When you stumble a little bit, it's usually recommended to try to get back on the good foot and keep going forward. The Washington Capitals followed that advice. They swept their week, capped it off with a hype overtime goal, and now have a commanding sixteen-point lead on first place in the Metropolitan Division. From their lofty spot, they can watch down on a big mess between second and seventh in the division. Here's how the division looks this morning:
|Team||GP||W||L||OT||ROW||Pts.||Last Week||Ptl. Pts.||Weeks Won|
Source: NHL.com - Links go to SBN Blogs
Look at that. A mere six points separate the second-place New York Rangers and the seventh-place Carolina Hurricanes. Second, fourth, and sixth place are what they are only due to the games played tie breaker. For most in this division, this is the time where a very good week of results can make a huge difference whether someone's playing for the right to be in the playoffs and whether someone's on the outside. While both New York teams have a four-point cushion the fourth and fifth place teams, it's by no means a reason to relax just yet.
Again, the Caps took care of business and continue to take care of business and now they can enjoy their business - by continuing to grow it through smashing teams in the mouth. That is what they do. The New York Rangers and New York Islanders? Well, less so. The Rangers did have the better week of the two and it was important for them as they re-took second place. They had two games, they won one and came away from the Caps game with one. As embarrassing as giving up that OT goal may have been - seriously, it was Ovechkin against all; good job, all - they got points. They got them as the Islanders were dropping them. After getting their week off to a positive start, they got decisively beaten on the scoreboard in their next two games. The Isles are good enough to rebound, but the Rangers faithful will be hoping it's really the start of a January swoon.
Sitting in fourth place are the Pittsburgh Penguins. They split their week and it was enough for them to get ahead of the New Jersey Devils via tiebreakers. That one win came yesterday against Montreal, so perhaps it's a sign of things to come. At the moment, they can just keep on keeping on if they just want to hold onto fourth. The Devils have been a bad team to watch and even worse in the standings. New Jersey lost all three games in regulation and now embark on a tough road trip. While they can mathematically jump up in the standings, between the number of injuries they are burdened with and how well they have been playing (not at all well), that's really unlikely. What's worse for the Devils is that they may not be able to just hang out in the middle of the division for much longer.
Right behind the Pens and the Devils are the Philadelphia Flyers and Carolina Hurricanes. The Hurricanes had a pretty good week with two wins and a post-regulation point to secure a winning week. Their sheer number of games played are working against them at the moment. Yet, further weeks like that will help them get up in the standings. That said, the Flyers were easily the more impressive squad. Maybe even more than Washington since the Flyers responded to three straight losses with three straight wins. They pulled out close wins against Montreal and in Minnesota (in OT) and hammered the Islanders 4-0 last night. It appears to me that they may be heating up. Given the state of the division, a hot streak could see them shooting up the Metropolitan Division sooner rather than later.
As the Caps have a big gap to hold onto first, the Columbus Blue Jackets have a big gap keeping them from seventh place. From a hockey team perspective, they've fallen on hard times. They're nine points behind Carolina. Even if there's a lot of movement between second and seventh, the Blue Jackets will have to get hot in their games to get even close to seventh. There's no sign of that happening soon as they picked up only one point; a post-regulation loss to Carolina last night. They didn't have the worst week - that would be the Devils - but their consistently losing weeks gives them a tight hold on last place.
The upcoming week of games provides relief for three out of the eight teams. It's a relatively light week in that only team is playing four games. And that one team is the one who just dropped three in a row, New Jersey. That said, there are four games within the division that could lead to a very different looking division by next week. Here's the upcoming schedule; games within the Metropolitan are in bold.
|WSH||vs. OTT||vs. VAN||@ BUF|
|NYR||vs. BOS||@ NYI||@ PHI|
|NYI||vs. CBJ||vs. NYR|
|PIT||@ CAR||@ TBL|
|NJD||@ MIN||@ STL||@ COL||@ ARI|
|PHI||vs. BOS||vs. NYR|
|CAR||vs. PIT||@ STL||vs. VAN|
|CBJ||@ NYI||@ TOR||vs. COL|
Let's go through this by the day of the week. Sunday kicks off the week with the Capitals hosting Ottawa and the Devils beginning a four-game road trip in Minnesota. Monday is the lightest week; the Rangers will be hosting Boston. Tuesday sees the Devils continue that road trip into St. Louis, bringing to mind that things may get worse for the Devils before they get better. The day also has two games within the division. The Blue Jackets can spoil the Islanders, which would be a thing Rangers, Flyers, Devils, and Penguins fans may want. Although, Pens fans will likely pay more attention to how their team does in Carolina on the night. The Canes wouldn't so much be spoiling them but taking points up the standings if they can get a good result. The middle of the week, Wednesday, goes back to being fairly light. The Flyers will host Boston for a Wednesday Night "Rivalry" game on NBC SN. Meanwhile, the Blue Jackets will travel from Brooklyn to Toronto for a game there.
Thursday sees the business of the division picking up. The Capitals will host Vancouver. The Devils' road trip will continue into Denver that night. The Canes will go out to St. Louis and see for themselves what the Devils will see on Tuesday. Most of all, there's a legitimate rivalry game occurring. A real one, Comcast. The Islanders will host the Rangers in a contest that should have some extra appeal given the two are neck-and-neck in the standings. Friday returns to being a lighter day with the Penguins going to Tampa Bay and Carolina returning home from St. Louis to host Vancouver. Both of those teams should be tired since, again, the Canucks would be in D.C. on the previous night. Saturday is a traditionally busy day for hockey and there's plenty going on. The Capitals will travel up to Buffalo in the hopes of increasing their control on first place in the division. The Devils will end their road trip in Arizona; that game has been moved up to the afternoon to account for the huge NFL playoff game in the area. The Blue Jackets will host Colorado to end their week. Lastly, there's another legitimate rivalry game. Not as heated as Isles-Rangers, but the Flyers hosting the Rangers certainly won't be a casual get together either. Should Philly keep on winning, this game could have bigger short-term ramifications on the division than expected. We'll see.
That was the week that was and the week that will be. What do you make of it? The Capitals and Flyers are both on three game winning streaks; how long will those last? When will the Devils stop sliding? Who will be where among the second through seventh placed teams in the division? Please leave your answers and other thoughts about the division in the comments. Thank you for reading.