The final month of 2017 began with the Columbus Blue Jackets in first place as per last week’s Metropolitan Division snapshot. If the headline photo wasn’t a clue, then I can tell you that Columbus has remained in first place. The top six teams in the division are bunched up together, causing some fans like Mike to hate how it has been going. I’m sympathetic but the snapshot does not care about feels - only about results. The results show Columbus at the top and with a slim lead at that.
Here is the upcoming schedule for all eight teams in the Metropolitan. Games highlighted in yellow are within the division. Only three games could cause some immediate swings in position in this coming week.
Everyone except Philadelphia will do some traveling. And the Flyers just came back from a very successful trip through Western Canada. To that end and given last week’s gimmick focused on home records, this week’s gimmick will be road records for each team. All data is from NHL.com.
Columbus Blue Jackets: Road Record: 8-5-1; Points Percentage: 60.7%; 27 road games left to play
As you may expect from a team tied for fifth in the NHL in points, Columbus has a positive road record. They’ve won a majority of their road games. While way better in Ohio, Columbus is not fazed by going away. Columbus is about a third of the way through their road schedule, so if they can maintain this form, then they will have a mighty fine record by April.
The Columbus Blue Jackets turned this three-game week for them into a successful one. The start was auspicious. They lost 1-4 to the New Jersey Devils on Tuesday. The loss not only put the Devils past them for a short while, it was Columbus’ second regulation home loss of the season. That’s pretty big. They would get revenge by coming back from a two-goal deficit to start the game in a 5-3 win in New Jersey on Friday night. Last night, Columbus returned home and made it a win. A close, 1-0 win over Arizona, but a win all the same. With the results from others in the division, Columbus has a little breathing room in first place. It is only two points but it is still breathing room. The Blue Jackets will continue on at home for their next two games. They’ll host an Edmonton team that may be a challenge and then a New York Islanders squad in a big divisional game. The end of this coming week has the Blue Jackets go down to Carolina. Their goal is to make their road record 9-5-1, but the Canes are anything but an easy opponent.
Washington Capitals: Road Record: 6-6-1; Points Percentage: 50%; 28 road games left to play
The Washington Capitals have been average from a results perspective on the road this season. They’ve earned exactly half of all available points on the road. Like Columbus, they’re about a third of the way through their road schedule. Unlike Columbus, Washington could stand to make some improvements to get some road results. Especially as they strive to end their playoff issues for the umpteenth season.
They can worry about that in April. This snapshot only cares about what just happened and what’s coming up next. Here’s what happened for the Caps: winning. Washington had three home games against San Jose, Chicago, and the Rangers. They won all of three in regulation and by at least two goals. Very nice for the D.C. squad. Combined with their win last Saturday and Washington has rode a four-game winning streak up to second place. Also nice. Washington will be busy and get out of their city for two of their games. They’ll visit Brooklyn on Monday, return home to host Colorado on Tuesday, go up to Boston on Thursday, and then come back to their home to host Anaheim. The Caps may continue to streak and, if so, they’ll challenge Columbus for first and improve their road record in the process.
New Jersey Devils: Road Record: 10-4-2; Points Percentage: 68.8%; 25 road games left to play
New Jersey has been on the road a bit more in the first third or so of their season. And they have done well. As of this writing, only three other teams in the NHL have won ten games on the road: Toronto, St. Louis, and Los Angeles. Those are all teams at or near the top in their respective division. It is good company to be in. It remains to be seen whether the Devils can keep it up, but they have found results away from the Rock to offset a mediocre home record.
This past week started off well enough with the Devils putting home rebounds in a 4-1 regulation win in Columbus. That could have been the start of a positive statement for New Jersey plus a potential move back up to first. Then the Blue Jackets took the Devils down to Earth in a 3-5 loss to split that home-and-home. The Devils looked porous and poor against their hated rivals, the New York Rangers. The 2-5 loss left a bitter taste in the mouth’s of Devils fans. Worse, it kept the Rangers in this tight window for playoff position in the division. The results of other teams meant the Devils only fell to third place with a 1-2-0 week. The Devils need to turn that around to avoid a larger fall in the standings. They do not have an easy week coming up to do that. They’ll host a Los Angeles team who has been red-hot on Tuesday. Then they’ll have a back-to-back set against tricky opponents: at Montreal on Thursday and hosting Dallas on Friday. The Dallas game will start a six-game home stand for the Devils; they need to perform and bump up their home record as they bump up their total record. Whether they will do that remains to be seen.
New York Islanders: Road Record: 8-9-1; Points Percentage: 47.2%; 23 road games left to play
The Islanders have had issues away from Brooklyn this season. Whereas Barclay’s has been a source of power and points, the road has not been kind to them. A sub-50% points percentage is not good for a team aiming to make the playoffs. If there is a mitigating factor, it is the fact that they’ve played more road games than everyone else in the division. Presumably because they just finished up a four-game road trip. Yet, the home games are coming up and that should help the Isles sort out their standing.
The Islanders were on the road entirely in this past week of games and they earned three out of eight points. They needed a shootout to prevail over Florida, 5-4. They were smacked down by Tampa Bay, 2-6, on the next night. The Isles went to Pittsburgh, came back from a 1-3 deficit within the final five minutes of regulation to force overtime, and lost in overtime. The Isles’ week ended with a more decisive 1-3 loss at Boston. Going 1-2-1 saw them drop to fourth place. The number of games played gives the Islanders the tiebreaker over Pittsburgh for the time being. But the Isles need to sort this out. They will have two home games coming up: they’ll host the Capitals on Monday and then they’ll host Dallas on Wednesday. Right after that Dallas game, they will go play a rested Columbus team (ouch) before hosting Los Angeles on Saturday. These are not easy home games at all. It could be worse; they could still be on the road.
