December has begun and there is a new team at the top of the Metropolitan Division. Welcome back the Columbus Blue Jackets. Their hold on first place is as tenuous as any hold on the spot in this season so far. Yet, for this moment (and the past couple days) they are the leaders. It remains tight between positions number one and number six, but the Blue Jackets have the edge for now. Here are what the standings look like after Saturday’s games:
With the holidays coming up, people are busy with plans, buying gifts, setting up celebrations, and so forth. It is a busy time for hockey teams as everyone has at least three games to play in this coming week. All within six days; nobody in the division is playing today. Check out this week’s schedule for all eight teams. Rather than highlight the games within the division in bold, I have highlighted them in yellow. Hopefully they are easier to read. If so, I’ll keep on doing it that way.
After a month-plus spell of games outside of the division, New Jersey will get to play them in their entire week. So will the New York Rangers. Others will be doing some traveling. More on that in a bit.
For this week’s snapshot, I will highlight each team’s record at home. Home is where the supporting fans are usually seen and heard. It’s good to win at home. How are all eight teams at home? Let’s find out. Records are from NHL.com.
Columbus Blue Jackets: Home record: 10-4-0. Points percentage: 71.4%.
The Blue Jackets have the second most home wins and the second most home games in the division. They have been successful in Ohio. This past week was no different. They prevailed in a shootout win over Carolina at home last Tuesday and beat Anaheim 4-2 in regulation on Friday. Their road games last week were both losses: a 3-1 regulation loss to Montreal and a 4-3 regulation loss against Washington. That loss to the Caps was a lost opportunity to put in some more breathing room from them. They may be in fifth place, but they’re only five points back. This coming week has two more home games for them: a game against the Devils, where they have another big opportunity to increase their hold on first place; and a game against Arizona, who has been poor for most of this season. That Arizona game comes after a trip to the Rock on Friday; a quick Devils-Blue Jackets rematch. Columbus has been very stingy in net and have a talented array of forwards. Can they create some space ahead of the other teams? This week is a good one to see if they can.
New Jersey Devils: Home record: 6-4-2. Points percentage: 58.3%
The Rock has not been kind to the Devils with just a 58.3% points percentage. They have been a better road team so far in their surprising season. It would be ideal if they could get more results at home. They’ll play more home games in December, though, so they’ll get the opportunity to do so. Anyway, this past week was not a good for New Jersey. They lost at home to Florida, 3-2. They edged Colorado on the road 2-1. They were flatlined in Arizona in a 0-5 loss. Those are three not-so-hot teams that the Devils just struggled with to various degrees. They remain in second place and they do have games in hand on everyone but the Islanders and Hurricanes. But they need to avoid an extended set of lacking results or they will fall out of favor quick in a tight division. They will get to play within their division for the first time in over a month in this coming week and it will not be easy at all. They will have a sort-of home-and-home with Columbus. Usually, home-and-homes are back-to-back but this is not back-to-back. What is back-to-back is that their home game against Columbus is followed by a road game against the New York Rangers. The travel will not be an issue; the rivalry game after playing is the issue. At least the Rangers have the same issue.
Pittsburgh Penguins: Home record: 9-2-1. Points percentage: 79.2%
The Penguins have made their home, the PPG Paints Arena (The Paintcan?), a very tough place to play in. The Penguins have the bulk of their wins at home. I’m sure being able to get the last line change with Crosby and Malkin is a huge plus too. What makes it harder at home for opponents is that the Penguins are now hot. They swept this week to extend a winning streak to four games. They went over their hated rivals, the Flyers, 5-4 in overtime. The Penguins then beat up on Buffalo 4-0 and 5-1 in a home-and-home set. The Pens have awoken and they darted up the standings to third place. It can continue. That last game against Buffalo was the first of five straight home games. Yes, home games, the kind of games that the Penguins have done very well in this season so far. They will host the Rangers, the Islanders, and Toronto in this coming week. If they can keep up their pace at home, then don’t be surprised if the winning streak is longer and the Penguins are higher up in the division.
