The streak is over. The Columbus Blue Jackets finally lost after winning sixteen games in a row. They were one game short of tying the all-time record. Worse, they lost that game to the Washington Capitals. Someone in their division benefited from their historic streak ending loss. Then they lost a high-scoring game to the New York Rangers. The Blue Jackets did not win the week for the first time since, what, October 30? Alas, all good things must come to an end. At least the streak put the Blue Jackets atop the Metropolitan Division - and they begin this week still in first place despite the losses.
The New York Rangers - who did beat them last night - are just behind the Blue Jackets in points. They’ve clawed their way back up to second past an idle Pittsburgh Penguins team with two wins last week. That’s the good news. The bad news: they’re mostly idle for this week and both Columbus and Pittsburgh have games in hand on them. As Columbus has proven to be a good team and Pittsburgh is a great team, I doubt those games in hand will be dropped. The Rangers faithful will be hoping anyway.
They, as well as Columbus and Pittsburgh, should pay attention to the Washington Capitals. They’ve impressively swept last week including being the squad that brought Columbus’ impressive winning streak to its demise. With 55 points, they’re right back in the mix for taking a spot in the top three places in the division. They can still contend to win the whole division. They may be in fourth but they’re not out of anything at the moment. As for the other squad in the middle of the division, the Philadelphia Flyers split last week. Fortunately for them, no one below them in the Eastern Conference has really made much of a stride against their wild card spot. The teams closest to them are closer to taking a top three spot in the Atlantic Division than taking Philly’s spot. Still, the Flyers have played quite a few games and they could stand to have more successful weeks to better secure their positioning.
Down in the lower part of the Metropolitan, the Carolina Hurricanes managed to just stay ahead of the New Jersey Devils this week. The Canes won one out of three and lost a game in regulation to the Devils. While they’re ahead by one point and have two games in hand, the lack of progress in points mean they remain on the wrong side of the bubble in the East. The Devils, on the other hand, actually won their week with five out of eight points earned. How they have performed remains up for debate, but beating Boston and Carolina on back-to-back nights is a nice change of pace from all of the losing. They’ve also played quite a few games so while they’re now in seventh place, they could still end up in the basement soon. They could have, but the New York Islanders had other ideas. The Isles were mostly off last week and they were dropped in their two games beyond regulation. While they received two points, it meant they slipped to eighth in the division and last in the East. Their saving grace is that Tampa Bay, Florida, the Hurricanes, the Devils, Buffalo, Detroit, and the Islanders are all within four points of each other. So a hot streak from either would get them closer to the wild card picture.
Let’s look at the upcoming weekly schedule for all eight teams to see what’s coming up next. Games within the division are in bold.
Starting from the top, the Columbus Blue Jackets will follow up their loss to the Rangers by playing the Flyers. There should be plenty of teams hoping Columbus wins to keep Philly from further securing their spot in the standings. The Blue Jackets will then go on a road trip where they’ll go to Carolina and then two Florida teams at the end of their week. Speaking of the end of the week, the Rangers are off until then. They’ll have time to rest up, watch other teams play, hope they don’t pass them, and then play in a tricky back-to-back with Toronto and in Montreal. Two teams that can pass the Rangers in the standings, Pittsburgh and Washington, will be quite active.
The Penguins will get back to playing games today when they host Tampa Bay. Then they’ll hit the road for games against Washington, Ottawa, and Detroit. Meanwhile, Washington will have a tougher stretch as they’ll visit Montreal before playing Pittsburgh and Chicago. That Caps-Pens game on Wednesday will be on national television and it’ll be worth it. It could make a short-term impact on the Metropolitan in terms of who will be moving up in the standings.
As for the Flyers, they’ll visit Columbus before visiting Buffalo, hosting Vancouver, and then visiting Boston. With four games, Philadelphia can use this week to shore up their wild card spot. A poor week, though, opens the door just a bit more. Carolina will enjoy Raleigh with four home games this week. They’ll host Boston, Columbus, Buffalo, and the Islanders. A big week from them can put them closer to the right side of the wild card bubble instead of just hanging back in the pack. The back of that pack includes the Devils and the Islanders. The Devils will host Florida before embarking on their final four-game road trip of the season. This road trip will go to Western Canada; they’ll play the two Alberta teams this week. As for the Islanders, they’ll become even more familiar with the Panthers as they’ll play them twice before visiting Carolina. The Isles aren’t mathematically out of anything but they’re more or less spoilers. They can only spoil other team’s fading playoff hopes in this week but that’s still spoiling.
That was the week that was in the Metropolitan Division and now we know what is coming up next. Now that Columbus has been beaten, will the Blue Jackets stay in first place? Will the Penguins and Capitals take advantage of a mostly-idle Rangers team this week? Who will be in the basement by next Sunday? 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.