For the first time since October 23, the New Jersey Devils have moved up to third in the Atlantic Division for this snapshot post. While the New York Rangers and Philadelphia Flyers still occupy the top spots, a poor run of results for the Pittsburgh Penguins saw them slip down into the Eastern Conference playoff bubble. That's the only real movement; the New York Islanders still hold the bottom of the division pretty well, though.
I wouldn't start planning any parades or anything. The Devils are on the wrong end of games played and they could easily move down back to fourth in a short amount of time. Will there be further changes by next week? Maybe. Please continue on after the jump to find out.The Devils jumped up to third partially because they had a positive week of results, but mostly because Pittsburgh has lost their last four games - including a game against the Devils.
|Potential Points||Last Week||Conf. Position|
Pittsburgh was a solid #4/#5 team in the East for so long in the first half of this season. They were battling with the Rangers and the Flyers for so long for the top spot in the Atlantic. It only took four straight losses in their last four games to drag them down to where they are. Since the Rangers remain hot and the Flyers also keep getting results, they're now pulling away from the Penguins. As I repeat over and over, this is a results-oriented business and when you don't get them, it really hurts. Can the Penguins get back into third? They can do that this week, they're only two points behind the Devils; but it'll require the Devils faltering a bit. As for the top of the Atlantic, it'll take some time and some help from the teams in front of them.
Now, the Rangers won the Winter Classic over Philly and won their other games this week, so they have a solid-in-the-short-term four point lead. While I don't think they are as good as their record indicates, they're getting results and making it easier on themselves as the season enters the grind of the second half. They've had games in hand on the division and they've made the most of them - and they still have one on Pittsburgh and two on New Jersey. They'll still have to be somewhat concerned about Flyers, especially since the Flyers do have one more game to play this week. It's going to take many dropped points (like Pittsburgh over the last two weeks) for them to lose their position in the near future. Let's hope for flopping.
Speaking of flopping, the New York Islanders are essentially spoilers at this point in the season. They didn't have a good week and now they're behind Carolina. Even if they hung out in 14th, they're over 10 points behind Pittsburgh and New Jersey and have a lot of teams in front of them. They'll need a hot streak to just to be considered more than afterthoughts at this point. Sorry Isles fans, it's just another season like this.
Since everyone's got three games this week, except for the Flyers with four, it's going to be somewhat busy this week in the Atlantic. Here's how it all breaks down.
|NYR||vs. PHX||vs. OTT||@ TOR|
|PHI||@ OTT||@ CAR||@ NYI||@ NSH|
|NJD||@ CGY||@ EDM||@ WPG|
|PIT||vs. OTT||@ WSH||@ FLA|
|NYI||vs. DET||vs. PHI||vs. BUF|
There's only one intra-division game this week and it's Isles-Flyers. Ranger fans hoping to keep Philly away should be cheering on the Islanders. I know they don't want to, but doing things you don't want to do is a part of life. In any case, the Flyers and Devils will get to travel quite a bit as they're on the road completely. The Flyers will stay East of the Mississippi River; while the Devils will make their only trip to Alberta this season and their last one to Winnipeg. As the Devils will be taking on the Flames and Oilers back-to-back, the Penguins get an arguably tougher back-to-back with Ottawa and Washington. They're now directly competing with those teams so "soon" would be a great time to snap their losing streak. The Rangers remain in the drivers' seat with their three games, while the Isles get two top teams and Buffalo at home this week.
What do you expect to happen in this coming week of games for the Atlantic Division? Will the Rangers stay hot or will they finally cool off? Can the Devils stay ahead of the Penguins by next week? Will the Islanders make a late stab towards relevance beyond "spoiler?" Please leave your answers and other thoughts about the division in the comments. Thanks for reading.