This is the final weekly Metropolitan Division snapshot of the 2018-19 season. After Saturday’s games, the regular season is over. The playoffs will begin. As of right now, the Metropolitan Division will be sending five teams. Two have mathematically clinched a playoff spot. Three more are on pace. The Washington Capitals have the inside track to take the division; do not be surprised if by the middle of this coming week that their ‘X’ turns into a ‘Y.’ However, nothing is set in stone just yet as plenty can change in this final week of games at both ends of the standings. To that end, this week’s snapshot has an expanded look to include the wild card race in the Eastern Conference and the race to the bottom of the standings.
It is very tight in the middle and the bottom of the league standings can still go in a lot of different directions. As the standings are expanded for this week’s snapshot, so is the upcoming schedule. All games that are in bold and highlighted are within the division for that team.
While the standings and schedules are expanded, what follows is a summary of what each team in the Metropolitan Division did last week and what they have coming up.
X - Washington Capitals
Congratulations to the Washington Capitals for securing a playoff berth. While it was never in doubt, it is an accomplishment to get the ‘X’ in the standings. The Capitals achieved it amid a great week of games. After going 1-1-1 last week, Washington swept their four games in this past week. Philadelphia? 3-1, go sit down. Carolina in a home-and-home? It was a win-win for Washington. Tampa Bay on the road? 6-3, statement made against the President’s Trophy winners.
The Capitals have a three point lead on the Islanders, which is a massive lead at this point of the season. Should Washington stay hot and get results, they could claim the division before their last game. The Capitals can certainly do it. They’ll go to Florida on April 1, they’ll host Montreal on April 4 in a game with wild-card implications, and they’ll host the Islanders on April 6. If the Caps take care of business before that Isles game, then it’ll just be a game. If they stumble in Sunrise and against Montreal, then that season-ender will have some juice. All the same, the Caps have the inside track.
X - New York Islanders
Who would have thought that the Islanders would go to the playoffs? After an offseason that did not look good on paper and a man named John leaving the team, most wrote of the Isles. Needless to say, the haters have been dealt a blow. The Islanders punched their postseason ticket yesterday with a 3-1-0 week. The Isles shut out Arizona, completed a stunning comeback late in regulation in Winnipeg to win 5-4, and smashed Buffalo 5-1 yesterday. Their only slip-up was a 4-0 defeat in Columbus, which was big for the Blue Jackets. Had they prevailed there, they would have been breathing down the necks of Washington for first. Instead, there is a gap. There is a more favorable gap, though. They are four points ahead of Pittsburgh and while the Pens have a game in hand, they need some breaks to take home ice away from their potential playoff matchup. The best news is that they have secured a playoff spot at all. Now let’s see what they can do.
Before the postseason, the Islanders will have three games to play. They will host Toronto on April 1, they’ll go to Florida on April 4, and then go to D.C. to play Washington on April 6. Making up a three-point gap in three games will be tough. The Isles need to succeed and the Caps need to falter. They should also hope the Pens stumble to secure second in the Metropolitan. Still, with Toronto struggling and Florida being bad, the Isles can certainly enter Game #82 with two wins in a row. Will it be enough to make up the gap? Who knows.
The Penguins were mostly idle with only two games in this past week. They split them. Pittsburgh beat the Rangers, 5-2, last Monday. They lost 3-1 at home to Nashville last Friday. Not bad, but not good. They are now four points behind the Islanders for second place and home-ice in a potential playoff matchup between the two. The Penguins have a game in hand but one game in hand will not be enough to surpass the Isles.
That game in hand is today: a home game against Carolina. On paper, that is their most difficult game in this week. The Penguins will have a non-consecutive home-and-home with Detroit and the New York Rangers in their season closer for this coming Saturday. That’s three games against two teams who have nothing to play for. Detroit has been hot recently, but bad teams are bad for a reason and I do not know how long they will keep it up. The Rangers can also be a trap; just ask St. Louis. Still, the Penguins have a relatively easy schedule. If they can down the Canes - something Columbus and Montreal fans want to see - then they have a path to have a very good week and could snipe second place in the division if the Isles slip. As ever, do not count out the Penguins.
The Carolina Hurricanes are on the inside track of making the playoffs through one of the two wild card spots in the Eastern Conference. Their odds look very good as per Moneypuck. However, there is a cause for concern. They are just ahead of Columbus and Montreal by a point. The Canes did win yesterday but that closed out a week where they went 2-2-0. They beat Montreal last Sunday but that was through overtime, so their competitors earned a point. They lost in regulation to Washington twice; one win there would have been huge. At least they handled their business against Philadelphia. While the models and the odds are looking great for Carolina, they are not entirely safe.
