Three teams in the Atlantic Division just had a great week of results. Two did not. Yet, only one of them moved down in the divisional standings:
|New York Rangers||23||12||9||2||26|
|New York Islanders||25||11||11||3||25|
(updated 3.9.2013 at 11:36 PM EST)
It's remarkable that the New Jersey Devils have slumped for at least the last two weeks, yet they remain in second place within the Atlantic Division. The damage is about to become more visible than just the Pittsburgh Penguins taking a large lead in first place. The New York Rangers, with games in hand, are just behind New Jersey. The New York Islanders had a great week and they're within two points. The Philadelphia Flyers stunk worse than the Devils and lost all three games. Given their position last week, they fell to the bottom. Unless the Devils turn it around in the results department, they will join them soon.
|Potential Points||Last Week||Conf. Position|
In a way, it's a benefit to the Devils that despite their lack of points earned in the standings, they're still where they have been in the Eastern Conference standings. That's because the teams below them are essentially battling each other and so far they're still behind. At the same time, it's lost opportunity to get ahead of the bubble the Devils are now firmly in.
As for the rest of the division, well, look at you Pittsburgh with that perfect week. The only reason why the Penguins aren't first is because Boston's been stomping through teams as they make up games in hand. Nevertheless, the Pens faithful have to be pleased with a tight hold on first place in the Atlantic. The two New York teams each had big weeks. The Islanders had their first winning week in a while and their only loss was after regulation to the Rangers. Both jumped past Philly and are closing in on New Jersey. There's plenty of season left, but both teams' fanbases have to feel real good about what their team can do as they enter the season
The schedule for this upcoming week shows a few more games within the Atlantic, including two between the two worst teams in the Atlantic from this past week:
|PIT||vs. NYI||vs. BOS||@ TOR||vs. NYR|
|NJD||vs. WPG||vs. PHI||@ PHI||vs. MTL|
|NYR||@ WSH||@ BUF||@ WPG||@ PIT|
|NYI||@ PIT||@ TBL||@ FLA|
|PHI||vs. BUF||@ NJD||@ NJD||vs. NJD|
The Devils will take on the Flyers twice in this week, and the Devils really need those points. Philly gets fellow-strugglers in Buffalo on Sunday while the Devils get a stronger Winnipeg team they already lost to twice this season. On top of that, the Devils get Montreal, one of the stronger teams in the East, at home right after the game in Philly this Friday. It's a tough week for the Devils on paper; if they are to get out of their slump, they really need to get the job done against Philadelphia. Philadelphia's in a bad spot, the team just had the dreaded "players-only" meeting, but their schedule is far easier than New Jersey's at this point in time.
Meanwhile, the Penguins get four games and two of them can help the Devils out. The Penguins get to host the Islanders on Sunday and host the Rangers on Saturday. Should Pittsburgh win, that'll help keep them down in the standings. Of course, that means they'll pull further away with the Atlantic Division lead. A game against Boston on Tuesday may dull that push, though. The Islanders and Rangers will likely pick up points anyway. The Rangers and Islanders are on the road for this week. I suspect the Rangers can get something out of Washington, Buffalo, and Winnipeg before their big test next weekend. The Islanders get a nice break after Sunday's game before facing the two Florida teams.
What do you think will happen in the week ahead for the Atlantic Division? Who will prevail in the rivalry between the two recently-slumping teams in the middle of the week? How much further will Pittsburgh pull ahead in the standings? Where will the Rangers and Islanders be after a week on the road? Please leave your answers and other thoughts about the Atlantic Division and the upcoming week of games in the comments. Thank you for reading.