With three full weeks left in the 2014-15 regular season, it appears that first place in the Metropolitan Division has been all but decided. After lurking in the distance with precious games in hand all season long, the New York Rangers swooped in (up?) when the New York Islanders and Pittsburgh Penguins have struggled. Their struggles continued in this week as the Rangers kept getting results. As such, they have a strong five point lead on first place - still with games in hand. Provided the Rangers suddenly don't hit a massive slump at the end, they may be having a massive ceremony next season raising a Metropolitan Division banner that lasts about ninety minutes, fifty of which featuring a weepy Mark Messier.
|Team||GP||W||L||OT||ROW||Pts.||Last Week||Ptl. Pts.||Weeks Won||Playoff||% McD|
Source: NHL.com - Links go to SBN Blogs
Both the Islanders and Penguins endured losing streaks up until just last night. The results, or lack there of, create some drama for their impending inter-division playoff series. Second place gets home ice to start that series. The Penguins could jump past the Islanders with their game in hand, provided they win it in regulation or overtime. Both teams will have incentive to keep playing hard to get that second place spot. Maybe first if the Rangers botch the games in hand they'll start using up.
The Islanders and Penguins will also have to keep an eye out for the Washington Capitals. While they've played 73 games and have fewer wins in regulation or overtime (ROW), their very good week has put them right behind them in points. It's done more than secure a wild card spot, but it puts them in a position to move up should the Penguins and Islanders falter. The Caps may not get to do that this week with only two games coming up, but being in the picture is better than not being in the picture.
Speaking of, let's look at the lower half. The New Jersey Devils were briefly ahead of the Philadelphia Flyers for a little bit. The Devils won two out of three last week while the Flyers went winless on their four-game road trip. The Flyers would lose two of them beyond regulation, so their points keep them up. Still, the Devils now have two games in hand. If their upcoming schedule wasn't so tough, then it's entirely possible the Devils move up a spot. Just a spot; the Flyers have been bad this season too. The Columbus Blue Jackets, on the other hand, have had a better week than the Devils. They won all three games on their road trip and now have an outside shot of getting past New Jersey if they can keep up a winning pace should the Devils fail in the future. While Columbus lost to them on Sunday, the Carolina Hurricanes have all but cemented last place in the Metropolitan with their week. If I'm not mistaken, they may have been mathematically eliminated from the playoffs as of last night. We should see more of the other teams in the lower half of the Metropolitan Division suffer that fate soon.
In the meantime, there are games to be played. There are only three full weeks left in the regular season, starting with some action today. Here is the schedule for the upcoming week. As always, games within the division are in bold.
|NYR||vs. ANA||vs. LAK||@ OTT||@ BOS|
|NYI||vs. MIN||vs. LAK||vs. ANA|
|PIT||vs. STL||@ CAR||vs. ARI|
|WSH||vs. NJD||vs. NSH|
|PHI||vs. CHI||vs. SJS|
|NJD||vs. LAK||@ WSH||@ CAR|
|CBJ||vs. ANA||@ CHI||@ STL|
|CAR||vs. CHI||vs. PIT||vs. NJD|
OK, so there's only one game today. Still, those wishing the Rangers can be knocked down a peg (everyone) should be hoping for an Anaheim win. The Rangers will get to host the Ducks, the Kings, the Senators, and the Bruins. Three of those four teams are fighting for playoff contention in some way or form, the Rangers can play a big role in their fates. As will the Islanders as they get to host the Wild, the Kings, and the Ducks. Should the Isles want a shot at the top again, they'll need a big week at home. The Pittsburgh Penguins will keep their game in hand on the Isles in this week; they'll get to host the Blues, visit Carolina, and host Arizona. I'd say their schedule is easier on paper and it's possible they make a move up regardless as a week with the Wild, Kings, Ducks isn't easy at all. As that's all done, the Washington Capitals will mostly be waiting. They'll finally get back on the ice on Thursday to host the Devils and then host Nashville on Saturday. One should expect them to be up for both, we'll see if they are.
Speaking of waiting, the Flyers get to wait three days before hosting Chicago and then another two before hosting the Sharks. The Blackhawks are a really good team and the Sharks are difficult despite their playoff hopes fading away with each day. The Devils could absolutely catch them, though that won't be simple since they have a Kings team and a Caps team that absolutely has something to play for before visiting Carolina. By Saturday, who knows how that could go. Columbus heads into this week on a winning streak that will face stiff challenges from Anaheim, Chicago, and St. Louis. Points taken there will be impressive, with or without impact on the standings. Lastly, the Carolina Hurricanes will play out their third-to-last-week of this season with home games against Chicago, Pittsburgh, and New Jersey. Like the Devils, Saturday may be their best chance at ending this week with a victory.
That is the current snapshot of the Metropolitan Division. I don't like it any more than you do about the Rangers being in first, but it is what it is. Can someone knock off the Rangers at this point? Who will have home ice in a likely playoff series between the Islanders and the Penguins? Will the Capitals get back into the mix? What happens in the lower half of the division? What do you think will happen within the division in this coming week? Please leave your answers and other thoughts about the week that was and the week that will be in the Metropolitan in the comments. Thank you for reading.