Welcome the National Hockey League back to business. Four Metropolitan teams will be missing significant players to start. The New York Islanders are at the bottom and will likely stay there. No one will likely catch the Pittsburgh Penguins at the top of the division. For those of you that forgot, here's what the division looked like before the Olympic break.
|Team||GP||W||L||OT||ROW||Pts.||Last Week||Ptl. Pts.|
Source - NHL.com - Link goes to SBN Blog
Yes, that's the Penguins ahead of the New York Rangers by 16 points. They also have a game in hand on them too. It's not set in stone but do expect Pittsburgh to raise a Metropolitan Division banner in the future. It won't be an easy month, though. They will be without defenseman Paul Martin in some capacity. Defenseman Kris Letang is out indefinitely due to a stroke. That said, it's going to take a big collapse for the Rangers or anyone else to catch up to them in the standings.
On the opposite end, it's another lost season for the New York Islanders. They nine points behind New Jersey and Carolina. They played more games than everyone else in the division. And they will be without their very best player, legitimate stud forward John Tavares for the rest of this season. He tore his MCL and meniscus in his left knee, as reported by Arthur Staples at Newsday earlier last week. Garth Snow is understandably unhappy and those are Lighthouse Hockey, well, have a variety of thoughts. Short of some miraculous performances and a miracle's worth of help, it appears the Isles will remain where they are in the standings. The Tavares injury, in my mind, confirms my thinking.
The rest of the Metropolitan remains up for grabs with six teams fighting for three spots. Three, you ask? Consider: the wild card.
|W.C.||GP||W||L||OT||ROW||Pts.||Last Week||Ptl. Pts.|
Source: NHL.com - Links go to SBN Blog
Toronto's got a pretty strong hold on the first one. Their 70 points would place them second in this division, after all. But Detroit at 64 points is definitely not safe. The Rangers and Philadelphia Flyers have a bit of a cushion over the Columbus Blue Jackets, Washington Capitals, Carolina Hurricanes, and New Jersey Devils. But those four teams could just as easily surpass the Red Wings if they don't shape up soon. They do have a game in hand on Washington and New Jersey; but Carolina's got one to make up on them. For the remainder of this weekly post, I'll include the wild card teams as best as I can.
Back to the Metropolitan, the Rangers will be without Mats Zuccarello, Columbus will be without Fedor Tyutin, and those teams that didn't suffer a significant injury loss from Sochi (e.g. New Jersey) still have a small margin of error. Everyone's going back to work this week to essentially kick off a very busy and decisive March. Oh, and the trade deadline is on March 5. Carolina will go first. They will make up their postponed game against Buffalo on Tuesday, so they can feasibly jump up to put more pressure on the third place team. Here's the schedule for the Metropolitan and the two wild card teams. Inter-Metro-division games are in bold.
|PIT||vs. MTL||@ CHI|
|NYR||vs. CHI||@ PHI|
|PHI||vs. SJS||vs. NYR|
|CBJ||@ NJD||vs. FLA|
|WSH||@ FLA||@ BOS|
|CAR||@ BUF||@ DAL||@ LAK|
|NJD||vs. CBJ||@ NYI|
|NYI||vs. TOR||vs. NJD|
|TOR||@ NYI||@ MTL|
|DET||@ MTL||@ OTT|
The Devils' two games are just about critical. The first is against a team they're chasing and the second is against a team they need to get points from in general. With the season heading into it's final stretch, they absolutely need to win Thursday's game at a minimum. Problem is that Columbus needs those points just as badly. The margin for error is only getting smaller for them.
The Devils, Canes, Caps, and Jackets all wish Saturday didn't feature a Rangers-Flyers game. All this would do is help ensure no one catches either team. Of course, if they win their games against Chicago and San Jose, respectively, that could happen. Who you prefer - which is likely neither since you're here and you have a good head on your shoulders - is up to you.
Elsewhere, the Canes' make-up game kicks off a tough five game road trip. On paper, they could make noise. Doing it will be harder. Washington gets a combination of Florida and a really good Boston team. Pittsburgh will get Montreal and Chicago, where I fully expect Pittsburgh to get points out of either of those games since, well, they've been doing just that all season. As for the wild card, cheer hard for Montreal to beat Detroit and perhaps hope Ottawa does the same. Detroit failing opens up another spot for the Metropolitan. Of course, that just means another team has to step up and take it - something we haven't really seen for most of the season. But plenty can change as a crucial month begins.
What do you think will happen in this coming week within the Metropolitan Division? Who will move up and who will stay in place? Do you like the way the wild card is presented? Will a Metropolitan team take that spot Detroit currently has? Please leave your thoughts about the division and the upcoming week of games in the comments. Thank you for reading.