In the thirteenth week of the Weekly Metropolitan Division Snapshot for this season, one year will end and a new one will begin. The Washington Capitals will be in first in the division to end 2019 and begin 2020 - and possibly the entire NHL. As has been the case for this series this season, the more interesting competition is behind the Capitals as they keep rolling on. For example, we have a new team in second place to start the final snapshot of 2019:
The division will be off on New Year’s Day but this week will be busy for six of the eight teams in the division. Washington will not likely be impacted by the short schedule. Carolina will for the short-term. Here are the upcoming games for the week; the ones highlighted and in bold are within the division:
For the last time in 2019, let us go over the week that was and the week that will be for each team in the Metropolitan Division.
The Capitals had a losing week. Yes. It happened. How much does it impact them? For now, not much. The Capitals lost 7-3 to Boston last Monday as yet another example of how difficult Boston has been at home this season. The Capitals did get some revenge over earlier losses to Columbus this month by prevailing 2-1 over them in overtime last Friday. But last night, they went to Carolina and took a 6-4 loss. It was not a good week of results in a season filled with a lot of positive results. There is no need to fret if you are a Caps fan; the team still has fewer than ten regulation losses and have a nine-point lead over second.
Washington will have a short week coming up. With such a lead over second place, they are not at risk of anything even if the two games they will have this week somehow goes poorly. On New Year’s Eve, the Capitals will host the Islanders in an afternoon matchup. A win by the Capitals will only further the standings gap between the two teams. On Friday, the Caps will go to Raleigh, North Carolina for a rematch against the Canes. Again, another win will only further the large gap between the two squads in the standings. It would also be a good bit of revenge for Saturday’s game against them. It is good to be in first with such a hefty cushion. So much so that a losing week does not impact them much for now.
The Penguins just had two games and one opponent last week. They were off until last Friday, which was the first half of a home-and-home with Nashville. Pittsburgh came away from Tennessee with a 5-2 win. In the second half of the set in Pennsylvania, the Pens pleased the home crowd with a 6-4 win. Two games, two wins, and thanks to the Islanders losing their games, they are now number two in the Metropolitan. Their position is not safe but they did just take it. Imagine what they could do with a healthy roster.
Pittsburgh will have three games coming up with none on New Year’s Eve. That’s a plus for them. On Monday, their week will begin with a home game against an Ottawa team who played the night before. On Thursday, the Pens will host San Jose. The Penguins will end their week with a road game in Montreal, which is the first of a back-to-back set for them that weekend. The Penguins are in a position to win another week on paper and that could be enough for them to stay in the upper half in the current four-team clash within the Metropolitan.
The New York Islanders have held the second place position for quite a while in these snapshots. However, it was lost by the time this snapshot was taken. Not only did the Islanders only have two games last week, but they lost both of them. The Isles fell to Columbus at home, 3-2, last Monday. After the three-day holiday break ended, the Isles went to Chicago and lost 5-2 on Friday. This means the Isles are heading into the end of the year with a three game winless streak. That is not the end of the world on its own. In an increasingly tight race within the division, it was enough for the Penguins to jump them. Now the the Isles are in the mix with Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, and Carolina. The season may get more contentious as it plays out. Buckle up for 2020, Islanders fans.
The Islanders will be busier this week and should get some results in their four games coming up. Tonight, they will visit Minnesota. On New Year’s Eve, the Isles will have an afternoon game in Washington D.C. and play the mighty Capitals. Their best chance at a win on paper is on Thursday coming up. They will be back home and hosting New Jersey, who is currently entrenched in 30th place. Following that, the Isles will go back on the road and visit a Toronto team now that has been literally hurting with injuries. It is not an easy week but they should end the winless streak in these seven days and could be closer to second instead of falling to fifth. They may even take back second place if results work out the right way for them. First things first, get a win.
Carolina was not having such a good week going into last night’s game. On Monday, they were in a goal-fest in Toronto where 14 goals were scored between the teams. They lost said goal-fest 8-6. After the holidays, the Canes went to Manhattan and were beaten 5-3 in regulation. Last night, they returned home to face the division-leading Capitals. They got up and had an answer for every time Washington tried to make a comeback. By the end of the game, the Canes were on top 6-4. It was a losing week but 1-2-0 is better than 0-3-0 given their current position in the standings.
Carolina having a two-game week after a losing week is not helpful for their current situation. With teams so close to their spot in the Metropolitan and the non-wild card teams closing in, the Canes would be wise to make the most of what they do have coming up. The Canes will at least be at home for both. On New Year’s Eve, they will have an evening game with Montreal. Keeping them back would be a plus for them and a bunch of other teams. On Friday, they will host Washington again - who may be out for revenge that night. Good luck, Carolina.
Philadelphia had a short week with just two games last week. Before the holiday break, they hosted a Rangers team coming off a 5-1 win over Anaheim. The Flyers dispatched their rivals in the Rangers with a 5-1 win of their own. After the break, the Flyers would start the first of six games on the road in San Jose on Saturday night. This did not go well for Philly. They went down early and never rose in a 6-1 loss. The trip started with a regulation loss and a split week for them. The remain in control of the second wild card spot and still behind Carolina, the Islanders, and Pittsburgh. Close behind, but behind nonetheless.
