Weekly Metropolitan Division Snapshot: 12/29 - 1/4

Pittsburgh continues to the lead the division. It couldn't hurt if they dropped some points to NJ... - Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sport

As a new year approaches, the Pittsburgh Penguins control the top, the New York Islanders own the basement, and the remaining six teams remain close with each other. This week's snapshot shows that the first few weeks of 2014 could start off a lot like last few weeks of 2013.

2013 will end and 2014 will begin this week.  For many in the league, this will also be the week the first half of the season ends and the second half begins.   At this crucial time to take a weekly snapshot of the Metropolitan Division, the story remains the same.  The Pittsburgh Penguins continue to rule the division with an iron stick.  The New York Islanders are fading into the distance in last place.  The other six spots remain up for grabs.

Team GP W L OT ROW Pts. Last Week Ptl. Pts.
PIT 40 28 11 1 25 57 1-1-0 6
WSH 38 20 14 4 12 44 1-1-0 8
PHI 38 18 16 4 16 40 2-0-0 8
NJD 40 16 16 8 16 40 1-1-1 6
CBJ 38 17 17 4 15 38 2-0-0 8
NYR 39 18 19 2 16 38 2-1-0 8
CAR 38 14 15 9 13 37 0-1-1 8
NYI 39 11 21 7 7 29 1-1-0 8

Source: NHL.com - Links go to SBN Blogs

It was a short last week but there was still plenty of spots changing within division.   The New Jersey Devils fell as low as seventh and then rose as high as third before the Philadelphia Flyers got their first win in years in Edmonton to jump ahead of them.   While it's good that the Devils are in the mix, so to speak, their problem becomes apparent now.  They've played more games than everyone except for the Penguins.  In this coming week, everyone around them will use up one of their games in hand on New Jersey.  Given the tough schedule the Devils have and it's likely they will not be near third by next Sunday.

As for the middle of the division, well, they've mostly done well.  The Philadelphia Flyers took four out of four points and are in the best position of actually taking third place beyond just a day.  Of course, their upcoming schedule is as pretty as mud so who knows if that will work out.  The Washington Capitals do hold a four point lead on third place, but they slipped a bit and so that lead doesn't look terribly insurmountable.   The Columbus Blue Jackets won both of their games to get themselves up a bit. But they need to keep winning as others keep failing. The New York Rangers had a good week but they're in the same boat as the Blue Jackets.  The Carolina Hurricanes were the only ones to falter the most with only one point.  Yet, they cannot be counted out at all.   Only the Isles really can at this point.

As the new year approaches, the only fanbase within the Metropolitan that can be truly pleased must be the Penguins supporters.  Their team has a 13 point lead over second-place Washington.  Unlike the Caps, they have many more regulation-overtime wins (ROW) so they hold that crucial tiebreaker.  Not only are they in control of first in the division but also in the Eastern Conference.  They've been hot recently but all season, they've just been great.  It would take a lot for that lead to fade and I don't think the team is going to flop so hard to have that happen.  Well done, Pittsburgh, you continue to take care of business and, of course, to have the headline photo for these posts.

The Penguins will be important in this coming week of games for the Metropolitan as all three of them are within the division.

Team 12/29 12/30 12/31 1/1 1/2 1/3 1/4
NJD vs. PIT vs. CHI @ BUF
NYI @ MIN @ BOS vs. CHI vs. CAR

For the Devils fans, the rule is simple with respect to inter-division games against Pittsburgh.  Hope the Pens beat everyone in regulation but the Devils.   From my standpoint, the Devils or anyone else isn't going to catch Pittsburgh.  So it would be helpful to the Devils if they smash Columbus and Our Hated Rivals.  Of course, they're a really good team so that New Year's Eve game is going to be a real challenge.  It may seem silly to start rooting for other opponents to help the Devils out in the standings in January.  Since the middle of the division totally up for grabs, any help now can be helpful later in the season.

Likewise, I would treat the Isles as spoilers right now.  It's going to take a massive run for them to get back into seventh place, much less the playoff picture.  So it would be cool of them to beat Carolina at the end of this week.  After games against Minnesota, Boston, and Chicago, a game against Carolina might be welcomed by the Isles.  Or not, given how their season is going.

The Devils will have it rough this week.  They will face the best team in the East followed by the best team in the West.  The game against Buffalo at the end of the week is very likely a must-win if only to avoid a real possibility of going pointless.  With three points separating third and seventh, going pointless in a week simply isn't an option. It is a fast way to fall down in the standings.   As they have one fewer game, they may want to consider cheering for Western Conference teams.  Philly continues a trip through the Western Conference and those can be rather difficult.   After facing the Pens today, Columbus gets two of those same teams plus a really strong St. Louis team.  It is clearly in the Devils interest for those teams to struggle.  Hopefully it starts today.

Later this week, we will say welcome to 2014, but the Metropolitan Division situation will remain the same as it was 2013.  But who will be on top after Pittsburgh?  Can Washington hold on to second place?  Will the Flyers and Blue Jackets strive or struggle through their respective road trips?  Will the Canes and Rangers keep pace? What can we honestly expect from the Devils this week?  Please leave your answers and other thoughts about the division and this week's schedule in the comments. Thank you for reading.

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