Weekly Metropolitan Division Snapshot: 3/30 - 4/5

The New York Islanders had the most successful week within the Metropolitan Division. That gets them a headline photo. - Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

On this week's Metropolitan Division Snapshot, the Pittsburgh Penguins clinched a playoff spot, the Columbus Blue Jackets rose above the pack fighting for a wild card spot, and the New Jersey Devils are increasingly on the outside as the next-to-last full week of the season begins.

Finally, a Metropolitan Division team has clinched a playoff spot.  As if the Pittsburgh Penguins were ever in doubt of making it.  They should be sealing up the whole division this week.  The rest of the playoff picture is starting to become clearer as there are two, maybe three, teams in the division fighting for only wild card spots.

Team GP W L OT ROW Pts. Last Week Ptl. Pts.
PIT 74 47 22 5 42 99 1-3-0 8
NYR 75 41 30 4 37 86 2-1-0 8
PHI 73 39 27 7 36 85 1-2-0 8
CBJ 74 38 30 6 33 82 2-2-0 6
WSH 74 34 28 12 28 80 0-1-1 8
NJD 74 31 28 15 31 77 1-0-2 8
CAR 74 32 32 10 31 74 1-1-1 8
NYI 74 29 35 10 22 68 3-0-1 6
Atl for W.C. GP W L OT ROW Pts. Last Week Ptl. Pts.
DET 74 34 26 14 29 82 1-2-1 8
TOR* 76 36 32 8 27 80 0-4-0 6

Source: NHL.com - Links go to SBN Blogs

I highly doubt either the New York Rangers and Philadelphia Flyers will catch the Penguins.   Then again, this was pretty obvious for most of the 2014 portion of the season.  Still, the Blueshirt faithful and Orange & Black supporters should have every reason to smile.  Their favorite teams overcame really awful starts to the season, managed to see through slumps, and got enough results at the right time to pull away.  You can pencil in the New York Rangers and Philadelphia Flyers into playoff spots at this moment.  It would have to take a really bad week for them to fall and a really good one from someone below them.  Even then, it would take a massive collapse to fall out of the wild card spots.

The action is right at the wild card spots.    In a battle between the Columbus Blue Jackets, Washington Capitals, Detroit Red Wings, Toronto Maple Leafs, and the New Jersey Devils, Columbus managed to get ahead by nature of winning two games last week.   I don't think either team is too pleased with how they took care of business.  The Caps had two tough games and came away with only one point.  The Devils got help, beat Toronto, but failed to get a go-ahead goal in two straight games to lose yet again in the shootout in both games.  Those two points, among the other eight from shootout losses, are dearly missed now.  Saturday night featured two winless teams for the week: Detroit against Toronto.  Detroit won in regulation so they got a leg up and holds the second wild card spot.  The Maple Leafs have now lost eight in a row and are only in this snapshot by virtue of still being in the way for Washington and (barely) the Devils.   In the valley of the lack of results, the team that earned four out of eight moves on and so Columbus owns the first wild card spot.

Down at the bottom, the Carolina Hurricanes had a decent run, though it would have been interesting had they beaten Columbus on Saturday night.  Instead, they lost in OT.   The New York Islanders had their best week in a while. They shutout Columbus (!), beat Carolina in a goal-fest, took Tampa Bay (a legitimate playoff team) to a long shootout for their only loss, and beat the Devils in a shootout.  They played the spoiler role really, really well.  They will be called upon to do the same by the end of the week by Columbus, Toronto, Detroit, and maybe Devils fans.

The upcoming weekly schedule is actually underway as of this writing as Philly is playing Boston.  The real meat of the schedule begins on April Fools Day with a number of inter-division games (listed here in bold) later on.

Team 3/30 3/31 4/1 4/2 4/3 4/4 4/5
PIT vs. CHI vs. CAR @ WPG @ MIN
NYR @ EDM @ VAN @ COL vs. OTT
PHI vs. BOS @ STL vs. CBJ vs. BOS
CBJ vs. COL @ PHI vs. CHI
WSH @ NSH vs. DAL @ NJD @ NYI
NJD vs. FLA @ BUF vs. WSH @ CAR
CAR @ OTT @ PIT vs. DAL vs. NJD
NYI vs. FLA @ OTT vs. WSH
Atlantic Watch for W.C.
DET vs. TBL vs. BOS vs. BUF @ MTL
TOR* vs. CGY vs. BOS vs. WPG

In the battle for second between New York and Philadelphia, there is no preferable result.  But the Rangers definitely have the easier schedule since they get the woeful Edmonton Oilers, the flailing Vancouver Canucks, and an Ottawa Senators team that's in the same boat as Carolina with respect to their playoff hopes.  That's a far easier road than two games against Boston, one against a top Western Conference team in St. Louis, and a Thursday night game against Columbus that you know the Blue Jackets will need more than the Flyers.

As for the wild card battle to close out the season, the Capitals and Red Wings have the advantage of playing four games now.  Detroit's schedule has three tough games within their own division plus Buffalo.  Washington will host a Dallas team that's also fighting for their playoff lives followed by two potential spoiler games.  I think the Devils aren't going to get hot enough to have a fighting chance to get in, but they can spoil Washington.  Ditto the Islanders.  Columbus has three tricky games, that back-to-back with Philly and Chicago is nasty.  But if they can pull three out of six there, then you'd have to like their chances.  Lastly, I think Toronto finally wins a game this week.  But if they can't win two out of three, then they will likely continue to be on the outside looking in for the final Division Snapshot of the week.

What do you think will happen within the division this week?  Who will be in second and third by next week?  Can Columbus hold onto a wild card spot?  Who will take the second one away from Detroit, if anyone?  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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