The Holiday Season is upon us. As is COVID-19. The latter never actually left, but it has hit the NHL and every active major sports league hard within the past week. It has got to a point where the NHL has postponed further games as some teams, like Calgary and Nashville, whom both hit double-digits in terms of personnel on the protocol. Future postponements are possible. The “pause” word is surely amid discussions even as a last resort. The NHL’s goal for this season is to play a full 82-game season. Their only relief may be to opt out of the Olympics and go to a February schedule, but that is presuming the situation does not get any worse in early 2022. It is not an easy position for the league to be in. However, like life, we must press ahead.
The Metropolitan Division was only minimally impacted by the postponements. It only affected two games from last week (Carolina at Minnesota, Columbus at Calgary). The remainder of the games were played by all eight teams. And the separation within the division is developing a bit more. The top three teams are in a dog fight for first. This is currently held by the Carolina Hurricanes. The Canes are just ahead of the Washington Capitals by way of games played and one point ahead of the New York Rangers. Very tight at the top. Beyond them, it gets loose. The Pittsburgh Penguins have built a very healthy lead over the remainder of the Metropolitan, which all have struggled. There may be a lot of hockey left to play but remember that it is not enough for a team to get X points to move up in the standings. The teams ahead of them also have to lose. The goal is to get a net gain of X points. For example, Pittsburgh entered this week behind the New York Rangers by six points. Despite Pittsburgh objectively having the better week, they now remain behind them by five points. They only gained a net positive of one point. That is why catching up is so hard to do. That is also bad news for the fans Columbus Blue Jackets, Philadelphia Flyers, New Jersey Devils, and New York Islanders. The cope of being just X points behind someone is just that: a cope. Oh, Merry Christmas and all that.
Anyway, here are the standings as of this morning:
The NHL will be off for Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, and Boxing Day. This means everyone not named the Carolina Hurricanes and the New York Rangers will be busy for what is essentially a five-day week of games. There are also five games within the division; they are highlighted and in bold. As a reminder: the schedule is subject to future changes as needed.
What follows is the team-by-team breakdown for this week’s snapshot.
What Happened Last Week: Carolina has had a rough week in terms of personnel. Sebastian Aho, Seth Jarvis, Jordan Staal, Andrei Svechnikov, Ian Cole, and Steven Lorentz all entered the protocol. They had to play their game in Detroit with 16 skaters instead of 18 due to salary cap constraints. Their game in Calgary was postponed, but that was all. What did the Canes do? Carry on. Their Sunday night game in Vancouver - which is when all of this started - did not go so well. They went down two goals, Martin Necas only provided one, and Thatcher Demko stopped everything else for the 2-1 loss. On Thursday, with just three forward lines, they beat on Detroit in Raleigh. While the Red Wings made it 2-2 in the first period, Jack Drury scored his first goal in his first NHL game late in the first to make it 3-2 Carolina. While Tyler Bertuzzi tied it up in the second, Nino Niederreiter scored 18 seconds into the third period to put the Canes up 4-3 and Vincent Trocheck sealed the win with an empty netter to make it a 5-3 win. Impressive, especially with the undermanned roster. Last night, they hosted Los Angeles. This one saw the Canes cruise to victory as they scored the game’s first four goals, including a pair of PPGs from Jesper Fast and Teuvo Teravainen. Carolina won 5-1 to take the week at 2-1-0. Thanks to tie breakers, they are first in the Metropolitan.
What’s Coming Up This Week: Due to the NHL postponing games for Nashville and Boston, Carolina’s schedule has suddenly went from three games to just the one. That game is on Thursday. The Hurricanes will go back up to Canada to play Ottawa that night. Ottawa has been a bit better as of late, so they are not a team to totally look past. But they are still Ottawa. The Canes should probably take care of them. Especially with four days to prepare for the game. With only one game this week, the Canes will need a lot of help to remain in first place after Christmas. The Canes will still be in the mix for first regardless. As they get healthier, they will absolutely stay in the hunt for first place - which they currently own at the moment.
