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Saturday Standings: “The Big 4” sees changes

Pittsburgh and Carolina are trending up and NYR and Washington are trending down among the best in the Metropolitan Division

New York Rangers v Carolina Hurricanes Photo by Gregg Forwerck/NHLI via Getty Images

With the Penguins having a day Sunday game tomorrow, our weekend feature to check out the standings in the division has been moved up a day. There have been a good bit of changes from even last week, so let’s get into it!

As has been trending for a while, the Carolina Hurricanes and Pittsburgh Penguins are now first and second, respectively, in points% on the season. The New York Rangers and especially Washington Capitals have fallen off the pace in recent days. This picture could be different in a month or two, but for now the most balanced and strongest teams in the division at the halfway point definitely looks like the Canes and Pens.

There’s movement too with NYI winning three games this week and they are out of last place, and likely never will be in last place again this season, considering the games played. The Islanders have to play something like 50 games in about 100 days after all the postponements, and boast the league’s oldest average roster. The battle for a playoff spot is going to be very daunting still, but here they come just the same.

Going around the circuit, here’s the week that was with each team’s record since last Sunday morning and weekly writeup:

Carolina (2-0-0): In the biggest Metropolitan game of the week last night in Raleigh, the Hurricanes ended the game almost before it started, jumping out to a quick 2-0 lead and then carrying a 5-1 lead after two periods against the Rangers. It was a statement week for the Canes, who also throttled Boston 7-1 in Beantown on Tuesday.

New York (R) (1-1-0): The Rangers were having a good week themselves, until they got to Carolina. NYR getting a statement win of their own 6-3 Toronto in a battle of first half Vezina contenders of Igor Shesterkin vs. Jack Campbell. Then for some reason backup Alex Georgiev got the start in Raleigh and got punished by Carolina.

Pittsburgh: (3-0-0): The Pens scored 5+ goals in all three of their contest this week to roll over Vegas, Ottawa and Columbus. The path ahead looks really promising too, with now seven straight home games for the Pens, and not exactly against a murderer’s row of teams visiting the Burgh in the near future.

Washington (1-2-0): It was an up and down week for the Capitals. They alternated losses surrounding a win, dropping a game to Vancouver on Sunday followed by an OT win against Winnipeg on Tuesday and then giving up a goal in the final minute of the third to lose to Boston on Thursday. With John Carlson on the COVID list, Dmitry Orlov suspended and TJ Oshie joining Anthony Mantha on IR, Washington has been down several key players as of late, and the losses have been painful.

Columbus (1-1-0): Columbus beat Philly on Thursday (but who doesn’t these days) and then suffered a 5-2 loss to the Pens last night. I keep going back to the third period goal review. Max Domi had scored to tie the game at 3-3, with CBJ playing really well. Then the Pens noticed the play was just a hair offside and challenged, getting the goal taken away. Soon after Pittsburgh scored again on a power play and basically ended the game. If that Jacket wasn’t like .1 second ahead of the play though, it’s a tie game and just may play out differently. That’s life in the big leagues, though.

New York (I) (3-0-0): The Isles took two wins off the Flyers on Monday+Tuesday (again, everyone does these days) even though the second game took a nine-round shootout and NYI was very, very fortunate to come away with the extra point in that contest. Then the Isles kept it rolling with a 4-0 win over hapless Arizona last night. Bad competition, but badly needed results for NYI.

Philadelphia (0-3-0): If this was anyone else, you would feel pity for how terrible the season gone and how everything that could go wrong has. But it’s the Flyers, so it’s still funny. The halcyon early days of interim coach Mike Yeo have faded very, very quickly as Philly is now on a ten game point-less streak (0-7-3). It’s not considered a true losing streak since they have picked up a few loser OT points, but a “point-less” streak is more fitting terminology anyways, since it’s going to be a pointless second half of the season over in the Eastern part of the commonwealth without much hope until bigger changes are made for a fresh start next year.

New Jersey (0-1-0): The Devils have only played two games since January 9th, and this week in their lone game they lost at home to Arizona, 4-1. The Coyotes only have 10 wins in 39 games. Not good times in Jersey right now.

New, temporary second favorite team of the week: Vegas

Last week the Bruins played Carolina and Washington, going 1-1-0. This week it is the Golden Knights who are on an eastern swing and also coincidentally play the same two Metro teams. Vegas is in Washington on Monday and then down for Carolina on Tuesday. Scheduling-wise, that’s bad for the Pens that Vegas will be on the back-end against the Hurricanes, the preferable game for them to win at this point. But Pens fans should be cheering for Vegas this week just the same.

Pens playoff update: dropped for now

It’s like 99%+ on all models at this point, so there is no need to track playoff chances unless and until something interesting happens like pressure from NYI tracking up towards the established top-four teams in the division. And there’s a long way to go for that at this point, so the Sunday Standings will not be updating the playoff percentages for a bit until more drama develops.