Welcome to the penultimate Weekly Metropolitan Division Snapshot of the 2018-19 season. We are near the end of the 82-game marathon that is the NHL regular season. It is clear that there are five teams in the Metropolitan Division that playing for something. Given how tight the races are, it could come down to that 82nd game to decide who takes the division, who takes the top three spots, and which wild card spot is owned by a Metropolitan Division team. Right now, this is how the standings look:
Your eyes are not misleading you. The Washington Capitals are indeed in first place and holding on by just one point. The New York Islanders and the Pittsburgh Penguins are literally right behind them. Sure, Pittsburgh has played more games, but points are the first decider. A slip-up by the Caps could send them down to second or third place in the blink of an eye. This is something to watch for. Also watch for the Carolina Hurricanes and the Columbus Blue Jackets. The Canes are looking to secure their first wild card spot ahead of Montreal and, should they get hot and fortunate, threaten to take third in the Metropolitan. The Blue Jackets are out of the playoffs as of right now. They’re behind Montreal by three points with one game in hand on Montreal. Columbus needs to get to winning and fast. As for the bottom three, well, the Tanking Evangelist has them in his zone for this week’s snapshot. Sorry, Philadelphia Flyers fans, but it is just not happening.
Here is the snapshot of what each team in the division has coming up. Games within the division are highlighted and in bold:
Let’s go over the week that was and the week that will be for all eight teams in the Metropolitan Division. For this week, I will address each of the five potential playoff teams as if I am writing to them as a collective unit directly.
Washington, you had a chance to really tighten your grip on the division crown. You still have your hands on it, but it is not a strong grip. You enter this week with a mere one point lead over the Islanders and, now, Pittsburgh. I don’t understand. You decisively beat New Jersey 4-1 and forced OT for a loss to Tampa Bay back-to-back. That was good. But losing 2-1 to Minnesota? At home? I know it’s not always going to be your night, but that loss kept the door slightly open for the Isles and Pens. A three-point lead does not seem like much but with teams only having six to eight games left, such a lead is welcomed. At least, it is over a mere one point lead.
Caps, get ready for a tricky week. You have a not-at-all-doormat Philadelphia team today and then a home-and-home over three days with Carolina. That Carolina team wants to badly secure their first trip to the playoffs in nearly a decade. They’re going to be hungry. They’re going to be excited for the match-up. And they will be a big challenge in 5-on-5 because they have been for years, but now they can actually score goals and make saves. Do not be victims of one or two potential statement-making performances. Unfortunately, you have an even stiffer test after those two games: a game in Tampa Bay on Saturday night. Tampa Bay may have secured the President’s Trophy, but they have shown no signs of letting up for the postseason. You have done well to take the top spot from the Islanders and held it for the last few weeks. Do not let it slip now. Go out this week and show the world why you are holding the crown instead of chasing it.
New York Islanders
On the one hand, nobody expected you to be in this position this late into the season. From that perspective, your 2018-19 campaign is a success. On the other hand, you need to finish the drill, so to speak. Not only to secure that playoff spot but possibly snipe that first place spot from Washington. It could have been done. But this past week makes me wonder what is real. The first and fourth games of last week were victories: 3-2 over Minnesota in OT and 4-2 over Philadelphia yesterday. Good. In the middle of the week: two shutout losses to Boston and Montreal. Bad. It’s one thing to lose, but to be shutout 5-0 and 4-0? Woof. You can credibly claim a chip on your shoulder but proving your critics correct is not what you should do. You’re still in a position to take first. Rise up. Or risk falling to third because Pittsburgh is now right with you in points.
While you have the edge in games played, that will made up in this coming week. You will get an Arizona team today that also played in Newark yesterday, so you should try to find the energy to play and win that one. You could really put the screws to Columbus’ playoff chances on Tuesday in Ohio. You could try to take something out of the game in Winnipeg on Thursday. You have a hapless Buffalo team on Saturday. I see two to three wins in theory. But if you’re going to come up lame like you did against Boston and Montreal, then you risk backing into the playoffs and starting it on the road. You’re not so bad on the road, but a playoff series starting in Pittsburgh is not as ideal as a series starting at the Nassau Coliseum against Carolina or Montreal (or if they fall flat on their face, Pittsburgh). Go out and get it.
I know. It could have been a better week. Losing to your rivals in overtime stinks. Losing a shootout against a division opponent who is behind you in the standings is not ideal. But, hey, don’t get down. Those are two points earned. Two points that go well with the shootout win over Nashville and the regulation win over Dallas you picked up to close the week. Given how first through fifth in the Metropolitan all have 39 ROW, you may want to push for regulation or overtime wins. But you have the points to make a late charge for the top. Press on and remind the league who you are.
You will have to wait, though. Your schedule coming up just has two games: a road game against the Rangers and a home game against Nashville. Obviously, you should try to win both. Also make the most of the days off to practice, heal up, and study tapes. As you know, the playoffs are a grind, so prepare as best as you can so you can secure a spot next week and prepare for your opponent, which may be the Islanders as of the moment.
After nearly ten years of being out of the playoffs, you’re on your way to getting back in. Not only are you owners of the first wild card spot, but you still have a chance of taking third in the Metropolitan. Not a big one, but it is not totally impossible given the two games in hand you have on Pittsburgh. Getting a shootout win over Pittsburgh was not ideal, but it still was two points earned. You took a ‘L’ in a big way to Tampa Bay, 6-3; but you bounced back with a bigger 5-1 win over Minnesota today. That is your 14th week of the season where you earned at least half of the points and now you’re sitting in a secure spot. Your tickets are punched yet, but they’re going to be printed out real soon.
