This will be the last weekly Metropolitan Division snapshot until February 23. In fact, this one will be shorter than the rest for the same reason. The NHL will not play any games for the next two full weeks. Those who are going to Sochi are going there today. Those who aren't get some rest. Those who run teams will likely do a lot of negotiating, discussing, rationalizing, and arguing within their staffs to determine what to do after the break. So enjoy the break however you wish, whether it's by watching international hockey, agonizing over your favorite team, or making plans for other things (apparently this Friday may be A Thing). Today's snapshot will be a true snapshot of where all the teams are in the Metropolitan Division.
Source: NHL.com - Links go to SBN Blogs
Needless to say, no one is catching the Pittsburgh Penguins at this rate. They have been at the top throughout the season. They go into the break after earning five out of a potential of six points. They even have a game in hand on second place. Forget the Metropolitan Division, I think the only standings challengers are Boston for first in the Eastern Conference. Even there, the Pens have a five point advantage. All the Pittsburgh Penguins have to do is avoid a meltdown and they've got the divisional crown. I think they'll do it. Hopefully, Kris Letang recovers properly from his stroke.
The #2 and #3 spots in the division have been up for grabs all season long. Unfortunately, the two most hated rivals of the Devils own both of them and with a small cushion. The New York Rangers got hot until they lost to Edmonton, but immediately rebounded with a shootout win against Pittsburgh. They should feel pretty good about their spot, though they're not entirely secure. Do they have the quality to hold onto it? I think so, sadly. Will they? We'll see. The Philadelphia Flyers streaked into today with four wins in a row. They swept their week and are now a bit ahead of Columbus, Washington, Carolina, and New Jersey. I don't they'll stay hot but if they can continue to get results and improve their possession game, then they will be a fierce opponent for the rest of the way. Even if they don't, they'll likely be in the mix - as they have been all season long.
The Columbus Blue Jackets and New Jersey Devils split their weeks. The Blue Jackets can feel a bit better about it, though. They went on the road through the three California teams. Getting three out of six against them is a pretty good feat. As for the Devils, they dropped a point to Colorado due in part that they could not score more than one goal, they got fortunate to score an overtime winner in Edmonton, and they didn't score against Washington. Columbus, on the other hand, can score multiple goals without requiring some kind of miracle these days. That plus a game in hand should have the Blue Jackets' faithful feeling better than the Devils'f ans. At least this fan feels that way.
Of course, Washington Capitals fans did have their hope renewed a bit this week as well. The Caps played more games than the rest of the division and came away with three wins. They nearly blew it against Detroit, but they soundly beat Winnipeg and got a result against New Jersey. More importantly, those last two wins came in regulation. The Caps are deficient in ROW, which is a tiebreaking procedure. If they can get more points than their opponents, then it won't matter. But with a division as tight as this one, it could very well come into play.
Speaking of tight, notice that the Carolina Hurricanes have played fewer games than everyone else. They had two games postponed due to weather this season. They already made up one against Philly; the other will be taken care of right after the Olympic Break. Still, a potential four points can make a big difference. The Canes would have liked to have done better as they only took two out of six points. If they can win that postponed game against Buffalo and get back to winning ways, then they'll be in the playoff picture as much as anyone. I believe that's their plan.
Lastly, no one should be expecting the New York Islanders to make a playoff push. They're 12 points behind the wildcard spot (more on that in a moment). They've played more games than anyone else in the Eastern Conference except for Toronto, who has also played 60 games. They could have spoiled the Caps, which didn't spoil much as the Caps won their other games this week. But that's all the Isles are really good for at this point of the season: spoiling teams. Look for them to be sellers yet again at the trade deadline. Look for more calls to "blow up the team" since that has worked ever so well for much of the past few decade. Look at the Islanders finishing last again in their respective division.
One more thing, here are the two wildcard holders right now.
Source: NHL.com - Links go to SBN Blogs
Toronto getting hot in spite of their abysmal possession game and terrible approach to defense keeps them away from everyone. Detroit's struggles are to everyone's benefit in the Metropolitan. As well as Ottawa's, who are currently at 63 points. The Devils will need help to catch the #8 spot, but it's definitely within reach. Of course, that requires winning a whole bunch of games, which requires scoring a whole bunch of goals, and who knows whether the Devils can do that. But there's at least no obvious sign to wave the white flag and pull a Buffalo/Edmonton.
Again, the snapshot will return in two weeks when games are back on the schedule. What do you think of the current picture of the division? Please leave your answer and other thoughts in the comments. Thank you for reading. P.S. A new Talking Red will be recorded tomorrow.