With the end of the 2018-19 NHL regular season approaching, NoVa Caps figured it was time to examine the performance of the teams in contention for playoff position in the Metropolitan Division. At the present time, there are five teams in the division with a chance to make the playoffs. This post discusses how they performed during the week of March 10-16.
At the beginning of the week, the Washington Capitals were in first place in the Metropolitan Division and had a 40-21-7 record. The Caps had an “uneven” week, or should we call it an “even Steven” week, as they won two games and lost two. They beat Winnipeg, one of the Central Division contenders by a 3-1 score on March 10. They lost to the Pittsburgh Penguins 5-3 on March 12, in a game where they had led 2-0 at one point but a three-minute meltdown not only cost them their two-goal cushion but their lead as well. They rebounded on March 14 against the Philadelphia Flyers by winning 5-2. But lost to Tampa Bay on March 16. They fell behind by two goals early and came close to tying the game but gave up two empty net goals and lost 6-3.
This was a week where the schedule was tough, which included three contenders on the docket: Winnipeg, Pittsburgh, and Tampa Bay. It was also a schedule that featured one home game followed by a three-game road trip. In other words, a very tough stretch of the schedule. The Caps maintained their two-point advantage over the Islanders in the standings since both they and the Islanders won twice. But the Islanders still have a “game in hand”. Caps are now 42-23-7 and remain in first place.
New York Islanders
At the beginning of the week, the New York Islanders were in second place in the Metro Division with a 39-22-7 record and were two points behind the Washington Capitals for first place in the Metro. This week they knocked off two teams that are fighting to remain relevant in this year’s playoff picture, first beating the Columbus Blue Jackets 2-0 on March 11 and then beating the Montreal Canadiens 2-1 on March 14. On March 16, they lost 2-1 to the lowly Detroit Red Wings. All three games for the Islanders were low scoring. Their record this week was 2-1 and allowed them to maintain their second-place position, two points behind the Capitals but they have a game in hand.
For the week, the Islanders gave up an average of .67 goals per game which is impressive. They only scored 1.7 goals which is relatively anemic, unless the goaltending is other worldly. Overall, the Islanders channeled the New Jersey Devils from their glory years. They were able to beat both Columbus and Montreal at home but lost to Detroit on the road. Islanders are now 41-23-7 and remain in second place.
At the beginning of the week, the Pittsburgh Penguins had a 36-23-9 record and were tied for third place with the Carolina Hurricanes in points, but were considered to be behind the Canes due to tie breakers. The Penguins started the week VERY well by snapping the Boston Bruins’ seven-game winning streak, beating them 4-2 on March 10. They followed that up by beating the Washington Capitals 5-3 on March 12 in a game where the Penguins had initially fallen behind 2-0 but in less than three minutes of time, scored three goals to take a 3-2 lead and go on to win the game 5-3. That win for the Penguins had snapped a seven-game winning streak by the Caps. They followed that up with an impressive 5-0 win against the Buffalo Sabres on March 14. They ended the week by losing 5-1 to the St. Louis Blues on March 16.
Overall, it was an impressive start of the week for the Penguins in snapping winning streaks by contending teams in two consecutive games and following that up with another win. But the end of the week was just one more example of the old saying “all good things must come to an end”. They played three games at home against contenders and one road game against the fading Buffalo Sabres. Their record for the week was 3-1 and they broke their tie in points with the Carolina Hurricanes and have moved up to third place in the division. Their record is 39-24-9.
At the beginning of the week, the Carolina Hurricanes had a 37-24-7 and were tied for third place in points with the Pittsburgh Penguins, but were considered to be ahead of the due to tie breakers. They started off the week by beating the Colorado Avalanche 3-0 on March 11. They had a three-day break in their schedule before playing the Columbus Blue Jackets on March 15 and losing 3-0. They rebounded by beating the Buffalo Sabres, 4-2, on March 16.
The Canes had started off the week on the road but returned home for their last game of the week. They were 2-1 for the week but moved down in the standings because Pittsburgh had won three out of four. Their record is now 39-25-7 and they are two points behind third place Pittsburgh but have one game in hand.
Columbus Blue Jackets
At the beginning of the week, the Columbus Blue Jackets had a 38-27-3 record and were fighting for the last wild card spot with Montreal. They started the week off by losing to the New York Islanders on March 11 by a 2-0 score. The very next day, March 12, they beat the Boston Bruins 7-4. They won again on March 15 by beating Carolina 3-1. But on March 16, they lost in overtime to the Boston Bruins 2-1.
The Blue Jackets had a tough schedule where all their opponents were contending teams and featured two back to back sets, with the first being a road game followed by a home game and the second set being a home game followed by a road game. Their record for the week was 2-1-1 so they gained one standings point on the Capitals, Islanders, and Hurricanes but lost one point compared to the Penguins. Their record is now 40-28-4.
The Capitals were the biggest “losers” among the top Metro Division teams due to only having a .500 winning percentage for the week. But they did not lose any ground in the standings to the Islanders or the Hurricanes, who had played one less game. They lost two standings points to Pittsburgh and one standings point to Columbus. They had a relatively tough schedule with three road games and three games against contenders.
Pittsburgh was the biggest “winner” as they won three games and earned six standings points. They had the most impressive performance by snapping the winning streaks of two different contenders: Boston Bruins and Washington Capitals. Even so, the Penguins only gained two standings points compared to the Caps, Islanders, and Hurricanes and just one on Columbus.
The Blue Jackets had the toughest schedule of the week, considering all their opponents were playoff contenders and the fact that the schedule included two back to back sets of games. The Jackets ended up gaining one standings point, compared to the Caps, Islanders, and Hurricanes. All the teams solidified their position in the playoffs, especially compared to the Montreal Canadiens of the Atlantic Division who had a 1-2 week and lost ground, points-wise to all five of the top Metropolitan Division teams.
By Diane Doyle