Pittsburgh Penguins: Road Record: 6-8-2; Points Percentage: 43.8%; 25 road games left to play
The Penguins have been worse than the Islanders on the road this season. Similar to the Isles, this is not a good sign for a team with the expectations that the Penguins carry. This needs to be sorted out and quickly if the Pens are serious about moving up in the Metropolitan and being a contender. It will have to wait as Pittsburgh is in the middle of a five-game home stand.
And that five-game home stand could be going better. This past week was the meat of the run and they came away with just one win out of three home games. The Penguins lost 3-4 to the Rangers last Tuesday and Toronto last night. They beat the Isles in overtime, a situation they arguably should not have been in to begin with as they had to blow a 3-1 lead to get to OT that night. The Penguins may be struggling more than one may think. And, again, they need to sort it out and quickly. They’ll wrap up their run in Pittsburgh with a home game against Colorado on Monday. Pittsburgh will travel to Las Vegas and Arizona later in this week. Given their form on the road, these are not easy games - even with Arizona’s record. Not that it is wise to doubt a team led by Crosby, but at some point they need to make a definitive move up. Otherwise, they’ll stay down.
New York Rangers: Road Record: 4-6-0; Points Percentage: 40%; 31 road games left to play
The New York Rangers have not done a lot of traveling this season. They have played the fewest away games in the league as of this writing with just ten games. The Rangers have to do better because they have so many road games coming up. Those ten games are an auspicious beginning to their road schedule. They will have to work hard and get lucky to turn it around.
You know that really awful start to the season for the Rangers? It continues to hinder them today. For example: the Rangers went 2-1-0 in this past week. They took regulation wins against two teams ahead of them in the Metropolitan: Pittsburgh and New Jersey. Their one loss was to Washington. Despite the positive results they remained in sixth place. Because they have had to do so much catching up, even a good week of results in the faces of three teams having non-winning weeks is not enough to move on up. They are in the right position but their margin for error is slimmer. The Rangers are part of the conversation for a playoff spot, but they have a long ways to go still. In this coming week, they’ll have to leave home twice in a four-game week. The Rangers will host Dallas on Monday before heading up to Ottawa on Wednesday. Their week will end with a difficult back-to-back set of a home game against Los Angeles on Friday and a road game in Boston on Saturday. Their uphill battle will continue to be a challenge for the Rangers. A slip up could put them further back than they would like.
Carolina Hurricanes: Road Record: 5-6-4; Points Percentage: 46.7%; 26 road games left to play.
Carolina is in the middle of a six-game road trip. That road record should clue you in as to how that is going. The Canes have had issues getting results. The run of play tends to be fine; but the whole thing of scoring goals continues to elude them. In any case, the Canes have not been positive away from Raleigh and it is part of the reason why they are in the basement of the Metropolitan.
The Hurricanes started a six-game road trip with the first half of it taking place in this past week. It started off with a whimper of a 0-3 shutout loss to Vancouver. A game in San Jose on Thursday was a heartbreaker. San Jose made up a 1-4 deficit to force overtime, where they won. Talk about a loser point for Carolina. Saturday night saw them go to Los Angeles where they took another loss. But it was in overtime so they picked up a point. With the games played tie breaker, they are just past Philadelphia to avoid eighth place for this snapshot. Still, it has not been a good road trip or a good week for results. And there are three more road games In a word: welp.
That may be the reaction to this coming week: the second half of their road trip. The Canes will visit Anaheim on Monday and then go to Las Vegas on Tuesday. They’ll then fly all the way to Buffalo for a game on Friday. That is the end of their trip, but not their week. They’ll go from upstate New York back to Raleigh to host a strong Columbus team on Saturday. That’s a lot to do and unless Carolina can start stringing some results together, they could drop back to the basement with a larger deficit of points.
Philadelphia Flyers: Road Record: 7-5-3; Points Percentage: 56.7%; 26 road games left to play.
The Flyers just wrapped up a three-game trip to Western Canada. How good was it? They swept the week with three straight regulation wins. They finally won a game and the whole trip moved their road record up to positive status. They still have a lot of points to make up, but this is a start towards some respectability.
Again, the three road games went very well for Philadelphia. They have moved past Carolina. They’re still five points behind the Rangers for sixth place. There is still a lot for the Orange and Black to do. At least the Flyers have made some progress. That is always the first step after a prolonged losing streak. Since the Flyers played three straight in British Columbia and Alberta, they will get to stay in Pennsylvania this week. The Flyers will host Toronto, Buffalo, and Dallas on Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday, respectively. The Toronto game will be tough, but they should have rest before hosting a Dallas team that played the night before in New Jersey. Another winning week is possible and, who knows, maybe the Flyers can fully surpass Carolina and start to apply some pressure on the Rangers. We’ll see.
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? Will Columbus manage to add to their breathing room? Will the Capitals and Flyers keep on winning? Will the Devils, Islanders, and Penguins make some moves within the middle of the division? Can the Hurricanes win any games on the remainder of their road trip? Please leave your answers and other thoughts about the division in the comments. Thank you for reading.