The 2019 NHL All-Star Weekend comes to a close today and it is back to business for the 2018-19 regular season soon after. At least, it will be for most of the Metropolitan Division. As three teams had games last week, they will get some extra days off in this coming week. This makes it more possible that we could see some changes soon.
That is, changes among two groups. The top group are in playoff positions and can reasonably think about the postseason right now. They are improbably led by the New York Islanders, who had yet another good week of results to stay in first place. It helped that Washington fell flat on their face for another week. Still, four teams have a better than 50% of chance of “making it.” The other group, well, not so much.
As is tradition for the weekly snapshot, the All-Star Weekend is where playoff odds and lottery-winning odds are first included. I pull them from Moneypuck, which is always worth a visit. We are past the halfway mark of the season and with February on the horizon, this is a good time as any for teams to reflect on where they are and decide what they will do as the season goes deeper into its second half. The 2019 NHL Trade Deadline is less than a month away, so those playoff odds are a good way to know if a team should actually go for it or not. The lottery-winning odds, well, for a handful teams right now, that matters.
Here is the upcoming schedule for this coming week. Games within the division are highlighted in yellow:
Let’s go over what each team did last week and what they have coming up.
New York Islanders
The Islanders were predicted by many to be awful this season. They have one of highest odds of making the playoffs in the whole NHL. Even if they regress, provided they do not fall off a cliff from a results-standpoint, they have a good chance of getting in. They only had two games last week, but they picked up three out of four points. The Isles blanked Anaheim at Nassau and they lost in a shootout in Chicago. The three points were enough to give themselves a small lead on first place. It is a very good time to be an Islander fan. It is also a good time for a break. They will be off until February begins - which opens with a not-so-fun home back-to-back set: Tampa Bay on Friday and Los Angeles on Saturday. One of the best in the NHL followed by one of the worst. They should get something out of that set. The thing about having a near 96% chance of making the postseason is that the expectations also increase.
The Capitals went into a three-game week looking to pick up a win. Nope. They got one (1) point in a hectic 6-7 overtime loss against San Jose. They lost their other two in regulation in high-scoring affairs: 5-8 at Chicago and 3-6 at Toronto. Washington has not won a game since January 10 and they have two overtime losses as their only points in the standings. The good news is that they were doing so well that they can absorb a slump. The bad news is that the slump may overwhelm them soon. They are within two points of falling to fourth place in the Metropolitan and all of the teams around them have games in hand on them and they have fewer ROW than Columbus and Pittsburgh. Washington needs to take their bye and say goodbye to this slump when they return to action. They will do so on Friday when they host Calgary, Alberta’s best and least dysfunctional NHL team. Good luck, Caps.
The Blue Jackets were idle last week. They are one of five teams who had their bye week going into the All-Star Weekend. So they should be well rested for their three games coming up. They’ll host Buffalo, who is sitting outside of the wild card spot in the East so the Jackets should do what they can to win that game. They’ll visit Winnipeg and host St. Louis on Thursday and Saturday, respectively. Wins would be nice but they are Western Conference teams, so going beyond regulation is no issue and an overtime or shootout loss is not a terrible result. Columbus is breathing right down Washington’s neck in the standings. Given who is and is not playing, they should jump them. This is their time to use their games in hand; make them count, Jackets.
The Penguins were also idle, but they entered the All-Star Weekend with the second Wild Card spot in the East. For what it is worth, Boston has the first one with 59 points. Pittsburgh is also within two points (and two games in hand) of Washington, so a successful week could easily have them as high as second place. Given their earlier struggles this season, the Penguins have done well to put themselves in a better place to succeed. Now they need to stay the course. They’ll be busy. They’ll play two teams they are way ahead of in the standings (New Jersey on Tuesday, Ottawa on Friday), the mighty Tampa Bay on Wednesday (on national TV), and a Toronto team that is quite good but they have hit some struggles so who knows how that one could go. The Pens will end this week with 52 games; but great results in the next four games could put them right by the Isles - if not right past them.
The Carolina Hurricanes fans may have something called “hope” again. After suffering an ugly 1-4 loss at home to Ottawa, Carolina went to Western Canada for a three-game road trip in that past week - and came away better for it. The Canes prevailed in Edmonton, 7-4. They lost in overtime in Calgary, 2-3. On the next night, they decisively beat Vancouver. 5-2. Carolina’s five points move them to four points back of Pittsburgh for the second and final Wild Card sport in the East. They have 50 games played and teams around them will use up their games in hand, so they may slip a bit. But it could be a worse position. Carolina has just one game coming up this week: a home game against Vegas on Friday. Vegas are no pushovers, but a win there and the Canes fans may even want to increase that unfamiliar feeling of “hope.” They have some ground to make up - and Buffalo to jump in the Eastern Conference standings - but they are not down and out at this point of the season like in previous seasons.
