Thanksgiving has come and gone and before you know it, December is around the corner on Friday. And with that, teams are creeping towards having played 21 games — meaning a quarter of the season is approaching.
Let’s go around the division to quickly recap the latest, with records from the last week in parenthesis.
New York Rangers (3-1-0): After losing their first regulation game in a month on Monday to Dallas, the Rangers bounced right back to win their next three (PIT, PHI, BOS) to pick right back up where they left off. Be it home or away, NYR just keeps picking up victories and put some distance on everyone else to claim an early season strange-hold on first place.
Philadelphia (2-2-0): The Flyers came out even in four divisional games this week. They beat Columbus last Sunday for their fifth straight victory before getting tripped up in two close games against the New York teams (3-2 loss to NYI, 3-1 loss to NYR). Philadelphia regained a measure of revenge against those Islanders with a 1-0 shootout win last night. The upcoming week should be telling - the Flyers get supposed powerhouse teams Carolina and New Jersey and both at home. A positive record would give more evidence their early season start is for real.
Washington (1-1-0): Washington ended a long home-stand by defeating Buffalo in overtime before getting smashed 5-0 by Edmonton. Up next comes a five-game Western swing through the California and southwestern teams.
Carolina (1-1-0): By pure math based on points earned, the Hurricanes are “only” on pace for 95 points this season through almost a quarter of the season. That’s under-performing what almost everyone would have thought, and their “one up, one down” type of season continued this week in beating Edmonton before losing 8-2 to Tampa. Goaltending has been a tremendous weakness with Frederik Andersen hurting and the backups performing terribly so far. 38-year old Jaroslav Halak doesn’t look like he’ll be the answer after being released from his PTO.
New York Islanders (2-0-1): After oscillating down last week, the Islanders moved back up this week earning wins over the Flyers and Senators. A tough luck 1-0 shootout loss to Philadelphia last night ended NYI’s three-game winning streak.
Pittsburgh (2-2-0): It was a .500 week in what’s been a .500 season so far for the Pens. The breakthroughs look close - they lost 1-0 to the Rangers and blew a 2-0 lead against Buffalo, but that may or may not be taken as a positive. When Pittsburgh is at their best, they can shutout Vegas or beat Toronto. But they haven’t consistently strung enough of those efforts together (like the third period against the Sabres) and an ice cold power play devoid of ideas, execution and whatever else you can think of is putting a limit on their results.
New Jersey (1-2-0): Nearing December, the Devils in seventh place are arguably the bigget disappointment for a team universally seen as no less than a second place team. New Jersey had another rotten week until the end, dropping a 4-0 contest to Detroit and then somehow losing 2-1 in regulation to a Columbus team that is hardly beating anyone in regulation, and woof. Something doesn’t look or feel quite right now in Jersey. They’ll be hoping a 7-2 thumping of Buffalo last night indicates turning a corner and getting back on track, but who would have thought this team would be aimless for the first quarter?
Columbus (2-1-0): Last Saturday the Blue Jackets absorbed their ninth loss in a row, but were able to get back to the good with a 7-3 victory against Chicago that had to feel good for a struggling team. They liked it so much, they went ahead and won again with a road victory in New Jersey on Friday night. At this point it’s something to build on, CBJ almost matched their total number of regulation wins all season in this week (2 this week, 3 coming into the week).