Over the past few weeks some trends have been developing in the Metropolitan Division. Carolina has been moving up the ranks, while Washington has been caught by the pack. Philadelphia and the NY Islanders have hung tough but Pittsburgh and New Jersey are trying to rise up the ranks and catch them.
As a result, the middle is a jumbled mess. Only four points separate five teams from third place Philadelphia to seventh place Pittsburgh. These two teams meet tomorrow night and could be as close as two points or as far away as six after that game. Nearing the half-way point of the season, the action is about to heat up once the division-heavy slate of games kicks up.
Let’s bounce around the division to see how the week went for the teams.
New York Rangers (1-1-1): The Rangers took a 6-1 beating at the hands of the Hurricanes this week, and the division has tightened up. NYR bounced back to beat Chicago, but then lost in OT to Montreal last night. After running out front for most of this season, can Carolina close in and make a race at the top?
Carolina (2-0-1): Carolina has kicked it into gear. The hallmark of taking off is avoiding regulation losses, and the Cans have done that lately. They’ve also been reeling off wins and big ones; beating NYR and Washington by a combined 12-3 score this week. Their winning streak was stunted by a shootout loss to St. Louis last night, but even then they picked up a point.
Philadelphia (1-1-1): The Flyers were all over the map this week with one of every result. There was some encouraging moments (like Travis Konecny scoring 4G+3A in the last four games) and also some head-scratchers, like seeing a 2-0 lead turn into a (shootout) loss against last place Columbus. It’s a big week ahead for them with four games (PIT-MTL-MIN-WPG).
New York Islanders (1-1-1): The Islanders joined NYR and PHI in doing everything club this week. NYI’s win was against the weakest team they played (AZ) and took losses to Colorado and Vegas. Luckily for them, they at least got the Avalanche game to extra time to pick up a point.
Washington (1-2-0): The good was a road victory over Pittsburgh this week. The bad was the rest of the week giving up six goals in both games they played against NJ and Carolina, and naturally losing both of them. Washington’s 90 goals this season aren’t just last in the division, they’re in last by 26 goals. Max Pacioretty coming back to the lineup might help, but it’s difficult to see where the goals are going to come from to keep the Caps in the playoff chase in the second half of the season.
New Jersey (2-1-0): The Devils stepped up and didn’t what the Pens couldn’t this week (beat Washington), got the benefit of punching down on a depleted Chicago team and then lost last night to Vancouver in the Hughes Bowl. Dougie Hamilton is out, which hurts, but Luke Hughes and Simon Nemec have stepped into bigger roles and done well in the interim. What hasn’t been doing well is the goaltending, which continues to struggle.
Pittsburgh (1-2-0): A lot of teams in the division were all over the map this week, and the hometown boys were no different. They dug a 4-0 hole to Washington, and nearly dug out of it but still took the L. Then they jumped out to a 5-2 lead on the road to Boston (where they usually struggle) and held onto a win. Then lots of crazy events conspired to have them lose to Buffalo. The Pens will need to hope the madness is out of the way this week with games against PHI and CAR up ahead.
Columbus (1-1-1): Even Columbus got in on the little bit of everything this week with one of every possible result. It could have been better, Marc-Andre Fleury made an all-time hustle play to help prevent the Blue Jackets from winning in regulation, and wouldn’t you know it, the Wild ended up tying the game and winning in overtime.