The Rangers had a bye week, so let us look ahead. The team that is in a rebuild has two rivalry games coming up. They’ll host Philadelphia on Tuesday and visit New Jersey on Thursday. If you’re not going to make the playoffs, then beating up on rivals is a good consolation prize. Their last game of the week is rough: Tampa Bay. The Rangers will get them after they play the Isles on Friday. However, Tampa Bay is good and the Rangers have playoff odds below 10% for a reason. But, hey, anything can happen. Maybe they will spoil them. Your mileage may vary as whether they should do that at all.
The Sherman Abrams Zone
Wait a minute, there’s no team called the Sher-
I AM TAKING OVER. At least for this part of your weekly Metropolitan Division snapshot. For those of you who do not know, I am Sherman Abrams. I am a Tank Enthusiast.
Shush. Every week, you treat all of these teams as the same. But they’re not the same! Some of them are d-o-n-e for this season. They need a miracle to get back into the playoff picture. If you have not had any miracle runs in nearly 50 games in an 82 game season, then it ain’t happening.
OK. So you want to do the teams outside of the playoff picture. But you weren’t here for Carolina or New Yor-
Because they’re not outside of the picture! Not yet, at least. The Rangers have low odds but they’re at least within 10 points of Pittsburgh. Maybe I’ll take them on next week. As for my old friends in Carolina, I think I’ll see them by March. History is on my side. Anyway, I’m going to do the snapshot for the teams who are 10 or more points away from the last playoff team in the East. You’re within 10: you’re in that boring part. 10 or more: you’re in my world now. For this week, that’s Philly and New Jersey.
Fine. Do you have anything else to add?
Yeah. I agree with most of what CJ wrote on Wednesday. I only disagree about beating rivals. The goal is to lose and get more lottery balls! Who cares about a stupid rivalry?
The fans care. I care.
Well, I don’t! Don’t let pride get in the way of getting a slightly larger chance at getting Jack Hughes, Kaapo Kakko, or Vasily Podkolzin. All of whom will be big, huge stars with a $100% chance. If you cannot put your faith in an 17 or 18 year old to Save Your Franchise, then who can you trust? The management who got your team in my zone? You feel otherwise? Tanks are large and dense so they roll through all of your stupid feelings. Tank On! Tank Forever!
Sigh. Get on with it.
Anyway, Philly and New Jersey did nothing last week. No, not “nothing” as in win any games. They had no games. The Flyers are back in their cycle of being really awful, hope for a high draft pick, look like contenders a few years later, and then repeat it as they wonder what a long-term goaltender looks like. Wishy-washy winged-P’s. No wonder people do not like them. They have a lot of potential losses coming up this week with an array of opponents coming up: Winnipeg, Rangers, Boston, and Edmonton. That Rangers game is annoying because they may want to win it. It also does not help that Edmonton is, yet again, in a state of disarray. Still, with a constant run of goalies being replaced and their top-tier talent suddenly not being top-tier enough, perhaps we can believe in them being bad. Will they commit to it? Who knows.
As for the Devils, I’m surprised you’re back. Actually, after looking at what has happened and so many comments on this site, maybe I should not be. Whole lot of revisionist history over last season, but no matter! They’re bad and they’re by last in the NHL. They have an edge over Philly and a weaker squad through selling, they have a chance of staying down with Ottawas and Los Angeleses of the league. I like that. My problem is this week. Coming up, they have a Penguins team that they beat twice this season, a hated rival on Thursday, and a Montreal team they beat in their last encounter. At least two of those games are on the road, where the Devils have been utterly terrible, so they have a decent shot at staying at the bottom of this division by next Sunday. Staying at the bottom takes some work, but at least management is committed. How else can you explain head coach John Hynes getting two-year extension amid all of these ‘L’s? Most teams would fire a head coach who has brought his team down in the basement after a playoff teams. But the Devils are different.
No need to thank me. See you next week.
That was the week that was and the week that will be in the Metropolitan Division. What do you make of it? Will the Islanders continue to stay in first? Who will jump Washington - if anyone jumps them at all? Should you believe in Carolina? Will the Rangers enter the Sherman Abrams Zone next week? Please leave your answers and other thoughts in the comments. Thank you for reading.