For many in America, Thanksgiving is a holiday where people are off from work and can spend that time with others, often their family. For hockey players, it was another week of games. A quarter of the NHL regular season has now been completed. It is always good to be thankful, but teams are taking stock of where they are and where they expect to be. Fortunately for most of the teams in the Metropolitan Division, they have reasons to be positive. Here’s how the division looks as of this morning.
There was not much movement within the Metropolitan Division after a busy week last week. The Columbus Blue Jackets and New Jersey Devils swapped spots and that’s that. The Blue Jackets and the New York Rangers were the only ones to earn more than half of available points last week. Four teams split the points and another two just only picked up one win. But no one is really out of it except for the New York Islanders. The Philadelphia Flyers and Carolina Hurricanes are on the outside looking in at the wild card, but a hot week or two and they’re back in it. The Blue Jackets and Devils have held down the wild card for several weeks and they will continue to do so provided they keep getting points. And the top three remains as they were: New York Rangers, Pittsburgh Penguins, and Washington Capitals - in that order. The Islanders are really behind by being four points behind Carolina and three points behind Buffalo for fifteenth in the Eastern Conference. Nothing is over for them but if they’re in a similar spot by the new year, it won’t be long before it is. The non-Islanders teams and fans in the division can find positives with how the first quarter of the season started.
Here’s a quick summary of what happened last week. The Rangers and Penguins swapped big decisive wins. The Pens then swapped results in their other two games. The Rangers poured more misery on Philly and so their sole stumble was a shootout loss to Florida that started their week. The Capitals lost again to Columbus, got two wins against St. Louis (!) and Buffalo, and then oddly lost in regulation to Toronto. The Blue Jackets had the most wins with their one failing night was a shutout loss at home to Calgary; they got points in their other four games to make up for it. The Devils only won one but dragged their last two opponents beyond sixty minutes to get points to keep pace in the wild card race. The Canes only went .500 last week, but Philadelphia only winning once (at Tampa) means that Carolina is now breathing down their neck. The Islanders went to California and won one game, so they have that going for them.
With November ending and December beginning this week, there is plenty of hockey to pay attention to for standings purposes. Here’s the upcoming schedule, which games within the Metropolitan in bold.
Starting from the top, the New York Rangers will be busy. With one more game than the Penguins and two more than the Capitals, they can extend their lead at the top of the Metropolitan Division. With all four opponents being below the wild card, it is doable. But they should beware of Carolina; while those games will be in NYC, the Canes play a well-structured game. Unfortunately for the Canes, the Rangers just love scoring goals. As for the Penguins, they’ll have three days off before playing three games in four nights. They can add to the Islanders’ misery in Brooklyn before hosting Dallas and Detroit. The Capitals will have four days off before hosting the Isles and then going to Tampa Bay. Enjoy the short week of games, Caps; the following two weeks will be a bit more full of games.
As for the middle part of the division, the Blue Jackets and the Devils will each play three games. Columbus gets the benefit of actually playing a game at home in this week. Unfortunately for them, it’s against Tampa Bay. Then again, the Blue Jackets have made toppling “big teams” their “thing” this season. They’ll go out west after that game on Tuesday to go to Colorado and Calgary. The Devils will be on the road entirely next week. They’ll go up to Winnipeg, then Chicago, and then Nashville for a Saturday matinee game. They’re not at all easy games; the tests keep coming for the Hall-less Devils.
Down in the lower parts of the division, the Philadelphia Flyers will continue to have a lot of games. They have played more games than everyone in the division except for the Rangers and Pittsburgh. This means that the teams around them will have the advantage of games in hand on them. Even if they have a big week, Columbus and New Jersey will gain another game in hand on them and Carolina will still have two games in hand on them. The Flyers will mostly be at home to play Calgary, Boston, and Chicago with a trip up to Ottawa to break things up in the middle. As for the Hurricanes, they’ll get the Rangers on the road twice along with a home game with Florida and a road game in Boston. It’s not an easy week but the Canes are proving to be a challenging opponent for some. They just need points to keep pace for the time being. Lastly, the Islanders will host Calgary before having a very tough back-to-back set with the Pens and Caps. Again, they are really in a hole. And after this week, they could be even further behind everyone else. That’s not really something to be thankful for.
That was the week that was in the Metropolitan Division and now we know what lies ahead in this coming week. What are your thoughts on what happened in the division last week? Will the Rangers increase their lead on the division? Can the Blue Jackets keep it up? Can the Devils survive another road trip? Will the Hurricanes jump the Flyers, or will Philly ward them off for another week? Will the Islanders start to pull their way out of last place by spoiling better teams than them? Please let me know your answers and other thoughts about what the eight teams did in the division last week and what they may do this week in the comments. Thank you for reading.