clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

The Week Ahead: Some major Metropolitan Division matchups

The Pittsburgh Penguins have a chance to distance themselves from the New York Islanders at least.

Colorado Avalanche v Pittsburgh Penguins Photo by Joe Sargent/NHLI via Getty Images

It has been a very mixed bag for the Pittsburgh Penguins coming out of the All-Star break.

In the first three games they have at least collected four out of a possible six points, stealing two from Colorado, completely dominating Anaheim, and then having a brutal game in Los Angeles where everything went wrong.

The week ahead sees them continue their current road trip with a rematch of their pre-All-Star game against San Jose, followed by a bunch of big Metropolitan Division games.

Let’s start with the San Jose game.

The first meeting between those two teams came a couple of weeks and saw the Sharks beat a very sluggish Penguins team in what might have been their low-point of the season. To be fair, San Jose has been playing much better lately and given a lot of good teams fits. They have points in five of their past six games, and won three of their past four. Some of those wins have come against Pittsburgh, Washington, and Tampa Bay, while they also took Carolina to overtime. They are sneaking up on some teams, and until Timo Meier and Erik Karlsson get traded they still have some players that can hurt you.

Even so, given the games the Penguins have ahead this week, these are points you are going to want to get. Especially after such a bad game in Los Angeles on Saturday night.

After that, the Penguins travel to New York for the first of three consecutive games against Metropolitan Division teams, with two of them coming against the Islanders.

Those two Islanders games are significant because it is a chance for the Penguins to really put some distance between the two teams.

As far as the raw point totals go, the Penguins enter the week one point ahead of the Islanders. That may seem like an insanely close race that could go either way. But the Penguins still have FOUR games in hand on the Islanders. That is a huge difference, and puts quite a gap between the two teams in terms of points pace. If the Penguins could find a way to sweep those two games, it would put a chasm between them and the Islanders in the standings. Even a split in those games would be fine for the Penguins. You just want to avoid losing both games.

Even though the Islanders just made the big trade for Bo Horvat (and he has kept scoring goals after that trade and brand new contract extension) they have continued to struggle. Their past two games saw them lose a multiple goal lead to Vancouver and lose in regulation, and then lose a pair of third period leads to Montreal and lose in overtime. Only getting one out of a possible four points in back-to-back games against Vancouver and Montreal is not going to help them.

In between those two Islanders games, the Penguins have a home game with the New Jersey Devils sandwiched in there.

The Penguins lost the only other meeting between the two teams earlier this season in overtime.

They might catch a little bit of a break this time around as Devils superstar forward Jack Hughes is currently sidelined. He has blossomed into the superstar the Devils hoped he would be when they picked him with the No. 1 overall pick a few years ago. As good as the Devils have been across the board this season, Hughes is the guy that really makes that team run. Not having him there will be noticeable.

Overall, this is a pretty big week ahead for the Penguins with some tough games.

They need to take advantage of that matchup in San Jose and if they can get four out of six points through California that will be mostly successful. It is the Metropolitan games though that will really help swing things in a particular direction.

Out of those four games ahead, I want to see at least five points. If the Penguins can do that, they will maintain a pretty strong hold on at least a Wild Card spot. Anything more than that is icing on the cake.