Thanksgiving is coming up in America next week and it brings to mind this rule of thumb written a few years back by Rory Boylen at Sportsnet. That is: teams in a playoff position by Thanksgiving are likely to make the playoffs by the end of the season. However, if there is one division that could throw a wrench into that heuristic, it is the 2021-22 Metropolitan Division. A division where all eight teams could have a point percentage of 54% or better by the following Thursday. A division where no one currently has a losing record. A division that is still led by the Carolina Hurricanes, who has lost all of two games this season. Look at this snapshot of the division.
Playoff spots are still very much up for grabs. It is going to take a while before the proverbial wheat is separated from the chaff. And likely a lot of games within the division on top of cold streaks, poor weeks, and unfortunate breaks (read: injuries). Until then, the Metropolitan Division looks like a bumper crop of successful teams in this National Hockey League.
To that end, here is who everyone in the Metropolitan is playing in the last full week of November before Thanksgiving. Games within the Metropolitan Division are highlighted in yellow and in bold. They are also happening tonight; all other games are against other divisions:
What follows is the team-by-team breakdown for this week’s snapshot.
What Happened Last Week: Carolina’s road trip ended on Tuesday night in Tampa Bay. How would they respond after losing for the first time this season this past Saturday? By getting a result. Teuvo Teravainen’s power play goal in the third period tied up the game at 1-1 and the two teams were forced to go to overtime. That was one point. In OT, Brady Skjei seemed to break the tie. But his goal was disallowed due to a teammate being offside. No matter, Martin Necas would score and would count for the 2-1 win. Carolina returned home to host Philly on Friday and St. Louis on Saturday. Friday night saw the Canes - what’s this? Lose? Yes. The Hurricanes lost again on Friday night. Philadelphia went into their house and left with a win. The Canes just could not solve Carter Hart more than once in a 2-1 loss. Last night, they hosted St. Louis in an effort to win the week as well as hold onto first place for a little while longer. Brady Skjei would score his first of the season and it would count to open the scoring. Sebastian Aho extended the lead to two in the second period. The Blues would battle back with scores from Pavel Buchnevich and Vladimir Tarasenko. It looked like overtime was going to happen. Then an unlikely figure showed up: Brendan Smith. Smith scored his first as a Hurricane with just under three minutes in regulation to make it a 3-2 game. Carolina held on to win. They won another week. They remain at the top of the most competitive division in the NHL for another snapshot. They are the Carolina Hurricanes. They may not be invincible, but they remain the best in the Metropolitan.
What’s Coming Up This Week: The road. Again. This trip will be longer, though. The Carolina Hurricanes will be on the road starting on November 16 through November 27. They will play their last home game of the month on the 28th. The Canes are going out West for this week’s trip. On Tuesday night, they will visit a Las Vegas team that is looking to right their ship. After stopping in Nevada, Hurricanes will head into California. Thursday night will have the Canes play Anaheim and Saturday afternoon will see Carolina play in Los Angeles. Neither of those two games should be seen as easy ones. Just ask the Devils. But the Canes have been able to keep getting results in various situations. I think it is fair to think they should do well. If not, then the door will open for first place in this division. It is not exactly closed at the moment with Washington just two points back...
SBN Blog: Canes Country
What Happened Last Week: After taking just one point out of six last week, the Capitals bounced back with results. On Monday, they hosted Buffalo and took the game early. They never lost the lead in a 5-3 win. The Capitals then hit the road for a back-to-back set in Detroit and Columbus. Thursday night in Detroit was a memorable night for rookie goaltender Zach Fucale, who made his debut at the age of 26. He was also perfect as he stopped all 21 shots. A pair of first period goals - one from Dmitry Orlov and Lars Eller’s first of the season - were enough to secure the victory. Washington’s week ended in Ohio to play Columbus on Friday night. The first half of this game was eventful. Columbus struck first early and Alex Ovechkin tied it with his 742nd career goal to pass Brett Hull in the all-time rankings. Washington scored a quick double in the second period only for Columbus to match it with two goals 22 seconds apart from each other. All this before the halfway mark of the second period! From then, it was close, but Conor Sheary provided the difference maker in the third period. The Caps held on to win 4-3. Washington bounced back from a winless week by sweeping this one. As a result, they are back in second place and thanks to Carolina being imperfect, they are challenging the throne. Again.
What’s Coming Up This Week: Washington will be heading out to California for most of this week coming up. They will start a four-game road trip where they will play all three Californian teams in this week. But first they will be at home for a big inter-divisional game against the Pittsburgh Penguins. The Capitals would be wise to take care of business at home. Not only would it keep the Pens down but it will help their results for this week as that trip out West is not an easy one. Washington will play Anaheim and Los Angeles back to back on Tuesday and Wednesday. Their week will end with another back-to-back set starting in San Jose. The Capitals are riding a streak into this week and a good set of results could see them take first over Carolina. We shall see; that trip out West is never easy. And the Penguins certainly will not be after last night’s debacle in Kanata, Ontario.
