The first full week of November is now complete and there is no change at the top of the Metropolitan Division. The Washington Capitals still reign. Worse for everyone chasing them: they are hot right now. They have not lost a game since October 24 and even that was an overtime loss. Their last regulation loss was on October 14, or eleven games ago. The remainder of the Metropolitan, well, it got a little messy:
The New York Islanders actually lost a game but still took a point so they remain the closest to threaten Washington. Third through seventh is separated by seven points and the Carolina Hurricanes fell hard. It is a tight one once again in the Metropolitan. Unfortunately, the New Jersey Devils are on the outside looking in once again. There will be plenty of activity for most of the teams in the division. Here is what is coming up this week; the games within the division are in bold and highlighted in yellow.
Everyone will get at least one home game in this week and the Pennsylvania teams will be most active within the division. To get a fuller snapshot, let us go over what happened last week and what is next for each team.
The Capitals are red hot with six straight wins. They rule the Metropolitan Division and almost have a mathematical lead on the second place Islanders. Technically, the Isles’ two games in hand can force a tie in points. But those games will not be used up. Not that it matters if Washington continues to take care of business. In this past week, they took care of business at home against Calgary last Sunday 4-2, prevailed in overtime in Florida 5-4, and closed the deal against Vegas in a 5-2 victory at home. Since this was a first place team prior to the winning streak, Capitals fans have to feel good knowing that they do not need an extended streak to be atop the division. They can just enjoy the good times.
Washington will have this streak put to the test with four games coming up. They will host Arizona on Monday, visit Philadelphia on Wednesday, and have a Montreal-Boston back-to-back to close out the week. The Boston game is a road game and could be a real test for Washington. However, as demonstrated by Ottawa and the other New York team, you cannot look past anyone. Arizona is far from a pushover. Philly just swept their week. Montreal is good at getting road results (4-2-3 in road games as of today). But Washington knows that and given their streak so far, their business will continue to boom.
New York Islanders
The New York Islanders lost a game! The winning streak is over! But it was in overtime, so they still earned a point. And they bounced back with a win. They hardly took a step back to anyone. Let me take a step back first to explain. The Islanders played in Brooklyn this week and opened up their Barclays schedule with a 4-1 win over Ottawa last Tuesday. But the streak of wins stopped on Thursday when they fell to Pittsburgh in 4-3 overtime loss. The streak of points never stopped. There was no let down in their next game either; the Isles beat Florida 2-1 yesterday afternoon. There is no SUV at Barclays anymore but there was no end to the Islanders storming through their schedule. They took five out six points and have a gap over third-place Pittsburgh. There can be no complaints in Brooklyn and Long Island about the team’s performances.
The Islanders will get a respite in this coming week. They are idle until Wednesday when they will host Toronto. This game will be in Nassau County, so they will return to their original home for this one. After that game, their next game will be on Saturday night in Philadelphia. Given how both teams are in the division and if Philly moves on up during the week, that could be a crucial inter-division match up. In the meantime, heal up, practice, and keep doing whatever the coach is saying because it clearly has been working.
The Penguins turned it around in this past week and found themselves in third place for this snapshot. The week did not start out so well as they took a 6-4 loss in Boston last Monday. Pittsburgh would rebound with a big 4-3 win against the Islanders. The Isles were hot (and still are to a degree) so being the first team in weeks to deny them a ‘W’ is a good achievement. The Pens built on that at home against Chicago yesterday. While it took a shootout, they did win 3-2 to close out the week at 2-1-0. Thanks to Carolina’s failings, this was enough to take and hold onto third place. It is by no means safe but better to be there than not.
Pittsburgh will get two games against the lesser teams in the division in the week coming up. They will travel to Manhattan to play the Rangers on Tuesday night. Two days later, they will be in Newark to play the Devils. For some reason, Pittsburgh has had a tough time there. That is no guarantee it will happen again in 2019-20. The Penguins will return home after the Devils game and host Toronto on Saturday night. Toronto is a tricky team to figure out but it is a tougher matchup on paper than their other two games this week. They may want to pay attention to the other two teams behind them too if they want to stay in third.
Washington was not the only team to sweep their past week. Philadelphia managed to do it too. The Flyers dropped Carolina 4-1 last Tuesday, which certainly helped the Flyers pass the Hurricanes in the standings for this snapshot. It took overtime, but they did pick up a 3-2 victory at home against Montreal. Philadelphia traveled to Toronto last night, saw a two-goal lead go up in smoke, but managed to hold on to force overtime and. later, a shootout. Philly took the shootout for a 3-2 final and a 3-0-0 week. Sure, the ROW and RW would have been more ideal but points are points and they earned the maximum number. Their prize was to move up to fourth in the division and the first wild card spot in the Eastern Conference.
Philadelphia will have four games coming up and it will be interesting to see if they can extend their streak. They will visit Boston tonight, so I immediately doubt it but you can never fully predict Philadelphia. Even if they do, they will get a hot Washington team on Wednesday. At least it will be in Philly but that will be a real challenge for the Winged P’s. After those two tough matchups, the Flyers will have a back-to-back set to close out their week: at Ottawa and at home to the Islanders - another team that has not lost a lot at all. The Ottawa game screams “trap game” given who else they have coming up. At least Canes fans will scream that it is. Nonetheless, a successful week will send a statement to the rest of the division about Philly’s quality - and a chance to take third place.
