Last season was characterized by a very tight set of standings in the Metropolitan Division. As we head towards the end of the first month of the regular season, it remains close early on with only two teams lagging behind - if you can call being six or seven points back lagging.
The Pittsburgh Penguins were perfect on their Western Canada swing to take the first place spot. However, nothing is set in stone with so many teams within striking distance. And plenty can change in this coming week with multiple teams heading out West plus the New York Islanders set to play four games within the division in this coming week. By the way, Halloween is free. So is October 29, which isn’t a thing as far as I know.
Here is a summary of how each team performed last week, in order of the standings:
After a close game and an overtime win in Edmonton thanks to Sidney Crosby doing something ridiculous, the Penguins absolutely unloaded on Calgary. They beat up the Flames as if their organization was personally insulted by their mere existence in a 9-1 blowout. 9-1. Vancouver was dispatched by the Pens to make it a perfect week. Since this was a four-game road trip that started with a 3-0 win in Toronto before last week, it was a perfect trip for the Penguins.
The Penguins will return home with a split-up home-and-home session with the New York Islanders. I say it is split up as both teams have Wednesday off. With the division as tight as it is, the results of these two games can make for a big swing in Pittsburgh’s favor or force first place to be up for grabs again. The Penguins will host Toronto on Saturday in a game where I suspect the Leafs will want some measure of revenge. All the same, Pittsburgh is looking spiffy with a sweep of last week’s games.
After Gerard noted last week how the Canes lost their previous week, I can write that Carolina bounced back from taking those ‘L’s. It was a short week but Carolina made it count. They picked up a 3-1 win over hapless Detroit in their house last Monday. They returned to Raleigh on Friday and edged San Jose in a shootout. While it was not a ROW, taking two points is never a bad thing at all. While Pittsburgh jumped them, the Canes are still in a very good spot in the first month of this season.
Carolina will get four games in this coming week. The first two are at home; they will host the Islanders today and then host Boston on Tuesday. After that, they’re all flying to the Western part of the country. They have a back-to-back set in Arizona and Vegas. Arizona is not a total doormat and Vegas, while not surprising anyone, is still a challenging opponent. They do boast the second best team CF% in 5-on-5 play according to Natural Stat Trick at 58.8%. Who is number one? Carolina with a truly remarkable team CF% of 61.25%. This may be a game worth staying up and watching if you’re a neutral fan.
With a 5-4 OT win over Buffalo, the Blue Jackets shot up to third place thanks to ROW (Regulation/Overtime Wins). The week started with some concern as they lost 1-4 to Arizona on their home rink. Yes, they lost by three goals to Arizona. But the Blue Jackets took their frustrations by heading down to St. Louis and kicked an extra point after dropping a touchdown on the Blues with a 7-4 win. Last night, Columbus returned home, had a big second period to go up 4-2, and salvaged a lost third period lead by winning in overtime. The week ended strong for Columbus and they remain in contention for first.
What they will do soon is travel. They will host Detroit on Tuesday and then head out in the direction of California. Columbus will take care of all three road games in a row with two in this week - San Jose on Thursday and Los Angeles on Saturday - and the remainder - Anaheim - on the following Sunday. Those trips out there can be tough but now is a good time to take on Los Angeles as they seem helpless. Expect them to be in a similar spot next week because this Blue Jackets team is a tough crew to play against.
Washington spent last week in Western Canada, like Pittsburgh. Unlike the Pens, the Capitals did not sweep the week. they did take down Vancouver, 5-2. But then they lost to Edmonton, 1-4. They salvaged the trip with a 4-3 shootout win in Calgary. The scoring was less, but the results were still four out of six points. That’s a winning week. That will keep them in the hunt for the top.
Washington will wrap up their road trip in Montreal on Thursday. Yes, they will have four days off so I would expect the Caps to head to their homebase in D.C., have a practice or two, and then head up to Montreal. Washington will have a home game on Saturday against Dallas, which will be the first of four home games in a row. It is a short week but they should not slip too far behind if the worst case scenario happens.
