This is the final weekly Metropolitan Division snapshot of the 2017-18 regular season. While I know it is not always the most popular post here. The headline photo, which features the division leaders, rarely includes the Devils. Most of the post is about seven other teams. Still, I think it is a good way to note how things are going within the division. Especially in this season where all eight teams were so close to each other for so long. I thank everyone for checking it out, whether it was all season long or just this very week.
The regular season will conclude on April 7 for all eight teams, but there’s a potentially important make-up game on April 8. The playoffs will be coming up and so that will be the focus for this week’s division snapshot. First, here are the Metropolitan Division standings:
Here is this week’s upcoming schedule. This does include Florida, who is still in the race with the New Jersey Devils for the second and final wild card spot in the Eastern Conference. Boston and Tampa Bay are included as the Atlantic Division winner will face whoever gets the second and final wild card spot in the Eastern Conference. What they do is very relevant for Devils fans in the next eight days. Games within the division are highlighted in yellow.
Let’s start at the top:
Last week, the Capitals secured a playoff berth by beating the New York Rangers twice and getting help elsewhere. The second win over the Rangers was in overtime; but as the Rangers were eliminated, that was just an unhelpful point for any lottery cause. The Caps did fall to Carolina, 4-1, and did so in Washington D.C. This stumble opens the door for Pittsburgh.
As it stands: The Capitals are in a good position to win the division outright. While Pittsburgh is behind them by just three points, the Capitals have a game in hand on them. Should they win the division, the Capitals will take on the owners of the first wild card spot. That is up in the air, but it’s currently the Philadelphia Flyers.
In this coming week, the Capitals will have a huge game against the Penguins today. Win and the division is all but theirs. Lose in regulation and the door is opened up a bit more for the Pens to sweep in and take it. Washington’s schedule for this week is not the easiest. They’ll be in St. Louis on Monday and they’re fighting for their own playoff lives; that’s a tough game. They’ll be at home on Thursday and Saturday. But the opponents are a Nashville team looking to wrap up the President’s Trophy and a New Jersey Devils team that could be fighting for the playoffs on that day. The Caps can try to take it easy but nothing is guaranteed.
With beating Montreal 5-2 on Saturday and results around the league, the Penguins received the all-important ‘X’ next to their name in the standings. They’re going to the playoffs. The win caps off a three-out-of-four win week where they prevailed over Philadelphia in overtime, New Jersey in overtime, and Montreal straight up. Their loss to Detroit was odd. They were spoiled, but they bounced back.
As it stands: The Penguins are going to the postseason. What seed they’ll get is up in the air. They currently have the inside track on second place. They’re ahead of Columbus by two points with the same number of games played, and they have a big ROW advantage for any ties in points. This means the Penguins currently have home ice in a series against the Blue Jackets. Pittsburgh has a 29-8-2 home record, so that advantage may prove crucial. Yet, the Penguins are not done yet. If they falter in this week, Columbus could jump them. A worst case scenario could see them fall to a wild card spot. I don’t think that will happen, though. Of course, Columbus isn’t safe from Philly or New Jersey either.
On a more hopeful look, the Pens could still catch Washington. It would require winning their game with them today and hoping they get help from the Caps’ opponents while winning their own. They’ll need the help as the Pens have one more game played than Washington.
In this coming week, the Penguins get the Capitals tonight. Then they’ll be off for a few days before visiting Columbus in what is likely a playoff-series preview and a home game at hapless Ottawa. The first two games are big and challenging ones. The third could be a spoiler - or a final tune-up game depending on the results. All the same, Penguins fans are going to be doing a lot of scoreboard watching to go with their cheering on of Pittsburgh.
Columbus Blue Jackets
The Blue Jackets completed a road trip through Western Canada in this past week. They pasted Edmonton 7-3, they rolled over Calgary 5-1, and they came back in Vancouver down 4-1 to force overtime. They lost to Vancouver in overtime, but it’s still a huge 5-out-of-6 week on the road. Columbus maintained their third place position; still close to Pittsburgh to make them sweat. They’re not so far ahead of Philadelphia or New Jersey to be safe in their spot, but Columbus is close to getting that ‘X’ next to their name.
As it stands, Columbus will be the lesser seed in a series against Pittsburgh. For the neutral, that’s a fun match-up. For Columbus and Pittsburgh, it’ll be tough. Columbus fans should pay attention to tonight’s big Washington-Pittsburgh game to see how that goes. Should Pittsburgh falter, Columbus could jump them and that could be a huge help in any playoff series. The Columbus fans should also be cheering for Philly and New Jersey to stay behind them. New Jersey is further away, but Philly is just two points and one ROW behind with a game in hand on them. They really should be cheering on Philly’s opponents too.
Columbus will be watching that Pittsburgh-Washington game tonight too. They’ll also be preparing for Detroit on Tuesday as well as the Penguins on Thursday. Both of those games are in Columbus, where they have been successful. Their final game is in Nashville, which could be meaningful depending on the results of others. They’ve been hot with a 8-1-1 record in their last ten games; Columbus can finish strong and be a tough out. However, if they slip now, they’re likely to be in but maybe playing Washington instead.
Philly lost in overtime to Pittsburgh and Dallas before beating Colorado. It’s four points earned. Ugly as 1-0-2 may look, that’s a winning week. As a result, they remain in fourth place, holding the first wild card spot in the Metropolitan Division.
As it stands, Philly is going to be facing Washington in the first round. The first wild card holder is going to face the Metropolitan Division leaders. Washington isn’t crashing Boston’s or Tampa Bay’s party. Philly fans know that the team is within striking distance of Columbus and could catch Pittsburgh. As a result, they’ll be hoping for those teams to lose while the Flyers win. The Philly faithful should also pay attention to New Jersey, who is only just a point behind them. A Devils swap means they could be seeing Boston or Tampa Bay first instead. So, as usual, they’ll be hoping the Devils lose too.