The Carolina Hurricanes had the worst week in the division among all eight teams. This is undisputed. They had three games last week and lost all three in regulation. The Hurricanes are currently on a four-game losing streak since losing to New Jersey back on November 2. In this past week, the Canes suffered a decisive 4-1 loss to Philadelphia, a decisive 4-2 loss to the Rangers, and a decisive 4-1 loss at Ottawa. Yes, 4-1 at Ottawa - and the Canes allowed two of those four goals just four seconds apart. That is some next-level slumping. The Canes’ record prior to this week was so good that they can take the stomach punches. However, as they fell to fifth over the last seven days, they may want to stop taking punches really soon.
Carolina will look to get back to winning ways and a shot at revenge as they will host Ottawa on November 11. Given how Ottawa is, uh, not trying to be good and it is a home game, I would expect the Canes to come out hard just for the sake of pride. After that game, Carolina will be on the road for their next three games. Two of them are this week: a Thursday night game in Buffalo and a Saturday afternoon game in Minnesota. Should the Hurricanes put up a winning week, then this past one may be forgotten about quickly. If not, then the frustration may mount - and the teams behind them may get a little bit closer.
New York Rangers
For the second straight week, the rebuilding New York Rangers put up a 2-1-0 week. If nothing else, it gives the fans something to cheer about. Their week started off rough with a 6-2 home loss to Ottawa last Monday. It was ugly. They were far better last Wednesday as they smacked Detroit down in a 5-1 win. The surprise was that the Rangers went into Raleigh on the next night, put up a 3-1 lead and ended the game with a 4-2 win. That is a successful week with a win over a potential playoff team in the division. Their reward was further distance from the Devils and a sixth place spot. If Carolina does not turn it around, then they could aim even higher.
The Rangers will be quite busy in this coming week. About two hours after this post goes up, the Rangers will be starting a home game against Florida today. They will host Pittsburgh two nights later on Tuesday. After then, the Rangers will head to the Sunshine State for their next two games. They will go to Tampa Bay on Thursday and then have a runback with Florida in their building on Saturday night. The team is rebuilding so expectations should still be set low but with two straight winning weeks, they could come out of this week with something.
The Blue Jackets fell to seventh with a sandwich cookie of losses in this past week. Or perhaps just a sandwich. Regardless, the L’s were on both sides of their three game week. They fell to Vegas at home last Tuesday in a 2-1 loss. The Blue Jackets rebounded in Arizona on Thursday night with a 3-2 win. However, with a chance to make the week successful, Columbus came up short. They went into Colorado last night and left with a 4-2 regulation loss. Between the 1-2-0 week and the Rangers going 2-1-0, they are now next to last in the division. While they are tied with the Rangers in points, that they have played two more games with them gives them a disadvantage. It was not a good week to be a Blue Jacket supporter. One wonders if this is the month where you realize, no, it is not happening this season.
Columbus has a short week of games coming up. They only have two and the idle time may keep them towards the bottom of the division depending on what others do. The Jackets can help themselves by trying to get a result in Montreal on Tuesday and at home against St. Louis on Friday. Montreal is a good team but not invincible at home. St. Louis is hot right now but they may cool off before Friday. Blue Jackets are not out of anything but they do need to come away from this week with some points to stay within striking distance of the middle of the division.
New Jersey Devils
The New Jersey Devils are on a Western Canada trip, which is a difficult one for many teams. The travel is not only long but they often have three games in four nights or some other tight schedule. The teams are also not a bunch of scrubs. The Devils badly need points to get back up in the standings. Unfortunately, they only earned two. They won their first shootout of the season in Winnipeg last Tuesday. It was a sign of hope as it was a second consectuive win. Hopes were crushed in the province of Alberta. Last Thursday, Calgary pulled away and shelled New Jersey as the Devils took a 5-2 loss. Last Friday, Edmonton made it worse by shutting out the Devils 4-0. Since the Devils were so poor in past weeks, this 1-2-0 week really hurts. The team is now three points behind seventh place and only ahead of Detroit in the East. That is the problem with catching up in the NHL. Even if you get some victories, you do not gain any ground if the teams in front of you keep getting points as well. And if you lose, then the deficit is that much larger. To quote what Mike tweeted after the Edmonton loss, it’s getting late early.
The Devils will have four games coming up this week to try to reverse course. They will end their Western Canada trip with an afternoon game in Vancouver today. The Devils will return home for a Wednesday game against Ottawa, who are not total pushovers - just ask the Rangers and Canes. The end of the week is a tough back-to-back against two quality opponents: Pittsburgh in New Jersey on Friday and Montreal in Montreal on Saturday. Granted, the Devils’ poor record means most of their opponents are quality opponents. It is just that both Pittsburgh and Montreal are potential playoff teams and they will both be a challenge to most teams, much less the basement dwellers of the Metropolitan.
That closes the sixth Weekly Metropolitan Division Snapshot of the 2019-20 season. Washington is hot. The Islanders are not as hot but definitely not cold. Philadelphia is warming up to being at the level of being hot. Only New Jersey, Columbus, and Carolina (especially Carolina) really faltered in this past week. There is a lot of hockey left but the division movement can and could change further. Hence, the point of these snapshots.
In the meantime, what are your thoughts on the Metropolitan Division? Will Washington stay hot and stay atop of the Metropolitan? Could we see the Islanders usurp the top spot somehow? Who will be in third and fourth place by next week? Will Carolina, Columbus, or (please, I hope) New Jersey rebound in the week coming up? Please leave your answers and other thoughts about the eight teams in the division, what they did, and what is coming up for them in the comments. Thank you for reading.