Washington Capitals.  Boston has got hot recently and the Caps struggled. Their no-points-in-two-games now places them as the "eighth seed" in the Eastern Conference by way of tiebreakers.  They should still feel fairly safe as Florida is behind them by six points.  While the Capitals may be well on the outside looking in to the top three spots in the division, they have some incentive to get some better results fast to preserve their spot.  Maybe they can jump over Boston for that other wildcard spot, too.

Down in the lower half, the four teams here had better weeks than the four upper half teams.  The New Jersey Devils beat on the Philadelphia Flyers, lost a shootout, and won one of their games on the road to take more than half of the points available.  The Columbus Blue Jackets did even better by winning all three of their games.  No movement was made, though the Blue Jackets closed some of the gap to New Jersey while extending their gap ahead of the Carolina Hurricanes.  The Flyers remain atop of the lower half and look to hold on unless the Devils get real better, real fast.  The Hurricanes appear set to finish last in the division provided they don't get hot either.   As it stands, everyone's got a 6% to 8.5% chance to bring Connor McDavid to the Metropolitan.

As the season winds down, the schedules get busy for pretty much everyone, Islanders excepted.  There are plenty of games today, Tuesday, and Thursday. Everyone is in action on Saturday.  Here's the upcoming week of games with inter-division games in bold.

Team 3/15 3/16 3/17 3/18 3/19 3/20 3/21
NYR vs. FLA vs. CHI vs. CAR
NYI @ CHI @ NJD
PIT vs. DET @ NJD @ DAL @ ARI
WSH vs. BOS @ BUF @ MIN @ WPG
PHI @ OTT @ VAN @ CGY @ EDM
NJD vs. PIT @ BUF vs. NYI
CBJ vs. CAR @ EDM @ VAN @ CGY
CAR @ CBJ vs. OTT @ MTL @ NYR

Starting from the bottom, Carolina and Columbus have a game with each other to kick off the week.  A Blue Jackets win should all but secure last for the Canes.  The Canes will go on to host Ottawa, visit Montreal, and then take on the Rangers.  The Canes faithful will likely get some side-hope from Pens and Isles fans for an upset.  The Blue Jackets will go on a road trip through Western Canada after hosting Carolina.  With Vancouver and Calgary still in playoff contention, the Blue Jackets could play a spoiler role of sorts.

The Devils return home from their final road trip into the Western Conference and they will host Pittsburgh.  It'll be retro night; hopefully it'll be more like 1984 than any other years where Pittsburgh smashed New Jersey.  They'll get a couple of days off before a back-to-back where they go up to Buffalo before hosting the Islanders.  Funnily enough, Rangers fans may be secretly cheering on the Devils (some of them do and you know it) to get results for their team to maintain control on first.    Philadelphia won't get the benefit of home as they're in Canada all week; first in Ottawa and then across to the Pacific Coast before heading to Alberta.  The mileage will at least be racked up.

The Capitals get to host fellow wild-card spot owners Boston today before they hit the road as well.  They'll go to Buffalo first before heading out to Minnesota and Winnipeg, two other teams hoping to play later in April.  The Capitals do need to rebound from a winless week. But getting results on this schedule will impact some of the other playoff races, so there won't be no outside attention.   The Pittsburgh Penguins have a similar schedule: a home game followed by three on the road.  The Pens will get a Detroit team that just got routed by Philly before heading east to Newark and then down south to Dallas and Glendale, Arizona.  If they do well, they can jump the Isles and maybe put a little pressure on the Rangers.

The Islanders, with their 71 games played, will just have to wait before trying to break their losing streak. Their first opportunity for that will be on Tuesday, where they will take on a strong Chicago team.  If that doesn't go well, then they got the Devils on Saturday.  It's entirely possible that they slip to third place by the end of the week based on the potential points Pittsburgh could earn alone.  It's imperative that they end their losing streak as soon as possible.  As for the Rangers, they'll use up one of their precious games in hand on the Isles this week as they got three home games.  They have Florida today, Chicago on Wednesday (and right after they played the Isles), and Carolina on Saturday.  With the way they've been playing, they look difficult to beat. Thankfully, the game is played on the ice.

The Rangers are atop of the Metropolitan and there are only four full weeks left in the 2014-15 season. Will they manage to stay in first? Will the Islanders or Penguins make it a battle right until the very end?  Can the Capitals regain the first wild card spot from Boston?  How will the bottom half end up?  What do you think will happen in the coming week of games?  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.