After not playing well against Colorado and in Philadelphia, the Devils used their four days off that started this past week with plenty of practices. The results: a better performance against Nashville. The team saw a lead lost in the third period, but they did pick up a point in a 3-4 OT loss to a strong Preds team. The Devils fared much better against Florida with a 3-2 win that was not as close as the score would suggest. The win snapped a three game winless streak and secured a winning week.
It could not have come any sooner as the Devils’ schedule becomes road heavy for the next two weeks. After an October mostly spent at home, the Devils will play their next seven outside of New Jersey. In this coming week, they’ll face an offensively-charged Tampa Bay squad on Tuesday, they’ll go to Detroit on Thursday, and then they’ll head to Brooklyn for what could be a tricky contest against the Isles. Should the Devils get three or more points out of this coming week, then that should be a good sign for the Devils faithful that this team will be true competitors in the Metropolitan Division instead of just having a mostly good month.
New York Islanders
Nobody gave the Isles the message that they were supposed to be real bad this season. OK, they may still fade away in time but they are giving anybody anything easy. They had a short week last week. They lost in OT to Florida, but that is still a point in their favor. Moreover, they absolutely creamed Philadelphia 6-1 in a Saturday afternoon in Philly. The team may have an average looking record, but that is better than I think some would expect. Do not take them lightly. Just ask Philly.
The Metropolitan Division will be in their hands to mold for this week. The Isles will host Carolina today, take on Pittsburgh in a home-and-home, and then host New Jersey on Saturday. This week can go a long way in terms of earning some respect for the Brooklyn Blue and Orange.
The Flyers went winless in this past week. What’s more is that these were not close losses. They did not earn any points. Three games, six points to potentially earn, and zero was actually earned. Colorado on October 22? Bodied, 1-4. A game in Boston on October 25? Bodied, 0-3. Hosting the Isles on October 27? Bodied, 1-6. In summary for this week: Two goals scored, thirteen allowed, and the home arena was chanting “Fire Hakstol!” by the end of the last one. It was a bad week for the Winged P’s. But, hey, the mascot is still a meme.
The Flyers will get away from it all for a week plus. They will begin a four-game road trip out West. Like Columbus, they’re going to have their California games in this coming week. (The fourth one is in Arizona in the following week.) Philly will go to Anaheim on Tuesday night, they’ll visit L.A. on Thursday night, and they will be in the Bay Arena where they’ll face San Jose on Saturday night. This is a good week to turn things around. Because if they do not, the Flyers will be in a hole with six (maybe seven?) teams ahead of them and may have to make a big move like a coaching change or a transaction to jump start the team.
The Blueshirt faithful have accepted that this is a rebuilding season. But they can be happy their had a better week than Philadelphia. After all, the Rangers won a game. After losing 1-4 to Calgary in MSG, the Rangers took down Florida 5-2. Enjoy your wins when you can get them, Rangers fans. The Rangers followed that up with a 1-4 loss in Chicago, which was the first of a four-game road trip that they will finish up in this week. In other news, Sherman Abrams is getting an apartment in Manhattan.
The Rangers will also take care of games in California in this coming week. They will play Los Angeles in an afternoon game today; the first of a five-game day for the city - The Sports Equinox. They’ll go to San Jose on Tuesday and Anaheim on Thursday in games that are not a part of city or sports history. Your mileage may vary on what the Rangers fan would really want out of the week. I know what Mr. Abrams prefers.
That was the week that was and the week coming up for all eight teams in the Metropolitan. Now I want to know what you think. Will Pittsburgh reign at the top again or will someone like Carolina, Washington, or Columbus snipe the top spot? How will the Devils do as they start hitting the road? Will things get better for Philadelphia before they get worse? How much of an impact will the Isles actually make on next week’s division snapshot? Please leave your thoughts about all of this in the comments. Thank you all for reading.