Pittsburgh remains at the top of the Metropolitan Division. They swept their week and they have full control of first place with a ten point lead over second place. The Pittsburgh Penguins just keep on rolling. However, what's different this week is that some separation has begun to form between those in the playoffs and those on the outside looking in.
|Team||GP||W||L||OT||ROW||Pts||Last Week||Ptl. Pts|
Source: NHL.com - Links go to SBN Blogs
The Washington Capitals and Carolina Hurricanes have jumped up to second and third place with small leads over their fellow teams stuck in the middle of the division. The Canes' little lead is weak, though. They're tied for the division lead in games played and they didn't exactly have a great week. While the players will definitely love having plenty of time off (and maybe they need the rest), a two-game week hurts when everyone around them has three or four. The Capitals, on the other hand, are in a great spot to start securing that second place spot. They have games in hand on everyone not named the Philadelphia Flyers, they're coming off a near-perfect week, and they've got a busy week. Another strong week would definitely help them out, especially considering who they are playing. More on that in a bit.
Last week, I made a big deal of the inter-division games the New Jersey Devils would have played last week. They had the Columbus Blue Jackets and Penguins; they lost both games. Losing to the Pens wasn't as painful as the Blue Jackets loss. Not just because they choked a 3-1 lead away but also because of what happened in the Metropolitan. Columbus had a good week as a result of it and are now ahead of New Jersey, who fortunately got a win against Tampa Bay to keep pace. Look at it this way: if the Devils did win that game and all other results happened the way they did, Columbus would be sitting in seventh while the Devils would be a mere point behind Carolina. These division games matter.
Of course, it matters to get wins at any point and perhaps that should be the general goal for the bottom four teams. They had three wins between them and believe it or not, the New York Islanders weren't the winless squad. They managed to get a shootout win in San Jose to snap their long losing streak. Good for them, though they remain in a deep hole. No, the New York Rangers dropped three straight at home last week. They need to sort that out quickly. They may only be a point behind fourth place but continued futility will only result in disappointment. Just ask the Isles. Or consider that we could be talking about five teams fighting for one playoff spot instead of six for two should the Caps keep on winning.
The Capitals will not only get a chance to really help themselves out but cause a lot of change within the division. Check out the schedule for this coming week of games. Games in bold are within the division:
|PIT||vs. TOR||@ NYR||vs. MIN||vs. CGY|
|WSH||vs. PHI||@ PHI||@ CAR||vs. NJD|
|CAR||vs. WSH||@ TBL|
|CBJ||vs. WPG||@ PHI||vs. PHI|
|NJD||vs. OTT||vs. ANA||@ WSH|
|PHI||@ WSH||vs. WSH||vs. CBJ||@ CBJ|
|NYR||vs. CGY||vs. PIT||vs. NYI|
|NYI||vs. TBL||@ NYR||vs. ANA|
The Washington Capitals play four games within the Metropolitan Division and they're all against teams worse than them in the standings. They start with a home-and-home with Philadelphia before a back-to-back with a well-rested Carolina team and New Jersey coming off a game the night before as well. This is a tricky spot for the Devils fan. Do you root for the Caps to win to keep those teams down? Or do you hope they falter to open up the division to six teams fighting for two spots? Likewise, the Philadelphia Flyers will have a lot of say of what happens too. In addition to their home-and-home with the Caps, they get a home-and-home with the Blue Jackets. These games will directly affect the Devils even more considering that the Flyers are right behind them in the standings with games in hand. I'm not even sure what an ideal situation looks like other than hoping for no three-point games. Even that's not likely given Washington's tendency to take games beyond sixty minutes this season (e.g. their shootout record is 7-3, meaning almost a third of their games have went to the shootout).
At least the other inter-division games are easier to figure out. The Penguins will likely continue rolling through teams since they are one of the best in the NHL. It would be appreciated if they knock off the Rangers on Wednesday. It's good to see the Isles actually win a game and take Montreal to OT on Saturday night. Maybe they can get their groove back and take points from the Rangers on Friday. Of course, we should hope the Devils do well, though that back-to-back with Anaheim (they'll want revenge) and the Caps is going to be difficult. Let's hope they don't drop the game against Ottawa first.
This week's schedule starts today at 3 PM so we'll get some idea of what to hope for soon enough. In the meantime, what do you expect to happen within the Metropolitan Division this week? Will the Caps secure second place or will they tumble? Where do you expect the Devils to end up by next Sunday? Please leave your answers and other thoughts about this past week and the upcoming week within the division in the comments. Thank you for reading.