Daylight savings time is back and the end of the season looms ever closer in the distance. The playoff picture for the Metropolitan Division remains set in terms of which four teams are going to make it. The four in the lower half, well, their chances were remote at best and the team with the best chance of crashing the party took a big hit at the end of last week. Nevertheless, drama remains in both halves as there could be some actual changes in the standings soon.
|Team||GP||W||L||OT||ROW||Pts.||Last Week||Ptl. Pts.||Weeks Won||Playoff||% McD|
Source: NHL.com - Links to SBN Blogs
The New York Islanders remain at the top and they have themselves a small lead. They got a result in every game to keep getting points, which is what they need. Yet, they have to be absolutely concerned with their hated rivals, the New York Rangers. The Rangers have an edge in ROW (regulation & overtime wins) in addition to having a massive four games in hand on them. They too got results in both of their games last week. The Rangers could be a continued thorn in the side of the Islanders for reasons other than the fact that they are the Rangers. The Pittsburgh Penguins are tied with the Rangers in points and they had a very good week. Alas, they've played two more games than the Rangers, one of those games will be used up this week, and so they are on the outside looking in. At least, they will be provided one of the NY teams doesn't hit a slump and the Pens keep rolling.
Due to all of that at the top, the Washington Capitals remain snugly in that wild card spot despite winning three out of four games. With 67 games played, they're really on the outside looking in with respect to moving up within the division. With 82 points, they are more than secure in their wild card spot. Boston, who has the other one, only had 74 points and the teams directly behind have at least two fewer points. The Caps will get into the postseason, but their incentive to play well would be to get out of a potentially nasty first round match-up. Then again, the Isles or the Atlantic Division leaders (for now, that's Montreal) may feel the same about potentially facing the Capitals.
Moving on to teams that won't make it, well, look at the Philadelphia Flyers. Yes, they won the week with four out of six points earned. Yet, they needed more - especially a regulation win over Boston on Saturday to keep hope alive. On the surface, it appears that five points can be made up. Yet, they're behind two other teams in addition to being behind Boston. The Flyers need to keep winning and need help. That's why their playoff chances are so low. They needed wins and didn't get them in this past week.
And if the Flyers are in deep trouble, then you can write off the other three. The New Jersey Devils split their week and remain pretty much in the same spot they have been for the past few weeks. The Columbus Blue Jackets beat the Devils and then lost every other game last week to remain pretty much where they have been. The Carolina Hurricanes dropped both of their games last week, but remain in striking distance to catch Columbus. Of course, thanks to the continued failing by Canada's Flyers, the odds for McDavid only change by a percentage between the two. Still, the Canes can at least play for some kind of pride?
With five full weeks left in the NHL season, the schedules are going to get busier. This upcoming week's schedule features some big rivalry games and plenty of action in the middle of the week. Here's the schedule; games within the division are in bold.
|NYI||@ TOR||vs. NYR||vs. OTT||vs. MTL|
|NYR||@ CHI||@ NYI||@ WSH||@ BUF|
|PIT||@ SJS||vs. EDM||vs. BOS|
|WSH||vs. NYR||vs. DAL|
|PHI||@ NJD||vs. DAL||@ STL||vs. DET|
|NJD||vs. PHI||@ MIN||@ COL||@ ARI|
|CBJ||@ CAR||@ DET||vs. EDM|
|CAR||vs. EDM||vs. CBJ||vs. DAL||vs. FLA|
Starting from the top, the Islanders have a tricky week. Toronto and Ottawa can spoil them, hosting Montreal after hosting the Sens will be a challenge, and Tuesday is a huge night for them. It's not just another chapter of another cross-city rivalry. The Isles beating the Rangers will help keep them in second. Of course, a Rangers win would be a big gain towards taking first place. The Rangers do have a challenge themselves in this week before getting the Tankalicious Sabres on Saturday: visiting Chicago today, the Isles on Tuesday, and a game at Washington D.C. on Wednesday that should feature a motivated Capitals squad.
Beyond the two New York teams in the playoff half of the division, it's a little lighter. The Penguins will visit San Jose before returning home for games against Edmonton and Boston. You can imagine a bunch of fan bases suddenly supporting Pittsburgh on Saturday if it means taking the B's down a peg. Washington has the lightest week within the division. They'll have three days off before hosting the Rangers. Again, they should be up for that one should they want any shot to move up in the Metropolitan. They got to avoid a trap game against Dallas two days later before another brief break. This should be a good week to recharge before the schedule ramps up.
Down in the lower half, the Flyers and Devils will face off today before they each go onto four-game weeks. The Flyers won't have to travel as much. They'll host Dallas, fly out to St. Louis, and return home for Detroit. The Devils will go on their final road trip across the Mississippi River, heading out to Minnesota, Colorado, and then Arizona. Neither team has a whole lot to play for outside of spoiling some of their opponents. I suppose Philly may still have dreams of playing beyond April 11, but this week may see the end to that. As for the bottom two teams, Carolina gets Edmonton today and a game that may decide on eighth-place on Tuesday as Carolina gets Columbus. Columbus will get an interesting back-to-back with Detroit and Edmonton (two extremes of good and bad) after that inter-division game. Carolina will continue at home hosting Dallas and possibly spoiling their old Southeast rivals Florida on Saturday.
Apologies for the later than usual posting. What do you make of the division as it is? Will the Islanders keep the Rangers back? Can the Penguins sneak back into the first-place discussion? Are the Capitals stuck where they are? Who will end up in last in the Metropolitan Division by next week? What do you think will happen 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 Division. Thank you for reading.