As the holidays begin or are about to begin, one team continues to reign atop of the Metropolitan Division: the Washington Capitals. They are all but set to end 2019 in first place in the division. They are likely to end the calendar in first place in the Eastern Conference and the entire NHL. Everyone else in the Metropolitan is fighting for the other spots at the moment. Provided that the Caps keep on keeping on, the other teams will continue to do that.
I need to apologize to the Philadelphia Flyers and their fans. I incorrectly listed their record of 17-11-5 with 33 games played in last week’s post. I gave them one extra loss and one extra game played than what they had as of Sunday morning. While that ended up being accurate, it was after their game in Winnipeg. Their record is now corrected. They are also breathing down the necks of Pittsburgh and Carolina again.
The entire NHL is off on December 24 (Christmas Eve) though December 26 (Boxing Day) so a lot of teams will be in action on Monday and Friday. Five of the eight teams in the Metropolitan Division will only have two games coming up, with only one team being remarkably busy with four on the four days where there will be hockey games. Here is this week’s schedule; games within the division are highlighted and in bold.
Let us go over the week that was and the week that will be for each team in the division.
The Washington Capitals kept on rolling atop of the entire league standings, let alone the Metropolitan Division. It was not a perfect week but it will yield few complaints. The surprise was that last monday, it happened again. Washington played Columbus and ended the night with another ‘L.’ More than that, Columbus shut out Washington 3-0. How would Washington respond? With two regulation wins: 6-3 at New Jersey and 3-1 at home against Tampa Bay. The Caps end the week at 2-1-0 and safely remain in first place.
The Capitals will get a tough game on Monday in Boston. Boston remains as one of the best home teams in the league. If the Caps can get anything there, then they should be pleased. After Christmas, they will have a back-to-back set within the division. They will host Columbus for the third time this month and I would think they would love nothing more than to actually beat them for the first time this month. On Saturday night, they will go to play Carolina - which will be a challenging game in of itself. Of course if there is any team that can handle it, it is the league-leading Capitals.
It was not a very good week for the Islanders. Sure, they are going into the week of Christmas in second place in the Metropolitan Division. Sure, that may be better than what most people expected. Still, these were their results in the past week. Last Tuesday, Nashville visited them in Nassau County and absolutely knocked them around for sixty minutes. The Isles were beaten by a score of 8-3. That is a bad loss. The Isles rebounded two days later in Boston. They conceded a game-tying goal in the third period but they would hold on and prevail in a shootout to win 3-2. Getting any kind of win in Boston is a good thing. However, it was a tight affair. Yesterday afternoon, the Isles hosted a lowly Anaheim team looking for their first win on a road trip in the tri-state area. There was little defense as the teams combined for ten goals. And Anaheim would be the ones to prevail in a shootout. It’s a 1-1-1 week and now the door is back open for the third and fourth place teams behind them to catch up to the Isles.
The Islanders will have a short week coming up. They will host a lowly Columbus team on Monday and then visit Chicago on Friday after the three-day holiday break. Chicago is also on the level of Anaheim in terms of the standings and their season so far. The Islanders should be able to get results against both teams. With only two games on the schedule, they will need to in order to go into the end of 2019 in second place.
Carolina ended their five-game road trip through Western Canada and Colorado, which went very well. Dipping into the previous snapshot, the Canes went 4-0-1 on it. In this past week specifically, Carolina pulled out a 6-3 win in Winnipeg and a 3-1 win in Colorado. It was a great run. Unfortunately, the return home did not go so great. They hosted Florida last night and lost 4-2. The loss kept the Canes a little bit behind the Isles in second place. However, they have one more regulation win than Pittsburgh. That kept them in third place for a second straight week.
The Hurricanes will get a chance to pull ahead with three games coming up compared to the two that the Isles, Pens, and Flyers will play coming up. Carolina will go to Toronto on Monday. The Canes will resume their schedule after Christmas with a road game against the Rangers on Friday and will then host Washington on Saturday. With the Canes recent run on the road, those first two games are promising. Saturday’s game will be a real test for Carolina as much as it will be a challenge for Washington. Look out for that one if you are a neutral fan. It should be a very competitive game.
In this past week, Pittsburgh went on a three-game road trip into Western Canada. Their two games in Alberta went quite well. They dispatched Calgary 4-1 last Tuesday. Last Friday, they beat Edmonton 5-2. Would they be able to sweep their trip? No. Last Saturday, the Pens went into Vancouver and they gave them a difficult time. Pittsburgh lost the last game on their trip by a score of 4-1. A 2-1-0 week is a good one in general. However, due to the regulation win (and ROW too) tie breaker, they remain in fourth place. They have their cross-state rivals right behind them, but they are still within striking distance of Carolina and not that far behind the Islanders. Status quo, I suppose.
The Pittsburgh Penguins will have the longest break out of all eight teams in the division. They are off for the next five days. When the Penguins return after the Christmas break, they will have a home-and-home with Nashville. Nashville may be respectable but it seems that they have not exactly played well at home or on the road. The Pens could keep up the pace in terms of points. Who knows? They could enter the end of 2019 in third place. Or second depending on what the Isles do.
