Photo by Scott Audette/NHLI via Getty Images
With the end of the 2018-19 NHL regular season approaching, NoVa Caps has been examining 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 24-30. Here are links to their performance from March 10-16 and from March 17-23.
At the beginning of the week, the Capitals were in first place in the Metropolitan Division and had a 43-23-8 record, with a slim, one-point lead over the New York Islanders. The Capitals were in the midst of a home stand that had started off with two losses and news breaking that several players were ill with a bug.
But this week, the Champions embodied the principle “new week, fresh start”. They started the week by beating the Philadelphia Flyers 3-1 on March 24. The Carolina Hurricanes came into town on March 26 and the Caps beat them 4-1. The Caps then started a road trip on March 28 against Carolina and this time, beat them 3-2. As a result of that win, the Caps clinched a spot in the 2018-19 Stanley Cup playoffs. On March 30, they traveled to Tampa Bay to play the Lightning and beat them 6-3 in a game where Alex Ovechkin scored his 50th and 51st goals of the season and T.J. Oshie and Nicklas Backstrom also scored two goals, apiece. The Caps had a perfect 4-0 record for the week and moved their record to 47-23-8 and increased their lead in the Metropolitan Division to three points.
New York Islanders
At the beginning of the week, the New York Islanders were in second place in the Metro Division in points with a 43-25-7 record. They were tied with the Pittsburgh Penguins in points but had a game in hand and were just one point behind the Capitals for first place.
The Islanders started the week by beating the Arizona Coyotes 2-0 on March 17. After that, they went on the road for two games. They lost 4-0 on March 19 to a desperate Columbus Blues Jackets team who was fighting for their playoff life. After that, they came back on March 21 to beat the Winnipeg Jets 5-4 in regulation in a game where they were down by two goals about midway through third period. The Islanders returned home to host the Buffalo Sabres on March 23 and beat them 5-1. Thus, for the week, the Islanders were 3-1 but lost ground to the Washington Capitals who had a perfect 4-0 week. Their record is now 46-26-7 as they remain in second place and are three points behind the Capitals. They also clinched a spot in the Stanley Cup playoffs for this season, as well. They opened up a four-point lead against the Penguins who only played two games this week and split them.
At the beginning of the week, the Pittsburgh Penguins had a 41-24-11 record and were in third place in the Metropolitan Division. They were tied with the New York Islanders in points but had played one more game than the Islanders, so they were “technically” considered to be in third place. They were just one point behind the division leading Washington Capitals at the beginning of the week.
The Penguins played only two games this week. They beat the New York Rangers 5-2 on March 25 to finish a very productive road trip. They returned home to start a homestand on March 29 against the Nashville Predators. The Predators beat them 3-1. This week ended up being an “even Steven” week for Pittsburgh in terms of standings points gained as in gaining exactly half of the available points. At the end of the week, they held a record of 42-25-11 and remained in third place. They lost ground to both the Capitals who won all four of their games and the Islanders who won three out of four. Because of their light schedule, they have a game in hand against both the Caps and the Islanders.
At the beginning of the week, the Carolina Hurricanes had a 41-26-7 and were in fourth place in the division. They started off the week at home on March 24 and beat the Montreal Canadiens 2-1 in Overtime. Their goal for this week was to gain ground on the first place Washington Capitals since they had two games scheduled with the Metropolitan Division leaders. They traveled to Washington, D.C. for their game on March 26 but losing 4-1. They returned home for their game of March 28 where, this time, the Washington Capitals came to Raleigh. The Canes lost 3-2 in a game where they had at different points, lead 1-0 and 2-1. Losing two games to the Capitals was a disappointment to the team. On March 30, the Philadelphia Flyers came into Raleigh and the Canes rebounded from their two consecutive losses to the Caps and were able to beat the Flyers, 5-2. They ended up being 2-2 for the week and their record now stands at 43-28-7. They are two points behind Pittsburgh who they play on Sunday.
Columbus Blue Jackets
At the beginning of the week, the Columbus Blue Jackets had a 40-30-4 record which put them in fifth place in the division. They are currently fighting for the last playoff position with the Montreal Canadiens. After a week where they lost their only two games, this week also embodied the saying “New week, new start”. They began the week by finishing a road trip and closed it out very well by beating the Vancouver Canucks 5-0 on March 24. The New York Islanders came into town on March 26 and the Blue Jackets won against them 4-0. After that, the Montreal Canadiens came into town on March 28. The Blue Jackets won 6-2, which kept the Jackets ahead of the Canadiens in the wild card race. After that, they travel to Nashville on March 30 to play the Predators and beat them 5-2. The Blue Jackets had a perfect 4-0 record and are now 44-30-4. They are fifth place in the Metropolitan Division and are tied with the Montreal Canadiens of the Atlantic Division in points but hold the important ROW tie breaker.
The Caps were the biggest “winner” of the week as they won all four of their games, clinched a playoff spot. This was fortunate for them since the New York Islanders had a good week, also, winning three out of four games. Thus, they were able to gain ground on the Islanders, in spite of the Islanders having a good week. One key for the Caps was beating Carolina in two straight games when the opposite result would have helped the Canes nearly catch up to them. While the Islanders lost ground to the Caps, they were able to gain ground on both Pittsburgh and Carolina and, in addition, clinched a playoff berth. The Penguins gained the least number of points for the week, gaining just two, as they split two games. Carolina also split their games for the week, having wins at both the beginning and end of the week but losing two straight games to the Caps in the middle. Columbus was also a big winner this week, winning all four of their games, pulling ahead of Montreal in the race for the last wild card spot by virtue of tie breakers, and gaining enough ground on Carolina to be just one point behind them.
By Diane Doyle
Metro Division Performance — Week of March 10-16
Metro Division Performance — Week of March 17-23
A Look At the Eastern Conference Playoff Picture
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