Thanksgiving is now in the rear view mirror and the National Hockey League will wrap up November in this week. Entering this final week of the month, the New Jersey Devils pushed their way back up into first place. There is some more room between last and first; that gap is now ten points. But it is quite tight from positions #1 through #6.
Your eyes are not deceiving you. The Devils took seven out of eight points. But four other teams won at least three times last week so they are within range. Only Pittsburgh had a bad week. As a result, the Devils’ awesome week did not really put them that far ahead of anyone outside of the two bottom teams. Who appear to be bottoming out. Here is the upcoming schedule for all eight teams; games within the division are in bold:
Look at that: games within the division! Pittsburgh had a rivalry game on Monday and Columbus and Carolina will can make some noise from either end of the standings. Everyone is off Wednesday and most everyone has three or more games to play; Washington and the Islanders, excepted.
For this week’s snapshot, I will point out how many times each team has played beyond regulation. I’ll include overtime and shootout records as well as a percentage of games played beyond sixty minutes over total games played. The overtime stats come from the team stats at NHL.com and their standings page does have each team’s shootout record.
New Jersey Devils - 9 games beyond regulation; 3-2 in overtime, 2-2 in shootouts, 39.1% of total games went beyond regulation. The Devils haven’t been exactly dominating post-regulation play, but five extra points has helped them stay near the top. If it was more, well, their record would be even better.
The Devils were busy and found ways to get points. On Monday, they finished a four-game road trip in Minnesota. They saw a 3-1 lead turn into 3-3; but the Devils won in overtime. On Wednesday, the Devils hosted Boston in a game loaded with shots and saves from Boston. An eleven-round shootout ended with the B’s taking it, handing New Jersey a SOL. On Black Friday, the Devils hosted Vancouver. This went much better with a 3-1 lead holding up in the third period for a 3-2 regulation win. Last night, the Devils went to Detroit and saw a 3-1 lead turn into 3-3 again - only not within the final two minutes of the game. As with Minnesota, the Devils won that one in overtime. As a result, the Devils played a lot of extra minutes to get seven out of eight points and move up to the top of the division. The Devils will get some rest in this coming week. After hosting Florida on Monday, the Devils will get some time off before a back-to-back set of road games in Colorado and Arizona. These could be called trap games; the Devils will need to be careful.
Columbus Blue Jackets - 8 games beyond regulation; 5-0 in overtime, 2-1 in shootouts, 34.8% of total games went beyond regulation. Columbus has been perfect in overtime, sealing up five wins from there. When the game did go beyond those five minutes, they’ve won two out of three. That’s seven out of eight extra points. Post-regulation play has been very good for the Jackets.
This past week has been very good for Columbus too. They swept their week. They had three games and won all three. They beat Buffalo 3-2, they blanked Calgary 1-0 in overtime, and they smacked down Ottawa 5-2. Columbus has won their last six games; they are rolling right now. They will get to be busy in this coming week. They have two back-to-back sets in this week. Their first one is a trip to Montreal followed by a home game against Carolina. Carolina was the last team to beat Columbus and they did so in Ohio. Not an easy game. Their second back-to-back set is a tricky one where they’ll host Anaheim and then visit Washington. That latter game could prove pivotal to some changes within the division. We’ll see how much longer Columbus will stay hot very soon.
New York Islanders - 5 games beyond regulation; 2-1 in overtime, 1-1 in shootouts; 21.7% of total games went beyond regulation. The Islanders have not been going beyond sixty minutes all that much. When they have been, though, it has been positive with three extra points earned out of five.
The Islanders continue to roll on. After losing in Carolina last Sunday, the Islanders beat Philadelphia twice in games that went to overtime. Those wins pushed the Isles up while keeping the Flyers down. The Isles beat Ottawa 2-1 last night in regulation to make it a six-point week. This was good enough to hold onto third place in the division and remain in striking distance of New Jersey and Columbus. Very good for the Brooklynites. Their reward is some wait-time. They only have two games coming up in this week: a home game against Vancouver and a home game against Ottawa. The lack of games may make them drop a spot or two in the standings; but they’ll pick up some games in hand. They should rest up in between as the Isles will have a big road trip after this coming week. We’ll worry about that in the next snapshot, though.
Washington Capitals - 5 games beyond regulation; 2-1 in overtime, 2-0 in shootouts; 20% of total games went beyond regulation. Like the Isles, the Capitals have not went beyond sixty minutes all that often either. The Caps have been better though. They’ve only lost one out of five extra points. Getting those extra points is always a bonus and they also mean taking Washington beyond regulation is not necessarily going to end well.
