Welcome to the third-to-last weekly Metropolitan Division snapshot of the 2018-19 season. Your leaders are the Washington Capitals. They are familiar faces for first place for the last decade or so. They remain at the top with the New York Islanders dropping a chance to stay with them in points just yesterday. Another familiar face of standings success in the Metropolitan, the Pittsburgh Penguins, are joining these two for the top. Meanwhile, there are effectively two teams left in the division fighting for the playoffs and they currently own both wild card spots in the Eastern Conference. Here are the standings as of this morning:
And here is the schedule for all eight teams in the Metropolitan. Several will be busy as the end of the season comes ever closer. Games within the division are highlighted and in bold.
Let’s go over what each team did and what they have coming up next.
The Capitals remain in first but it was not the most successful of weeks. They had four games and won two. They split the points. The wins were 3-1 over Winnipeg and 5-2 over Philadelphia. The losses were 5-3 to Pittsburgh and 6-3 to Tampa Bay. Getting two out of four given those opponents is not at all bad. However, this leaves the door open for the Islanders to move up to take their spot. The Caps are safe for now and they are all but guaranteed to make the playoffs at this point. However, if they struggle a bit more, then first in the division is even more up for grabs.
Washington will have three games in four nights in this coming week. They’ll have an easy-on-paper New Jersey Devils team on Tuesday followed by a revenge game against Tampa Bay. This is revenge as the Bolts shocked the Caps in a 6-3 loss in Tampa Bay. Wednesday’s game is in Washington D.C. and it will be on national television. It will make for another interesting game to check out. On Friday night, the Caps will host Minnesota - a game Carolina fans will watch solely because they will play Minnesota on the next night. For the Caps, they just need to keep getting points and take care of business. They are not totally safe in the driver’s seat, but they’re still in the seat right now. Drive on, Washington.
New York Islanders
The New York Islanders truly had a good week. However, between falling out of first place, Pittsburgh being right behind them in points, and their last game of last week, that is not the perception. The perception is that they are slipping. They are becoming exposed. They are going to be who many thought they would be. I get it. Losing 2-1 to a hapless Detroit team in regulation is going to bring out the critics. It was a trap game and the Isles were snared. However, that came after two wins that impacted the Eastern Conference playoff picture: 2-0 over Columbus and 2-1 over Montreal. Carolina liked those results. So did Pittsburgh. Dropping the game in Detroit means they are two points back of Washington instead of being tied in points and possibly ROW. If the Isles struggle in this coming week, then do not be surprised if fingers point to that Detroit game; the one loss in a 2-1-0 week.
The Islanders will not get a chance to rest. They will play in Minnesota this evening. Then on Tuesday they’ll play one game at home this week: a tough Boston squad that wants to wrap up second in their division. Thursday night has the Isles going back on the road to visit Montreal, who should be playing some desperation as they need to try to win back a wild card spot. Saturday night has the Isles go to Philadelphia for an afternoon game. While not as bad as Detroit, that’s another trap game on the schedule for the Isles. A good week should quiet the critics who think they are not for real. Good luck, Islanders.
In last week’s snapshot, the Penguins were mixed in with Carolina and Columbus. One 3-1-0 week later and they have a shot at taking second place. They also have a little cushion over Carolina and Columbus in the standings too. The Penguins picked it up with a 4-2 win against Boston, a 5-3 win against Washington, and a 5-0 beatdown of a now-hopeless Buffalo team. Those are quality wins. Unfortunately, Pittsburgh’s week ended with an ugly 5-1 loss at home to St. Louis. Had they swept the week and all other results being equal, Pittsburgh would be in second place at the moment. But they have put themselves in a position to put themselves in a better position after a great week of results.
We’ll see if they can build on it and rebound from that loss to St. Louis quickly. They have a great opportunity: a rivalry game at home to Philadelphia this afternoon. A victory over a rival usually washes the bad taste that comes from a bad loss. The Penguins will hit the road after Sunday. They will go to Carolina, Nashville, and Dallas this week on every other day. The Carolina game will have a short-term impact on the middle of the division. Nashville is battling for first in the Central and Dallas is chasing St. Louis for third in the Central. Those are big games for their opponents. Should Pittsburgh spoil those games for their benefit, they may be in a position to have home ice in the first round by next week. We could see another big change by next week’s snapshot.
As the season has gone on, the Carolina Hurricanes have done very well to improve their odds for making the postseason. After several seasons of being done well before this point of the season, the Canes have the inside track for a wild card spot in the East. They are not so far away from third-place Pittsburgh that they cannot aim any higher than the wild card spot. Carolina did it with another successful week. They shutout Colorado in their house on Monday night and they prevailed over Buffalo at home, 4-2. The only downfall was a 3-0 shutout loss to Columbus. The Canes bounced back from that one and still remain ahead of Columbus. Get excited, Hurricanes fans, the playoffs are much more fun when your team is in it. Right now, they’re in it.
That Buffalo game was the first of a five-game homestand for Carolina. This week has three home games on the schedule and they are not at all easy. They will get to host Pittsburgh, Tampa Bay, and Minnesota. The inter-division game is always important. Tampa Bay has yet to take it easy on, well, anybody this season. Minnesota is scrapping for a wild card spot in the Western Conference; they may need a result in Raleigh next Saturday. Fortunately for Carolina, Minnesota will have had played Washington the night before so the Canes can take advantage. But as the Canes have done all season, they have found ways to get goals, make saves, and obtain victories to put them where they are in the standings. All the same, good luck, Canes.
