Welcome to the final weekly Metropolitan Division snapshot before the 2019 NHL Trade Deadline, which is tomorrow. While teams are discussing and/or have made moves already, there were no changes in position in the division, however there is going to be a lot of jockeying for position from second to fifth place. The Metropolitan Division owns one wild card spot, but with Montreal owning the other with 73 points, it is not out of doubt for the Metropolitan to send five teams to the postseason. The division leading New York Islanders will hope they beat up on each other as they try to strengthen their hold on first place.
This past week was filled with split results; wins evening out with losses and vice versa. That would explain the lack of movement within the division. However, a mere three points separate second and fifth place. Keep an eye on those results and do not forget about ROW in a tight race in the standings. It is something that Columbus is surely relieved that they have that tiebreaking edge (for now).
There are plenty of big match-ups coming up in this week. There are multiple games within the division that could lead to some significant changes in position for next week’s snapshot. Those games are highlighted and in bold.
Let’s go over what each team did last week and what they have coming up.
New York Islanders
The New York Islanders spent this past week traveling through the three Western Canadian teams. They served as a reminder that the trip is not at all an easy one. Calgary, who is leading the Pacific, dispatched the Isles 4-2 last Wednesday. On the very next night, the Isles lost in overtime at Edmonton. The game had some league-wide attention as Connor McDavid hit Nick Leddy with a headshot, which earned the superstar forward a two-game suspension. The Isles would be able to salvage the trip with a victory in Vancouver. Thanks to nearly everyone else splitting their week’s results, the Isles remained in first for yet another week. Their lead fell from five to four points, but that is still a cushion albeit not a very large one.
The Islanders will return to Nassau for a five-game homestand. The three they will have this week are difficult match-ups. They’ll host Calgary on Tuesday, which could be a night for revenge or another night for Calgary to pick up another win. On Thursday, the Isles get to host a Toronto team that wants to climb back up in the Atlantic Division standings. On Friday, they will host Washington. That game has huge implications for the division lead. A four-point swing could get Washington right next to (or even past) the Islanders in the standings - or the Isles could succeed in regulation and really pull ahead in control of first. It is a tough game made tougher knowing that the Isles will have a game the night before against a good team while Washington will be rested.
Washington continued and finished a six-game road trip in this past week. The results were split down the middle. It opened with losing 5-2 at Anaheim and edging Los Angeles 3-2. The Capitals picked up another road win with a 3-2 victory at Toronto. However, the trip and the week closed with a 5-2 loss in Buffalo. Not only were the results down the middle, so were the scores. This meant the Caps did not really move up much - or stayed much ahead of third place Columbus.
While some teams get some days off after a long road trip, the Capitals do not have that luxury in this week. They are home and will play the Rangers this afternoon, not long after this post goes up. With the Rangers having nothing to play for, it is appropriate to call it a trap game. If not that, then Tuesday at home against Ottawa definitely is a trap game. The schedule is kind enough to Washington for them to have two days off before a huge inter-division game with the Islanders on Friday. That game will be important should the Caps have designs on taking first place. Although they will need to watch their backs.
Columbus has been the standout team ahead of the trade deadline. Not only are the rumors swirling around Artemi Panarin, they picked up two of the three big names that were available from Ottawa. They swung big to bring in Matt Duchene right before they played (and beat) Ottawa. Last night, they made a package to get Ryan Dzingel. If nothing else, Columbus has bought in. In terms of games in this past week, the week ended better than it started. The Blue Jackets lost 5-1 to Tampa Bay and 3-2 to Montreal in a back-to-back set on Monday and Tuesday. Their second back-to-back set went much, much better with a pair of shutouts. Columbus shutout Ottawa, 3-0, and, impressively, San Jose, 4-0. They remain in third place just ahead of Carolina and Pittsburgh, a game behind Washington, and hovering around the wild card spot given that Montreal also has 73 points.
The hope is that Columbus’ new additions will help them move on up in the standings. We will see if that is the case in this coming week with two inter-division games coming up next. On Tuesday, Columbus will take on Pittsburgh in a game that could definitely make waves in the middle of the division and the larger Eastern Conference wild card race. On Thursday, Columbus will play a Philadelphia squad that has not yet quit on this season. The week ends with a home game against Edmonton. Columbus can make some moves with a winning week; they just need to go and make it happen.
Over the past week, the second wild card spot in the East has been passed around by a hot potato between Columbus, Carolina, and Pittsburgh. The Hurricanes have it for this snapshot. This past week started poorly with a 2-1 loss at home to the Rangers, who can only spoil others at this point of the season. But the Carolinas took that ‘L’ and bounced back with two wins: 4-3 in Florida and 3-0 in Dallas. Since the Canes only had three games to play this week, they did not have the chance to take another loss like the other teams that had four-game weeks last week. So they won the week. Good job, Carolina. Now you just have to keep it up.
They will get to keep it up with another favorable week on the schedule. They’ll host Los Angeles on Tuesday and then have a tricky back-to-back with St. Louis and another game in Florida. Two of those teams have nothing to play for. Two of those games are against Western Conference teams, so there is no impact if those games go beyond regulation. The Canes just beat Florida in Florida in this past week. Carolina has the opportunity to remain on the right side of the playoff picture. They just need to realize it again.
