This is the last full week of games before the Winter Olympic break kicks in. The Metropolitan Division remains as it has been for much of the past few months. The New York Islanders are bringing up the rear. The Pittsburgh Penguins are continuing to dominate. And second place is only a few points ahead of seventh. Something has to give soon.
|Team||GP||W||L||OT||ROW||Pts.||Last Week||Ptl. Pts.|
Source: NHL.com - Links go to SBN Blogs
There is a twist with this week's snapshot. The second place team has a bit of an edge. The New York Rangers took care of business in this past week. They won both games "on the road" at Yankee Stadium and continued to punch Islander playoff hopes right in it's metaphorical face. They swept the week and hold a three point lead over the rest of the bunch behind them. Can they keep it up? So far the pattern has been for teams to fall almost as quickly as they rose. So we'll see.
The Philadelphia Flyers and Carolina Hurricanes continued to apply pressure. They won two out of their three games and remain very much involved. The Canes are a special threat with fewer games than everyone else played. Their game against Buffalo a few weeks back was postponed until after the Olympics, so they'll hold an advantage in games until March or so. It won't be made up in this week. As for the Flyers, they're doing what needs to be done. The Columbus Blue Jackets cooled off but did win their last two games in this past week to hold onto third. The Rangers faithful needs to be concerned with those three teams.
As do the Devils faithful as they're chasing them at the moment. That dropped point in Nashville sure would look nice - as would not losing to Our Hated Rivals or the Blues. So it goes.Also concerned are the Washington Capitals. They split their week in points and gained no ground. Their lack of regulation or overtime wins (ROW) hurts them in tiebreakers. Like the Devils, they need to start stringing some wins together and soon. Sure, being only three points back of the third playoff spot isn't much. The problem is that they have to jump teams to get there. A winning streak would help but can the Devils and Caps string one together? I guess we're going to find out - maybe after the break.
On the cookie portions of the sandwich cookie that is the Metropolitan, the Penguins keep getting results. They lost on Saturday night but it's no big deal from a standings point of view. As long as they don't spiral out of control with a long losing streak, the division is their's for the taking. In fact, so is the best record in the Eastern Conference as they have five more points than Boston. On the flipside, the Isles didn't get any. They lost to Boston and Their Hated Rivals twice. Ten points back doesn't seem impossible, but behind six teams, they'll need to get crazy-hot to get back in the mix. A lot of hockey will be played in March so I'm not going to say it won't happen. So I'll just say it doesn't look good for them.
The upcoming week of games is the final full week before the Winter Games in Sochi. The NHL will have their roster freeze come into affect on February 7. So if you're looking for any possible trades, then they may happen by Friday. (The actual trade deadline is on March 5.) In any case, here's the schedule ahead - all inter-division games are in bold.
|PIT||vs. OTT||@ BUF||vs. NYR|
|NYR||vs. COL||vs. EDM||@ PIT|
|CBJ||@ ANA||@ LAK||@ SJS|
|PHI||@ SJS||vs. COL||vs. CGY|
|CAR||vs. WPG||vs. FLA||vs. MTL|
|NJD||vs. COL||vs. EDM||@ WSH|
|WSH||vs. DET||vs. NYI||vs. WPG||vs. NJD|
|NYI||@ WSH||vs. CGY||vs. COL|
The Capitals will be the busiest among all eight teams with four games. They get to play on Super Bowl Sunday against a wild-card-battling Detroit team. They also have a chance to make a difference within the division with games against the Isles and Devils. That February 8 game will be crucial for both teams as they jockey for position. Devils fans should hope the Isles and Winnipeg slows the Caps down going into that game. Of course, the Devils really need to get as many wins as they can. Getting a win over Colorado would be highly appreciated and they should beat an obviously-tanking Edmonton squad - especially after playing the Rangers the night prior. I'm hoping they can make it three-for-three, but nothing in this league is ever easy.
Speaking of not easy, check out Columbus. They get to enjoy a road trip against the California teams this week. All three remain strong teams. L.A. has had trouble scoring and so have slipped in the standings. They'll likely be up for that game on Thursday to help make things right for them. It would be cool for the rest of the division if California can put Columbus in their place. Similarly, it would be cool for all involved if the Penguins beat down the Rangers on Friday night. Elsewhere, Carolina gets the benefit of three straight home games, Philly travels to San Jose first before coming home to face Colorado, who's rolling through the Metropolitan this week, and Calgary. With no other inter-division games, it's easy as to who to cheer for as a Devils fan: the other team.
What do you think will happen within the division this week? Will the Rangers maintain control of second in the division for another week? Who will take third place? How do you want to see the wildcard represented (right now, Philly has one spot)? What do you expect - not want, but expect - the Devils to do this week? Please leave your answers and other thoughts about the division and upcoming week of games in the comments. Thank you for reading.