As the month has continued, the Metropolitan Division has went from a division where seven teams had a chance to rise to the top to a division where three teams are entrenched at the top. That would be the Washington Capitals, the Carolina Hurricanes, and the New York Rangers. The remainder are fighting for maybe one playoff spot, depending on how Boston and Detroit (yes, Detroit) are doing in the Atlantic Division. Of course, there is a lot of hockey left to be played and a hot streak from one of those five plus a cold one from the trio at the top could introduce more chaos in the standings. As it stands, here is how it looks:
This week is light on the games within the division - just one on Tuesday - and heavy on the road matchups. The one game between Metropolitan Division teams is highlighted and in bold:
What follows is the team-by-team breakdown for this week’s snapshot.
What Happened Last Week: Alex Ovechkin cannot be stopped on the scoresheet. In Washington’s first game last week, he registered his 20th and 21st assists of the season. They were important helpers too. The first set up a Tom Wilson goal to open the scoring. The second periods saw the visiting Ducks take a lead with an early goal by Josh Mason, a score by Sonny Milano later, and a Vinni Lettieri goal about two minutes after Milano’s goal. A Carl Hagelin goal happened between the Manson and Milano goals. But Oveckin picked up the lone assist on a big, late second period goal by John Carlson to make it 3-3. The score stood until a shootout. Daniel Sprong scored to extend the shootout; Ovechkin matched Rickard Rakell’s goal, and Carlson again scored an important one for the Caps to take a 4-3 shootout win. Friday night had the Capitals host Pittsburgh. This game got away from Washington with not one, not two, but three goals given up in the first two periods. It took 47 minutes and change for Evgeny Kuznetsov to beat Tristan Jarry. Lars Eller pulled the Caps within one with fewer than three minutes in regulation. But it would end up being too little, too late thanks to an empty netter by Jeff Carter. The Caps lost 4-2. They could redeem themselves (and take back first) with a result in Buffalo. Last night, they did but it was close. The Caps found themselves down 2-1 going into the third with goals by Vinnie Hinostroza and Will Butcher. But Martin Fehervary provided the equalizer in the third period. Overtime solved nothing but a shootout did. Sprong and Oshie scored for Washington, but only Olofsson scored for Buffalo. The 2-1 shootout yielded a 3-2 win over Buffalo. With those two points, the Caps moved back into first place after falling out of it after Friday night. If nothing else, it should be a message to Washington that their spot is not at all safe. (Plus, they should aim to win some games outside of the shootout. They don’t have the RW or ROW tiebreakers in their favor at the moment.)
What’s Coming Up This Week: It is a light week for the Capitals. It is also entirely outside of Washington D.C. They will visit Chicago on Wednesday and go to Winnipeg on Friday. Chicago should be a game that the Caps can take. The Winnipeg one may be tougher as the Jets have been a good home team this season. Still, the Caps are in a good position to remain in competition for the top - if not staying there again for another snapshot.
SBN Blog: Japers’ Rink
What Happened Last Week: Carolina began their trip through Canada last week with stops in Manitoba and Alberta. It was a successful week, too. On Tuesday, they went to Winnipeg. Jaccob Slavin scored his first of the season 30 seconds into the game, Sebastian Aho scored 72 seconds into the second period, and a pair of PPGs near the end of the second and fairly early in the third pulled the Hurricanes ahead. They beat Winnipeg 4-2. Thursday night had the Hurricanes visit Calgary. Aho scored again to open the scoring, ex-Cane Noah Hanifin tied it up in the second period, and that was all the scoring in regulation in a tight affair. With less than a minute left in overtime, Aho struck again to give Carolina a rare Metropolitan Division win against the Flames, 2-1. Last night, the Canes were in Edmonton. The Canes were rolling as the Oilers were reeling. Aho did it yet again to start the scoring with a PPG. Nino Neiderreiter put the Canes up 2-0. While Ryan Nugent-Hopkins pulled one back and it was close for a while, Aho secured the win with a non-empty net goal late in the third for a 3-1 final. Carolina swept their week, extended their winning streak to four, and jumped ahead of New York due to tiebreakers to be just a point behind Washington with two games in hand. It was a very successful week.