SBN Blog: Japers’ Rink
What Happened Last Week: The Rangers returned from Western Canada with a 1-2-1 result. With a short week, it was imperative that they get some points to avoid falling behind in the Metropolitan Division standings. On Monday, they had the fortune of hosting the Florida Panthers, then the hottest team in hockey. Amazingly, they beat them. It took scoring the game’s first four goals across the first and second periods, and then hoping Igor Shesterkin would hold onto that lead. Florida took 45 shots and Shesterkin was only beaten three times, including a late one with 40 seconds left to play. But the Rangers held on to hand Florida their first regulation loss of the whole season. With one win in the bag, the Rangers went to Columbus to start a back-to-back set for the weekend. Against the Blue Jackets, they took care of business. Artemi Panarin matched a first period goal by Jakub Voracek. Chris Kreider scored his 10th of the season to tie up Columbus going up 2-1 in the second. The Rangers then never looked back after by Panarin (a brace for him in the second period), Jacob Trouba (first of the season), and Kreider (a brace for him in the third period). The Rangers went on to win 5-3. The only downside was that goaltender Igor Shesterkin went down due to injury, so Alexandar Georgiev had to finish the game. While Shesterkin’s status is important, the Rangers did the best they could. Two games, two wins, and remaining with Washington in looking at first place in the Metropolitan.
What’s Coming Up This Week: After going two for two last week, the Rangers will play four in seven days. Tonight, they will host their hated rivals in the New Jersey Devils. That will complete a back-to-back set for both and have some kind of direct implication on these standings. After tonight, it is all about Canadian teams. The Rangers will host a miserable Montreal team on Tuesday, visit a sterling Toronto squad on Thursday, and end their week in Ottawa for an afternoon game on Saturday. On paper, at least two of the games are favorable. They just have to avoid slipping up. If so, they can remain with - or even surpass - Carolina and Washington. If not, then the door opens for Philadelphia and the rest of the pack to move ahead. The Rangers remain in a favorable position.
SBN Blog: Blueshirt Banter
What Happened Last Week: The Flyers did well in this past week to take five out of six points. Unfortunately, this week did go so well. On Wednesday night, they hosted Toronto. They scored zero goals whilst the visitors scored three. That 3-0 loss was a tough one to take as it was their only home game of the week. On Friday night, the Flyers began a back-to-back set in Carolina. One man stepped up big for the Orange and Black: Carter Hart. The goaltender was massive with 39 saves out of 40 shots. The goals from Joel Farabee and Zach MacEwen were enough to leave Raleigh with a 2-1 win. A big win as Carolina had not lost at home up until Friday. Last night, the Flyers went to Dallas to play the Stars. This one did not go as well. The Flyers fell behind early to Luke Glendening and Roope Hintz, and never recovered in Dallas. James van Reimsdyk pulled the game within one in the second period, but Tyler Seguin restored the two goal lead in the same frame. The Flyers eventually lost in Dallas 5-2. As impressive as it was to beat Carolina in regulation (and it is, first home regulation loss for the Canes this season), the Flyers went 1-2-0 and missed an opportunity to join the Rangers and Capitals in challenging for first. Instead, they are ahead of the Devils in fourth solely due to tiebreakers (regulation wins and regulation-overtime wins). A disappointment after what they did last week.
What’s Coming Up This Week: The Flyers will get to be home all week. That is a good thing. What is not a good thing is who they will play. Three difficult match-ups are coming up for the Winged P’s. On Tuesday, they will host Calgary. The Flames has crushed this division so far this season and blanked the Flyers 4-0 two weeks ago. Revenge may be desired but who knows if it will happen. On Thursday, the Flyers will host the defending champion Tampa Bay Lightning. That is always a tough match-up. On Saturday, the Flyers will host Boston. Their last meeting went well for Philly as they won 6-3. The B’s may want to avenge that game. Should the Flyers get through this tough stretch (and the following week), then that would do well for their overall goal of marching back into the playoffs. A goal they are currently in a good position to be in. If not, well, there is still a lot of season left. Avoiding a losing streak would be their more immediate goal regardless.
