Photo: Patrick McDermott/NHL Via Getty Images
With the end of the 2018-19 NHL regular season approaching, NoVa Caps examines 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 17-23. Here is a link to the previous week’s performance. Note: the individual team writeups do not include results from Sunday March 24.
At the beginning of the week, the Capitals were in first place in the Metropolitan Division and had a 42-22-7 record. It was another uneven week for the Caps and even as far as points were concerned, as they gained only half of the available points they could have gained in a week in which their losses outnumbered wins. They started the week by beating the New Jersey Devils, 4-1, in New Jersey on March 19, to conclude a road trip. They returned to Capital One Arena the very next day, but their performance on home ice was not great. They lost 5-4 to the Tampa Bay Lightning on March 20 in overtime in a game in which they took three penalties and gave up a power play goal each time, but converted on just one of their own power plays. Two days later, they lost 2-1 at home to the Minnesota Wild, who were fighting for a playoff spot in the Western Conference. The week was one of squandered opportunities. At the end of the week, the Caps were sitting with a 43-23-8 record and just a one-point lead in the Metropolitan Division.
New York Islanders
At the beginning of the week, the New York Islanders were in second place in the Metro Division with a 41-23-7 record and were two points behind the Capitals for first place. The week started off and ended well for the Isles but the duration of the week was a poor one for Barry Trotz’ team. On March 17, they beat the slumping Minnesota Wild on the road by a 3-2 score in overtime. They returned home for a brief home-stand and but disappointed in front of their home crowd. They were pummeled 5-0 by the red-hot Boston Bruins on March 19, and two days later, the Montreal Canadiens, who were also fighting for a playoff spot in the Eastern Conference, shut them out, 4-0. The Islanders were shutout at home twice in two games. They then went on the road to Philadelphia and beat the Flyers 4-2 in a matinee game on March 23. Despite their uneven week, they gained a point on the Capitals, who also had a rough week. At the end of the week, they held a record of 43-25-7 and remained in second place as a result of having a game in hand on the Pittsburgh Penguins, who tied them in points this week.
At the beginning of the week, the Pittsburgh Penguins had a 39-24-9 record and were in third place in the Metropolitan Division. Pittsburgh started off the week losing to the Philadelphia Flyers at home by a 2-1 score in overtime on March 17. They went on the road to play the Carolina Hurricanes on March 19 and lost 3-2 in a shootout. Both games featured the Penguins giving up a very late third period goal to lose in the extra session. On March 21, they played in Nashville and won 2-1 in a shootout. On March 21, they traveled to Dallas to play the Stars and won 3-2. At the end of the week, they held a record of 41-24-11 and were just one point out of first place, but the Islanders had a game in hand; as a result, they remain in third.
At the beginning of the week, the Carolina Hurricanes had a 39-25-7 and were in fourth place in the division. They spent the week on a home-stand. Their first game came against the Penguins on March 19, a contest which they won 3-2 in a shootout. Two days later, on March 19, they lost 6-3 to Tampa Bay in a game in which they were leading after two periods. They rebounded on March 21 to beat the Minnesota Wild 5-1. Their record for the week was 2-1-0 and they gained ground on first-place Washington and increased their margin over the Columbus Blue Jackets for a wild card spot. At the end of the week, their record stood at 41-26-7.
Columbus Blue Jackets
At the beginning of the week, the Columbus Blue Jackets had a 40-28-4 record which put them in fifth place in the division. They are currently fighting for the last playoff position with the Montreal Canadiens. They had a very light schedule, but were on a tough road trip in western Canada. They played the Calgary Flames on March 19 and lost 4-2, then traveled to Edmonton for a game on March 21 against the Edmonton Oilers and lost, 4-1. For the week, Columbus had a record of 0-2-0 and lost ground to all Eastern Conference rivals and fell behind the Montreal Canadiens for the last wild card spot for the playoffs. Their record is now 40-30-4.
Once again, the Caps were one of the biggest “losers” this week, as they lost two of their three games and gained just three points for the week. The Islanders gained ground since they played four games and were able to win two of them, gaining four points. The Penguins gained even more ground as they won two games and their two losses were both in overtime, so they gained six points. They were the “winners” this week and if they keep up their present pace, they could be leading the Metropolitan Division at this time next week. Carolina gained four points by winning two out of three. Columbus lost both of the games they played, gained no standings points, and are currently out of the playoff picture.
Picture from NHL.Com
On Sunday afternoon, both the Washington Capitals and the New York Islanders played games. The Caps beat the Philadelphia Flyers 3-1 and improved their record to 44-25-8. The Islanders kept pace by beating the Arizona Coyotes 2-0, who are trying to stay alive in the Western Conference playoff picture. They are now at 44-25-7. The Carolina Hurricanes play the Montreal Canadiens later today, at the time of writing.
By Diane Doyle