What’s Coming Up This Week: Carolina will be quite busy in this week coming up. They will continue their trip tonight in Vancouver, just after playing Edmonton. Vancouver is in a state of some disarray amid their front office. But they have done well to start under new coach, Bruce Boudreau. Carolina’s trip will end on Tuesday against Minnesota, who have emerged as one of the top teams in the league standings. That is not an easy way to end a road trip. No matter how it goes, they cannot dwell on it - they play twice at home afterwards. The Hurricanes will host Detroit on Thursday and Los Angeles on Saturday. The lower 5/8ths of the division would love a regulation win by Carolina on Thursday to open up that wild card race a little more. The latter is the first of a back to back set that weekend. The Canes did well to bounce back from the prior week. Can they keep it up? Probably; Carolina is a really good team.
SBN Blog: Canes Country
New York Rangers
What Happened Last Week: The Rangers went into this week on a streak. The streak ended, but the week was far from a failure. On Tuesday night, that winning streak continued in Chicago. The Rangers beat Chicago last Saturday, 3-2. This one got away from Chicago in the third period. A 2-2 game turned into a 6-2 win for the Rangers with goals from Chris Kreider, Kevin Rooney, Artemi Panarin (who put up 4 points in the game and reached 500 NHL points for his career), and Barclay Goodrow. A fine result. Back at Madison Square Garden, Colorado visited and saw it fit to not be the next victims of New York’s run of wins. No, the Avalanche, well, buried the Rangers with a five-goal second period for what would end as a 7-3 loss. Ouch. How would the Rangers respond to the end of their streak? Simply: By winning another game. They went up to Buffalo and Alexandar Georgiev had himself a fine evening stopping almost everything. Alexis Lafreniere’s goal in the second would be important as Buffalo’s Brett Murray clawed one back for the Sabres. Try as they did, they could not officially beat Georgiev again (despite a controversial call from the NHL that disallowed an equalizer that they admitted fault to on Saturday) and the Rangers won 2-1 and the week at 2-1-0. They were in first on Friday night. Being idle last night combined with the Washington-Buffalo and Carolina-Edmonton games saw them slip out of first. But that is how close they are to the top. One point back with two games in hand. They can almost taste it.
What’s Coming Up This Week: This week will be busier for the Blueshirts. After being the only idle team in the division last night, they will host Nashville tonight. Right after then, they will get on a plane and head out West for a back-to-back. Tuesday night will have them in Denver to play Colorado again. The Rangers may want revenge. The Avs may style on them again. Wednesday night will have them in Glendale to play Arizona. That one should be a win on paper; but we shall see how they are after the Avalanche game. Once that game is over, it is time to go to the airport and head back to Manhattan. They have a game against Las Vegas on Friday night at MSG. That Las Vegas team has been on a good run of form themselves recently; it will not be a simple game.
SBN Blog: Blueshirt Banter
What Happened Last Week: Pittsburgh had three games: two to wrap up a road trip and a home game against Anaheim just after that trip ended. The first of three was in Seattle on Monday night. Pittsburgh visited and left with two points and Phillip Grubauer’s morale. The Pens scored three goals on their first four shots, sent Grubauer packing, and rolled to a 6-1 win against the Kraken. On Friday night, the road trip ended in Washington D.C. to play the then-first place Washington Capitals. The Pens struck first, second, and third with goals by Danton Heinen (16:16 in), Brock McGinn (28:37 in), and Kasper Kapanen (31:42 in). The Capitals could not solve Jarry until the third period. At that point, it was too little, too late for the home team. The Penguins went on to take a big win - New York and Carolina say thank you, I would think - and head home with their heads held high. Against Anaheim, it was more tense but another victory. McGinn scored 5:12 into the game and that would be it. No one else scored. Casey DeSmith stopped all of the Ducks’ shots. The Penguins won 1-0 to sweep their week. Should the Penguins keep up the winning, they may find themselves challenging the trio of Washington, Carolina, and New York. There is still ground to make up, but it is more possible.
What’s Coming Up This Week: It will be a fairly light week for the Penguins. They will just have two games this week and both are at home. They are also fairly winnable games too. They will host Montreal on Tuesday. Given that Pittsburgh waxed them 6-0 in their building last month, I like the Pens’ chances in that one. On Friday, they will host Buffalo. Buffalo did beat them 2-1 on November 16 in Pittsburgh, one of the two road wins they have this season. But the Penguins should be able to dispatch them given their current form (winless in seven as of this writing). Rest up, Pittsburgh. The following two weeks will be a bit busier. Should you take care of business in these two games, you could go into them with a six-game winning streak.