The Capitals had a similar week to the Islanders. They lost their first game of the week too, a home loss to Calgary. But the Caps more than rebounded with regulations wins over Ottawa, Tampa Bay (!), and a road win in Toronto. Very good. Their upcoming week is like the Islanders too in that they only have two games coming up. They will host Los Angeles on Thursday and then face Columbus for a big-time Saturday-night matchup. The Caps are in a good spot to remain more than relevant in the Metropolitan. Should they keep up their pace of points, they will move on up in time.
Pittsburgh Penguins - 7 games beyond regulation; 4-2 in overtime, 1-0 in shootouts; 28% of total games went beyond regulation. The Penguins have been mostly good in overtime and good about seeing their plus-60 minute games end before they hit the shootout. Five extra points out of seven shows that has been good for them.
The Penguins did not have a good week. As such, they fell behind a bit. They lost in regulation to Vancouver, 5-2, before Thanksgiving. After the holiday, they lost in Boston, 4-3. But the Pens did make a statement last night by taking down Atlantic Division leaders, Tampa Bay, 5-2 in regulation. That win kept them in the mix in the division and avoided a four-game losing streak. It’s on Pittsburgh to follow up that win with some more points. They’ll get a real good chance to make life more miserable for their hated rivals, Philadelphia, on Monday and for Buffalo in a home-and-home at the end of this week.
New York Rangers - 5 games beyond regulation; 3-1 in overtime, 0-1 in shootouts; 21.7% of total games went beyond regulation. The Rangers have been excellent within the five-minute overtime period. They’ve lost their only shootout so far this season. Still, three out of five earned points has been nice for a team still pulling themselves up from a really bad October.
The Rangers remain a threat in the standings as they keep on winning. Seriously, the Rangers are enjoying a three-game winning streak. They shutout Ottawa last Sunday, they routed Carolina in Carolina last Wednesday, and they edged Detroit 2-1 in overtime on Black Friday. They’ve only lost twice in this month so far. It has been a month of redemption for the Blueshirts. They can close out the month with another run of home games. They’ll host Vancouver today, they’ll host Florida on Tuesday, and then they’ll host Carolina on Friday. If they keep up their winning streak, do not be surprised if they start moving up in the Metropolitan. In the meantime, they’ll have to settle for pulling away from seventh and eighth place.
Carolina Hurricanes - 5 games beyond regulation; 0-2 in overtime, 1-2 in shootouts; 23.8% of total games went beyond regulation. The Hurricanes have lost all but one extra point beyond regulation. That has hindered their record and their progress in this season so far. Some better puck luck and play in OT would be desirable.
Carolina remains as the team with the fewest amount of games played in the division. But what’s the benefit of games in hand if they’re struggling to win games? The Canes won one out of three last week and they now remain solidly in seventh place. After beating the Isles 4-2 in Carolina, they were smacked hard by the Rangers last Wednesday, and they lost 5-4 at home to Toronto. Not good. The Canes will get to use some of those games in hand with four games coming up. They are not easy games. They’ll host Nashville today, they’ll visit Columbus on Tuesday, they’ll visit Manhattan on Friday, and then they’ll host Florida on Saturday. They need points to stay in the picture. It’ll be tough to get them with this week coming up. I’d say drag them out beyond three periods as much as possible; but the Canes have struggled to get results in those situations too. It could be worse. They could be the Flyers.
Philadelphia Flyers - 7 games beyond regulation; 1-4 in overtime, 0-2 in shootouts; 30.4% of total games went beyond regulation. The Flyers may have picked up some needed points by going beyond sixty minutes. Those nights often did not end well. One extra point earned represents lost opportunities, which partially explains why they are dead last in the Metropolitan.
I have not realized it until now, but the Flyers have not won in their last six games. Their last win was a 1-0 victory against Minnesota on November 11. Since then: no W’s for the winged P’s. Last week, they lost in regulation to Vancouver and then dropped two overtimes to the Islanders in a home-and-home split up by Thanksgiving. This is not the division to endure an extended winless streak in. Not this season where five out of eight teams won three games in this past week alone. This coming week will not be easy. They’ll face their hated rivals in Pittsburgh on Monday. Then they’ll host a difficult San Jose team on Tuesday. Not an easy back-to-back at all. Later in the week, the Flyers will host Boston. If they don’t win any of those three games, then they’re going to Western Canada on a road trip with a huge run of futility. It is not what the Flyers should want. We’ll see if they can sort it out and fast.
That was the week that was in the Metropolitan Division and the week to come for all eight teams. What do you think will happen in this coming week? Who will be in first place after this holiday week is over? Can the Devils stay in first or will Columbus, the Islanders, or someone else take over? Will Philadelphia win a hockey game in this coming week? Please leave your answers and other thoughts about the division in the comments. Thank you for reading.