Welcome to the new year. This week will be the halfway mark for the NHL for most. With the exception of one team, everyone in the Metropolitan Division will play their forty-first game of the season. It's a convenient point where fans, analysts, players, coaches, and management to take stock of where there team is and whether it's where they want to be. I can name one team that should be incredibly thrilled. Unsurprisingly, it's the team that's way ahead in first place in the Metropolitan: the Washington Capitals.
|Team||GP||W||L||OT||ROW||Pts.||Last Week||Ptl. Pts.||Weeks Won|
Source: NHL.com - Links go to SBN
The Washington Capitals lost and to the Carolina Hurricanes right before New Year's Day. That probably made for a poorer celebration than expected. And dropping a post-regulation post to the Columbus Blue Jackets probably did not add too much cheer afterwards. However, it was still a positive week with five points out of eight possible points. Even if they didn't get above halfway of the potential number of points of last week, that's perfectly fine within the confines of the division. The Caps remain well clear of the two New York teams. They can afford to have a down week or two and still sit comfortably in first place. If there's a team that doesn't have to consider any major changes, then it's the Washington Capitals.
As for the two New York teams, the more tolerable one is now in second place. The New York Islanders split their week. However the Islanders fans may feel about that, they have to feel great about their position. It was enough to get ahead of their hated rivals, the New York Rangers. The Islanders jumped the Rangers, who only won one out of their three games last week. By no means are the Isles safe in second but getting there is the first step to establish something. With the Capitals so far away, that second place spot should be worth establishing in the near future. The Rangers will have to regroup.
Amazingly, both teams may have a third team crashing their party. More amazingly, it's the New Jersey Devils. Nobody in the Metropolitan had a better week than them last week. They had three games and they won them. How they did it was not necessarily the best way, but the standings don't care about how. They only care about results and the Devils got them. They now sit a mere win behind the Islanders and have a small three point cushion on the Pittsburgh Penguins and others behind a wild card spot. If you told any Devils fan if they would take that in October, then I'd say most of them absolutely would in a heartbeat.
Speaking of the bottom half, the Pittsburgh Penguins had a positive week with five out of eight points to keep from slipping further. They have a game in hand on the Devils but they'll need a bit more to move on up. Are they still in it? Yes. Will they do it? We'll see. They don't have to look too hard behind themselves. The Carolina Hurricanes are four points behind. Yes, the Carolina Hurricanes. They had a good week. That allowed them to jump ahead of the Philadelphia Flyers, who had the worst run last week. The Flyers hit up California and came back with three 'L's. The Flyers do have the benefit of games in hand. They may have to win them to get back the ground they lost in the last seven days. Lastly, the Columbus Blue Jackets ended the year on a positive note by spoiling Dallas and they did take two from Washington. They will need more weeks like the previous one to claw themselves out of last place. Maybe they will resolve to do that in 2016. There's still a half of a season left to play.
In the first full week of the 2016 calendar year, the Metropolitan Division will play out of their division for the first four days. Then the games within the division will return, which could make for some interesting swaps in positions by next Sunday. Here's the upcoming schedule, with games within the division in bold.
|WSH||@ BOS||@ NYI||@ NYR|
|NYI||vs. DAL||vs. WSH||@ PHI|
|NYR||vs. DAL||vs. WSH|
|NJD||vs. DET||@ MTL||vs. BOS|
|PIT||vs. CHI||@ CHI||@ MTL|
|CAR||@ EDM||@ VAN||vs. CBJ||@ CBJ|
|PHI||vs. MTL||@ MIN||vs. NYI|
|CBJ||vs. MIN||@ CAR||vs. CAR|
Starting at the top, the Washington Capitals continue to travel but not too far from D.C. They'll go to Boston before two games in New York City. The Rangers and Islanders will relish their shots at the Capitals. Should the Capitals come away with points, that just makes it easier for the Caps to cruise in first place. In addition to hosting the best team in the Eastern Conference, they will host the best team in the Western Conference: Dallas. The Islanders will play Dallas tonight, which is a second-straight night of work for Dallas. The Rangers will get them on Tuesday. It's a light week for the Rangers so the Islanders do have an opportunity to pull away a bit, though those first two games aren't easy and Philadelphia will aim to spoil that on Saturday.
The Devils and Penguins are the two teams who will not play within the division this week. The Devils have it slightly easier, though it's not at all an easy set of games. They'll host Detroit and Boston with a trip to Montreal in the middle. The Devils have pulled out results against all three of those teams so it's not unthinkable to think they'll come out of this week with points. The Penguins arguably have it harder. They have a home-and-home with Chicago of all teams before heading up to Montreal on Saturday.
The Carolina Hurricanes get an unenviable road trip to Edmonton and Vancouver before returning with a home-and-home with Columbus. This home-and-home set could be the one where the Canes really ensure themselves to be ahead of the basement Blue Jackets. Though after their trip, who knows how they'll be. The Blue Jackets will not have to travel to Alberta and British Columbia before that set. They'll just host Minnesota. Could they make up some ground on the others? Maybe. It depends on how they do. Philadelphia continuing to slide would benefits Columbus. It could still happen as the Flyers get to host Montreal, visit Minnesota, and then host the Isles. Not an easy week at all and when you're losing, every game just seems that much more challenging. Of course, that could change this week.
That was the week that was and the week that will be. What do you make of it? The Capitals should continue to dominate first place in the division, can anyone catch them in 2016? Will the Islanders stay ahead of the Rangers? Will we see the Devils crash into the same spot as the two New York teams? Do the Penguins push up for a wild card spot soon? How far will the Flyers slide? Please leave your answers and other thoughts about the division in the comments. Thank you for reading.