Metropolitan Division Rivals and their Upcoming Schedules

Alex Ovechkin, Sidney Crosby
Nick Wass/Associated Press

The Washington Capitals have had a relatively easy time this season when it comes to holding on to their spot at the top of the Metropolitan Division, being one of the NHL’s best teams throughout the 2016-17 campaign. But with just 11 games left, the Capitals are now holding on to their spot by a thread. This article takes a look at the top contenders for the Metropolitan Division title and their remaining schedules. 

At the moment, the Capitals are tied with the Columbus Blue Jackets in the standings, with 100 points each, and are ahead of the Pittsburgh Penguins by two. At the moment, the Capitals are considered to be “ahead” of the Blue Jackets, based on the tie breakers, which include regulation and overtime wins, and Goal Differential.

Here is an examination of the relative strength of schedule between the Caps and their two close divisional rivals, Columbus and Pittsburgh. This examination will list out each game and assess each opponent, based on their record as of March 19, 2017.

COLUMBUS BLUE JACKETS
March 22 – vs Toronto Maple Leafs  – The Leafs are in fourth place in the Atlantic Division with 79 points and are the second Wild Card team. Assessment of Opponent: Fringe Playoff Team
March 23 – at Washington Capitals  – Washington is tied with Columbus in points, with 100 apiece. Assessment of Opponent: President’s Trophy contender. This game is the second game of a back-to-back set.
March 25 – vs Philadelphia Flyers – Philadelphia is in sixth place in the Metropolitan Division, with 74 points, and are five points out behind the second Wild Card. Assessment of Opponent: Out of the playoffs
March 28 – vs Buffalo Sabres – Buffalo is in seventh place in the Atlantic Division with 70 points and are nine points behind the second Wild Card. Assessment of Opponent: Out of the playoffs
March 30 – at Carolina Hurricanes – Carolina is in sixth place in the Metropolitan Division, with 72 points, and are seven points behind the second Wild Card. Assessment of Opponent: Out of the playoffs.
March 31 – at Chicago Blackhawks – Chicago is in first place in the Central Division with 99 points. Assessment of Opponent: President’s Trophy contender. This game is the second game of a back-to-back set.
April 2 – vs Washington Capitals – Washington is tied with Columbus in points, with 100. Assessment of Opponent: President’s Trophy contender.
April 4 – at Pittsburgh Penguins – Pittsburgh is in third place in the Metropolitan Division, with 99 points, and just one point behind Washington and Columbus. Assessment of Opponent: President’s Trophy Contender.
April 6 – vs Winnipeg Jets – Winnipeg is in fifth place in the Central Division with 71 points and is 10 points behind the second Wild Card team, the Nashville Predators. Assessment of Opponent: Out of the playoffs
April 8 – at Philadelphia Flyers – Philadelphia is in sixth place in the Metropolitan Division, with 74 points, and are five points behind the Second wild Card. Assessment of Opponent: Out of the playoffs
April 9 – at Toronto Maple Leafs – The Leafs are in fourth place in the Atlantic Division with 79 points and are the second Wild Card team. Assessment of Opponent: Playoff Bubble Team. This game is the second game of a back-to-back set.

Summary: Columbus plays four games in which the opponent is a President’s Trophy contender (two games against Washington, one against Chicago, and one against Pittsburgh). They play five games in which the opponent is out of the playoffs (Carolina, Buffalo, Winnipeg, and two against Philadelphia). They play two games against a playoff bubble team (two against Toronto). They play three sets of back-to-back games, including one with both on the road to end the season, and two more where they play a President’s Trophy-caliber team as the second game (one against Washington and one against Chicago).

PITTSBURGH PENGUINS
March 21 – at Buffalo Sabres – Buffalo is in seventh place in the Atlantic Division with 70 points and are 9 points behind the second Wild Card. Assessment of Opponent: Out of the playoffs
March 23 – at Ottawa Senators – Ottawa is in second place in the Atlantic Division with 86 points and are two points out of first place. Assessment of Opponent: Solid playoff team
March 24 – vs New York Islanders – The Islanders are in fifth place in the Metropolitan Division with 78 points and are one point behind the second Wild Card team. Assessment of Opponent: Playoff bubble team
March 26 – vs Philadelphia Flyers – Philadelphia is in sixth place in the Metropolitan Division, with 74 points, and are five points behind the second Wild Card. Assessment of Opponent: Out of the playoffs
March 29 –vs  Chicago Blackhawks – Chicago is in first place in the Central Division with 99 points. Assessment of Opponent: President’s Trophy contender
March 31 – at New York Rangers – The Rangers are in fourth place in the Metropolitan Division with 93 points and are the first Wild Card team. Assessment of Opponent: Solid playoff team
April 2 – vs Carolina Hurricanes – Carolina is in seventh place in the Metropolitan Division, with 73 points, and are six points behind the second Wild Card. Assessment of Opponent: Out of the playoffs.
April 4 – vs Columbus Blue Jackets – Columbus is tied for first place in points in the Metropolitan Division with 100 points. Assessment of Opponent: President’s Trophy contender
April 6 – at New Jersey Devils – New Jersey is in last place in the Metropolitan Division with 64 points. Assessment of Opponent: Out of the playoffs
April 8 – at Toronto Maple Leafs – The Leafs are in fourth place in the Atlantic Division with 79 points and are the second Wild Card team. Assessment of Opponent: Playoff bubble team
April 9 – at New York Rangers – The Rangers are in fourth place in the Metropolitan Division with 93 points and are the first Wild Card team. Assessment of Opponent: Solid playoff team

