Streaks have to end at some time. When you’re hot, it feels like it may not. Until it does. When you’re winless, it feels like it will never end. Until it does. Such stuck out in this past week of hockey within the Metropolitan Division. And the start of a new one kept second place from slipping.
Yes, the close middle of the division is back to being three teams. But it could be four if the other team in New York City keeps piling up results and certain teams fail to do so. All the same, fourth and fifth place in the Metropolitan own the wild card spots in the East and the closest team to them is the sixth place team in the division. Take that, Toronto, Florida, and Tampa Bay. They will be involved a little bit in the Metropolitan Division in the week coming up. Here is this week’s schedule; games within the division are highlighted and in bold.
Let us go over the week that was and the week that will be for each team in the division.
As everyone predicted, the Washington Capitals would see their winning streak come to an end at the hands of - wait, Columbus? Yes. Columbus went into D.C. and Washington was served a 5-2 loss for their efforts. Yes, a three-goal loss to the then-hapless Blue Jackets on their home rink. Rough. The Caps would bounce back. On national television, they prevailed 3-2 over Boston. Last night, they went to Tampa Bay and gave them yet another big loss in a season filled of them. Specifically, the Caps won 5-2. The streak may have died but their hold on first place in the division is very much alive.
The Capitals will get to enjoy a very similar schedule for this week coming up. They will play Columbus again on Monday. They will play Tampa Bay on Saturday. The only difference in opponent and day of the week is that instead of a very good team in another division on Wednesday, they will play New Jersey on Friday. Oh, and the Columbus and Tampa Bay run backs are in the other venues than from this week. I am sure the prep meetings for those two games will be similar. And I am sure that Washington will want to enact some revenge on Columbus. Expect Washington to keep on rolling and keep a tightening grip on first in the Metropolitan.
In last week’s snapshot, I pointed out how the New York Islanders’ second place in the division was up for grabs. The Isles put in the best defense against falling in the standings: Winning. The Isles swept their three games last week. They stomped through the Sunshine State with a 5-1 victory in Tampa Bay and a 3-1 victory in Florida. The Isles needed overtime to get a win over Buffalo, which was a bit unfortunate as they allowed a late equalizer. But they still won 3-2 and that made it a perfect week of results. Now they have a four-point cushion above the the third and fourth place teams as well as having two games in hand on them. The Isles faithful have to be enjoying this and, hey, why not? Who does not enjoy winning?
The Isles will seek to continue their streak with an interesting mix of opponents coming up. On Tuesday, they will host Nashville at Nassau. Nashville is not a good road team and the Isles will have the advantage of not having a game on Monday like they do. On Thursday, the Isles will head up to Massachusetts to play Boston. That will be a tough game as the B’s in Boston have only lost one game in regulation at home this season. Maybe the Isles can be the second but I would not hold my breath. On Saturday, the Isles will have an afternoon with Anaheim in Nassau County. Anaheim is going through the Metropolitan in this week; perhaps the Isles can continue to add more losses to their not-good road record.
By the virtue of tiebreakers, the Carolina Hurricanes are back in third place in the Metropolitan Division. Specifically, it is by regulation wins (14 vs. 13). Their road trip into Western Canada has been a very good one so far. Last Tuesday, they pulled ahead and away from Edmonton in a 6-3 victory. Last Thursday was their only downfall on the trip so far; a 1-0 loss in overtime in Vancouver. However, that was still a point earned so it was not a total loss. Carolina rebounded by crushing Calgary to end their winning streak with a decisive 4-0 win. The five points earned moved the Canes back up a few spots and, again, the tiebreaker was in their favor.
Will they hold onto it? That depends in part in how this week goes. The Canes will have two more games on their road trip. They will head into Winnipeg on Tuesday and then face with a very good and very hot Colorado team on Thursday. Maybe Chicago and St. Louis end that before Thursday. The Canes would probably not mind that. After the game in Denver, the Canes will return home on Saturday to host Florida. What else in part will impact this? The performances of the next two teams.
The Pittsburgh Penguins earned one fewer point than the Canes so they fell by tiebreakers. Their week did not start well. They lost 4-1 to Montreal. While they would pick up wins in their next two games, they both required post-regulation play. Not that the Pens should be worried about gifting Columbus a point, they did need overtime to win 1-0 against them. Last night, they needed a four-round shootout to beat a poor Los Angeles team 5-4. While they got the win, that it was beyond regulaiton and not in regulation, Carolina holds the advantage for the time being. As they are tied in points, it is not a big deal now but it is something to keep an eye out as the season progresses.
The Penguins will try to break ahead on a road trip coming up this week. It is now their turn to go to Western Canada. They will visit Calgary on Tuesday and then get Edmonton and Vancouver in a back-to-back on Friday and Saturday. Back-to-back sets are not easy in general. They are tougher on the road. It can be a tough place to get points but since Carolina just did it, there is some pressure on Pittsburgh to make it happen. By the way, they will be on the road after Christmas but only for one more game - but that will come in next week’s snapshot. Will they overtake Carolina? Maybe. Will they stay ahead of their cross-state rivals? Maybe - and maybe moreso given their current form.
