Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
The 2018 NHL Trade Deadline has finally come and gone, and there were plenty of fireworks in the final hours of the deadline. The buyers and sellers have made their intentions known, and now the final pieces have been dealt until after the postseason ends.
In the Metropolitan Division, the Pittsburgh Penguins are likely the favorite team to make it to the Cup Final, even though the Philadelphia Flyers and Washington Capitals are still in contention. In the Atlantic Division, the Tampa Bay Lightning and Boston Bruins loaded their rosters up at the Trade Deadline, and are the likely favorites to come out of that Division, but Toronto is still very much in the mix.
The Atlantic Division teams have some of the highest team goal differentials in the league. Tampa Bay has a +56 goal differential, Toronto is at +35, and Boston is at +45. In the Metropolitan Division, Washington and Philadelphia are both at +10 goal differentials, and Pittsburgh is at +19.
In the 2 final Eastern Conference wildcard spots, there are 5 teams that are in the mix for them. Four of those teams are from the Metropolitan Division, and one is from the Atlantic Division.
HOW DO THE TOP TEAMS PERFORM AGAINST THEIR MAIN COMPETITION?
Let’s look at the records involving the top teams in the Eastern Conference from both Divisions. Records are through 2/26/18.
Vs Metropolitan Division: 11-5-3
Vs Atlantic Division: 12-6-2
Vs Metropolitan Division: 13-5-0
Vs Atlantic Division: 11-6-0
Vs Metropolitan Division: 9-4-5
Vs Atlantic Division: 12-5-1
TAMPA BAY LIGHTNING
Vs Atlantic Division: 12-5-1
Vs Metropolitan Division: 11-5-2
TORONTO MAPLE LEAFS
Vs Atlantic Division: 11-5-1
Vs Metropolitan Division: 11-7-2
Vs Atlantic Division: 12-4-2
Vs Metropolitan Division: 11-3-4
The records show that the top teams in the Eastern Conference are good within their division and inside the Conference.
Now let’s check these next couple of teams out. The New Jersey Devils are in the 1st wild card spot. The Florida Panthers are ranked 11th in the Eastern Conference, and are 5 points out of a playoff spot.
NEW JERSEY DEVILS
Vs Metropolitan Division: 11-8-1
Vs Atlantic Division: 10-5-4
Vs Atlantic Division: 8-5-1
Vs Metropolitan Division: 7-7-4
While New Jersey has been competitive against the Metropolitan Division and Atlantic Division, Florida has not done very well against the Metropolitan Division. Florida’s record versus the 4 Metropolitan Teams ahead of them in the standings (New Jersey, Columbus, New York Islanders, and Carolina) is 2-3-3. The Panthers have also gone 4-4 against the top 3 Metropolitan Division clubs (Washington, Pittsburgh, and Philadelphia). Against all the Metropolitan Division teams in front of them combined: 6-7-3.
CONFERENCE POWER STANDS WITH…
With the Metropolitan Division having 7 total teams in the playoff mix, and the Atantic Division only having 4 teams in the mix, the shift of power is still in favor for the Metropolitan Division.
From top to bottom, the Metropolitan Division is clearly looking like the stronger division, but Tampa Bay, Toronto, and Boston are very good teams. All the top Atlantic teams made moves at the NHL Trade Deadline to improve their clubs, and they have shown that they can compete with the Metropolitan Division’s best.
For now, it appears that the Metropolitan Division will get 5 teams into the Stanley Cup Playoffs, unless Florida goes on a massive run to end their regular season. The Panthers have some catching up to do, but they are certainly not mathematically eliminated. After noticing the high team goal differentials among the top Atlantic Division teams, one has to wonder if those clubs feed off of the weaker clubs inside of their division.
By: George Foussekis