In this week’s edition of the Metropolitan Division snapshot, the leaders continue to set themselves apart from everyone else. The Washington Capitals did lose a game but no one has really come very close to take the top spot so far. Only one team has a chance in the near future. Since that is not interesting, let us look at the bottom three teams for a moment as it gives me an opportunity to explain a new column.
As you can see, sixth through eighth are all tied with 18 points. Why are they where they are? For the 2019-20 season, the NHL changed up their tiebreakers in the standings. The first one is still games played. The team with fewer games played gets the advantage. This means the New York Rangers are in sixth. The second tiebreaker is now Regulation Wins, or RW. Regulation and overtime wins, or ROW, is now the third tiebreaker. While the Columbus Blue Jackets has more ROWs than the New Jersey Devils, the Devils have two more regulation wins than Columbus. Therefore, the Devils are in seventh and the Blue Jackets are eighth. What does this mean for you, the fan? It means you should be cheering for wins within 60 minutes. Of course, the best way to avoid tiebreakers is still to just have more points than your competition.
Speaking of competition, there will be quite a bit of it within the Metropolitan Division in this coming week. There are five games with only Columbus being shut out from a game within the division. Those five games are highlighted and in bold in this schedule:
No one in the division is playing today, so feel free to take today to look around All About the Jersey and see what we have been writing about recently. Everyone will be active starting Monday and everyone will play the exact same number of games. By next week’s snapshot the two New York teams will still have games in hand on everyone else. To get a fuller snapshot, let us go over what happened last week and what is next for each team.
The Washington Capitals saw their winning streak come to an end in this past week. They still managed to pull out five out of eight points to not only win the week but also stay well ahead of the New York Islanders. Last Monday, the Capitals suffered their first loss since October 24 when Arizona edged them in a shootout. The Capitals still earned a point but the winning run was over. The Capitals bounced back somewhat on Wednesday night in Philadelphia. To the annoyance of teams around Philly, that game went to a shootout as well. Washington has to focus on what is best for Washington and that is getting wins, which is what they did in the shootout that night. Last Friday, the Capitals hosted Montreal and they were smacked around for the better part of 60 minutes. Washington lost that game 5-2, which was their first regulation loss since October 14. I do not think many fans can complain about a month-long streak of no regulation losses. The Capitals fans will not complain how the week ended. They visited Boston, they scored a late equalizer in regulation to force overtime, and when the game went to a shootout, the Capitals prevailed. This win over the Atlantic Division leaders further tightened Washington’s hold on first place in the Eastern Conference. Was it ideal to go to three shootouts? No. Given where the Capitals are in the standings, they can certainly afford it.
The Capitals will stand out a bit as their schedule is a little different than everyone else’s in the division. They will host Anaheim on Monday night; the only Metropolitan team who will be in action that evening. On Wednesday night, they will visit the New York Rangers for a nationally televised game. A big, well bigger than usual, audience will see the Caps try to avoid the trap game in the middle of the week. On Saturday afternoon, the Capitals will host Vancouver right around lunch time. The Capitals are entrenched in the driver’s seat. They just need to keep a steady pace to stay ahead of everyone else.
New York Islanders
The Islanders had a short week last week. They made the most of it by winning their two games. Last Wednesday, the Isles returned to Nassau Coliseum to host Toronto. In a game filled with goals and much teeth-gnashing from pundits who follow Toronto, the Isles prevailed in a 5-4 victory. Last night, the Isles fell behind Philadelphia. But they rallied to come back from a 3-0 deficit to force overtime with three unanswered goals in the third period. The Isles took the win in a shootout to sweep their short week and disappoint the Flyers faithful. Thanks to the four points, they remain well ahead of third-place and the wild card scene in the East. Once again, the Isles enter this snapshot with a winning streak. The streak is currently only a three-games long streak but who knows how long this one may go.
The new streak will be put to the test against one of those teams: Pittsburgh. The Islanders and Penguins will play a non-consecutive home-and-home set on Tuesday and Thursday. Tuesday’s game will be in Pittsburgh. Thursday’s game will be in Brooklyn at Barclay’s Center. This will be potentially huge in the short term. The Pens could really drag down the Isles a bit in this set. Or the Isles can win and have one less team to worry about for at least the next few weeks. Either way, the Isles will then go far away for a week after Thursday’s game. They will start a three-game road trip to the state of California on Saturday night. It will begin in San Jose. At least it is a Saturday night so it will be easier for Isles fans to stay up and see if the Isles get a result in the Bay Area.