SBN Blog: Broad Street Hockey
New Jersey Devils
What Happened Last Week: After winning their first shootout since the 2019-20 season, the Devils returned home to kick off a hectic run of seven games in twelve days. First up: a Florida Panthers team that lost its first game in regulation to the New York Rangers the night before. Seeing that they put up over 40 shots and nearly came back from a 4-0 deficit, the visitors were ones to fear. But the Devils held themselves well in a game where they eventually got bounces in their favor. Despite conceding an early goal to Sam Bennett, Andreas Johnsson scored the team’s first power play goal in two weeks in putting away a rebound from Jesper Bratt. Nico Hischier registered the team’s first tip-in goal of the season to make it 2-1. Florida’s Aleksander Barkov and Owen Tippett responded with two quick goals in the second period. Johnsson equalized it at 3-3 after returning a pass from Dawson Mercer caused his back skate. The score held until P.K. Subban wound up, fired a shot through traffic, and beat Spencer Knight high to make it 4-3. In the third period, the Devils just pulled away: Pavel Zacha scored a PPG off a rush to make it 5-3. Ty Smith lofted a shot that hit off a Panther’s glove to go in at 6-3. With Knight pulled early, Jimmy Vesey made it 7-3. The Devils seriously beat the Panthers 7-3 with special teams helping them out. The goodness continued on Thursday night against the Islanders. In front of a loud visiting fanbase, the Devils managed to quiet them down throughout the game. Lots of puck battles as the Devils went to work and never stopped, exploiting the Isles’ neutral zone in the third period to great success. The special teams came through first with Janne Kuokkanen finishing a shorthanded rush to open the scoring. A Dougie Hamilton shot hit Tomas Tatar’s shin, bounced down, and past Ilya Sorokin for his first as a Devil. Dawson Mercer’s shot popped up and past Sorokin in the third to make it 3-0. A Hamilton blast went in to make it 4-0. Mackenzie Blackwood made 42 saves to secure the huge 4-0 win over the Isles. The Devils’ week ended yesterday afternoon against Boston. Would they keep the winning alive? No. The vaunted Perfection Line styled and profiled on the Devils with three goals from the trio in a 5-2 loss. Not the best way to end the week or enter an even busier week coming up. Still, the Devils went 2-1-0, won a game within the division, and moved up in the standings this week. That is successful.
What’s Coming Up This Week: The seven-game run continues with four games in seven days. It starts tonight in Madison Square Garden. The Devils will play their hated rivals, the Rangers. It is always a big game and it could set the tone for what could be a difficult week. The Devils will return home and have to avoid being snared by Ottawa on Tuesday. Then the Devils will go South to Florida to play those two teams there. The Panthers will almost definitely seek revenge for that seven-spot on Thursday night. That will be tough; the Panthers remain perfect at home as of this writing. Tampa Bay has been more vulnerable at home but they are loaded with talent and their late Saturday afternoon game could make for a long night if the Devils are not prepared to deal with it. The start of this run has went very well. If they can complete it, then the Devils will be in a great position to compete within the standings.
SBN Blog: All About the Jersey - you’re here now. Thank you for that. You matter.
What Happened Last Week: Columbus was off for five days after a big pair of wins over Colorado in the prior week. Maybe they cooled off? Maybe they ran into a tougher, healthier opponent? Whatever it is, they did not build on those results. On Friday night, the Blue Jackets hosted Washington. They did well to score first and respond to two quick second period goals with two goals in even faster succession (22 seconds apart!). But despite tying it up at 3-3, they could not find a difference maker. A Conor Sheary goal in the third period ultimately doomed the Blue Jackets to a 4-3 defeat. Last night, the Blue Jackets hosted the New York Rangers. While Columbus scored first in the first period, ex-Jacket Artemi Panarin tied it up in the first period. While Columbus scored first in the second period, the Rangers scored three straight to make it a 4-2 game going into the second intermission. A quick power play goal allowed in the third period put the game just out of reach; Alexandre Texier scored a consolation goal to make it a 5-3 loss. Two games, two losses, and so the Blue Jackets dropped in the standings.
What’s Coming Up This Week: The Blue Jackets will not have another five-day break between games in this week. They will play on Monday night at home to Detroit to start things off. Detroit beat Columbus 4-1 back on October 19; the Blue Jackets will want to avoid a repeat of that at a minimum. Columbus will embark on a three-game road trip after that one and will play two of them this week. Their first stop is on Thursday night in Arizona. That should go well enough. Their second stop is on Saturday night in Las Vegas. That may be a bit tougher. Columbus will need some points very soon if they want to avoid sinking in this division. Their two recent losses within the Metropolitan certainly did not help.
