The first month of the season is just about over. November will start on this coming Friday as most of the league has played around an eighth of their schedule. It is early enough in the season for no one to lose hope but there has been enough games to identify both promising and worrisome signals amid the noise. For this week’s Metropolitan Division snapshot, it is clear who is entering the end of October at the top: the Washington Capitals.
Here is the upcoming schedule for all eight teams. There will be some more heat in the upcoming games as the Philadelphia Flyers will be involved in three out of the four games within the Metropolitan. Those three include rivalry games against Pittsburgh and New Jersey plus today’s battle against the current Hottest Team in the NHL, the New York Islanders. Those games are in bold and highlighted in yellow.
Let’s go over the week that was and the week that will be for all eight teams in the Metropolitan Division.
Many teams in the East make a road trip out of their games in Western Canada. It is not an easy trip between the jet lag, the time zone changes, that they are usually three games in four nights, and road games are challenging on their own. On top of that, Calgary and Edmonton look far better than they have in past seasons. I am earnest when I write that what they did in this past week was impressive. They started the trip in Chicago with a 5-3 win. Last Tuesday, they went to Calgary and left with a 5-3 win. Last Thursday, the Caps were leading late in Edmonton but the home team found an equalizer and they found a winner in overtime. A 4-3 OT loss is still a point earned. Last Friday, the Capitals were down as much as 5-1 to Vancouver - but they never gave up. They chipped at the lead and eventually would tie it up themselves. A shootout was necessary and Washington prevailed to make Vancouver the second team this season to blow a four-goal lead. That’s four games in six nights and the Capitals earned seven out of a potential eight points. Washington shot up to the top of the division and are on the cusp of having a mathematical lead over second place. They and their fans should be proud of what happened last week.
The Capitals have one more road game coming up. They will head East from British Columbia to Ontario to visit Toronto on Tuesday night. Toronto is not an easy place to play in, however Toronto has found a way to make things, um, “interesting” this season. Washington will finally return home after that one and host Buffalo on November 1. Buffalo has had an awesome start to their season, so it is not an easy game. But the Caps will have two days off to prepare at least. It is a lighter week but well earned given the travel they endured.
After stumbling by last week’s snapshot, Carolina responded with a more productive week for this snapshot. With plenty of days off to rest, the Hurricanes wrapped up their road trip in Columbus on Thursday night. Carolina jumped out to a 3-1 lead after the first period but the home team responded with two goals in the second. Nothing could be decided in the third, so overtime was needed. It did not go well for Carolina as Columbus won in OT for a 4-3 result, but they did take a point out at the end of their trip. Carolina had a much better time yesterday in Raleigh. They hosted Chicago and blanked them with a 4-0 win. The home fans surely appreciated that and the team definitely benefitted from the victory. The Canes ended their short week at 1-0-1, which was enough to move them up to second place.
Carolina will be home for this entire week. They will host Calgary on Tuesday, which should prove to be an interesting matchup. The Canes have a home back-to-back with Detroit and New Jersey at the end of the week. Detroit has been flailing at this point. As of this writing, they lost seven straight. Even if they end the slide before Friday, Carolina should be able to take them. As for the second game, well, New Jersey has been adept snatching defeat from favorable situations in-game and on-schedule. It pains me to type it but now is the time for opponents to play New Jersey. The Canes faithful probably know that and I cannot write that they are wrong. I hope I am wrong about that and the Devils can possibly spoil another positive week for the Canes.
New York Islanders
October 11 was the last time the Islanders lost a hockey game in this season. Since then, they have won six straight. No other team in the league has a streak of wins close to that. The Isles are hot right now. Not even a four-day break between their OT win in Columbus last Saturday and their Thursday home game with Arizona would cool them off. The Islanders prevailed in Nassau 4-2 over Arizona. Not even a quick trip to Ottawa for a Friday night game would throw them off. The Isles dusted off Ottawa with another 4-2 victory. The Isles were perfect in their two games and that perfection moves them up to third in the division. Pittsburgh tied them in points but with two games in hand on the Pens, they have the tiebreaker. When you’re hot, then make the most of it. The Isles did just that.
The Islanders have another break coming up in their schedule. They will host Philadelphia today, who also played last night. It is a favorable game from that standpoint; it remains to be seen whether the Islanders will make it seven straight games. After that one, they are off until Friday for the first half of a really challenging back-to-back set. They will host Tampa Bay on Friday and then head up to Buffalo on Saturday night. At least Buffalo would be traveling from Washington the night before as well, but it is still a tough pair of opponents from the Atlantic Division. We shall see how far the good times will roll for the best team in NYC.
The Penguins have been on the road last week and it has not went well. Pittsburgh had a back-to-back set with both Florida-based teams. They lost both. First, 4-2 to Florida. Second, 3-2 to Tampa Bay. Both were in regulation so the Penguins left the Sunshine State with nothing. They went West to Texas to play Dallas. After two scoreless periods, the Penguins broke through. They took a lead in Dallas and added to it for a 3-0 victory. The Penguins got a victory to end a then-three game losing streak. It was enough to move them up to be tied with the currently-blazing Islanders in points. From this standpoint, it was a refreshing win.
The Penguins will have a short week of games with days off in between for this week. It is time to get their minds right. First and perhaps foremost to the Penguin faithful, they need to come out much better on Tuesday night. They will be hosting Philadelphia in this season’s first edition of the Battle of Pennsylvania. Rivalry games are always important games and this is one the Penguins could use to get back to more successful ways. Their second game will be an afternoon game on Saturday against Edmonton. Again, Edmonton are not the pushovers from previous seasons so the Penguins could have their hands full unless they can quell their aces. While it is only two games, whatever they can correct would be most helpful to avoid getting lost in the shuffle.