Last week’s snapshot saw the Carolina Hurricanes in a bad place. Three straight losses including a 4-1 defeat in Ottawa while giving up two goals in four seconds. That is just terrible. Carolina got their minds right and responded accordingly. Last Tuesday, the Canes hosted Ottawa. This game was nowhere near the concept close. Carolina absolutely dominated Ottawa in an 8-2 rout. The Canes hit the road for their next two games. They prevailed in Buffalo with a 5-4 overtime victory on Thursday. They continued their overtime success with a 3-2 OT W in Minnesota. That’s three wins out of three games. That sent the Canes back to third place in the division with a slight lead over the two Pennsylvania squads. The losing from two weeks ago is now set in the past.
The Hurricanes will seek to extend their winning streak in their three games coming up. On Tuesday, Carolina will end their road trip in Chicago, who has been pretty OK at home this season. Carolina will return to Raleigh for a Thursday night game against Philadelphia. As the Flyers are not at all far behind the Canes in the standings, this one could be crucial for both sides. On Saturday night, the Canes will host Florida - another team they will want to succeed against in case the Canes suddenly find themselves back in the wild card scene. We shall see if they are in third again by next week’s snapshot or if some other team overtakes them.
This past week was a little frustrating for the Penguins. The Penguins opened the week in third place with two games against two of the lesser teams in the Metropolitan Division. They took only one point out of a potential four against them. Last Tuesday, the Pens went MSG. They fell down two goals early on but answered both in the second period. Neither side could end it in regulation and in overtime, the hosts did end it. That was the one point. On Friday night, the Pens went into Newark and tilted the ice heavily against New Jersey for two periods. They could not crack the goaltender more than once as New Jersey desperately held onto a lead. The Penguins could not score that elusive an equalizer, so they lost 2-1 in regulation to New Jersey. Frustrating as it was to see 39 shots yield only one goal, they took it out on their next opponent: Toronto. It has been a little miserable to be a Toronto fan recently and in Pittsburgh, the Penguins made it rain misery on the Leafs. The Penguins smoked them with a 6-1 win where they scored the first five goals. It was an emphatic win that closed out a 1-1-1 week. The result of the results have the Penguins owning the first wild card spot in the East and fourth in the division. At least they are only a point behind Carolina.
The Penguins’ activity this week will be entirely within the division. They have the aforementioned two games with the Islanders on Tuesday and Thursday. On Friday, the Penguins will host New Jersey. It is a prime opportunity for revenge. Depending on how the home-and-home goes with the Isles, they may need something out of that game to either cap off a successful week - or salvage it. The New Jersey game may be a little tricky in that A) New Jersey is playing at least a little better than they did in October and B) New Jersey will be off the night before so they may be a little fresher. We shall see how Pittsburgh impacts the division by next Sunday’s snapshot.
The Philadelphia Flyers remain a confusing team. At least their results may confuse fans that think they may be quite good or others who think they are not all that and a bag of chips. Last Sunday, they visited Boston and came away with a shootout win. Going into Boston and taking any kind of win is a good thing. On Wednesday, they hosted Washington and lost in a shootout to them. OK, that is not ideal but it is a point from the division leaders whom Philly is not anywhere close to chasing. Last Friday, the Flyers went into Ottawa and lost 2-1 in regulation. That is pretty rough. Yesterday, the Flyers went up 3-0 on the Islanders at home, which is definitely a good thing. The Flyers fans in the arena then proceeded to see the lead evaporate in the third period. The game went to a shootout and the Isles completed the comeback with a shootout win. While the Flyers took points in games against three teams ahead of them in the standings, they also lost to a crummy Ottawa team in regulation and botched a sizeable lead on day after the Ottawa loss. The Flyers do hold the second wild card spot in the East even with a 1-1-2 week and a six-point lead over the bottom of the division. I cannot imagine the fans are any more sure about what this team is all about though.
Philadelphia will have some chance to make things clearer in their three games coming up. They will visit Florida on Tuesday night. As the Flyers are in the wild card scene, they should try to keep Florida back as much as they can. On Thursday night, the Flyers will visit Carolina in a game that could have an impact on the middle part of the division. That is important. On Saturday afternoon, the Flyers will host Calgary. This is important in that they have to redeem themselves somewhat in the eyes of their home fans for how the Isles game went yesterday. Will the Flyers make things clearer? As ever, who knows?
New York Rangers
The first half of last week for the New York Rangers started off well enough. While they lost in a shootout, they did get a point in a 6-5 shootout loss at home to Florida. On Tuesday night, they survived the Penguins erasing a two-goal lead and took that game 3-2 in overtime. That is three out of four points. Then the Rangers had to travel to the Sunshine State. Their first game was against Tampa Bay. The Rangers gave up four goals before they even registered a shot on net. There are blowouts and then there was whatever Tampa Bay did to the Rangers. The Rangers were absolutely devastated in a 9-3 loss. How do you follow that? The Rangers followed it by going to play Florida again and losing to them, but this time 4-3 in regulation. Not that the Rangers are really playing for anything this season or that they could catch Philly in the near future. However, it could have been a better week than the 1-2-1 week they did have.
