Tomorrow is the NHL Trade Deadline. After tomorrow, March begins. That's the last full month of the 2015-16 NHL Regular Season. In other words, the push for the playoffs is here for a lot of teams. Except for two in the Metropolitan Division. For the Columbus Blue Jackets, it's not happening this season. For the Washington Capitals, it's already all but guaranteed.
|Team||GP||W||L||OT||ROW||Pts.||Last Week||Ptl. Pts.||Weeks Won||Playoff||% AM|
Source: NHL.com - Playoff Spots & Auston Matthews Lottery Chances as of 2/28 Before Games Played
Only two teams in the Metropolitan Division last week really fell on their faces. That would be the New Jersey Devils and the Carolina Hurricanes. They each won their big divisional games on Tuesday last week - Devils over the New York Rangers, Hurricanes over the Philadelphia Flyers - and then proceeded to lose all their other games. The Flyers picked themselves off the ground after that loss to Carolina and the rest of the division had good weeks. As a result, the Flyers jumped just ahead of both teams and the division's current playoff teams are further away from the Devils and Canes. What makes it worse for New Jersey and Carolina is that all of the teams ahead of them have games in hand on them. The gap could be conceivably larger. It's not a good position to be in.
As for the other six teams, last week was a good one. The Columbus Blue Jackets had one of their best weeks in a while. They earned seven out of eight points, dropping six goals in two of those three wins. The only downside is that it's taken them out of the bottom five in the NHL league standings. Good for pride, bad for the lottery. Still, they remain in the basement in the division unless Carolina or New Jersey make a really concerted effort to suck for the final six weeks of the season. Oh, and if Columbus keeps having positive weeks, point-wise.
Let's go to the top of the division and then down for the other positive weeks for the teams. The Washington Capitals unfortunately lost their eleventh game in regulation in this past week. It was bookended by wins so they remain just about untouchable in the Metropolitan. They have a really busy week coming up. Should they come out of it with a winning record for the week, I may be adding an 'X' for securing a playoff berth soon. Behind the Capitals are the two New York teams. While the New York Rangers got dropped by the New Jersey Devils, they picked up wins in their other three games. This was important as it puts pressure on the New York Islanders. Their road trip has continued to go well with two wins in Canada. As it stands, the Rangers' success means the Isles would have to win all three of their games in hand to surpass the Rangers mathematically. Games in hand are good but they mean little if they don't lead to results. As for the wildcard spot, that's still owned by the Pittsburgh Penguins. Their 2-1-0 week combined with the Canes and Devils falling mean they have a bit of a cushion in the standings. It's not big but it's there there. While not listed, they're three points behind Detroit for the higher wildcard spot with two games in hand. That should be their next target unless they really want to face Washington in the first round.
Here's the upcoming week of games for all eight teams in the Metropolitan Division (and Detroit). Remember that the NHL Trade Deadline is this Monday, February 29. It ends at 3 PM EST so we could see some changes on teams that very night. In any case, all games within the division are in bold:
|WSH||@ CHI||vs. PIT||vs. TOR||vs. NYR||@ BOS|
|NYR||vs. CBJ||@ PIT||@ WSH|
|NYI||@ EDM||@ VAN||@ WPG|
|PIT||vs. ARI||@ WSH||vs. NYR||vs. CGY|
|PHI||vs. CGY||vs. EDM||vs. CBJ|
|NJD||vs. CAR||@ NSH||@ DAL|
|CAR||vs. STL||@ NJD||@ TBL|
|CBJ||@ NYR||vs. EDM||@ PHI|
|W1 - DET||@ DAL||vs. CHI|
Washington gets five games this week. They'll go to Chicago today for a matinee game, followed by two back-to-back sets. Only one of those five games are against a non-playoff team. It'll be a challenging week, but if any team can come out of it looking good, it's the 2015-16 Capitals. The New York Rangers will stay within the division. They'll have a trap game on Deadline Day followed by a nasty back-to-back on the road against Pittsburgh and Washington. The Islanders faithful will be cheering hard for those teams on those nights. They'll also be cheering hard for the Isles to continue their successful road trip. Given that Edmonton, Vancouver, and Winnipeg are likely to non-playoff teams, it's possible the Isles can keep up their winning ways. The Isles will still have three games in hand on the Rangers so the fans have every reason to hope the Rangers drop points as the Isles gain them.
As for the middle of the division, the Pittsburgh Penguins get to "enjoy" Arizona and Washington back-to-back to begin their week. That's followed by home games against the Rangers and Calgary. Their goal is to maintain and I think they can do that provided they don't get done in by any Jultzing. They just acquired Justin Schultz and, well, just ask an Edmonton fan about his play. Meanwhile, the Philadelphia Flyers will get to stay home and hope to make a push up the standings with home games against Calgary, Edmonton, and Columbus. They really could; the Pens should be a bit careful. The Devils and Hurricanes will have to pick themselves off the ground right away and get back to winning ways A.S.A.P. to get back into the playoff picture. The two will face each other on Tuesday, which could play a big role in whether it'll really happen. Before that game, Carolina has St. Louis; well after that game, they'll go to Tampa Bay. The Devils have it harder: they have a road back-to-back in Nashville and Dallas to close out their week. Lastly, Columbus will attempt to continue to spoil teams this week. The Rangers and Flyers will need to be careful. Their Friday game against Edmonton might as well be a battle for towards the bottom of the standings.
That was the week that was and the week that will be in the Metropolitan Division. With trades flying around, there's certainly a lot more interest in the beginning of this coming week. What do you think will happen within the division in this coming week? Can the Devils and/or Hurricanes get back on up? Or will the Flyers stay ahead? Will the Penguins be more likely to chase Detroit than to fend off the teams behind them in the division? Can the Rangers stay ahead of the Islanders, or will the Islanders close the gap? Lastly: Am I putting an 'X' (or even a 'Y') next to the Capitals next week? Please leave your answers and other thoughts about the division and the upcoming schedule in the comments. Thank you for reading.