The Penguins had the opposite week from Columbus. It started off well and ended poorly. The start were two games within the division against spoilers: the New York Rangers and the New Jersey Devils. The Pens took both games, 6-5 and 4-3 respectively. However, they were stunned at home by San Jose and took a 4-0 shutout loss last Thursday. On a big stage at Lincoln Financial Field, the Penguins blew a 3-1 lead within the last four minutes of regulation and lost the game in overtime, 4-3, to their hated rivals, the Philadelphia Flyers. Pittsburgh may have picked up a point and Philadelphia may not really challenge for a playoff spot, but losing like that to a rival in front of nearly 70,000 people on their field hurts. Had Pittsburgh held on, then they would be in a playoff spot right now instead of just behind Carolina by way of tiebreakers. This is the part of the season where every point really matters.
Pittsburgh will be on the road for all three games against teams that can impact the wild card/third place situation in the standings. The game on Tuesday in Columbus can cause a big swing within the Metropolitan. At the end of the week, the Penguins will play in Buffalo and in Montreal. Buffalo has faded from the playoff picture and a regulation win by Pittsburgh can do a lot to ensure they will not claw their way back into it - which is one less team for the Penguins to worry about. Montreal owns a wild card spot right now and Pittsburgh does not; that game can also have a big short-term impact on who owns that spot by next week’s snapshot. Regulation wins would be best and Pittsburgh needs to keep pushing forward.
The Sherman Abrams Zone
You seem to be in a crabby mood, Sherman Abrams. What’s up?
WINS! Philadelphia, New York, and New Jersey all won two games in this past week! Haven’t these fools ever understood the cardinal rule of tanking: don’t get points! They got points!
Come now, Sherman. The Devils and Rangers played each other on Saturday. Someone had to win. And you know that the Flyers did not want to get shown up on a football field against their hated rivals.
Rivals, schmivals, don’t get points! Worse is who these teams beat in this past week. Philly did not just come from behind to get at least one, much less two, against Pittsburgh. They beat Detroit 3-1, which shows that Detroit knows the Sherman Abrams playbook. I get that someone had to win between Rangers-Devils, but the Rangers did not have to go and beat Carolina for two more empty points. I’m most disappointed in the Devils beat Buffalo and Ottawa in regulation. If the Devils were really committed to the tank, then they needed to drop that game to Ottawa to have a chance of catching them in 31st. But no. The Devils had to be spoilers for another Sunday game and they just had to show they are not the worst team in the NHL. So all three of these teams went 2-2-0 in this past week. Now the Flyers are entrenched in the area of non-playoff teams going to pick outside of the top ten. Their 65 points puts them in a tie for 17th and are a point behind 16th place Buffalo. The Rangers are tied with Florida in points at 22nd. The Devils in 28th, a point behind Anaheim in 27th, a point ahead of Detroit in 29th, and multiple points ahead of Los Angeles and Ottawa. Boo. I say, boo.
You know these three teams can’t all lose the remaining 20-21 games they have in their season.
No, but they can stop having decent looking weeks and pretending it is helping their cause for the greatest prize in hockey: lottery balls for the first overall draft pick.
Sherman, that’s not the greatest prize in hoc-
Shut up. Here’s what these teams have coming up and what they need to do. Bullets!
- Philadelphia, you have Buffalo on Tuesday and a back-to-back with Columbus and New Jersey. I’m highly annoyed at that Devils-Flyers game because, as you put it, someone has to win. Still, Flyers, be bros to Buffalo. Don’t pass them! And help Columbus too, you don’t need that win! If you want a top ten pick, then you need to actually struggle.
- The Not Good New York Team, I need you to really not be good! Lose in Washington today. I know you’re not that tired from beating the Devils yesterday, but pretend anyway. You have Tampa Bay and Montreal at home later this week. Good. Do the expected thing and get bounced by both them.
- Devils, you have four games coming up where everyone else in the division has three. That’s four opportunities to take ‘L’s. You have three playoff-bound opponents this week: Montreal, Calgary, and Boston. They’re good, you’re not. You know what to do. Fortunately, you’ve been selling players and utilizing AHLers with no NHL futures so I’m confident you will achieve the defeats. And fight the temptation to make your fans happy and get a win over Philly on Friday. What’s more important? Beating a hated rival and enjoying a win at home, or more numbers in a random drawing to win a 18-year old that might change the future of the team in late April? You know the answer in your heart.
Charming as always, Sherman Abrams. Thanks for taking us into your zone. I guess.
That was the week that was and the week that will be in the Metropolitan Division. What do you make of it? Do you think Columbus will make a charge up the standings with their new additions? Who will come out of the battle between Washington, Columbus, Carolina, and Pittsburgh in playoff spots by next week’s snapshot? Can the Metropolitan Division take both wild card spots? Will Sherman Abrams see the Flyers, Rangers, and Devils have losing weeks to satiate his tanking desires? Please leave your answers and other thoughts in the comments. Thank you for reading.