For the first time in a few weeks, there's a brand new Atlantic Division leader. Everyone else remained as they are after a short week of games.
The New Jersey Devils and New York Islanders continue their season of futility with a big nothing from the prior week. The Pittsburgh Penguins continue to enjoy the opposite of futility with a NHL-leading 9 game winning streak propelling them past the Philadelphia Flyers, creating further space from the New York Rangers, and temporarily taking hold of first in the Eastern Conference. If you're a Pens fan, you cannot complain of how the team has performed. Read on after the jump for a quick summary of last week's results and the week ahead.
In this coming week, the division will play a few more games. Despite the small amount of games last week, most of the division are in good positions in the Eastern Conference. Of course, with two obvious exceptions.
|Potential Points||Last Week||Conf. Position|
Fans of the Devils and Islanders need to be worried at this juncture. Both teams are not only about to have nearly insurmountable gaps with the third-place New York Rangers, but other teams below eighth place in the East are starting to pull away. Just look at this screenshot from this morning at NHL.com:
Devils and Islanders: you need to get points for your own sake. Otherwise, the hope of getting up to eighth place will very soon be like hoping for a unicorn.
As for the other three teams: keep up your current pace. You're in great positions for the playoffs as-is. The Flyers and Rangers can theoretically catch the Penguins this week, but that will require the Penguins to drop points. For the Flyers, it's somewhat reasonable. They have the advantage of an extra game this week and they are only behind by 2 points. For the Rangers, it's going to require the Penguins to pick up no more than one point while they sweep the week to get ahead of Pittsburgh. Given the week ahead of games, I don't think that will happen:
|PIT||vs. NJD||vs. TOR||@ BUF|
|PHI||@ NYI||vs. SJS||@ TOR||@ BOS|
|NYR||vs. OTT||@ OTT||@ CBJ|
|NJD||@ PIT||@ OTT||vs. DET|
|NYI||vs. PHI||@ BOS||vs. ATL|
I hate to sound pessimistic, but do you think the Devils will be the team to knock off the hotter-than-an-inferno Penguins? In fact, do you think Toronto or Buffalo will be able to get the job done? The Flyers and Rangers faithful (along with the Devils supporters on Monday, of course) will be hoping so. But it wouldn't surprise me if the Penguins take all 6 points against currently-non-playoff teams this week.
In any case, the other inter-division game this week will be played early this afternoon: the Flyers and the Isles. Again, the Isles are in the same boat as New Jersey in needing points. But their week looks to be as tough as the Devils, with two solid opponents and a third hovering around eighth place.
Still, the message for those two are the same: get points. Or soon, this isn't going to matter to any who isn't a Rangers, Flyers, or Penguins fan.