You can make a big statement with the four games coming up this week. While you’re ahead of Montreal, you get to host them today. Beat them in regulation and you will ease some of the pressure they may put on you. Columbus fans will also be happy if you do so. But it is not about Columbus fans. It is about doing what is best for you. And can you imagine how much you could change the top of the division with a successful home and home with Washington? You go there on Tuesday, you host them on Thursday, and points out of those games will secure your own spot and earn even more respect against a potential playoff opponent. Saturday has a potential trap game against Philly. Dodge the trap and you will be one step closer to earning one of the most glorious letters in the standings: ‘X.’
Columbus Blue Jackets
What is the matter with you, Columbus? You went out and made big trades. You’ve put together a roster that is difficult to play against. You’ve had a team that has been in the playoff picture throughout this season. Yet, as of today, you’re out. You’re out by three points, in fact. You had two games, both on the road in Alberta, and you lost them in regulation. 4-2 to Calgary; OK, fine, Calgary is a good team too. 4-1 to Edmonton? Edmonton! That’s embarrassing. And costly. Now Montreal has 87 points, you have 84, and while you have a game in hand on Montreal, that is not enough. You “went for it” and now there is a real chance you won’t be in it. This is not good for anyone and their job security.
You have four games coming up this week. This needs to be a successful week. I do not mean just eking out five points out of a potential eight. You have Vancouver tonight. Win it. You have the Islanders on Tuesday. You should get something out of that game. You have Montreal - the team owning a wild card spot ahead of you now - on Thursday and it is at home. You need to win that game. If you don’t, that could be it for any realistic shot at the postseason. And, lastly, you go to Nashville on Saturday. If you can, get something out of that one too. They will have played the night before; take advantage of that. Above all else, this needs to be a winning week. Otherwise, you’re entering an offseason with a potentially lot of changes made for failing to qualify. Don’t blow it.
The Sherman Abrams Zone
Finally! Philadelphia is here! Shame that they suck at sucking as they foolishly believed they can make a run. Now, they’re going to have to hope for lottery luck.
This is where I’d like to say otherwise, but I agree. Yes, they’re four points back of Columbus but with less than ten games less this season and Columbus outside of the playoff picture themselves, Philadelphia would need an awesome run and Columbus and Montreal to falter real bad at this point. It’s not happening.
Neither is a real tanking effort. They have 80 points. They just came off a 2-2-0 week where they got an overtime win in Pittsburgh and a 3-1 win in Chicago. The Flyers bottled their home games: 3-1 to Montreal and 4-2 to the Isles. But falling down means getting it not done on the road. At this rate, their tanking goal would be to get below Florida (78 points) and hope one or more of Chicago, Vancouver, or Edmonton get hot (74 points each) whilst losing out. They have a game today in Washington, a home game on Wednesday against Toronto, and a game in Carolina on Saturday. That’s three games where the opponents have something to play for. Hopefully, the Flyers understand and play relentful hockey.
Is that a real word?
My zone! My rules! Now to the real tankers. Cheers and jeers to the bottom of the division. Cheers to the New York Rangers for falling further and further. As of 10 PM last night, they sat at 26th overall. They have a chance to be at 27th if Anaheim gets some results. Here I was fearing they would be in the high-20s. Jeers to them for A) taking Toronto to OT last night and B) winning that OT game. They didn’t just win but they picked up a ROW. Good thing they loaded up on empty shootout wins earlier in the season so one ROW will not mess with them. Do not make a habit of it. Good news for the Rangers faithful who have subscribed to my thinking: the Rangers get Pittsburgh, Boston, and St. Louis this week. 0-3-0 is a real possibility. Go for it!
Cheers to the New Jersey Devils for heading into Saturday with three straight losses. All in regulation. All definitive losses. Good! Jeers to the Devils for hanging with an Arizona team that had something to play for, getting into and through overtime, and beating them in a shootout. Like the Rangers, if you’re going to win, I guess don’t get a ROW. But I’d rather you not win at all. Those two extra points put them further ahead of Detroit, Los Angeles, and Ottawa (who also won yesterday, which I’m sure pleased Avalanche fans). At least Detroit and LA has games in hand on the Devils. Anyway, the Devils have three games this coming week: vs. Buffalo, at Detroit, and vs. St. Louis. The Devils may actually get some positive results given how bad Buffalo has been, how terrible Detroit has been in general, and how St. Louis would have played the night before like the Devils. I ask them to recall what they have done for most of this season to get them to where they are today: and do that again. I believe in you failing, even if some fans think that’s terrible.
It is a sad thing.
Quiet you. Tanking is not about happiness or feeling good or satisfaction or having fun. It is about getting more lottery balls in the machine and praying for the right combination.
And so that closes the next-to-last weekly snapshot of the Metropolitan Division for the 2018-19 season. Next Sunday will be the last one for this season. It will return for 2019-20 in October. What are your thoughts about the division? Who will take first place by the end of this week coming up? Who has the most to worry about? Can Columbus get their acts together and get back into a wild card spot by next week? Who in the Sherman Abrams Zone will fail the most in this coming week? Please leave your answers and other thoughts in the comments. Thank you for reading.