Summary: Pittsburgh plays two games against President’s Trophy-caliber teams (Columbus and Chicago), three games against solid playoff-caliber teams (Ottawa and the New York Rangers twice), two games against playoff bubble teams (Toronto and the New York Islanders), and four games against teams that are out of the playoffs (Buffalo, Philadelphia, Carolina, and the New Jersey Devils. Among Pittsburgh’s opponents, Ottawa is still fighting for the Atlantic Division title. The Rangers are firmly in the playoffs but will be hard-pressed to gain enough ground on Columbus, Pittsburgh, or Washington to pass any of them in the standings. Pittsburgh plays the Devils, who are the worst team in the Eastern Conference. Pittsburgh plays two sets of back-to-back games, with one set on the road to end the season.

WASHINGTON CAPITALS
March 21 – vs Calgary Flames – The Flames are currently in fourth place in the Pacific Division, with 84 points and are just one point shy of Edmonton for third place. Assessment of Opponent: Playoff team
March 23 – vs Columbus Blue Jackets – Columbus is tied for first place in points in the Metropolitan Division with 100 points. Assessment of Opponent: President’s Trophy Contender
March 25 – vs Arizona Coyotes – Arizona is in last place in the Pacific Division, with 61 points. Assessment of Opponent: Out of the playoffs.
March 28 – at Minnesota Wild – Minnesota is in second place in the Central Division, with 92 points. Assessment of Opponent: Playoff team
March 29 – Colorado Avalanche – Colorado is in last place in the Central Division, with 43 points. Assessment of Opponent: Out of the playoffs. This game is the second game of a back-to-back set.
March 31 – at Arizona Coyotes – Arizona is in last place in the Pacific Division, with 61 points. Assessment of Opponent: Out of the playoffs.
April 2 – at Columbus Blue Jackets – Columbus is tied for first place in points in the Metropolitan Division with 100 points. Assessment of Opponent: President’s Trophy contender
April 4 – at Toronto Maple Leafs – The Leafs are in fourth place in the Atlantic Division with 79 points and are the second Wild Card team. Assessment of Opponent: Playoff bubble team
April 5 – vs New York Rangers – The Rangers are in fourth place in the Metropolitan Division with 93 points and are the first Wild Card team. Assessment of Opponent: Solid playoff team. This game is the second game of a back-to-back set.
April 8 – at Boston Bruins – The Bruins are in third place in the Atlantic Division with 82 points. Assessment of Opponent: Solid playoff team.
April 9 – vs Florida Panthers – The Panthers are in sixth place in the Atlantic Division with 73 points. Assessment of Opponent: Out of the playoffs. This game is the second game of a back-to-back set.

Summary: The Capitals play two games against teams capable of winning President’s Trophy (against Columbus), four more against solid playoff-caliber opponents (Calgary, Minnesota, New York Rangers, and Boston), one against a playoff bubble team (Toronto), and four against teams that are out of playoff contention (two games against Arizona, one against Colorado, and one against Florida). Among the Caps’ opponents, the Rangers are firmly in playoff position but unlikely to catch the three teams ahead of them in the standings. The Bruins will likely not catch Montreal for first place and would need to get hot to finish ahead of Ottawa. Arizona, who the Caps are scheduled to play twice, are the worst team in the Pacific Division and the second-worst in the NHL. The Avalanche are the worst team in the NHL this year, by far. The Caps’ schedule includes three sets of back-to-back games, including a set to end the season.

General: The Columbus Blue Jackets have the most remaining games against fellow President’s Trophy contenders, with two head-to-head games with Washington and one game each against Pittsburgh and Chicago, for four in all. Washington has six games against opponents that are at least playoff caliber, with two head-to-head games with Columbus, and four more against other teams solidly in the playoffs. Pittsburgh has five games left against opponents that are at least playoff caliber, two of them being President’s Trophy caliber (Chicago and Columbus). Both Pittsburgh and Columbus play two games against playoff bubble teams, with Pittsburgh playing both the Islanders and the Maple Leafs one time, while Columbus plays Toronto twice. The Caps play just one game against a playoff bubble team, with a contest against the Maple Leafs. Columbus plays the most games (five) against non-playoff caliber teams. While the Caps have only four games against non-playoff teams, they play the worst team in the NHL (Colorado) one time and the second worst team (Arizona) twice.

By Diane Doyle

About Michael Fleetwood

Michael Fleetwood was born into a family of diehard Capitals fans and has been watching games as long as he can remember. He was born the year the Capitals went to their first and only Stanley Cup Final, and is a diehard Caps fan the owner of the very FIRST Joe Beninati jersey and since then, has met Joe himself. His favorite player became former Capital Nate Schmidt after he met Schmidt in a Hershey hotel while in Hershey PA to see the Bears play, shortly after Schmidt was injured during a conditioning stint. Michael is also a fan of the Pittsburgh Steelers and Baltimore Orioles. (Photo by Adam Vingan in 2014 at the Capitals Development Camp)
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4 Responses to Metropolitan Division Rivals and their Upcoming Schedules

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