SBN Blog: PensBurgh
Columbus Blue Jackets
What Happened Last Week: Columbus went into this week on the heels of a four-game losing streak. They needed a win as soon as possible. They did so last Sunday when they hosted San Jose. Plenty of scoring as both teams combined for 10 goals. The Blue Jackets weathered an early shooting storm from the Sharks and held on to a lead after going up 5-3 late for a 6-4 result. There’s a win. That is something to build on. Unfortunately, Toronto had other ideas. The first two periods saw Toronto take Columbus to school with a 5-1 lead going into the third period. Columbus did battle hard to close the gap with goals by Oliver Bjorkstrand and Sean Kuraly. But a 19:59 goal by Max Domi meant it was all consolation as the Blue Jackets lost 5-4 in regulation. Back at home on Thursday to host Anaheim, the scoring dramatically dropped. Alexandre Texier and Isac Lundestrom scored in the first period and that would be it as both goalies kept it 1-1 all the way to a shootout. Rakell provided the difference maker, which meant a 2-1 shootout loss. Columbus began a five game road trip last night in Seattle and needed a win to avoid another three-game skid. It seemed like it would happen with a big 4 goal second period to put the Jackets up 4-1. Then they botched that lead as Seattle roared back to tie it up. Fortunately for Columbus, Jake Bean scored early in overtime for the 5-4 win. Columbus technically won the week with a 2-1-1 record. They at least stopped their slide, although the Penguins have pulled ahead a bit.
What’s Coming Up This Week: The Blue Jackets will be on the road in Western Canada this week. They will begin in Vancouver on Tuesday night. Again, Vancouver is making big changes in their organization right now, but they did pick up some recent wins. It is not a gimmie. The following two games definitely will not be. They will be in Edmonton on Thursday night and in Calgary on Saturday night. Both Alberta teams have either been strong at home, strong against the Metropolitan Division, or both. Good luck, Columbus.
SBN Blog: The Cannon
New Jersey Devils
What Happened Last Week: The Devils’ slump going into this week of games made these contests mean that much more. A continued slump would all but make the Devils a long shot at playing some meaningful games by the end of the season. Something fans did not want. On Monday, they hosted Ottawa. In a performance that can best be described as “blah,” the Devils needed to go to a shootout against the Senators. As with most shootouts since 2013, the Devils lost it and so they lost 3-2 to Ottawa. On Wednesday, the Devils debuted their third jerseys on the ice. Bad as they looked, they were hosting an even sadder Philadelphia team. The Devils out-played them and out-scored them in a 3-0 win. It even had a power play goal. Alas, the Devils could not play the Flyers every night. A lesson learned on Friday night when they hosted Nashville. The Devils’ power play returned to their usual “frustrate anyone with eyes that is not the coaching staff” ways. The attack sagged. Mistakes off the puck led to goals against. Few in Newark were leaving happy after a 3-1 loss. Last night, the Devils went to Long Island to visit the UBS Arena for the first time. Could they salvage the week there? No. The Devils went up first, conceded a late power play goal, and then Jack Hughes made it 2-1 to close out the first. Not bad. But then a pair of ex-Devils struck in the second. Andy Greene beat Akira Schmid, debuting in the NHL, on an unscreened shot from distance to make it 2-2. Late in the second, the Devils’ pathetic power play yielded a breakaway for Zach Parise to make it a 3-2 deficit. Both goals were Greene’s and Parise’s first of the season. In the third period, the Devils’ response was not good enough, J-G Pageau scored to make it 4-2, and the Devils lost. This big week yielded one win, one shootout loss, and ended with two straight losses. It gets dark early in December in New Jersey. Both outside and now in the standings.
What’s Coming Up This Week: The Devils are in a position where if they can start winning weeks (or even go on a winning streak), then they still have a shot at entering the conversation of a wild card spot. Or at least move up to fifth. But they need to do it and their performances so far leave something to be desired. The good news is that they will play the Flyers again on Tuesday. Philly’s slump just ended, but the Devils have beaten them soundly twice now. This one is in Philly, so it may make a difference. The following two games for the Devils will be tougher. The Devils will host Las Vegas on Thursday night. Again, the G-Knights are performing better than they did at the start of the season. That does not bode well for the Devils as Las Vegas is likely better than Philadelphia. On Saturday, the Devils will visit Detroit. A surprising team with a strong record at home (one of the best in the NHL, in fact) that is in the mix for the wild card spot if you ignore Boston’s several games in hand on them. Also, they are a team that is better than Philly. Unfortunately, the Devils cannot play Philadelphia every night. If they do not “learn how to win,” whatever that means, then the picture may look like the last four seasons in New Jersey come Christmas-time.
SBN Blog: All About the Jersey - Sigh. I wish I could write more positive things about the Devils but reality prevents me.
