Next Monday is the 2019 NHL Trade Deadline. The entire Metropolitan Division has enjoyed more successes than failures in this past week. As all eight teams figure to make moves to better prepare for the playoffs or possibly future seasons, each fanbase has some recent victories to cause them to feel good. Of course, the fanbase that should be the most excited belongs to the New York Islanders, who remain in first place.
Check out the standings as this week begins. The Islanders not only have first place but they even have a cushion: five points ahead of the second-place Washington Capitals and a game in hand. With third, fourth, and fifth place teams all bunched up and effectively battling for two playoff spots (three if you consider Montreal has the other wild card spot at 69 points), the Isles only have to worry about the Caps for the moment. The bottom three teams remain well in the distance.
Here is this week’s upcoming schedule. There are multiple games within the division coming up; those games are highlighted and in bold.
Let’s go over what each team did last week and what they have coming up. Since the NHL Trade Deadline is a week away, I’ll offer a opinion about whether a team should be buyers, sellers, or not at all.
New York Islanders
The Islanders should consider buying - and buying big. No one really expected this roster to make the playoffs. Who knows whether they will be this good next season. But swinging for a big name like Panarin or Stone could help make a playoff run even more possible and make 2019-20 more viable. It is easy to look at the standings and think, “Why change this?” But getting enamored with the status quo is a great way to fall from it. My suggestion: be bold, Isles.
Anyway, the Islanders capped off another successful week. They beat Minnesota 2-1 in Brooklyn to start the week and they pounced on Edmonton in a 5-2 victory in Brooklyn. The Islanders were on the road for two games in between those wins and they split them. They took a 3-1 L in Buffalo and bounced back in Columbus (!) with a 3-0 win. That win over Columbus definitely helped to keep down a potential challenger to their throne. What is next is that the Islanders will go on the road for all three of their games next week. They will swing through Western Canada where they’ll take on Calgary and Edmonton in a back-to-back and Vancouver on Saturday night. Those trips are not easy but the Islanders have more than proven that they can handle such challenges.
The big rumor is that they are interested in a veteran defenseman. So it seems they will be buyers. This seems right. I do not think they need to make any Earth-shattering moves. Add a little help and a little depth and they’ll be set. They may want to consider figuring out Andre Burakovsky before July 1.
Washington dispatched Los Angeles at home before starting a six-game road trip that will end in this coming week. The Caps were shut out by Columbus to start the trip. But they secured another winning week with a decisive 5-1 win in San Jose. Washington’s trip will continue in this week with a back-to-back set against the other two California teams, Anaheim and Los Angeles. They’ll go up to Toronto on Thursday and then close it out in Buffalo next Saturday. The Caps should be able to make it a successful trip and keep up some pressure on the Isles at a minimum. Any slip ups will only open the door for the teams behind them.
They should actually stand pat. Yes, Artemi Panarin may want out. Yes, Sergei Bobrovsky may want out. But what return is going to make up for what they do/can contribute? This is a team that can make a run in the postseason. They could still snipe home ice and they are not at all an easy opponent to play against. Trading one or both players would only make a first-round exit more likely. Keeping them may make a deeper run more possible. If they walk, they walk. A chance at a banner is more meaningful than picking up some prospects and maybe a player that is not as good as either.
Columbus had an up-and-down week that ended positively. They started off with a big 3-0 win over Washington. They faltered with a 3-0 loss to the Islanders. Columbus closed their week with a victory in Chicago. 2-1-0 in a week is a success and it keeps them in a guaranteed playoff spot for another week. That’s good. The Blue Jackets will have more of a challenge coming up. They will take on Tampa Bay and go to Montreal in a back-to-back on Monday and Tuesday. They have a second back-to-back to end their week: at Ottawa on Friday and at home against San Jose on Saturday. Two back-to-back sets in a week is not easy and that first one is a rough one on paper. But if Columbus can come out of it well and if they are lucky that Washington has some road woes, they could be battling for second rather than battling to maintain their spot.
Carolina should be seeking to buy. Their acquisition of Nino Neiderreiter has paid off so far. And after long periods of poor goaltending and poor shooting percentages, Carolina seemingly has it now. As with the Islanders, this is a time for them to be bold. They edged their way into the wild card position but by no means they have secured anything. They could still blow it. If they can add another piece or two to keep the good times rolling, then they need to do it. We’ll see whether they’ll do it.
Carolina gets plenty of pub for their post-win celebrations. Some Hockey People on TV grouse about it. Social media tries to dunk on said grousers and other Hockey People proclaim how This is What Hockey Needs and critics should Know Their Role and Shut Their Mouth. They should be getting more pub for the wins themselves. After losing in regulation to New Jersey to start the week, Carolina responded by rolling off victories over two non-playoff teams (4-1 over Ottawa, 3-1 over Edmonton) and one holding on to a wild card spot (2-0 over Dallas). The 3-1-0 week was enough to get them into the wild card spot over an idle Pittsburgh team at the end of this past week. Can they maintain it? They’ll have an easy-on-paper schedule to keep on winning. They’ll host the New York Rangers on Tuesday, visit hapless Florida on Thursday, and travel to Dallas on Saturday. Don’t get spoiled now.