Columbus took five points out of a potential eight last week and it ran the gamut of results. The week started with a 2-0 shutout loss in Long Island. It was another sign that perhaps the Blue Jackets will crash out of the playoffs before they even began. But the Blue Jackets responded with a huge 7-4 win over Boston. OK, maybe the Blue Jackets will be fine. It certainly seemed that way when they shutout fellow playoff-fighters Carolina, 3-0. But the Blue Jackets suffered a set-back with an overtime loss in Boston. While that is not so bad - a point was earned - it did give Carolina a one-point lead over Columbus for this snapshot.
The good news for Columbus is that Montreal ended the week with 81 points with a shutout loss to Chicago (!), so they are in the second wild card spot. While this snapshot is more concerned with the division itself, the Blue Jackets faithful need to watch for Montreal and hope they keep holding ‘L’s for the next three weeks. The Jackets need to secure their spot before moving on up. They will have to do a lot of waiting. They just have two games coming up: Tuesday in Calgary (not easy) and Thursday in Edmonton (may not be easy but they also just lost to an AHL-heavy Devils team last week). Being idle does not help and it is compounded should Columbus not get points out of those games. So they need to make it a priority, if only to keep Montreal back in the standings.
The Philadelphia Flyers needed to stay hot in order to stay in the distance of the playoff picture in the Eastern Conference. That did not happen in this past week. After dispatching of Ottawa 3-2, the Flyers lost 5-2 to Washington and 7-6 in Toronto. As they lost those games, the teams ahead of them succeeded. Now the Flyers sit five points back of Montreal, who are outside of the wild card spots themselves. A certain man wants them in his zone. He may get it next week.
The Philadelphia Flyers will try to keep hope alive with a four-game week coming up. They’ll visit Pittsburgh today. It is a significant four-point game and one that Canes and Blue Jackets fans should hope Philly wins in regulation. The Flyers will have a huge game on Tuesday against Montreal. If the Flyers want to jump Montreal, then they need a regulation win to make it so. After that, Philly will go to Chicago on Thursday night and return home for an afternoon game against the Isles. The Flyers will need to have a strong week of results to stay close to the outskirts of the playoff picture in the East. Another week like 1-3-0 or 1-2-1 will all but cement that the Flyers are not making the postseason.
The Sherman Abrams Zone
Are you salty about the New Jersey Devils?
YES! They won two games last week. After getting absolutely wrecked in the third-period in Calgary that turned a 4-3 lead into a 9-4 defeat, I expected the Devils to be demoralized. I expected them to keep on losing. I expected that the 7-game winless streak would be 9-games by this post. But noooooooooooooooooooooo. A team with mostly Binghamton forwards ran up a 6-3 score on Edmonton and a 3-2 shootout victory over Vancouver. Stupid Devils stupidly risking their tank with victories. It goes to show you that you can’t trust Western Canadian teams to help out a team that needs it.
Oh, come on. The Devils were not going to lose-out and they would have a night or two where they would get the bounce, the right tip-in, and the plays would just work.
You, come on. Thanks to Los Angeles doing it right and Detroit being Detroit, the Devils are now three points ahead of Detroit, who sits in 29th. They won their game yesterday. Had the Devils lost those two games like I wanted, then they would be in 29th with real chance in 30th. Now I need two crummy teams to not be crummy for the Devils to fall further. Boo. The good news is that the Devils should be getting back to losing ways. Their road trip ends in Colorado today - Colorado has something to play for. The Devils will have three home games against Washington, Boston, and Arizona. Also known as: Wants to secure first in the Metropolitan, wants to secure second in the Atlantic, and wants to make the playoffs. The Devils need not spoil the teams in this week. Get back to being bad and increase those odds for first overall by 2%!
What about the New York Rangers?
Well, these guys are doing it right. After my little pep talk in last week’s snapshot, the Rangers have embraced what John usually says about them: that they suck. The Rangers’ four-game road trip has been wonderful from that standpoint. They earned just one out of eight points: an overtime loss in Edmonton followed by regulation losses at Vancouver, Calgary, and Minnesota. They sit at 69 points with Vancouver and Anaheim right behind them in points. There is a chance the Rangers end up in 27th by April 7 if they keep it up. And I hope they do!
What’s more is that the Rangers will have the benefit of idleness. You cannot earn points if you do not play. The Rangers have just two games coming up: a home game with Detroit and a road game in Toronto. Losing in Toronto should be no issue. I’m concerned that the Rangers would beat Detroit. In a tight race between 22nd (Chicago at 71 points) and 27th (Anaheim at 67 points), a win over an even worse team hurts the cause to fall further in the standings. They may be passed by others who have more than two games to play in this coming week. But that will be less of an impact should New York beat them. Be strong, Rangers, and be bad in this short week.
Thank you for that update.
Give me the Flyers. They’re not playing for anything.
I want it now.
So you’ll get it next week.
Fine. Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to go smack Ottawa upside the head. They just won two in a row and could move up to 30th soon. They cannot even be a dumpster fire correctly.
That was the week that was and the week that will be in the Metropolitan Division. What are your thoughts? Will Washington rule the division for another week as these snapshots wind down? Or will the Isles or possibly the Penguins rise up? Can Columbus ensure that the Metropolitan Division sends five teams to the postseason: including them? What do you even do now if you’re the Flyers? Will the Rangers keep on faltering? Will the Devils get back to losing ways soon? Who even has the toughest schedule coming up for this week? Please leave your answers and other thoughts in the comments. Thank you for reading.