Four full weeks to go for the 2015-16 NHL regular season and somehow the Washington Capitals don't have their X or Y yet. The X is traditionally the letter put next to the team's name in the standings when they clinch a playoff berth. The Y is traditionally the letter for clinching the division. For all practical purposes, no one in the Metropolitan will be catching the Washington Capitals. They had their chance if they won their most recent game, but they did not. Still, they remain the rulers of the division with an iron fist. Just pretend they have a 'X' and a 'Y' next to Washington in these standings.
|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 3/13 Before Games Played
As for the rest of the non-triple digit-point teams in the division, let's get right to it. The battle for home ice for the seemingly inevitable New York Rangers-New York Islanders first round playoff series remains a battle. The Islanders gained a little ground on the Rangers. Beating them last Sunday certainly helped too. The Islanders would still have to win their games in hand to surpass the Rangers. It remains possible. Should the Rangers want to avoid that fate, they'll need to finish the season strong. Split-weeks in terms of points or worse only keeps them vulnerable.
The Pittsburgh Penguins remain as the wild card entry from the Metropolitan Division. The Pens faithful must be stunned that Evgeni Malkin is out for six to eight weeks. With all due respect to the Islanders and Jaroslav Halak, this was the most significant injury to hit the division. Malkin is one of the best players in the world and the one thing Pittsburgh that most teams do not is that they have two all-world players who can be all-world to lift them as needed. The Penguins are still in a driver's seat and with Detroit (68 GP, 79 points, 32 ROW) having some issues, the first wild card spot could still be theirs. However, the Penguins will have to be more than a little concerned with their hated rivals: the Philadelphia Flyers. After seemingly a whole season of underachieving (dropping a 4-0 game to the Oilers? At home?), injury, and other issues, the Flyers seem up for a late charge up the standings. They're just two behind the Penguins and three behind the Red Wings. The games played isn't in their favor but at least the Penguins don't have games in hand like they would for the Carolina Hurricanes, who are currently further than it seems. It'll make for an exciting battle through the end of the season.
Below those teams are the Carolina Hurricanes, New Jersey Devils, and Columbus Blue Jackets. Earlier last week, it looked like the Devils were in a prime position to fall further in the standings between Carolina, Columbus, Ottawa, and Montreal all getting points while New Jersey was idle. Then the Devils stun San Jose and Los Angeles. It's weird, the Devils have had a more successful California road trip than Washington. Anyway, the Devils are now closer to catching Carolina than catching Columbus. Short of a massive fall, it looks to me that the Blue Jackets have eighth place in control. Making up a nine point difference with four weeks left in the season is big challenge. Stranger things have happened. Of course, this has placed Columbus' draft lottery fate into the hands of a seemingly more inept group of Western Conference teams. So their fans will have to do some scoreboard watching too.
Who should you watch for in the division? Well, if you're here, then probably the Devils at a minimum. Here's what's coming up for all eight Metropolitan Division teams (and Detroit). All games within the division are in bold:
|WSH||vs. CAR||vs. NSH|
|NYR||vs. PIT||@ ANA||@ LAK||@ SJS|
|NYI||vs. FLA||@ PIT||@ NSH||@ DAL|
|PIT||@ NYR||vs. NYI||vs. CAR||@ PHI|
|PHI||vs. DET||@ CHI||vs. PIT|
|CAR||@ WSH||@ PIT||@ MIN|
|NJD||@ ANA||vs. MIN||@ CBJ|
|CBJ||vs. TBL||vs. DET||vs. NJD|
|W1 - DET||vs. TOR||@ PHI||@ CBJ||@ FLA|
Washington has a short week but their two home games should yield the standings letters that are seemingly inevitable for them this season. If you're all about the Devils' tank, then you'll be hoping Carolina gets something out of that game on Tuesday. Easier said than done because, well, Caps.
Teams #2 - #4 in the division will be very busy. The Rangers will host Pittsburgh today and then go on their own road trip through California. Unlike New Jersey's and Washington's recent trips, they get to "enjoy" Anaheim and Los Angeles back-to-back on this trip. Islanders fans will suddenly learn to love the Golden State from Wednesday through Saturday. Though they can't keep their eyes too far from their favorite team. They get Florida and then Pittsburgh in a back-to-back set of their own to start their week of games. That's followed by two tough road games in Nashville and Dallas. Pittsburgh's busy week can wreck a lot of havoc within the division. All four games are within the Metropolitan and they're against the Rangers, Islanders, Hurricanes, and Flyers. They can help themselves out a lot, or give some of these other teams plenty of it. Without Malkin, it's a more worrisome week. We'll see what they can do.
Speaking of, the Flyers have two very important games in this coming week for their own playoff run. They're chasing Detroit and Pittsburgh and will need one of those two to fall to get a wildcard spot. They will play both of them. Unfortunately, they get Chicago right after the Detroit game and with points being so precious to Philadelphia right now, that's going to be a problem. Meanwhile, Carolina gets to travel to D.C., Pittsburgh, and then Minnesota. I'm not sure what exactly they're shooting for but I know there will be some Devils fans who hope the Canes make it a successful week. The Devils themselves will finish up their road trip with a game in Anaheim on Monday, they'll return home and wear their 1980s uniforms for St. Patrick's Day to boo some guy named Zach, and then they'll begin a home-and-home set with Columbus, who has had their number all season. With the first two teams absolutely playing for something and Columbus being a bogey team for the Devils all season, it certainly won't be an easy week. Nothing has been all that easy for Columbus this season, but at least they'll be home all week with games against Tampa Bay, Detroit, and the Devils. Their mission remains to spoil better teams - should they choose to accept it.
The season is winding down but there's plenty of questions within the division that will have to be answered. Which New York team will come out of on top? Will the Penguins hold onto a wild card spot without Malkin? Can the Flyers really mount a run for the playoffs? When will Washington finally get the 'X' and 'Y' they're bound to eventually get? Will these questions even be answered this week? Please leave your answers and thoughts about the week that was and the week that will be in the Metropolitan Division in the comments. Thank you for reading.