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Sunday Standings: East division kicks into high gear

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It’s heating up in the East as the NHL regular season continues

Buffalo Sabres v New York Islanders Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

It was a week where the good teams beat up on the the bottom teams this week in the East. The divide between the playoff contenders and the lower-end teams drew even clearer after this week. Here’s how the standings look as of this morning:

And here are the quick roundups for each team:

New York Islanders

A great week for the Islanders, who rack up four straight wins, including a couple of convincing ones over the Sabres to close out the week. The Islanders had a great week and put a lot of pressure on the rest of the division by “holding serve” and taking all the points that a playoff team should be taking.

Washington Capitals

The Caps had a four game winning streak broken on Friday night in Boston, and they also lose Tom Wilson for seven games due to suspension, after his latest dangerous, unnecessary hit sent Boston’s Brandon Carlo to the hospital. Carlo’s blood is partially on the league’s hands due to how they reinforce Wilson’s behavior. Wilson was not suspended for a late hit two weeks ago that crushed a defenseless player and caused an injury to Mark Jankowski. It’s no wonder he felt emboldened to again recklessly deliver yet another predatory hit the next time the opportunity arose.

Boston Bruins

The Bruins have fallen to third place now, yet they do have a couple of games on hand on the teams above them. Carlo’s absence could be a major one since he’s a key piece of what doesn’t seem like the deepest of defense cores around.

Philadelphia Flyers

A comeback win on Thursday night salvages a .500 week for the Flyers. They have a couple of games in hand too, but also seem like they’re great against the lower-end teams but still a bit TBD against tougher competition. It’s also a positive for the Flyers that Brian Elliott is providing some strong goaltending for them, but Carter Hart being a sub- .900% save percentage goalie and only starting one of the three crucial games against the Penguins this week isn’t how they would have imagined the goalie situation would be going so far.

Pittsburgh Penguins

The Pens have been trading wins and losses lately with regularity. They will need to string some wins together since the top of the division is collecting points at an astounding rate. Failing to win, or even get to overtime on Thursday, after being up 3-0 feels like something that could be looked back on with the sense of a huge missed opportunity. But that’s in the past now.

Pittsburgh is now healthy (save Jason Zucker), and has a week ahead of teams below them in the standings. Given how well the other top teams have performed against the lesser competition, the Pens really need to stack 6+ points in the coming week.

New York Rangers

The Rangers are showing they are clearly better than the two dregs of the division, picking up three wins in a row this week to stay at the tail end of the playoff chase. As seen in our preview, first overall pick Alexis Lafreniere is getting the hang of the NHL and producing more points as of late. But the controversy that has removed their best player from the lineup in Artemi Panarin (not that it is seemingly his fault) couldn’t have come at a worse time for a team in the position the Rangers are in.

New Jersey Devils

Really tough week for the Devils, who lost two one-goal games at the start of the week and then get blown out at the end of it to lose pace big time with the rest of the division.

Buffalo Sabres

Ugh, poor Buffalo. The bottom is dropping out for them as another season slips away. Will head coach Ralph Kruger still be behind the bench by the time they play the Pens on Thursday? If so, will he survive the weekend? Seems like a matter of time there..

Looking ahead

The schedule becomes very lockstep this week. All teams play Sunday, Tuesday, Thursday Saturday. Everyone in the division is off on Monday, Wednesday and Friday.

This week sees some prime matchups in one BOS-NYI game and two PHI-WSH meetings. The Pens and Rangers lock up as teams trying to keep up, and the Islanders have another very favorable week with 3 out of 4 games against the weak BUF/NJD teams.