The performances weren't pretty, but in a results-oriented business, there can be no complaints. The New Jersey Devils won all three games last week to now stay at the top of the Eastern Conference. The Pittsburgh Penguins also won all three games, so they share the same amount of points. For a second consecutive week, the Devils lead based on having two games in hand on Pittsburgh. As a whole, the best stay better with the Devils and Penguins expanding the gap over third place New York Rangers to 16 points. The Philadelphia Flyers and New York Islanders had poor weeks and fell further behind - all the better for the Devils and Penguins. Remember all this when those bottom three teams scramble for points in, say, March.
Basically, the Atlantic Division is a two-team race right now: New Jersey and Pittsburgh. They are the hottest teams in the league with a 4 game and 5 game winning streak, respectively. There are only two intra-division games this week and the big one is this Monday when the Devils travel to Pittsburgh. The Devils are in a favorable spot because even if they lose the game, they still have two games on hand to make up the difference. As for the Rangers, Islanders, and Flyers, each plays one more game than the Devils and Penguins this week, so the Devils keep games in hand on everyone by next week. Another advantage for NJ.
|Potential Points||Last Week||Conf. Position|
One of the bottom 3 Atlantic teams that could be figuring things out are the Rangers. With an angry coach and a GM who may or may not be on the hot seat, they've clawed back up into ninth place. Good for them, I suppose. But they aren't far ahead of the five teams that make up 10th through 14th so they can't relax. The Islanders and Flyers should follow their lead soon. Here's how the upcoming week looks for the division.
|NJD||@ PIT||@ WSH|
|PIT||vs. NJ||vs. OTT|
|NYR||@ CAR||vs. FLA||vs. NYI|
|NYI||vs. TB||vs. TOR||@ NYR|
|PHI||vs. FLA||@ TB||@ CAR|
On paper, this week has two pretty tough games for Devils. Then again, who isn't a tough opponent in today's NHL? Even Carolina can "bring it" if given a chance. On the other hand, the Devils have beaten the Penguins twice already and this Saturday could see the Devils sweep the Washington Capitals this season. So this week is a toss up. Depending on how Monday's game goes and how the Penguins do on Wednesday will determine whether the Devils go into the last week of 2009 in first in the Atlantic (and possibly the conference - to that end, cheer on Buffalo on Wednesday to beat the Caps).
Though, to be honest, I am very pleased where the Devils currently are. Even if they drop both games this week, the Devils won't be too far behind Pittsburgh.