Sweeping a week in a schedule should be seen and is a big deal in the standings. It’s usually a big gain in points. Early in the season, it’s enough to turn a team that was looking at the bottom into a squad feeling much better about themselves and their future in the season. It’s also enough to take a lead in the standings and send a statement to the other teams in the division that they are to be noticed. The Metropolitan Division witnessed two of these sweeps and three other near-sweeps in this past week. It resulted in a new division leader and few other organizations that should be recognized.
The New York Rangers and the Washington Capitals each had four games last week and won all four. The Rangers went on a tear, routing Tampa Bay and St. Louis in addition to downing Edmonton and Buffalo. Their superior number of wins and regulation and overtime wins (ROW) puts them in first place over the Pittsburgh Penguins for the moment. As for the Capitals, they rebounded on their trip through Western Canada by beating Calgary and Winnipeg followed by beating the Jets again at home and then the Panthers last night. Their sweep puts them right behind the Rangers and the Penguins in third place with that valuable game in hand. Well done to both teams for having the best possible week last week.
This isn’t to say that Pittsburgh had a bad week. They took five out of a potential six points. They nearly swept their week, only to be denied in overtime by Los Angeles. That’s still very good. The Pens did very well in California and will now enjoy a home stand to continue battling for first in the Metropolitan. The defending champions weren’t the only ones to come one win away from a perfect week. The Philadelphia Flyers were denied last night from a sweep. All the same, winning three out of four games moves them to the top of the non-top-three teams. Having played more games than anyone else is not ideal but the Flyers did the best they could. The Columbus Blue Jackets were downed in overtime to St. Louis last night to deny them a sweep that would have taken that spot. All the same, the Blue Jackets were the talk of the league. They didn’t just hand Montreal their first regulation loss of the season. They beat them 10-0. No team has scored ten goals in a regular season game since 2011. As if the record wasn’t enough, that game told the world that the 2016-17 Blue Jackets won’t be like the 2015-16 Blue Jackets that fell flat on their face to start the season.
It wasn’t all lollipops and rainbows for the Metropolitan Division last week. The New Jersey Devils took to the road to begin a road-heavy month. They went back to the state of Florida in search of their first road win. Like their last trip to the Sunshine State, they lost in OT to the Panthers and in regulation to Tampa Bay. Therefore, they fell from third to sixth. The New York Islanders managed to get some points to bring themselves up to seventh. Their two post-regulation losses to close out the week prevented a bigger jump. It’s a small step forward for the Brooklyn Boys, but they have ground to make up. In last are the Carolina Hurricanes. Like the Isles, they took their last two opponents beyond sixty minutes to get some points. Like the Isles, they may have preferred getting the win to avoid remaining near the bottom of the division. It’s still a small step forward, but like the Isles, those steps need to become bigger and soon to avoid being in a deep hole. It’s shallow now, but successful weeks from other teams will make it larger.
To that end, let’s look at what’s on the schedule for the upcoming week. Everyone will be active, but against who and where? All games in bold are within the division.
Once again, there’s not a lot of action within the Metropolitan. There are a lot of games, mostly on Tuesday and especially on Saturday. Let’s go touch on them, starting with the top. The Rangers will get to host Winnipeg and Vancouver before making a long trip to Calgary, Alberta, Canada. That game against the Flames on Saturday kicks off a four-game road trip for the Rangers. Meanwhile, the Penguins do get a three-game home-stand after returning from California. They’ll get Minnesota bookended by the Fighting McDavids and the Fighting Matthews. As for Washington, they’ll host San Jose on Tuesday before traveling to Chicago and then Carolina. That game against the Canes could be read as a trap game. We’ll see how long the Caps can keep their winning streak up.
As for Philadelphia, they’ll get a chance to rest a little before and after a Tuesday home game against Detroit before taking on Toronto and Minnesota in a back-to-back. Ideally, they’ll want to keep up the pace they showed last week. A stumbling week could set them back. Massive win aside, the same can be said for Columbus. Their back-to-back set comes first with Anaheim and then a trip to Boston before playing St. Louis again. The New Jersey Devils will play four games but only two opponents. They’ll have home-and-homes with Carolina and Buffalo. As both teams are below the Devils in the standings, this week will be a good measuring stick to see if they’re on their level or better. Speaking of Carolina, after taking on the Devils, they’ll host Anaheim (coming off that a game in Columbus) and then take on Washington as they come in from Chicago. A successful week for them gets them back into the proverbial picture. Lastly, the Islanders will get days off in between their three games: a home game against Vancouver and a trip to Florida. It’s not an easy trip; just ask the Devils.
That was the week that was in the Metropolitan Division and we know what the week ahead will hold. That said, what do you make of it? Will the Rangers remain at the top after getting ahead of Pittsburgh by tiebreakers? Can Philadelphia remain in the middle? How can the Devils bounce back after a one-point week? 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.