It is astounding how successful the Metropolitan Division teams have performed in this past week and in this season so far. The worst team in the division would still be in the playoff picture in the Western Conference. The second best team in the Atlantic would be in sixth in the Metro. And all but one team took more than half of all potential points last week. It is the toughest division in hockey right now. Here’s what the standings look like as of this morning:
Four teams swept their previous weeks and it is such a tight race. The Pittsburgh Penguins are technically in first place by way of playing fewer games than the New York Rangers. They needed six out of six points to get there. The Rangers, meanwhile, lost a game to their city rivals, the New York Islanders. That one slip up was enough to move them down and they’re still vulnerable. The rest of the division should thank the Islanders, who have been playing much better as of late and are suddenly not so deep in the basement.
The three teams right behind the Rangers have been hot and remained hot. The Columbus Blue Jackets continued to storm over opponents with a second straight 3-0-0 week. They’ll have a short week of games, but the schedule has given them a distinct advantage from games in hand. So much so that they wouldn’t need to win all of those games in hand to make a move up at this point. They remain a threat to all of those near the top. The hottest team in the league is right behind the Blue Jackets: the Philadelphia Flyers. The Flyers have won eight in a row and that’s been enough to put them well into the picture for a guaranteed playoff spot. The streak made up a lot of ground, placing the Flyers closer to where their fans hoped they would be. Poor Washington. The Washington Capitals swept their week and ended up losing a spot in the standings just because the Flyers have had more games to win. The Caps would be a playoff contender in any other division. Here, they’re just owning the last wild card spot. It’s been that tough of a division.
Down at the bottom, the Islanders and Carolina Hurricanes have both picked up their play. The Isles took down the Rangers for the benefit of everyone who counts. The Canes won their home game and then took three out of six in a a trip to California. Both teams made up some ground, although they’re still well behind the Caps. They can at least say they’re proving to be better than their position suggests. The only team to have suffered a losing week last week is unfortunately the team that matters most at All About the Jersey: The New Jersey Devils. They beat Vancouver and then were dominated in a back-to-back set to Montreal and St. Louis. While it was not easy, the standings do not care. They did not get results and now they’re closer to moving down a spot than they are moving up. Multiple weeks of just picking up one win have caught up to the Devils and so that made a gap between themselves and the Capitals. So it went.
The Metropolitan Division as a whole had a stunning set of results last week. Can they continue it in this coming week? Let’s look ahead. Games within the division are in bold.
Let’s begin with the new leaders of the division: the Pittsburgh Penguins. They may not be leaders after tonight, but they’ll have a busy week to try to hold on. They’ll host Arizona, Boston, and Los Angeles - three teams of increasing quality - before a road game on Saturday in Toronto. That may be tricky, Toronto has been a much better home team than a road team. The New York Rangers will try to re-take the division throne with a game against the Devils tonight, a home game with Chicago, and then two road games in Dallas and Nashville. The Rangers have been an offensive machine, they’ll definitely make it tough for the Pens to pull ahead. Of course, they need to keep earning points to hold back Columbus, Philadelphia, and Washington.
Those three teams swept last week. There should be some changes among them if only because of how the schedule is set up. Columbus will go on the road to Western Canada with games spaced out between Edmonton, Calgary, and Vancouver next Sunday. Even if they win both, they could move down just because of a lack of games played. The Flyers will try to keep their winning streak alive with a road trip that sends them to Detroit today (the Flyers played last night in Philly), Colorado on Wednesday, and Dallas on Saturday. It’ll be tricky but teams that hot seem to get through those kinds of tricks. As for the Capitals, they’ll have plenty of games to move up in the standings - especially if/when the Blue Jackets and Flyers falter. The Caps get Vancouver tonight, the Islanders and Hurricanes later, and then a home game with Montreal. They could do it; we’ll see if they can. The Isles and Canes aren’t pushovers.
Down in the lower end of the division, there are the Devils, Hurricanes, and Islanders. The Devils will begin another four game road trip tonight with a trip to Manhattan. As if that wasn’t enough, they’ll visit St. Louis (who soundly beat them last Friday), Ottawa, and then the Rangers against next week. It’s a tough road for them. The Hurricanes are back from California and so they’ll be home all week. They’ll get Vancouver, Washington, and Buffalo. As difficult as the Caps game may be, this is an opportunity for them to move up, assuming the Devils continue to struggle on the road. The Islanders will try to catch them but they have an arguably tougher week with playing Washington first, then Chicago, and then a trip up to Buffalo right after the Chicago game. But they’ve been playing better as of late, perhaps they will rise as well.
That was the week that was in the Metropolitan Division and now we know what is coming up next. What are your thoughts on what happened in the division last week? Will we see four teams sweep their previous week again? Who will see their winning streak end first among the Pens, Blue Jackets, Flyers, and Caps? Can the Hurricanes and/or Islanders pull themselves up? Will the Devils somehow end up not falling further in the division by next 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.