Philly’s game in San Jose last night was the first of a six-game road trip that will mostly take place out West. They will end 2019 and begin 2020 far away from Pennsylvania. Tonight, they will visit Anaheim. Their California part of the trip will end on New Year’s Eve with a game in Los Angeles. After New Year’s Day, the Flyers will head to Nevada to play Las Vegas. The trip will end in Glendale when they visit Arizona on Saturday night. It is not an easy trip with all of the traveling on top of playing five games in eight days. However, a successful week will not only make Philly feel more confident about contending for a guaranteed playoff spot, they would have a shot of taking one. A lot can happen in a tight race like this. Of course, if they falter, well, it may not be so tight and the Flyer faithful may want to consider a little more attention to the teams behind them in the Eastern Conference standings.
New York Rangers
With four games in four actual game days last week, the Rangers were the busiest team in the Metropolitan Division last week. It turned out to be a successful run before and after the three-day break. Last Sunday, they beat on Anaheim in MSG, 5-1. Last Friday, they beat Carolina in MSG, 5-3. Last night, they went to Toronto, survived a late equalizer from the home team, and beat Toronto 5-4 in overtime. The only loss last week was a 5-1 decisive defeat at the hands of Philadelphia. The 3-1-0 week put them past Columbus in what is now a battle for sixth place. More relevant to the Atlantic Division teams, both the Rangers and Blue Jackets are trying to move up in the positions outside of the wild card to them in that particular playoff picture. They have some ways to go, but the Rangers (and Blue Jackets) are not going down without a fight.
The Rangers’ game in Toronto last night was the first of a four-game road trip that will take place in Canada. The good news for the Rangers is that they will get two days to travel. The bad news is that it is all out in Western Canada for this week. They will enjoy New Year’s Eve in Edmonton, a team that really needs to get going to stay in their playoff picture. On Thursday, they will be in Calgary, another team with plenty to play for and probably looks at a non-playoff team like New York as an opportunity for points. The trip will end on Saturday night in Vancouver, another team that has a real chance to rise up to a wild card spot at the moment and would enjoy a win from a visitor to keep that going. The Western Canada swing is never an easy one. We shall see if the Rangers can get anything out of these three games and keep their long-shot playoff hopes alive. At least they will come back right home after this week, unlike Philadelphia.
Columbus went into last week with a four-game winning streak and a seven-game point streak. They would keep the heat going for a little bit longer. Last Monday, they visited the Islanders in Long Island and pulled away in a 3-2 victory with the game winner coming late i the third period. The Jackets went into Christmas with plenty to smile about. Unfortunately, the winning streak ended against Washington last Friday. They visited the Caps and lost 2-1. But the loss came in overtime so the point streak is still on. Columbus won another week. While they were jumped by the Rangers and now sit in seventh, they are mixed in with the Atlantic Division teams not in their top three in the wild card picture. They still have some ways to go, but they are in a better position now than they were a month or so go. They may just yet have something to play for this season.
Columbus will have a home-heavy week coming up. They will host Chicago on Sunday evening. They will spend New Year’s Eve with a night game against Florida, which could be a big one to get further ahead in the wild card picture. Columbus’ one road game this week will be on Thursday when they travel to Boston - a place where few teams have left with points. Columbus will close their week with an afternoon game against San Jose at home. Jackets fans should pay attention to that one. Columbus will face them again in the following week as the Jackets will travel out to California. Should the Jackets keep getting points with this schedule, then they will earn a little more respect and, who knows, maybe get a little closer to a wild card spot in the East. Not that they will be alone.
The New Jersey Devils only had two games during the holiday week. Overall, it went well as they took three out of a potential four points. They are so far behind everyone else in the division and the Eastern Conference that it does not matter much. When you are having a bad season then it is best to appreciate whatever victories you may have. On Monday, they had a huge one when they blew out Chicago 7-1. After the holiday break, they hosted a hot Toronto team. While the offense showed up, the defense did not, and an own goal resulted in a 5-4 loss in overtime. At least the 1-0-1 week is better than most weeks in this season. Plus, to answer a question from last week’s snapshot, the Devils indeed hit the 30-point market with this past week. Let’s hear it for small victories.
The Devils will be far more active in this week coming up. They will be in Ottawa today for their final road game of 2019. Their last game of the calendar year will be an afternoon game against Boston on New Year’s Eve. The fans will more than enough time to witness that contest and then go do something more enjoyable in the evening. After New Year’s Day, the Devils will go back to work on Thursday with a trip to Nassau County to play the Islanders. Their week will end with a home game against Colorado on Saturday night. With not much to play for, any result they get would be for good feelings and possibly a result of playing well and establishing good on-ice habits by their younger players. If they do not, well, they will likely be in the same place anyway.
That closes the thirteenth Weekly Metropolitan Division Snapshot of the 2019-20 season. Washington is still running away with the division and will need a collapse to put it back into play. The Metropolitan owns the wild card spots so 2nd through 5th is still in contention for the playoffs - and it is very much a dog fight. Columbus’ point streak has put them closer to the mix for a wild card spot and the Rangers are not entirely out of it. Only the Devils are really in the distance, so much so that the Devils fans are getting familiar with Lafreniere, Byfield, and other 2020 prospects.
Before 2019 ends, what are your thoughts on the Metropolitan Division? Will the Islanders reclaim second place by next week? Or will Pittsburgh hold on? Could Carolina or Philly rise up and take it instead? Who will end Columbus’ point streak? How many wins will the Devils get in the week coming up? When should I add playoff odds? 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.