This week in the NHL’s Metropolitan Division saw only a pair of teams trade spots, though the standings became quite a bit tighter, with more teams looking like they could make a run at the postseason. Our New Jersey Devils however had a rough week which did nothing but cement their status in the Sherman Abrams Zone. The teams who swapped spots? No it wasn’t the New York Islanders and the Washington Capitals; it was the Columbus Blue Jackets and Pittsburgh Penguins. Let’s take a look at the complete standings:
The Islanders continue to be leading the race, though Washington did gain a point on them at least for the time being. Each team will see at least three games this week, as most of the teams will be jockeying to improve their chances at being in a playoff position. Here’s the upcoming schedule with divisional match-ups highlighted:
And finally let’s take a quick look at the week that was for each team as well as the week that will be:
New York Islanders
The New York Islanders continued to be one of the best surprises in the league, as they went 2-1-0 to win another week of the season. It started off rough, as they dropped Tuesday’s game against the Boston Bruins 2-1 up in Boston. They would then travel to New Jersey and win a tightly contested goaltender’s duel 2-1 against the Devils; their week concluded with another game going to extra time where the Isles would defeat the Colorado Avalanche 4-3 at home in overtime.
The Islanders will see four games this week, with the Minnesota Wild kicking things off this afternoon. They will then hit the road to play the Buffalo Sabres on Tuesday and divisional rival Columbus on Thursday. Finally, they will return home on Saturday to host the Edmonton Oilers. While they sit atop the division for yet another snapshot, a poor week could well see that change next Sunday. With how the Islanders have been trending this season, that probably won’t be the case.
Positions 2-5 in the Metropolitan standings are only separated by 5 points currently, but at the top of that group with the buffer sits the Washington Capitals. A four game week saw them go 2-1-1, and it started with a tough 1-0 loss to the Boston Bruins one week ago. They rebounded to defeat the Canucks 3-2 on Tuesday, and followed that up with a 4-3 overtime victory at home against the Colorado Avalanche. They book-ended their week with another loss, with the Florida Panthers coming in and beating them 5-4 in overtime.
While the Caps may have a buffer right now, a poor week could see it evaporate quickly. They will first get the Los Angeles Kings at home tomorrow night before travelling to Columbus the next night. Their week will conclude early on Thursday night with a late game in California against the San Jose Sharks. With only three games this week, Washington can’t afford to drop two of them as they did this past week if they want to continue sitting in the upper parts of the Metro.
Columbus Blue Jackets
After a crummy week last week, the Blue Jackets rebounded with a sweep of their three games this past week to pick up all 6 points and leap over the Penguins to reclaim one of the three Metro playoff positions for the time being. Tuesday saw them beat the Avalanche 6-3 in Colorado, before beating the Coyotes two days later 4-2 in Arizona. They wrapped up their week yesterday in Vegas, beating the Golden Knights 4-3. With all three games coming on the road, the Jackets went out and had a very impressive week.
A pair of home games will start Columbus’ week, with Washington coming in on Tuesday and the Islanders on Thursday. They will travel to Chicago on Saturday to play the Blackhawks and end their week. Columbus will need to not revert to the Blue Jackets of two weeks ago, because if they do they may find themselves occupying a non-playoff spot the next time we recap the division.
As a result of the Blue Jackets’ week, and going 0-2-1 in their own games, the Penguins drop a spot this week and find themselves precariously close to being on the outside looking in. Carolina beat them badly at home 4-0 on Tuesday, before they gained their only loser point of the week in Florida, dropping a 3-2 overtime contest to the Panthers. With a chance to break even for the week, the Pens again underwhelmed, and Tampa Bay beat them 5-4.
As they continue to fall, the Penguins will spend their entire week in their home state and will hope to improve their fates from there. First they will face interstate rival Philadelphia on Monday before seeing the Edmonton Oilers at home on Wednesday. A pair of days will pass in between, and the Calgary Flames will be the opposition for a Saturday matinee game to round out their week. With other teams heating up around them, the Penguins will need to find themselves quickly, lest they head towards a date with Sherman Abrams.
A four game week saw the Hurricanes snag 6 out of a possible 8 points while shutting out two of the four teams they played. The low point of the week was the start last Sunday, as they dropped a home game 4-3 against the Calgary Flames. They would roar back to shutout the Penguins two nights later in Pittsburgh before narrowly defeating the Sabres in Buffalo 6-5 in overtime on Thursday. Their week would conclude the next night with them shutting out Our Hated Rivals 3-0 in New York.
Momentum in hockey is a good thing, and the Canes should feel as though they have some after last week. They will bring it with them to New Jersey today before visiting the Senators on Tuesday. They will finally get to return home after that for a pair of weekend games with the Edmonton Oilers on Friday and the Dallas Stars on Saturday. Carolina is flirting heavily with the playoffs, and another strong week would bring them closer to that picture, while a weak week could see someone behind them seize the final spot for the time being.
The Flyers had another successful week this week, as they continued to claw their way back to playoff race relevancy, going 2-0-1. They won a tight home game against Vancouver 2-1 to start their week, before dropping a midweek game to the Kings in a shootout 3-2. They would rebound and finish strong, convincingly stomping on the lowly Anaheim Ducks 6-2. With 57 points, there’s still a gap between Philly and the playoff teams, but they’re closer to the race to be in than the race to be out.
With 9 wins in their last 10 games (and no regulation losses to boot) the Flyers will attempt to continue going strong this week. They host Pittsburgh on Monday before facing the Wild in Minnesota on Tuesday. They’ll have a bit of a gap after that, as their next game will be home on Saturday hosting the Detroit Red Wings. This is a chance for another winnable week and for the Flyers to gain some ground on the teams immediately in front of them.
The Rangers had the definition of an average week this week, as they went 1-1-1 and picked up half of the possible points they could have earned. All of their points came in their first two games, as they first lost an overtime game on Monday to the Los Angeles Kings 4-3. They would then take a shootout win after a third period comeback to beat the Boston Bruins 4-3. Any hope of winning the week would be crushed by the Carolina Hurricanes, who soundly shut them out 3-0 on Friday.
The Rangers will have to get some luck to stay relevant this week, as tonight they face Toronto at home and then travel to Winnipeg and Buffalo later this week. A poor week for Our Hated Rivals coupled with teams ahead of them earning points could send them towards the Sherman Abrams Zone. Speaking of which...
The Sherman Abrams Zone
Some good news and some bad news in this zone of the article; the good news is that for anyone who isn’t a fan of Mr. Abrams, I’m happy to report he won’t be making an appearance this week! The bad news is that the Devils remain the only team still 10+ points behind a Wild Card spot in the Metro after their dismal 0-2-1 week. As such, they will continue to exist within this space as they continue to hurtle towards an early golf season.
With Carolina in today, and a road trip taking them into St. Louis, Chicago and Minnesota, I’m not sure the week ahead looks any easier for Jersey’s team. Record wise, this time next week, we might not only be looking at the worst team in the Metro; we could be rooting for the worst team in the NHL.
Another week of this season is in the books and not much has changed in the status quo of the Metropolitan Division. What do you think of the standings situation? Will any of the current playoff teams find themselves soon replaced by the red-hot Second Rate Rivals? Will the Devils occupy the league’s basement the next time that we visit the standings? Will Sherman Abrams return next week to lambaste the teams that are well outside of postseason contention? Leave any and all thoughts on this below and thanks as always for reading.