Pittsburgh should try to sell Jack Johnson. The defensive black hole has been hurting the Pittsburgh cause. In any case, they should be buying to shore up their depth. Their aces have been, well, aces this season. But what has made Pittsburgh such a contending team is that they did not have a lot of relative passengers making up the spots not taken by their big names. With Carolina now in their business and Columbus’ playoff spot still up for grabs, Pittsburgh should not stay still and hope this works out.
Their wild card spot has been taken away for the moment. As they were idle on Saturday night, Carolina took it with a win. It was not a bad week for the Penguins otherwise. They went 2-1-0 with regulation wins over Philadelphia and Edmonton. Their loss to Calgary on Saturday was by one goal. There is no reason to panic but the change in position should be seen as a wake-up call of sorts. Pittsburgh will make up their game in hand in this coming week with four games. They’ll spend it mostly within the Metropolitan. Pittsburgh has the Rangers coming to their building today, they’ll go to Newark on Tuesday, return home to play San Jose, and then visit Philadelphia for a game at Lincoln Financial Field. Yes, the Penguins and the Flyers will be in an outdoors game. I’m shocked as you are.
Well, the Flyer-
NO! NOT TODAY! I AM TAKING OVER!
What are you doing, Sherman?
I am tired of this ten point rule. Have you seen those Moneypuck Playoff Odds? NJ isn’t the only team with so little of a chance of making it. I’m changing it! Any team with less than 10% playoff odds according to Moneypuck when you take your little snapshot will be in my zone from now on. This week, there will be three teams in my zone. Now, let’s get on with it. Give me my heading!
What about this week’s thing about the trade dead-
Here’s your thing! Sell! These teams should sell and tank! Sell and tank harder! Selllllll and taaaaaaaaank!
The Sherman Abrams Zone
Philly, Philly, Philly, Philly. Back after the All-Star Weekend, you were sitting seventh in the Metropolitan Division with 44 points in 48 games. You were in a great position to keep the bad times rolling. Instead, you called up a goaltender who could make some saves and started winning. You have been on an 8-1-1 run in your last ten games. You beat Minnesota and prevailed over Detroit in OT after a promising loss handed to you by Pittsburgh. Now instead of being 14 points behind the last playoff spot in the East, you are now seven points away with two teams in front of you. Good job, you’ve won enough to think you have a chance; yet when in reality, you’re still well behind. You’ve went on a hot run that just cut your deficit in half. You fools! You should have tanked! You have Detroit, Tampa Bay, Montreal, and Pittsburgh on a football field this week. Go forth and lose like you should!
Now the New York Rangers knew they were going to be bad. They even announced last season that they were going to blow it up and they did. They could be worse. They could move some players and become worse. They should. They are not in a position where they think they can Go For It (TM). But beating Toronto and Buffalo last week for a 2-1-0 week does not help the Tanking Cause. With three playoff-hopeful teams coming up on their schedule - Pittsburgh, Carolina, Minnesota - and a rivalry game on Saturday, they need to turn it around and suffer. If they want to get below Florida and Detroit, then that is what has to happen.
As for the subjects of this site, the New Jersey Devils seemingly had the right idea and failed to execute. You were so close to a winless home stand, but you had to go and beat Carolina in regulation last Sunday. After getting dominated 8-3 by St. Louis and rolled 5-2 by Chicago, you could have made it a perfect 0-for-3 on the road trip. But noooooo, you had to go and make a comeback and force overtime and get a win for Cory Schneider in Minnesota. Fine, you had some feel-good moments. I hope the warm fuzzy feelings were worth being further ahead than last-place Ottawa. Maybe I’m being too harsh. You still had the worst record in the Metropolitan Division in this past week at 2-2-0. You’re still in 30th. Now keep that going. Fall to Buffalo this evening at the Rock. Somehow find a way to lose to Pittsburgh on Tuesday since you’ve seemingly owned them this season. Make your fans upset by losing to Your Hated Rivals on Saturday. And if you can, you must lose to Ottawa in regulation on Thursday. That would be embarrassing to most. But to me, The Tank Enthusiast, I can think of no other way to get back into the Race to the Bottom.
Gee, thanks, Sherman Abrams.
That was the week that was and the week that will be in the Metropolitan Division. What do you make of it? Will the Islanders continue to stay in first? Can Washington avoid the fight in the middle of the division? Should you believe in Carolina now that they jumped Pittsburgh for at least a day? Will Sherman Abrams get his way for the teams in it? Please leave your answers and other thoughts in the comments. Thank you for reading.