Today is the 2017 NHL All-Star Game. The regular season has been on hold since Friday and will resume on Tuesday. While teams have played somewhere between 47 and 50 games, it’s understood that this is a halfway mark of the season. The time off allows teams to evaluate where they are and whether they can still achieve what they want to achieve.
At the break, the Washington Capitals remained atop the Metropolitan Division. They even built themselves a lead thanks to the results behind them. The Philadelphia Flyers managed to take back the second wild card spot in the East for the moment. And the favorite team of yours and mine, the New Jersey Devils, is last.
The Washington Capitals hammered Carolina and New Jersey. Their only slip up was a 0-3 loss to Ottawa, which was their first regulation loss since December 27. But that’s OK. The two teams closest to them in the Metropolitan Division had a worse week. The Caps now have a small cushion to go with a first place position. The Columbus Blue Jackets won a goal-fest in overtime in Ottawa and then were beaten by the Islanders and Nashville. The Pittsburgh Penguins could not take advantage of Columbus’ failings as they won one out of three games last week too. The Penguins steamrolled the Boston before suffering a shutout loss to St. Louis and losing to Boston before the break. As a result, the top three teams remain in status quo. Although the Penguins may want to start paying attention to a New York Rangers squad that is right behind them.
The middle of the division had a better run as they entered the All-Star Weekend. The New York Rangers won two out of three games last week and sit just two points behind the Penguins. Forget the wild card spot, if the Pens don’t pick it up, then the Rangers could be switching spots with them soon. Probably not in this coming week given how the schedule is set up but we’ll see. The Philadelphia Flyers finally stopped their slide and swept this past week. Taking six out of six not only makes the fans feel good about the team, but it also put them back in the second wild card spot in the East. They can’t relax. Toronto is behind them by just a point and they have three games in hand. Still, they’re in a position where taking care of their own business and not worrying much about the others is a reasonable thing to do. The real surprise: the New York Islanders. Since firing Jack Capuano and replacing him with Doug Weight, the Islanders have become stronger. Well, maybe they have - they’ve certainly been more successful. They earned five out of six points last week and pulled ahead of Carolina and New Jersey. They’re just ahead of the five-team group at the bottom of the East with 49-50 points, so they have some ways to go. But the Isles fans should be pleased that they’ve lifted themselves up into some part of the playoff picture for now.
In the new bottom, there are the Carolina Hurricanes and the New Jersey Devils. Poor Carolina. For a few weeks, they were only behind the Flyers in the standings while Philly was hot. When they cooled, the Canes would have a chance to move on up. They had a four-game winning streak, but now they’ve sunk with a five-game losing streak. They dropped their two games last week. Now they’re only ahead of the Devils based on games played. Speaking of sunk, the New Jersey Devils are in last place. While they aren’t on a five-game losing streak, they were soundly beaten in their two games last week to secure the bottom spot. What’s worrisome is that those two games were at home. Earlier in this season, the Devils went into December without a regulation loss at home. Those two games last week extended a home winless streak to six - and February has a lot of home games coming up for New Jersey. Maybe the Devils and Hurricanes will trade positions but it’s not looking good for either franchise during this All-Star break in the schedule.
The regular season will resume on Tuesday, so this is another abbreviated week. Here is the upcoming schedule of games; all games within the division are in bold.
Let’s go through this day-by-day. Everyone is active on Tuesday. And only the Pittsburgh Penguins and New Jersey Devils are playing outside of the division. The Pens will hope to get points when they host Nashville. The Devils and Detroit will meet in a battle of basement teams in the East. The Washington Capitals will try to cool off the New York Islanders in Brooklyn. Across NYC, the Rangers will host Columbus in a game that would be interesting. The Blue Jackets want to get back to winning ways. The Rangers want to help themselves move up into a guaranteed playoff spot. The game between the Carolina Hurricanes and Philadelphia Flyers is also of interest, but for the many teams in the lower half in the East that are so packed together in points. Toronto will especially want Carolina to take points from Philly.
On Wednesday, there’s only one game involving a team from this division. The Washington Capitals will host Boston. A back-to-back set right after a break can be tricky. Worse for the Caps, they’ll have another one in this coming weekend. In their favor, they are an excellent team.
Thursday has two games. The Rangers will close their short week with a game in Buffalo. That game in hand Pittsburgh and Columbus has on the Rangers will be used up here. So the Rangers would really want to win that game and hope the Penguins and/or Blue Jackets falter. Meanwhile, the Philadelphia Flyers will host Montreal, which is never an easy game. Maintaining a wild card spot isn’t easy.
There are more games on Friday and all five teams playing that day will have a game on Saturday too. Good thing most of the rosters had some days off this week. The Devils will host Calgary while Carolina will host Edmonton. The Islanders will visit Detroit in a game that they’ll want to take if only to keep ahead of the Red Wings in the standings. The Blue Jackets and Penguins will play each other. This matchup could lead to a shift of sorts near the top of the division. The Rangers will be paying attention to said shift too.
On Saturday, the Devils will go play Columbus as both teams will try to quickly recover from the night before. The Hurricanes and Islanders will play each other in a game that could end up helping the Canes up at the expense of the Isles or have the Isles pull themselves up ahead of the pack. There are three games not within the division. The Penguins will play St. Louis.Their last meeting didn’t go well for Pittsburgh last week and the Pens will be tired from playing the night before. That’s not easy. The Flyers will have to a play a Los Angeles team that is better than their record suggests on Saturday. At least they did not play the night before. Likewise, Washington did not play the night before either. The Caps will seek to tighten their hold on first place when they go to Montreal.
That was the week that was in the Metropolitan Division and now we know what is coming up next. With another short week, how do you think the Metropolitan Division will look by next Sunday? How much will the Capitals’ lead on first place be by next Sunday? Will the Rangers move closer into the top three spots? Will the Islanders remain in the playoff picture now that they have a Weight Room? Can the Flyers hold on to their wild card spot? Can the Devils and/or the Canes win some games in this coming 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.