Happy New Year! The Atlantic Division hasn't changed all that much. Four out of the five teams are in playoff positions in the Eastern Conference, the division leading New York Rangers are at the top of the East, and the New York Islanders may be last here but not in the East!
Despite the sameness from last week, the Atlantic Division remains competitive. Can the New Jersey Devils start making up ground on the Pittsburgh Penguins? Can the Rangers and Philadelphia Flyers battle for first in the East as well as the division? Can the New York Islanders avoid fifteenth in the division for another week? I don't know, but we can look to see what each team has to do in this coming week after the jump.Nobody within the Atlantic really had a stand-out run of results last week, but the two New York teams and the Devils had positive results.
|Potential Points||Last Week||Conf. Position|
The Devils have the most intriguing week ahead if only because of the sheer number of games they'll play. By next week's post, everyone else in the Atlantic will have at least one game in hand on them. At the same time, they have an opportunity to jump Pittsburgh in the standings. They're 3 points behind the Penguins, less than the potential four points more the Devils can earn this week. Moreover, one of those games Pittsburgh and New Jersey will play in this coming week will be against each other, which can either tip the scales further in New Jersey's favor or block them from moving up. It certainly won't be easy for the Devils, but this coming week presents an opportunity for a move to be made. As usual, they'll have to get results anyway just to keep ahead of Ottawa, Winnipeg, Washington, and Toronto, who are within two points of each other.
Meanwhile, the Rangers and Flyers will be playing a rather high-profile game on Monday. The Rangers have the edge in terms of recent results, not to mention the last win between the two teams this season. Whoever loses that big game on Monday will have a mathematical chance to make up for it later. Short of either Philly or New York hitting a slump, expect these two to remain battling for the top and ahead of Pittsburgh for another week.
Down in the pit of the Atlantic, the Islanders can actually feel good. They went 2-1-0 out of three games, with those two wins taking place on Long Island. It's not much, they're still on pace to end up being spoilers sooner rather than later. But with four games in hand on Carolina and two on 13th place Montreal, it's not impossible for them to think about securing or getting ahead of the Eastern Conference basement. After all, they're not going to be challenging New Jersey any time soon in the division.
Here's the schedule for each team in this coming week:
|NYR||@ PHI||vs. FLA||@ PIT|
|PHI||vs. NYR||vs. CHI||vs. OTT|
|PIT||vs. NYR||vs. NJD|
|NJD||@ OTT||vs. BOS||vs. FLA||@ PIT|
|NYI||@ CAR||@ ANA||@ PHX|
I wasn't kidding when I said it won't be easy for the Devils. Ottawa's two points behind New Jersey, so that's an important road game. Then they get to enjoy Boston at home, Florida at home, and then Pittsburgh on the next night. All of those are teams ahead of the Devils in the standings. They'll catch the Panthers and Penguins on a back-to-back of their own, though I wouldn't expect the Penguins to be all that tired since they'll be off in the next five days. If the Devils can get more than 4 points out of this coming week of games, then that would be fine in my opinion. More is always preferred, of course.
Incidentally, Pittsburgh's short week could turn out to be big for them within the division. They'll look for revenge on Saturday, and they'll have a chance to make up ground on the Rangers on Friday. If they can win both games, then they'll get more distance between them and New Jersey while keeping some hope alive for a short-term move up within the Atlantic. Of course, how hopeful they could be will depend on how the Winter Classic will go on Monday. Pittsburgh fans may want to root for Philly just to make the gap between the Pens and Rangers closer. Then again, I might as well be asking pigs to go fly around the state or something.
What do you expect to happen in this coming week of games for the Atlantic Division? Will the Rangers or Flyers take over first place in the Atlantic? Will the Devils stay where they are, dip a bit in the standings, get closer to Pittsburgh, or (somehow) jumping ahead of the Penguins? Please leave your answers and other thoughts about the division in the comments. Thanks for reading.