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View of the Metro

As we enter the last week of the regular season, let’s take a look at where the Metropolitan Division stands.

Pittsburgh (103 points):  Four essentially meaningless regular season games stand between the Penguins and the start of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.  Let’s be honest, the general outlook surrounding this team isn’t that great.  Despite the record, the two seed, and having the best player in the world, the discourse surrounding this team is typically negative.

The Penguins are seen as a small, soft team that lacks depth and has too many questions regarding its health and recent past performances in the postseason.  There’s just too wide of a range with this team to trust they will exude the consistency needed to be successful in the playoffs.  The 4-0 sleepwalk last night in Minnesota is a perfect example of how bad it can go.

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There’s still no timetable for Evgeni Malkin or Kris Letang.  There’s a very really possibility that you start the postseason without one or both.

Despite employing best-in-the-league caliber specialty units, and basically riding them to the record they currently have, it’s still a struggle to find success and five-on-five, and that’s how you win in the playoffs.

Looking forward to their potential opponent, neither Detroit or Philadelphia are favorable match-ups.  If they make it far enough, there’s the inevitable rematch with Boston.  Yes, this is how the playoffs work, but how much confidence did you have while you read this paragraph?

The team does have a few things going for it.  First, Sidney Crosby is really good and appears to be on top of his game.  Second, they just survived a month where they did a lot of traveling against some pretty good teams.  IF, if they get Malkin and Letang back soon, it should rectify some of their most pressing issues –moving the puck out of their own zone and generating possession.  If the goaltending holds up, who knows.  Their ceiling is high, but we just haven’t seen them play on that level for any extended length of time yet.

So many ifs.

NY Rangers (91 points):  The Rangers are comfortably positioned into the postseason however the potential loss of Ryan McDonagh clearly has fans worried.

Having your life threatened by a Rangers fan, also known as Wednesday.  Here is the hit…

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Ex-referee Paul Stewart is an idiot and thought the Rangers should have responded because of the “Code”.

“How strongly did the Rangers react to what Burrows did? Like they barely had a pulse. Is that how Rangers coach Alain Vigneault would want them to respond? Apparently so. He appears to be clueless about the ever-declining Code in this game.”

The Rangers received a power play as a result of the play and subsequently a chance to win the game, which, actually, would have been the most productive way to “respond”.

Anyway, they’re playing well (7-2-1 last ten), and McDonagh is projected to be back for the playoffs, so perhaps lives will be spared –for now.  With a weak remaining schedule, they’re almost assured to see either Philadelphia or Columbus in the first round.

Also, Pittsburgh’s JT Miller has been demoted and Coach Alain Vigneault didn’t exactly sing his praise’s…

Ouch.

Philadelphia (87 points):  Despite struggling as of late, the Flyers currently have a 96% chance of making the playoffs thanks to a strong run after returning from the Olympic break.

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They basically need to find five points somewhere in this remaining schedule.

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Columbus (85 points):  The Blue Jackets are currently hanging on to the final playoff spot and have a huge game this evening against the Islanders.

Devils fans are optimistic…

New Jersey (84 points):  They’re on the outside looking in and need a lot of help.  They’re 0-11 in shootouts this season.  As if 0-11 could look worse, they’ve only scored three shootout goals all season. Employing a shootout specialist actually wouldn’t be the worst idea they’ve had this season.  If the team does predictably miss the postseason, management could look at this and say, “this is why we didn’t make it”.  This certainly had an impact, but it’s important to also remember that Martin Broduer started 37 games that Corey Schneider didn’t.

Washington (83 points):  The Caps had a really good run of making the playoffs six consecutive seasons, but that run is coming to an end.

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Now, there is plenty of blame to go around and a lot of talk about Adam Oates potentially being fired.

Oates called Alex Ovechkin out for quitting during a play last week.  Ovechkin responded by saying the entire team quit.

“It is what it is. He’s the head coach. In that moment, like, I think everyone quit the play. You get upset about what’s happened before. We had that kind of game. We’re supposed to play better but we didn’t.”

There’s also this to consider…

So there are a lot of fingers to point in Washington, but perhaps we should consider that this team was never really that great to begin with.

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Carolina (79 points):  They’re on their playoff deathbed, facing eliminated from contention with a Columbus win, but had actually been playing decent before losing to New Jersey Saturday.  ESPN took some time out from ranking the best LeBron reverse lay-ups to bring on Barry Melrose who stated the Canes are probably looking to buy-out several players this offseason.  From Capgeek, yeah they have some pretty dumb contracts.

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And oh yeah…

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NY Islanders (73 points):  We could have wrote an obituary for the Islanders the moment John Tavares went down with a knee injury at the Olympics, but that’s not the reason why they are where they are.  There’s everything that went wrong with Thomas Vanek.  There’s the fact that the team has had an issue in net for the last two seasons and there still hasn’t been a serious attempt to correct it.  The team save percentage of .893 is last in the league, actually down from the spectacular mark of .895 last season.

Charles Wang is selling the team, somehow valued at $370 million, which I guess should be good news.  The fact remains that Garth Snow is still the GM and Isles fans should probably abandon all hope until that changes.

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