In this coming week, the Flyers will host Boston. That will be instructional in case that does become their first round match-up. After that are three games against the three spoilers in the division: at Islanders, vs. Carolina, and vs. Rangers. The Flyers are on a knife’s edge. Their playoff hopes are all but secured, but they could drop as much as they could rise. One of these spoilers could do exactly that to them. So they must be careful even if the Flyers know that they’re in control
New Jersey Devils (with a Florida Panthers interlude)
The Devils had a big, big, big, week after winning back-to-back against Pittsburgh and Tampa Bay last week. They beat Carolina in regulation, they lost in overtime to Pittsburgh, and they beat the Islanders in regulation. Florida lost two games in regulation and one in overtime last week. As a result, the Devils’ five points earned gave them a five-point lead over Florida. The Devils control their own destiny heading into this final week.
As it stands, the Devils will play the leaders of the Atlantic Division. This has flip-flopped with Boston and Tampa Bay. The Devils still have to worry about Florida in addition to their own games. Devils fans will be cheering on Florida’s opponents until the Devils are secure. This includes Boston, who could win the division by beating Florida two more times among other victories. So the Devils need Boston to help them - and quite possibly could face them in the first round. I don’t know about you, but I’ll take the Devils making the playoffs at all rather than worrying about the match-up.
The Devils could still jump Philadelphia and possibly crash into third place if the Devils are hot in this coming week and Philly and Columbus falter. That would require quite a bit of help on top of the Devils pulling out wins. Jumping Philly would most likely result in facing Washington in the first round. Getting into third somehow likely means Pittsburgh. Again, I’ll be pleased with the Devils making the playoffs at all. Still, Devils fans can freely cheer against Columbus (even Pittsburgh, who are unlikely to fall to fifth) and Philadelphia this week.
For the Devils’ games, they’ll finish up their last back-to-back of the season tonight in Montreal. They’ll come home to play the rival and spoiler New Your Rangers before facing Toronto and Washington to close out the regular season. Three have nothing to play for by the time the games take place. Washington won’t if they lock up the division before then. The opportunities are there for New Jersey, they just have to take them.
Let’s touch on Florida. After blanking the Islanders 3-0, the Panthers lost 4-3 to Ottawa, 3-2 in OT to Ottawa, and 5-1 to Boston. All were on the road. Florida has been much, much, much better at home and that’s where they’ll be for this coming week. They’ll host Carolina and Nashville back-to-back. Then they have Boston on Thursday and Buffalo on Saturday, both at home. Inclement weather forced a Florida-Boston game in Boston to be moved to April 8. That game could very well matter if the Devils do not pick up six points or if Florida fails to earn six points or if there’s no combination of the two. The Panthers’ window is closing, the Devils faithful are cheering against them, they must succeed while hoping New Jersey mostly loses their way to the end. Florida was so hot since the All-Star Break, but the heat went off and they’re learning that their past failures are catching up to them.
Atlantic Division Race for First
This is the Metropolitan Divison snapshot, but as a team in this division could see the leaders of the Atlantic in the first round, here’s a quick look at what’s happening there.
Last week, Tampa Bay were the leaders. Now it’s Boston, who has a game in hand on Tampa Bay, a one-point lead, and the same number of ROW as them. Basically, Tampa Bay has to hope Boston falters. While the Devils swept their season series with Tampa Bay and went winless against Boston, by no means are they easy match-ups. Since Boston succeeding could secure a playoff spot for New Jersey, it’s a little trickier to determine rooting interests. Boston and Tampa Bay will face off in a crucial game for the Atlantic Divison crown on Tuesday. Tampa Bay gets Nashville tonight whereas Boston has more games and a Florida team that has a lot to strive for and a lot of work to do. Boston has the edge on taking this, but it’s a race that could go down to the wire. Pay attention Devils (and maybe Philly) fans.
Spoiler Zone of Eliminated Teams
The Carolina Hurricanes went 2-2 and spoiled Washington for Pittsburgh’s benefit. Devils fans will be hoping they beat Florida on Monday and Philly on Thursday. Their game against Tampa Bay may be of interest to Boston fans. Carolina was only recently mathematically eliminated from the playoffs, so it’s not like they can tank and massively improve their odds this week. It is safe to hope they win their next two games.
The New York Rangers beat Carolina last night to avoid a winless week that featured two losses to Washington (one in overtime) and a blow out by Tampa Bay. The Rangers end their season with a week against rivals. They could mess with the New Jersey Devils and the Philadelphia Flyers while facing the Islanders for pride. Devils and Flyers fans will be making some awkward hopes for a rival Rangers squad to prevail on Tuesday and Saturday, respectively. Cheering for New York over Philly won’t bother Columbus fans so much, though.
The New York Islanders were blanked by Florida last week and their other three results were by one goal. Two losses and one win. So it is for the Isles, who are set to finish last in the Metropolitan at this rate. The Isles can hurt Philadelphia on Tuesday, so Devils and Blue Jackets fans will be wanting that. The Isles have the Rangers and Detroit to close out the season, so after Tuesday, they’re not relevant to the playoffs anymore.
That was the week that was, the week coming up, and the current playoff situations for all eight teams in the Metropolitan with quick looks at Florida, Boston, and Tampa Bay. Again, this is the final weekly Metropolitan Division Snapshot of the season. Please leave your thoughts about what just happened last week, what will happen in the division this week, and upcoming playoff matchups in the East in the comments. Thank you all for reading.