The final full week of NHL games before the All Star Game just got wrapped up last night. A short week lies ahead, and the only movement within the Atlantic Division involved the Pittsburgh Penguins and New Jersey Devils swapping spots. Nevertheless, four teams are in playoff position prior to the short week and the New York Islanders made a surprising move.
The schedules haven't been fully aligned with respect to games played, but as it stands the games in hand really wouldn't make a difference in terms of positioning. The New York Rangers still have the top spot, the Philadelphia Flyers command second place, and the Islanders have a stranglehold on fifth. Let's find out what they did in this past week and get a look at the short week ahead after the jump.
Here's a quick summary of what each team did last week, where they are in the East, and how many points they can get in this coming week. Again, it's a short week, so no one can really get past anyone within the division.
|Potential Points||Last Week||Conf. Position|
Sad to say, the Devils were the only team in the Atlantic Division to have a losing week of results. It's been six weeks since the Devils failed to get at least half of all points in a week. I suppose all good things must come to an end. However, just the one poor week was enough to slip in both the divisional and conference standings. They're still in the better end of the playoff bubble; but they're now only three points ahead of ninth place Toronto and only one ahead of eighth place Washington. Continued struggles could see the Devils end up out of playoff contention rather quickly. That's how tight it is in the East. Teams who have extended slumps or runs of bad luck will suffer and fast. Therefore, it's vital for the Devils to avoid dropping 3+ games in a row. It'd be great if they get hot again, but getting points is the key.
As far as who did get hot, check out those Penguins. With several top players injured, one would have expected the Pens to fall apart and muddle their way through games. Dan Bylsma and his crew had other opinions. They swept last week - including a decisive 4-1 win over the Rangers - and the team's on a five game winning streak. Pittsburgh is now back in playoff position and they have their eyes set on Philly and Ottawa, who each have 60 points prior to today's game. The Pens may not be able to catch them in this short week, but they can get much closer. The lesson: never count out a great possession team.
While the Pens certainly impressed, the most surprising team from last week has to be the Islanders. They won three out of their four last week, seemingly out of nowhere. Moreover, the bottom third of the East has become a lot closer. The continued failings of Montreal and Buffalo combined with the Isles, Tampa Bay, and Carolina have put those five in a close group in the standings. Therefore, with 6 out of 8 points, the Isles jumped to twelfth in the East. Very good. They're still way behind playoff contention in the East. Still, Isles fans can be happy their team is not in the conference basement for the moment.
It's a short week, so here's a short look at the week ahead:
|PHI||vs. BOS||@ FLA|
|PIT||vs. WSH||@ STL|
|NYI||@ TOR||vs. TOR|
There are no intra-divisional games this week, so it's pretty clear who Devils fans should be supporting. Given the Capitals are closer to the Devils than the Penguins, it would be in New Jersey's best interest if the Pens won today's matinee game. Likewise, let's hope for Boston to beat on Philly because, well, we hate Philly. The Flyers can't suffer too much because they could do some good by beating on Florida on Tuesday. If you really want to hold your nose or demonstrate your ability to follow the phrase "the enemy of my enemy is my friend," then root for the Rangers to beat the Jets (currently 4 points behind NJ) on Tuesday. The Islanders are less odious to support in general and they could do the Devils a real solid by taking points from Toronto in their home-and-home series. All of those results would help out the Devils were they are in the standings. Above all else: the Devils really do need to beat Buffalo - snap their winning streak and get more points on the record.
Will the Devils win their one game? Will they remain in the top eight by the All Star Game? What do you think will happen within the Atlantic Division? Please leave your answers and other thoughts about the schedule and the division in the comments. Thank you for reading.