Everything remains the same in the Atlantic Division compared to last week. The Philadelphia Flyers hold onto the top spot in the division but only by a point ahead of the Pittsburgh Penguins. The New York Rangers remain in third, lurking in the distance. The New York Islanders and New Jersey Devils remain in the basement.
That said, what would you say if I told you the Devils got the most points out of any Atlantic Division team last week? Because they did. Follow along after the jump for more.
The best week the Devils had in their nightmarish season in terms of points in a week was in the final full week of November. They had 4 games, they won 3 of them, and it rekindled hope that perhaps the Devils would turn it around. As we know now, they did not. Regardless of position in the standings, getting 5 points out of a possible 6 is laudable. Especially when it includes getting 3 points out of back-to-back games on the road, where the Devils have been awful this season. While it's only 3 games and by no means justification for any call of a "turnaround," it's clearly an improvement over the many past weeks where New Jersey got only one win or none at all.
Pittsburgh and Philadelphia also had good weeks, only they got the same exact record. That's not good for the Penguins.
|Potential Points||Last Week||Conf. Position|
Based on the current standings, the Penguins (and Rangers) have played 2 more games than the Flyers. When someone with the lead has games in hand on their closest opponents, it benefits the team in the lead. This week, one of those games in hand on the Penguins will be used up; though the Flyers will still have 2 games in hand on the Rangers. Essentially, if you don't want to see Philadelphia establish a larger lead on the division by the end of this week, then you need to do more than root for Pittsburgh and the Rangers, you need to hope the Flyers drop some games.
What makes this situation all the more enticing are the number of inter-division games in this coming this week:
|PHI||@ NYR||vs. WSH||vs. OTT||vs. NJD|
|PIT||vs. DET||@ NJD||vs. CAR|
|NYR||vs. PHI||vs. TOR||@ CAR||@ ATL|
|NYI||vs. NJD||vs. WSH||@ BUF|
|NJD||@ NYI||vs. PIT||@ PHI|
Today, the Flyers and Rangers will face off in what should be an important game for both. If the Flyers really want to smack the Rangers on the proverbial nose with the proverbial newspaper, this is the game for them. The Rangers need to get a result to gain some ground on Philadelphia, who will have 4 straight home games after their game in Madison Square Garden today.
The other inter-division games all involve the Devils. While their season is pretty much lost, they can take the role of spolier in all of their games. They can spoil the Islanders' hope of trying to get out from 14th in the East. They can have an effect on the division lead in their games against Pittsburgh and Philadelphia. It's not where Devils fans wanted the team to be this season, but it's where they are. If this past week was proof of anything, it's that they can be a competitive hockey team and that may be enough to ruin the Penguins and/or Flyers for one night.