The Trade Deadline is in the rear view mirror and the push for the postseason is on. The Metropolitan Division has all the kinds of pushes that you see. Pushes to maintain position. Pushes for a more advantageous position, such as a match-up or home-ice. Pushes to make the playoffs at all. Pushes for a better spot in the draft. This means a weekly snapshot of where everyone is worth noting.
The Washington Capitals are the leaders of the Metropolitan Division, the Eastern Conference, and the entire NHL. They added the biggest name at this year’s trade deadline, Kevin Shattenkirk, and they are going for it. Washington swept this past week to further tighten their hold on first place. All they need to do is maintain their pace and they’re set.
What’s more interesting is the battle for the other playoff spots in the Metropolitan. Two are guaranteed but it’s effectively three spots for the taking since the first wild card spot has a thirteen point lead over the second. How they’ll be arranged is crucial as #2 and #3 in the division will face each other in the first round of the postseason and the first wild card spot will draw the Atlantic Division leaders. As of now, it’s the Columbus Blue Jackets, the Pittsburgh Penguins, and the New York Rangers in that order. The Blue Jackets had a positive week of results and jumped the Penguins and Rangers, who both had rough, one-win weeks. They’re all safe for making it to the postseason; the fun is going to be who ends up where. The Blue Jackets and Penguins will use up one of their two games in hand on the Rangers this week, so the Manhattanites are the ones to be doing some watching and waiting on results.
Across New York City and one spot below in the standings are the New York Islanders, who are currently holding onto the second wild card spot in the East. The Isles rose up from their horrid start to be the best among the bubble teams at the moment. Taking three out of four points in a short week last week helps. The next few weeks will be absolutely fierce as Toronto, Florida, Tampa Bay, and Philadelphia are within three points of the Isles. At least the Isles have a game in hand on those four teams too. The Philadelphia Flyers had a very good week to get back into this picture of a playoff push; but they need to keep it up to stay in that picture. The Flyers have done some incredible and ignoble things this season. I wouldn’t count them out yet.
As for the bottom two teams, the New Jersey Devils and Carolina Hurricanes, I would count them out. They both were sellers or trying to be sellers at the trade deadline. They both have fallen apart. The Devils picked up a mere post-regulation point as their winless streak extended to six games. The Canes won only once in their last ten games and that win didn’t come in this past week, although they came close twice. It was a sad week of hockey for both squads. For them, their push is in a new feature I’m going to include for the next few weeks called the Race to 28th.
Colorado is supremely awful (example, hat-tip to r/hockey) and Arizona is well back of 28th so for teams trying to “earn a better draft pick,” the 28th spot appears to be the best they can do. Instead of tracking a playoff race that doesn’t involve the team this site focuses on for another year, I will track this particular race that does. These are the standings of all teams who are less than ten points out from 28th place:
Vancouver won big in LA so Carolina dropped to this position to be chased. Way to go, Canes? I will admit this is a broad look as this includes eleven teams. Tampa Bay, Philly, and LA are very much in a playoff race. St. Louis is largely here because they lost five in a row and have fallen so far. But Buffalo, Winnipeg, Dallas, Detroit, and Vancouver are definitely of interest for those Devils and Hurricanes fans who want or at least have accepted the concept of a tank. The Canes faithful should hope the bad times keep rolling as all of those games in hand can easily push themselves up from 28th. The Devils fans will want their current winless streak to continue, although Dallas only having two games coming up makes them a tough hurdle to clear.
What’s coming up for all eight teams in the Metropolitan Division? A whole lot of traveling. Here’s this week’s upcoming schedule. Games in bold are within the division. Games in italics will affect the Race for 28th.
Seriously: every team in the division has some kind of road trip going on with the exception of Columbus, who has two home-and-home sets with New Jersey and Buffalo. Washington will host Dallas before heading off to California for three road games, two of which will be in this week. The Penguins will host Buffalo tonight before heading out to Western Canada to take on Winnipeg, Edmonton, and Vancouver with Calgary ending the trip next Monday. The New York Rangers will go to the Sunshine State for Monday and Tuesday before visiting Carolina on Thursday in one of the few inter-division games in this week. The New York Islanders have been on the road since February 19, they’ll go through Western Canada as well and stop in Missouri before finally returning home next week. Philadelphia will be a little more local, but will be visitors to three Atlantic Division teams that they really need get points against to stay in the playoff race. The Devils will have their home game tonight before embarking on their final road trip of the season, which will take them to Columbus, Colorado, and Arizona. Lastly, Carolina will visit Arizona and Colorado before returning home for the Rangers and Toronto. There will be more home games and inter-division action in coming weeks.
That was the week that was in the Metropolitan Division and now we know what is coming up next. Who will end up in second place and would they want to do so? Can the Islanders sustain the gains from their Weight Room and keep that wild card spot for another week? Will the Philadelphia Flyers keep up the pace to stay in the playoff race? How do you like the Race for 28th? 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.