Another week has gone by for the NHL’s season, and here’s how the Eastern division standings look as of 3/21.
And here’s the matrix of what happened on the week. Green is a win of any sort, a yellow is an OT/SO loss that results in one point in the standings, the dreaded red is a regulation loss. And now the orange to represent a game that was postponed and not played as scheduled.
Let’s take a quick trip around the division to talk about the important points of what is going on, with a mind to how it affects the Penguins.
The Capitals jumped up to the top spot in the division this week with a clutch 2-1 regulation win over the Islanders, featuring the top two teams both on long winning streaks. Washington pushed their winning streak to seven games before it came to an end last night against the Rangers.
The Islanders red hot 10-0-1 streak finally came to an end with regulation losses against the Caps and the Flyers this week. But they did bounce back a bit to down Philly 6-1 in a major way on Saturday.
It was a 2-2-0 week for the Pens, perhaps not terrible considering the Pens are depleted up front and in hold on mode. Luckily a strong start to the month of March, plus the Flyers also falling off big time means that it will be pretty easy for Pittsburgh to tread water and stay in a playoff position for a while longer.
After the division went so long without a COVID outbreak, the Bruins postponed two games after four players hit the COVID protocol list. Luckily, to date, none of the Sabres or Penguins players who played against Boston have tested positive in their regular testing.
The Flyers are a very inconsistent team. They almost blew big leads against the Rangers on Monday and the Islanders on Thursday, but found ways to pickup the wins. And they also had the laugher of the season when they lost 9-0 — 9-0! — to the Rangers, followed by a 6-1 blowout loss to the Islanders last night. Goaltending has become a huge issue and problem for Philly.
The Rangers inadvertently helped Pittsburgh’s cause out a lot this week with two games against the Flyers and Caps a piece. NYR won two of them and were very competitive in the other two games.
A 2-1-1 week is a nice little week for the Devils, especially when that includes taking the Islanders to OT and a regulation win over the Pens. NJ hasn’t been able to string together a lot of wins, but they are certainly not an “easy out” as Pittsburgh has found out. It takes a good effort to put them away.
Losing to New Jersey was the final nail in Ralph Krueger’s coffin, as the Sabres fired their coach on Wednesday after 12 straight losses. They responded by losing 4-1 to Boston the next day. Just really tough times in Buffalo, who at least got a game cancelled to help reset/refresh to move forward.
This is Micah’s model, before the results on Saturday — so the Pens win and the Flyers regulation loss will alter these projections even further once that is taken into account.
Playoff chances over the past fortnight. pic.twitter.com/4bhIAC0RVS— Micah Blake McCurdy (@IneffectiveMath) March 20, 2021
Penguin playoff chances in other models (as of Sunday morning)):
The big standout is the COVID situation in Boston. Will the Bruins be able to play again on Thursday? All eyes are there. Even if so, there will be a huge crunch for Boston down the stretch. For instance, if all scheduled games are played this week, Bruins will have played 30 games next week. The Pens will play 35 by next Saturday. It’s going to make for a very challenging April/May for the Bruins as the NHL seems intent on stubbornly getting all 56 games played by all teams for television reasons.
NYI also has a very interesting week. Three road games against three different teams, all of which are some of better teams in the division, and all sort of wildcards as far as alternating from great to poor performances.
The Pens get four home games this week, three of which against the dregs of the division to start the week. Ideally they’ll be able to “make some hay” early on, but at some point you would think Buffalo is going to win a game eventually, no? The Sabres haven’t won in nearly a month since February 23rd, and have their new coach in the mix.