The Rangers will get three days off before their next game. The schedule is not that kind of them, though. After those three days, they will play three games in the next four nights. They will host Washington in a game that will be nationally broadcast. Maybe they will try to not embarrass themselves although Washington has been very good about obtaining success this season. On Friday and Saturday, the Rangers will head up to Canada. They will visit Ottawa on Friday and they will visit Montreal on Saturday. While Ottawa is not talented, they have pulled off some big wins against the Metropolitan Division in the past few weeks. Montreal is contending for a playoff spot, so that certainly will not be easy either.
New Jersey Devils
The New Jersey Devils had a great week of results all things considered. Last Sunday afternoon, the Devils ended a five-game road trip in Vancouver. Despite getting waxed in Alberta, Mackenzie Blackwood was strong in the crease and the Devils prevailed 2-1. It ended their trip at 3-2 and started off the week with a win. Unfortunately, the bad times returned at home against Ottawa on Wednesday night. The Devils were up 2-1 going into the third period. They lost 4-2 in regulation. That loss sent them back to the bottom of the Eastern Conference at the time. Another blown lead reminded the fans of how terrible the season has been going. How would they respond? On the back of Blackwood. On Friday night, the Devils were the beneficiaries of two great touches and Blackwood stopping nearly everything by Pittsburgh. Despite an incredibly uneven performance, the Devils won 2-1 in regulation over the Pens. On Saturday night, the Devils went into Montreal for a game loaded with activity. The first two periods were loaded with shots by the Devils. While they fell behind 3-1 late in the second, the team’s first shorthanded goal closed the gap with a second left in the second. In the third period, the referees decided to call a lot of little things and a couple of obvious penalties. The Devils did equalize on a power play goal, Montreal had a potential game winning goal in the final minute taken away as video review found the scorer trying to hump the puck over the line (Rule 78.5(i) says you cannot do that), and the Devils converted a power play in overtime. The incredible amount of events in that game ended with a 4-3 overtime win by the Devils. It secured a 3-1-0 week, tied Columbus and the Rangers in points, and pulled themselves back up and ahead of Ottawa in the East. The Devils have a lot of work to do before anyone can say they turned it around. But this past week was good first step as any.
The Devils will try to put up better performances and obtain more wins in this coming week. It will not be easy. On Tuesday, they will host Boston, a team they have not matched up well against in recent seasons and a team who crushed them in their last meeting. The end of the week has another back-to-back set. They will play Pittsburgh again a week after beating them 2-1 last week. They probably will not forget how that game went down. On Saturday night, the Devils will return to the Rock to host Detroit - who will be idle on Friday night. That is another game where the Devils really need to win if only to keep teams that are behind them to stay behind them. At least there are teams behind them in the East again.
Columbus Blue Jackets
Due to tiebreakers, the Blue Jackets are now last in the Metropolitan Division. It was not really a bad week either. They nearly took all four potential points, which would have moved them to sixth place. Last Tuesday, the Jackets went to Montreal and did keep it close. That game went to a shootout, which Columbus lost. Last Thursday, Columbus hosted the defending Stanley Cup Champions, St. Louis. This night went much better for the Jackets. While it went to overtime, the Blue Jackets converted a power play for their one and only win in this past week. As with the Devils, the Blue Jackets have more to do before anyone can say they are rising up. This was also a good first step for them.
The Blue Jackets will have three more games coming up to keep making progress. On Tuesday night, they will host Montreal. While losing in a shootout is close, getting a result would be a good piece of revenge. On Thursday night, they will host Detroit - a team they really should try to beat to avoid the risk of Detroit passing them in the conference standings. Columbus’ week ends on Saturday night in Winnipeg, which will be tricky. At least is not the start of a road trip. The keyword for all three games is regulation. The Blue Jackets are dead last in the entire NHL with only three regulation wins. Since that is now the first tiebreaker, it behooves them to get victories within sixty minutes to really make a charge up the standings in the future. While it may not be a big issue for this week, future weeks filled with opponents near or just ahead of them will be problematic if their games yield a post-regulation point for them. Columbus should try to make regulation wins a habit.
That closes the seventh Weekly Metropolitan Division Snapshot of the 2019-20 season. Washington remains atop the proverbial mountain. The Islanders are the only ones close to the summit. Carolina climbed up a bit as Pittsburgh and Philadelphia hold on to wild card holdings. While those three teams are well ahead of the Rangers, Devils and Blue Jackets, the lead of six to seven points may not hold up over time. For this coming week, it might as everyone has three games to play. But if they are not careful, any of those three bottom teams may get closer to them may be comfortable with in the next few weeks.
In the meantime, what are your thoughts on the Metropolitan Division? Will the Islanders catch up further to at least challenge the Capitals? Who will be in third and fourth place by next week? Will fourth and fifth place hold the wild card spots again? Who will break out between the Rangers, Devils, and Blue Jackets? 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.