New York Islanders: Home record: 8-1-2. Points percentage: 81.8%
In the 1980s, the Islanders called their home Fort Neverlose when they were dominant. I do not think anyone calls the Barclay’s Center that in this season. But they could with such a high points percentage. In fact, up until this week, the Isles did not lose at home in regulation this season. That is pretty impressive. I’m pretty impressed. As with the Penguins, their home games make up most of the results with a more average road record to supplement it. The Islanders had a short week at home. They soundly beat Vancouver 5-2. Then they lost a crazy game against a struggling Ottawa team, 6-5 in regulation at home. Talk about unexpected. Between that and the short week, the Isles moved down a spot in the standings. This coming week will force the Islanders to improve at home if they want to move back up in the Metropolitan Division. The Islanders will play four games and all of them are on the road. They have the two Florida teams in a back-to-back followed by trips to Pittsburgh and Boston. It will not be easy but a statement can be made if they come back with five or more points from this trip.
Washington Capitals: Home record: 9-5-0. Points percentage: 64.2%
The Caps have done well in the District of Columbia for the most part this season. However, this short week they just completed showed that it is not always so good. The Capitals had two home games and they split them. They lost 5-2 in regulation to Los Angeles and then they beat Columbus 4-3 in regulation last night. The latter game helped Columbus from gaining any ground. The former was just two points lost in a standings marathon where two points could have helped at this time. The good news is that Washington will play more games and they’ll be at home for all of them. Their five-game home stand will end this week with games against San Jose, Chicago, and the Rangers. The latter game could have an impact on the Devils-Rangers game on Saturday, depending on how it goes. Go Caps, I suppose.
New York Rangers: Home record: 11-5-2. Points percentage: 66.7%
The Rangers have the most home wins in the NHL. They also have the most home games in the NHL. The Rangers have turned around their awful start to the season with many successes at MSG. Just look at this past week. They beat Vancouver 4-3 in a shootout and they crushed Carolina 5-1 this past Friday. A 5-4 regulation loss to Florida on Tuesday denied them a sweep of this past week. All of those home games played leaves a big question mark for the eventual road games that have to happen. They have two road games coming up that will be a big challenge: Pittsburgh on Tuesday and Washington on Friday. Following that Caps game is a rivalry game against New Jersey in their house. Since they have been battling back to get into the big mix in the standings, they need to keep pace. This week may undo some of the progress they have made. We shall see.
Carolina Hurricanes: Home record: 6-4-3. Points percentage: 57.6%
Like the Devils, the Carolina Hurricanes have not exactly made their home rink a place for winning plenty of games. Unlike the Devils, the Carolina Hurricanes have been mediocre on the road. However, Canes fans should feel a bit better after this past week. They had a positive week of results. The Canes beat Nashville 4-3 through a shootout, they lost in a shootout in Columbus for another point earned, and they beat Florida 3-2 in overtime for a ROW. Their only real failure was a 5-1 loss in Manhattan. The Canes used some up some of their games in hand in this past week. Their previous failings resulted in the Canes not able to move up a whole lot should they win those games in hand. Still, if they can string more results together and more positive weeks, they can claw their way back into the tight race that has formed in the division. They will have to do it on the road for most of the next two weeks. Carolina will start a six-game road trip; this week has them visiting Vancouver, San Jose, and Los Angeles. That is a tough trip with loads of travel. For their sake, they hope to pick up more points along the way.
Philadelphia Flyers: Home record: 4-6-4. Points percentage: 42.8%
The Philadelphia Flyers have been mired in a ten-game winless streak. As a result, their home record has taken a beating. They are now the only team in the division with a points percentage below 50%. That is pretty bad. Everything is seemingly bad for the orange and black. In this past week, they lost in overtime to their rivals, the Penguins, on Monday. On Tuesday, they lost 3-1 to San Jose in their house. After some days off and practice, they geared up to host Boston on Saturday. Boston beat them 3-0. The L’s keep mounting up. They have single-handedly increased the gap between first and last as they are now a whopping twelve points behind first place Columbus in the division. The Flyers need to find a win by any means necessary at this point. Sure, the Flyers have picked up some post-regulation points in this run of futility. They need a win just for pride’s sake at this point. The Flyers will have to make it happen in Canada though as they will travel to Western Canada this week. Yes, the winless-in-ten will play in Calgary on Monday, visit Edmonton on Wednesday, and then go to Vancouver on Thursday. But they need wins and this is not an easy trip to get them.
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 hold onto first place or will someone else take them over? Can the Penguins stay hot? Will the Devils get points out of three games within the division coming up? How will the Rangers handle their tough week on paper. I repeat from last week: 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.