SBN Blog: The Cannon
What Happened Last Week: Points were earned and perhaps dropped as well. Since the start of the month, the Penguins have went beyond regulation in their first four games. The first two were in the first week of November. That continued in this past week. On Tuesday, the Penguins were stunned by Chicago by conceding two goals to them in the second period. Jeff Carter put up a brace in the third period to tie it up. But after overtime failed to solve the deadlock, a shootout was needed. Chicago took that 2-1 to make it a 3-2 shootout loss for the Penguins. On Thursday, the Penguins hosted Florida - who has finally lost some games since felling Carolina. This one was also close and went back and forth. Teddy Blueger scored in the first period; Frank Vatrano responded later. Evan Rodrigues scored late in the second; Aleksander Barkov scored early in the third. Again, there would be no scoring until the shootout. In an a four-round shootout, Jeff Carter provided the go-ahead goal and Tristan Jarry made one last stop among many that evening for the 2-1 shootout result and 3-2 shootout win. Their week ended in Ottawa last night. This one snared the Pens. After a scoreless first period, the Sens dropped four goals on Pittsburgh in the second period. Ottawa went up 5-0 in the third period. Then the Penguins scrambled to make a comeback even possible with three straight goals, two coming from Rodrigues. A crossbar was hit. Pulling within one was close in the half-period of fury the Penguins provided. But Drake Batherson put home an empty netter for his second of the night and to hand Pittsburgh a 6-3 loss after all. The Penguins went 1-1-1 for the week and that was enough to stave off last place and keep pace with Columbus. But that Ottawa loss stings as the Penguins will continue to play catch-up in a very difficult division to catch-up in.
What’s Coming Up This Week: This week is a busy one for the Penguins. Like the Devils, it is four games in seven days starting today. This evening, the Penguins will have a huge game within the division at Washington. The Pens and Caps have grown to have a rivalry of sorts; a result for Pittsburgh would do them some good in terms of climbing back into the playoff spots in the division. Following that, the Penguins will return home to play a better-than-expected Buffalo team on Tuesday. Then Pittsburgh will go back to Canada to play the poor and porous Montreal Canadiens on Thursday and an always-under-pressure-but-actually-good Toronto Maple Leafs team on Saturday night. The Penguins remain below 100% between injuries and COVID-19. But they have been able to get points so far without Sidney Crosby or Mike Sullivan. If they can keep at it, then it is possible to stay in the hunt - even if they remain in seventh place for the moment. However, they need to avoid getting getting stuck in this rut and the only solution for that is to get wins despite being less than 100%.
SBN Blog: PensBurgh
What Happened Last Week: The Islanders went into this week fresh off a 2-0 win in Winnipeg. On Sunday night, the Minnesota Wild had other ideas. Goaltender Seymon Varlamov made his season debut for the Isles. The Wild welcomed him with 70 shooting attempts, 39 shots on net, and 5 goals. The Isles got off to a good start and were even leading 2-1 going into the third period. But it all went awry in the final frame and they lost 5-2. After several days off, the Islanders visited the Devils at the Prudential Center. Many Islander fans were in attendance and brought their voices. They were quieted as the game went on and many left early as the Devils made it more clear that they would win the game. In a contest featuring tons of puck battles, speedy players, and some impressive goaltending, the Devils were the ones to pull away with a 4-0 win. Yes, Ilya Sorokin played really well and still was beaten four times. The Devils played better in each period, culminating in a decisive loss for the royal blue and orange. Combined with the game in Minnesota, it was a short, winless week for the Isles. And so they sagged down to last in the Metropolitan. Last Sunday, they were in the mix with games in hand. Now, they are looking up the wrong end of the standing. At least they still have games in hand.
What’s Coming Up This Week: The Islanders are coming home. On November 20, UBS Arena in Belmont, Long Island will host their first ever New York Islanders game. If the game in New Jersey was any indication, the fans will be electric. Unfortunately, the Isles still have a tough road to get there. The Islanders will play a back-to-back set in the state of Florida on Monday and Tuesday. The Tampa Bay Lightning and the Florida Panthers, respectively. Two really, really good teams that may be itching for points. The Lightning could use some more results at home and the Panthers have not done a lot of losing in Sunrise yet this season. Those will be tough games. And their home opener will be really tough too. They will be hosting the Slayers of the Metropolitan Division Teams (so far): Calgary. They are 6-0 against this division. Good luck, Isles, you may be the seventh if you’re not careful. If the Isles can win this week of games (earn 4 or more points), then that would be a huge result and bounce back from this past week’s disappointment. If not, then the pressure to succeed will only grow. At least they are coming home. The epic road trip will soon be over.
SBN Blog: Lighthouse Hockey
That was the fifth Weekly Metropolitan Division Snapshot of the 2021-22 season. What do you expect to happen in this week coming up? Will the Carolina Hurricanes stay at the top? Who among the mix of teams from second to eighth stand out to you? How will the Devils do among the other teams? Can they continue to charge up the standings? Please leave your answers and other thoughts about the eight teams in the week that was and the week ahead in the comments. Thank you for reading.