After losing their last two games last week in overtime, Columbus turned it around. The Blue Jackets took their first two games in this past week to overtime and won both of them. They went into Toronto last Monday and left with a 4-3 OT win. They came back and prevailed over Carolina in Ohio last Thursday. The two wins alone ensured a successful week. It also meant that Columbus had a four-game overtime streak, which is not necessarily great as they went 2-2 in them but that is also four games straight with a point. That ended last night. Philadelphia hosted Columbus and would step up in the third period in a high-scoring affair to break away to hand the Blue Jackets a 7-4 loss. It was a sour end to what was otherwise a positive week for the Blue Jackets.
The Blue Jackets will get the next three days off before resuming their season. When they do, they will be hosting Edmonton on October 30. This is followed by a back-to-back set to close out the week. They will travel to St. Louis for Friday night and then return to their home on Saturday night to play Calgary. It is not an easy week but Columbus has at least shown to not be an easy opponent either. It goes both ways.
The Flyers flopped by last week’s snapshot with three straight losses. Philly turned it around in this past week. They crushed Vegas, who was coming off a 3-0 win in Pittsburgh, with a 6-2 home win. That ended the short losing streak. Philly followed that with two more wins. They went to Chicago and put up a decisive effort for a 4-1 win. Last night, they pulled away from Columbus with a three-goal third period to prevail 7-4. The Flyers swept this past week of games. While they only moved up to sixth in the division, they are back to being in the wild card picture in the Eastern Conference. They have put up a sizeable cushion ahead of the two basement teams in the Metropolitan. They are also not that far behind Pittsburgh or Columbus; a November splash in the division is possible from them.
Especially since the Flyers have three games within the Metropolitan coming up. They will visit the Islanders today as they take their three-game winning streak up against a team with six straight ‘W’s. It will be a tough one for sure. On Tuesday, the Flyers will visit Pittsburgh in a rivalry game that, if it goes in their favor, could see the Flyers jump ahead of the Pens in the standings. On Friday, the Flyers will head to Newark to play the Devils and hope to continue doing to them what they did in their home opener on October 9. The Flyers will return to Philadelphia and play a team not in the Metropolitan on Saturday night. It is against Toronto, who will probably put up a good challenge. Philadelphia will be busy but they are at least heading into a four-game week with positive results in their recent memory.
Those who wanted to see the New York Rangers play a normal weekly schedule finally got one in this past week. They had to play three games in this past week. That is as many as they played in the previous two. Unfortunately for the Rangers, they lost those three games and started this week with a fourth-straight loss: a 3-2 defeat by Vancouver last Sunday afternoon. But the Rangers would get some results. Last Tuesday, they hosted Arizona and lost to them 3-2 in overtime. It was a fifth winless game but their first point since October 5. The Rangers would end the winlessness with a 6-2 win over Buffalo. Yes, over Buffalo. By four goals. That was a thing that happened. The 1-1-1 week was not enough to win it but the three points earned plus New Jersey earning zero did pull them up from eighth place.
The Rangers have a rough week coming up on paper. They will host a very strong Buffalo team tonight. Two days later, they will host Tampa Bay on Tuesday night. While Tampa Bay has not exactly dominated this season, they remain a massive opponent based on their forward core alone. The Rangers will get some time off before playing on the road for the first time in a couple of weeks. Unfortunately for the Blueshirt faithful, it will be in Nashville on Saturday night and they have been very good at home (and in general) to start this season. Good luck, Rangers.
New Jersey Devils
The schedule makers, for whatever reason, decided to give the Devils a six-day break between games. Therefore, they had one game. In theory, it was a good situation for the Devils. They had some injuries, Mackenzie Blackwood was sick, and their poor start to this season meant some additional time to practice and prepare was welcomed. On top of that, their opponent was Arizona, who played the night before the Devils’ game on Friday and the game was Arizona’s third in four nights. The Devils went onto the ice, took a two goal lead, saw that slip away, took another lead, saw that lost on the next shift, and then faltered again with another game winner allowed in the third period, which ended with the home fans deservedly booing the Devils off the ice. The Devils had one game last week and botched it in a 5-3 loss (#5 was an empty netter) to Arizona. Welcome back to last in the division.
The Devils will end a terrible October with a home game with Tampa Bay on Wednesday. Yes, the Devils will have time off before the game and their opponent would have played on the previous night. Some would see that as an advantage but as demonstrated last Friday, the Devils are capable of not taking that advantage. The Devils will end a six-game home stand by hosting the rival Philadelphia Flyers on Friday night. The Devils have a chance at some revenge from their last meeting. Who knows if they will enact it. That home game on Friday will be the Devils’ last one until the middle of November. The team will start a five-game road trip on Saturday with a trip to Carolina on Saturday night. Carolina does have a game on Friday, but it is at home so they will not be traveling. Not that the Devils are into taking advantages so far in 2019-20.
That closes the fourth Weekly Metropolitan Division Snapshot of the 2019-20 season. Washington is on the cusp of building an actual lead but games in hand give Carolina a shot provided they take them all. The middle of the division is captivating with a hot Isles team being atop a four-team group that now includes the recently-hot Flyers. What are your thoughts on the Metropolitan Division? Who will lead the Metropolitan Division by next week’s snapshot? Who has the most to prove in this week coming up? Will the Isles keep up their winning? Will the Devils pull themselves out of the basement again? Please leave your answers and other thoughts about the eight teams in the division, what they did, and what is coming up for them in the comments. Thank you for reading.