The Philadelphia Flyers had a very good week. Their three-game road trip was not good. It ended last Sunday in Winnipeg and they lost that one 7-3. However, that would be the last time the Flyers would lose a game this week. They hosted Anaheim last Tuesday and won 4-1. They hosted Buffalo, who is better than Anaheim, last Thursday and won 6-1. Last night, they went to Ottawa and had some issues with them. They saw a lead dissipate but only for the home team to equalize. They survived overtime and prevailed in the shootout for a 5-4 win. That’s a 3-1-0 week and it gave them a four-point lead over Buffalo to hold onto the second wild card spot in the East. More importantly, it puts them in a good position to move up from the second wild card spot and fifth in the division.
The Flyers will have two games coming up to try and at least maintain where they stand. They will host the Rangers on Monday, which is entirely winnable for Philly. They will start a road trip on Saturday night that will take them through California and then continue on through Nevada, Arizona, and North Carolina in the new year. The trip begins in San Jose, which is also another place where they could win. Of course, these are the Philadelphia Flyers so they are more than capable of falling apart in both games and put their position in doubt as much as they are to decisively win both games.
The hottest team in the division is Columbus. Yes, Columbus. They had four games and won them all. They made a big statement by shutting out Washington at home last Monday, 3-0. They followed that up by avoiding a trap-game in Detroit; they won that one 5-3. Last Thursday, Columbus went back home and put down a hapless Los Angles squad 3-2 in overtime. No shame in handing a Western Conference team a point since they got the more important ROW. Last night, they bodied an also hapless New Jersey squad, 5-1. The perfect week shot Columbus out of the limbo that was seventh in the Metropolitan and just past the Rangers for sixth place. If they can sustain these gains, then they could claw their way into a crowded wild card picture with the Atlantic Division teams. That is a big ‘if’ though.
The Blue Jackets will get to play the top two teams in the division to try and keep their streak going. They will have to do it on the road. On Monday, they will visit Nassau to play the Isles. On Friday, they will go back to Washington D.C. and try to hand the Caps a third loss against them in this month. Columbus did it back on December 9. They could do it again. We shall see if their streak will continue beyond four in short order.
It was a short week for the New York Rangers with two games played. It was also unsuccessful. They did not win either of them. After winning road trip (2-1-1), the Rangers lost both of their games at home last week. First to Nashville, 5-2. Second to Toronto, 6-3. It could be seen as just an off week. It could be seen as just two losses to teams expected to do more than what they have done. It could be seen as a sobering reminder that the Rangers still have some ways to go before competing for any kind of playoff position. With the two losses, they slipped behind Toronto, Florida, and Tampa Bay in the wild card race and are now sandwiched between Columbus and Ottawa.
After a two game week, the Rangers will play on all four available days of the week coming up. They will host Anaheim in an afternoon game today. Anaheim played in Long Island last night so this could be an advantage. Although, the Rangers will be on the other end of it as they will visit Philadelphia on Monday night. Philly is off on Sunday and it is a rivalry game. It will not be easy. After the three-day break for the league, the Rangers will have a tough back-to-back set: they will host Carolina on Friday and visit Toronto on Saturday. The Rangers can rebound and shoot back closer to the wild card spots in the standings with a good week of results. It will not be an easy week at all, though.
The New Jersey Devils are way behind everyone else in the Metropolitan Division. They sit nine points behind seventh. The only team they have better record than in the entire league is Detroit. It has been a bad 2019 for New Jersey. In this past week, there was a flicker of hope that the Devils could win three games in a row for the first time this season. It came when they beat Anaheim 3-1 at home. That was a good start. The back-to-back at the end of the week was painful for New Jersey to play and their fans to watch. Washington smashed them 6-3 in New Jersey last Friday and Columbus dropped them 5-1 last night. While 1-2-0 is better than, say, 0-3-0, the Devils made little progress to close the gap with seventh in the division. To quote their former head coach, “It is what it is.”
The New Jersey Devils will go to Chicago on Monday night before the Christmas break. Chicago is in the same situation as Anaheim as a team that really is not having a great season. On Friday, the Devils return from the break to host a Toronto team looking to climb their way up the standings. With how the season has gone for the Devils and where they are in the standings, pretty much every opponent looks like a challenge. They appear to limp into the end of their 2019 schedule just as they did last year. So it goes.
That closes the twelfth Weekly Metropolitan Division Snapshot of the 2019-20 season. Washington is running away with the division lead while the Islanders go back to being just ahead of the mix of Carolina, Pittsburgh, and Philadelphia. Columbus’ hot streak moved them up past the Rangers with both teams still behind the Atlantic Division teams still trying to make a bid on the last wild card spot that Philadelphia still holds. The Devils are unfortunately securing the basement. This is the picture of the division three days before Christmas and ten days before 2020 begins.
In the meantime, what are your thoughts on the Metropolitan Division? Will the middle of the division get mixed up again? Can Columbus stay hot? How tired will the Rangers be by next Sunday? Will the Devils get to 30 points before New Year’s Day? 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.