It seemed so insurmountable. But streaks can change a lot in a short time. At the top, the Washington Capitals had a very bad week of results. Now their hold on the Metropolitan Division is up for grabs. At the bottom, the New Jersey Devils continue to not win any games. Now they are the “leaders” of the Race for 28th. A whole lot can still change in the Metropolitan Division as the 2016-17 regular season winds down. Here’s a snapshot of the division standings.
Washington stumbled for what seems like the first time in a long time. Unfortunately for the Caps, the Pittsburgh Penguins and Columbus Blue Jackets both had great weeks at the same time. As Washington faltered amid their road trip (it ends tonight), the Penguins swept their week to effectively put everyone on notice that they are still contenders. The Blue Jackets nearly swept their week and were just minutes away from doing so. Still, six out of eight points just puts them three points behind first and added to a cushion over a wild card spot. The Caps need to get back on track right away. Otherwise, we could see someone else take the division crown. At a minimum, it’s up for grabs.
What isn’t up for grabs is the first wild card spot in the Eastern Conference. The Metropolitan Division has been so strong this season that you’d have to go back towards the beginning of the season to when a team in that division didn’t have it. The New York Rangers currently hold it and are in a good position to keep it. The Rangers had a positive week of results to maintain control. With Toronto, the current holder of the second wild card spot at 76 points, maintaining pace is all that they need. Especially with a star goalie being out for a couple of weeks.
The more interesting race will involve the other team in NYC: the New York Islanders. They wrapped up a long nine-game road trip in this past week. While this week was a decent 2-2-0 result, the trip as a whole was feared as it could put the Isles on the outside looking in. Instead, the Isles are very much in the playoff hunt. A single point separates them from Toronto and they have a little separation from Tampa Bay and more separation from Philadelphia for their current position. The Isles can and likely will push ahead. Speaking of the Philadelphia Flyers, they’re increasingly on the outside looking in. They’ve dropped games that they’re going to wish they won. Their 1-2-0 week kept them in their spot in the standings and that will only make it harder to move up as the season winds down. They could use another winning streak. They really could use just winning a week. Time’s running out to seriously be in this playoff race, Flyers.
It’s been known that the Carolina Hurricanes and New Jersey Devils will not be in this playoff race. They have not been mathematically eliminated from the playoffs, but there is no practical chance that they could make it. So they’re jockeying for draft position, whether they want to admit it or not. Carolina had a positive week, picking up five out of eight points. New Jersey’s losing streak was extended to ten games. They not only lost all of their games last week, but those losses included one each to Colorado (30th) and Arizona (29th). As such, the Devils’ fall has put them in first for the Race to 28th.
As my rule for this is all teams less than ten points ahead of 28th, it’s a shorter list. Tampa Bay and St. Louis have played themselves out of this spot. Florida is now in the race by way of losing a whole bunch, including all three of their games last week. Philadelphia is on the edge of the race. With three games against the Flyers later, those who want the Devils to win this race should want them to have something to play for. Anyway, Buffalo moved up because they finally won a game. Winnipeg has not, so they remain a “darkhorse” But the Devils’ continued failing has resulted in passing Carolina, Vancouver, Dallas, and Detroit. With playing as many or more games than those four teams, the Devils can benefit from those four teams just getting points as they wait. The Devils’ ten-game losing streak will eventually end. Those who want or don’t mind the tank should just hope the other teams prosper before or as that happens.
What’s coming up for all eight teams in the Metropolitan? Many more games within the division and many more home games than last week. Here’s the schedule. Games in bold are within the division; games in italics will affect the current Race for 28th:
Washington need to get back to winning ways and they’ll have four chances to do so. They’ll return home after today’s trip-ender in Anaheim, although they’ll visit a not-giving-up-yet Tampa Bay squad by the end of the week. Meanwhile, Pittsburgh will take on the hottest team in the NHL right now in Calgary, their hated rivals on Wednesday, and host the Devils on Friday. The Pens have been hot too, we’ll see if they’ll stay hot. The Blue Jackets can stay in the picture for first as they’ll take on two Race for 28th teams before a tricky visit to Brooklyn.
The New York teams can play a big role in said Race for 28th. The Rangers will play Detroit and Florida amid tougher-on-paper games against Tampa Bay and Minnesota. Their goal is to maintain their position; they can certainly do so. The Isles will get a home-and-home with Carolina before hosting Winnipeg and Columbus. With home games and three games against non-playoff hopefuls, the Isles need to get results to really push for the postseason. Philadelphia needs to get back into the picture in the worst way and they’ll have a tough week to do so: Columbus on Monday and then a back-to-back against rival teams. The Flyers’ season has been anything but easy.
Down among the bottom teams, Carolina can spoil the Islanders before spoiling to Western Conference squads. Coming off a 2-1-1 week, perhaps they can do so. Toronto would especially like them to take points away from the Isles. Lastly, the Devils just need to end this losing streak. After dropping games to Colorado and Arizona, it seems even bleaker to do so. They’ll take on Winnipeg first and then Philadelphia, which both may be their best chances to get that elusive win. It would be funny if they did beat the Pens on Friday. However, among the many things the 2016-17 Penguins can do, comedy isn’t one of them.
That was the week that was in the Metropolitan Division and now we know what is coming up next. Will the Capitals hold onto first or will there be a new leader? Can the Isles continue to battle and perhaps take that last wild card spot in the Eastern Conference? Will this be the week where the Devils win a single game for the first time since February 18? 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.