Just as the Isles won their week to pull ahead, the Philadelphia Flyers fell flat on their face by going winless. They only had two games and they lost both. They were the latest victims of Colorado last Wednesday in a 3-1 loss. Last night, they were in Minnesota and left with a 4-1 loss. The Flyers still hold onto fifth in the Metropolitan but the door is starting to open for the teams behind them for that second wild card spot. They have a lead on them but they need to avoid a losing streak to putting that second wild card spot up for grabs.
After a short week, the Flyers will be very busy coming up. They are the only team in the division playing today as they will end their road trip in Winnipeg tonight. They will return home for home games with Anaheim and Buffalo on Tuesday and Thursday, respectively. Given that Philly has been far, far better at home this season than on the road, then it may be welcomed. Their week will end again on the road in Ottawa on Saturday. Ottawa is not a total pushover. And if Philly gets there with some wins, they may still prevail and move on up. If they do not, well, their fans will get to deal with this next team.
The New York Rangers were thought to be a season or two away. Well, they keep getting good weeks of results. In this past week, they were on the road and came away with five out of eight points. They crushed Vegas in Vegas with a 5-0 shutout win. They faltered in Los Angeles two days later in a 3-1 loss. But the Rangers made their time in California better by beating San Jose 6-3 and falling to Anaheim 4-3 with a shootout. It is a positive week on a trip that can trip up some East Coast teams. By tiebreakers, they are the closest team to Philadelphia for that second wild card spot in the entire Eastern Conference. Yes. A three-point lead is not at all insurmountable. The challenge may really come from keeping ahead of Toronto and Tampa Bay and Florida, but this is ahead of what I think most expected. Be careful, Philly.
The Rangers will have a short week coming up after their four-games-in-seven-night week. They get Nashville on Monday and Toronto on Friday. Both games are in Manhattan, which should favor the Rangers. The time off should help them heal up and prepare for what could be a very busy next week and 2020. They may fall a bit in the overall standings but if they can keep winning weeks, they could be a surprising challenger as the season wears on.
Columbus Blue Jackets
Columbus finally won a game. And they did it with a big decisive win against the best team in the league on their rink. Yes, they beat Washington 5-2 last Monday. It is easily the highlight of their four-game road trip that concluded in this past week. However, they did pick up points in their other two games. While they lost to Pittsburgh last Thursday, they did so in a 1-0 overtime loss so that is one point. Yesterday, they lost in overtime again with a 4-3 defeat at Ottawa. It is still four out of six points for a Columbus team that is seemingly further and further in the distance in the Eastern Conference standings. In a season lacking a lot of good things for the Jackets, this was a positive week.
The Jackets will need a lot to get within some kind of contention. They will have four games coming up with three of them at home. Columbus will host Washington on Monday and hope to not taste the cold dish called revenge. On Tuesday, they will head to Detroit in a game that Columbus should do their best to win to at least not be closer to their level. On Thursday, the Blue Jackets will return home to host Los Angeles. Lastly, on Saturday, they will host a New Jersey team who have a game that night before against the aforementioned Washington team. Given the quality level of the opponents after Monday, this could be a week where Columbus can at least set themselves apart from them. Should they fail, well, they will just entrench themselves among the bottom tier of the NHL. No pressure.
The Devils changed coaches by the last snapshot and were winless in five as they embarked on a four-game road trip. The futility would continue until yesterday. On Tuesday, the Devils visited Dallas and played one of their worst games of the season. They may have only lost 2-0 but the performance was way worse than that. On Thursday, the Devils played much better in Colorado, who was 7-0-1 going into the game. Unfortunately, their goaltender was just too good on top of other issues like their goaltender getting hurt in the middle of the game and, oh yeah, Taylor Hall being held out for “precautionary reasons.” He is on the trading block. Still, the Devils lost 3-1 in a game that was easier to watch. Last night, the Devils went to Arizona. Mackenzie Blackwood bailed them out a lot and the Devils were able to get an edge in goals. They held onto win their first game since Thanksgiving and the first win ever for interim head coach Alain Nasreddine with a 2-1 result. The Devils are deeply in last place and the win does not change that. But winning still feels good for a change.
The Devils are off until Wednesday, which will kick off three games in four nights. The Devils will host Anaheim on Wednesday night. They will have the benefit of taking on an Anaheim team that will be in Philadelphia the night before. Not that the Devils have taken much advantage of those benefits this season. On Friday, the Devils will take on the division leaders in Washington. They will follow that with a road game in Columbus, which has been a tough spot for them. Then again, given how 2019-20 has went, a lot of places have been tough for them. By the Washington-Columbus set, Hall may be gone as the NHL will have a roster freeze starting on Thursday, December 19. Will he make it to the Anaheim game? Who knows.
That closes the eleventh Weekly Metropolitan Division Snapshot of the 2019-20 season. Washington still reigns and the Islanders pulled themselves ahead of the pack for at least a little while longer. Carolina jumped ahead to third, however the Rangers may be knocking on the door to challenge for a wild card spot. At least for a little while in this season. New Jersey’s season may be as good as done given how far behind they are of everyone in the standings (five points behind Ottawa now), and Columbus is getting closer to that edge. Still, there is much that can happen as Christmas and the New Year approaches.
In the meantime, what are your thoughts on the Metropolitan Division? Will the Isles continue to stay ahead of the pack except for Washington? Will Philadelphia right itself? Can the Rangers challenge for a wild card spot by January 2020? Will the Devils win some more games? 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.