What Happened Last Week: The Flyers have been slumping. This past week made it worse. On Sunday, the Flyers got creamed by Tampa Bay in Philadelphia by a score of 7-1. On Monday, the Flyers conceded another touchdown and extra point - this time to Colorado. But the Flyers kind of, sort of tried to make a game of it and scored five themselves. A 7-5 loss is better than a 7-1 loss. On Wednesday, the Flyers went up to New Jersey. Good news: They did not give up 7 goals. Bad news: They did not score any and did not threaten Mackenzie Blackwood all too much beyond Travis Konecny drilling him in the crease. That penalty led to a rare Devils PPG, which helped make it a 3-0 loss for Philly. Then came a back-to-back set in Las Vegas and Arizona. The pain finally ended on Friday night. In Las Vegas, Carter Hart was bombarded with shots. He made 41 saves. Meanwhile, the Flyers managed to score in each period. The Knights answered the goal in the first and second periods. But a pair of PPGs in the third was only answered once and the Flyers held on to win 4-3. They won their first game in ten. Last night, they went to Arizona with some pep in their step. While James van Reimsdyk and Jay Beagle each scored within a minute of each other, the Flyers pulled ahead past the halfway mark with Patrick Brown’s first goal and van Reimsdyk’s second of the night. The Flyers won 5-2 in Arizona. They ended the week at 2-3-0 and that is always a positive step after going winless for multiple weeks.
What’s Coming Up This Week: The Flyers avoided where the Islanders were and won two games to close out their week. They now have a chance to rise up a bit and perhaps overtake New Jersey. They will get a big chance on Tuesday to do just that as they will host the Devils. The Devils beat them twice amid their recent winless run. I am sure they would want to avoid a third defeat to them. After them, the Flyers will go up to Montreal. Montreal has been terrible; this could be a place to get another two points and keep the good times rolling. If not, well, that would be bad. On Saturday has the Flyers hosting Ottawa. Ottawa had some recent wins, including a stunning 4-0 win over Tampa Bay, so I would not assume it to be easy. But they are also in the basement of the Atlantic along with Montreal; it another opportunity to win. The Flyers ended the pain with their last two games. They can heal even more with these three coming up.
SBN Blog: Broad Street Hockey
New York Islanders
What Happened Last Week: They won a game! They won a game! The winless streak ended after a month! Sure, they lost 3-2 to a shootout at home to Chicago on Sunday night. A result that had to be crushing as they were legitimately close to ending it then. Sure, they lost 4-3 to Nashville in regulation the game after the streak was busted. But on December 7, 2021, the Islanders rose up. They were in Kanata, Ontario. They needed something to avoid a twelfth-straight winless game. They had it in their captain, Anders Lee, who put up a brace in the second period. Combined with an Oliver Wahlstrom goal a shift prior to Lee’s second goal, the Isles led 3-1 after two periods. The win seemed ever closer when Keiffer Bellows made it 4-1 in the third. But Ottawa would not make it so easy. Nick Holden scored to make it 4-2. An unease set in. Until J-G Pageau made it 5-2 twelve and a half minutes into the third. Alex Formenton scored a shorty to make it 5-3 and so the Isles had to sweat a bit in the final four minutes. But they held on. They finally won. The losing was over. The next step: Win a game at home. Against the Devils, they did just that. Two former Devils made the difference when Greene and Parise scored their first goals of the season to put the Isles up 3-2 after two periods. A goal from Pageau made it 4-2 and they sealed their first ever win at UBS Arena. And for the purposes of this snapshot, a 2-1-1 week. Yes, they won a week for the first time in a long time.
What’s Coming Up This Week: The Islanders will aim to get some more wins to dull the previous pain felt. They have a light week of games coming up. Just two. They will be in Detroit on Tuesday night. Again, Detroit is a good team at home and playing better than all expectations ahead of this season. On Thursday, the Isles will kick off a four-game run at home. It start against Boston. Boston is a good team who has not played as many games as most teams this season. This may not go so well for the Isles. Still, they do not have the heavy weight of a slump going into this week. They have something positive to build on for the first time in a long time. Onward.
SBN Blog: Lighthouse Hockey
That was the ninth Weekly Metropolitan Division Snapshot of the 2021-22 season. What do you expect to happen in this week coming up? Will Washington avoid slipping up again by next Sunday? Would the Rangers or Hurricanes overtake them if they do? Can Pittsburgh extend their winning streak? Will the Devils and Blue Jackets turn it around before Philadelphia and the Islanders do to threaten their spot? 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.