It is not favorable that they will open this week in Pittsburgh. The Pens are rested and have an incentive like keeping Carolina in the wild card spots and wanting to move up. The Canes did play yesterday so they may not be. After Sunday’s game, Carolina will hit the road to play Toronto, return home to host New Jersey, and then go to Philadelphia for their last game of the season. Those are three teams with not a lot to play for. If Carolina wants to earn their first trip to the playoffs in a while, then they should be able to come out of this week with enough points to secure it. While not as easy as Pittsburgh’s schedule, this is do-able. Now they just have to finish the drill, so to speak.
Columbus Blue Jackets
Washington was not the only Metropolitan Division team to sweep last week. Columbus won all four of their games. These were important games. The Blue Jackets were on the outside looking in as of last week’s snapshot. Now, they are ahead of Montreal due to games played and a superior ROW and they are one point behind the Canes. Columbus crushed Vancouver 5-0 last Sunday, rolled the Isles 4-0 last Tuesday, hammered Montreal 6-2 in a game with huge playoff implications, and prevailed 5-2 in Nashville yesterday. These were not just four wins. These were not just four regulation wins. These were four emphatic victories.
Columbus is not at all safe. They may have an edge in ROW and one extra game to play than Montreal, but they are still tied in points. They went 4-0-0 and they’re only just ahead of Montreal as a result for the second wild card spot. Cooling off this week may doom them. Fortunately for them, the Blue Jackets have the following schedule: at Buffalo today, at home to Boston on Tuesday, at the Rangers on Friday, and at Ottawa on Saturday. This is a very favorable one on paper. Buffalo, the Rangers, and Ottawa are in the “Race to the Bottom” for a reason, after all. If the Blue Jackets get snared by Buffalo, the Rangers, and/or Ottawa in games they need to win, then they truly do not deserve the postseason.
The Sherman Abrams Zone
Thank you for finally giving me a chart that people care about.
No thank you for not having me here earlier.
Let’s get on with it.
Fine. Philadelphia Flyers, congratulations on being officially eliminated. I think it was yesterday, but let’s be real, you were done before then. Now you’re more likely to pick at 14th overall and finish ten points out of a playoff spot, which will cause your fans to wonder why you didn’t do things my way. The sad thing is that this past week would have worked. Going 1-2-0 is not perfect but that one win was a shootout win over Toronto, so you did not pick up a useless ROW for your efforts. Your now lost season will end with a week of at the Rangers, at Dallas, at St. Louis, and at home to Carolina. That’s a sandwich of whatever bread with Central Division meat in the middle. What happens to you now? Who cares. Unless you win a lottery, you’re irrelevant on April 9.
Moving onto the New York Rangers. You also went 1-2-0. You should have went 0-3-0. That late win over St. Louis may have provided some thrills to your fans at MSG but it put you on the outside track for 27th and possibly 28th. That one win put you ahead of Buffalo, a team that knows all about my teachings and - gets this - does not squander them with meaningless wins. So unless you think Buffalo and Detroit will win some games, you will get to “enjoy” 26th. Detroit’s been hot but they stink so that may not last. Buffalo almost faceplanted their last week of games. Falling past them is not going to be likely at this rate. 26th is not a terrible spot but with a little less effort, you would have had a shot to make the bottom five. You still could if you drop your rivalry games against Philadelphia and New Jersey today and tomorrow. You still could if you lose to Ottawa on Wednesday somehow. You still could if you let Columbus and Pittsburgh take wins at the end of the week. You’ll be busy with five games coming up. Go get those ‘L’s and maybe, just maybe, you’ll drop a few spots. But you got to want it in this Race to the Bottom.
As for the New Jersey Devils, I’m not so mad at you. Sure, you beat Buffalo. Sure, you took a point in an overtime loss against St. Louis. But you went into Detroit on Friday and played one of the most depressing games in recent memory. That was AWESOME. Detroit had been hot anyway and surpassed you in the standings. That 4-0 shutout loss put you then three points back of Detroit. You’re two points back of them in 29th. You have the inside track for a bottom-three finish and could, with help from Los Angeles, fall to 30th. I don’t know if I could rely on LA for help given how bad they are and their upcoming week is all within their division. But it is indeed possible. They did pull a OT win out against Chicago, so you can totally underwhelm your way to even better playoff odds! You have the Rangers on Monday, Carolina on Thursday, and Florida on Saturday. Carolina may be set by that game and the other two opponents are bad and have nothing to play for. But the Detroit game gives me confidence that you can not only take losses in those games but take decisive losses. Keep falling, Devils!
That was the week that was and the week that will be for the final time of the 2018-19 season. There will be no Metropolitan Division snapshot next Sunday. Thank you all for following this season series for yet another season. Hopefully, it will be more relevant and interesting for the Devils than falling to eighth and mostly staying there. What do you think of the week that just happened within the division? Who will take the two wild card spots? Will Washington hold onto the division lead or will it be lost? How far will the Rangers and Devils fall in the standings? Please leave your answers and other thoughts about all eight teams in the division in the comments. Again, thank you for reading.