SBN Blog: Canes Country
What Happened Last Week: Alex Ovechkin continues to make marks. On Wednesday in Chicago, he tied the all-time record for power play goals (274, Dave Andreychuk) with his 21st goal of the season to kick off the scoring in Chicago. Problem for the Capitals: The Blackhawks were not going to take that lying down. Chicago responded to that later in the second period with a 5-on-3 goal by Alex DeBrincat and a 5-on-4 goal after said goal by Philip Kurashev. On the first 5-on-5 shift after that goal, MacKenzie Entwistle made it 3-1 Chicago. Ouch. Daniel Sprong kept the game from going out of control to make it 3-2 before intermission. 11:57 into the third, Lars Eller tied it up. About two minutes later, T.J. Oshie took a tripping penalty and DeBrincat converted that power play to make it 4-3 Chicago. It was a goal that stood up until Conor Sheary finished a feed from Ovechkin that snuck through Marc-Andre Fleury with three seconds left in regulation. Three seconds left! It was 4-4. Alas, the win would not be there; Caleb Jones scored his first of the season in OT to make it a 5-4 defeat. Washington moved onto Winnipeg for Friday night’s game. Paul Maurice resigned earlier that day as Jets head coach. Washington paid their respects by beating on the Jets. After a scoreless first, Brett Leason and Sprong scored to put the Jets up. Winnipeg clawed back early in the third with a pair of goals, including a PPG by Josh Morrissey (4 PPGAs in two games, Caps? Really?). Sheary would be the hero again with the go-ahead goal a little past nine minutes into the third. The Caps held onto that and added a pair of empties to boost the scoreline to a 5-2 win. Washington continues to get results (1-0-1 this week), Ovechkin continues to be ever-present on the scoresheet, and the Capitals remain contenders as they only fell from first place due to tiebreakers.
What’s Coming Up This Week: The Capitals will have three games in five days coming up. Two of them can help bury the lesser half of the division a bit more. Tonight, they will host Los Angeles. The Kings are no doormats, but it is a team that the Capitals should be able to take care of. Especially as the Kings played in Raleigh last night. Enjoy it Caps fans, it is the last home game before Christmas too. On Tuesday, the Capitals will visit Philadelphia. The Flyers won some games recently so they are not so sad of an opponent as they were, say, two weeks ago. Plus, Philly did beat them earlier this season 2-1 in Philly back on November 6. Still, the Capitals should be able to get something out of this game. Likewise on Thursday when they visit the UBS Arena. Like the Flyers, the Isles have won some games sometime recently. Unlike the Flyers, they have not seen the Capitals this season and Washington is quite good. Washington should be able to take care of business this week. Combined with Carolina and New York only having one game this week, Washington could enter Boxing Day with the division lead.
SBN Blog: Japers’ Rink
New York Rangers
What Happened Last Week: The Rangers saw their winning streak end last week, but they did win last week’s results as they bounced back from a loss. This past week, however, was not so good. Last Sunday, Nashville shut out and shut down the Rangers in their building. Juuse Saros stopped all 32 shots and Philip Tomasino’s goal was enough for the 1-0 loss. The Rangers hit the road for a back-to-back set. They visited Colorado first, the team that ended their winning streak in the prior week. It was not a rout, but it was a decisive 4-2 loss where they never led. The next night, they were in Glendale, Arizona to play the Coyotes. It seemed like things would be bleak when Loui Eriksson scored shorthanded to open the scoring. But Kaapo Kakko showed up to tie up the game. Then Clayton Keller restored the deficit. Then a pair of PPGs from Mika Zibanejad and Kakko salvaged the game and secured a 3-2 win to deny a potential losing streak. The Rangers returned to Manhattan to play Las Vegas, whom were coming off a win in Newark the night prior. Ex-Ranger Brett Howden scored first to put the Rangers down again. A pair of goals in the second gave the Rangers the lead - Zibanejad and a PPG from Chris Kreider. But Dylan Coghlan scored to tie it up in the third. The score held through regulation and overtime. In the shootout, Las Vegas prevailed 1-0 thanks to Jonathan Marchessault to make it a 2-3 shootout loss. The Rangers are still very much in the mix for first place despite the 1-2-1 week. As long as it does not become a trend, they should be fine.
What’s Coming Up This Week: The Rangers have just one game this week. One game. They will host Montreal. Montreal has the second worst record in hockey as of this writing. The Rangers should beat Montreal. That is all.
SBN Blog: Blueshirt Banter
What Happened Last Week: Pittsburgh kept on winning. They had two games, both winnable and at home, and they won both of them. Tuesday night saw them host Montreal. Kasperi Kapanen, Evan Rorigues, Mike Matheson, Brian Dumoulin, and Brian Boyle all scored in the 5-2 win. Montreal made it close twice, but the Penguins never lost a lead and took down the Canadiens in definitive fashion. Friday night saw them host Buffalo. This one would be closer. Rodrigues scored as did Brock McGinn to give Pittsburgh a 2-0 lead by halfway through regulation. But the Sabres would slash their way back in this one with a second period score by Latvian hockey legend Zemgus Girgensons and defenseman Rasmus Dahlin tying it up in the third period. Malcolm Subban faced a ton of rubber and did enough to force overtime. However, Jeff Carter finished the game in OT to make it a 3-2 win. The Penguins have now won six straight, firmly placed themselves in fourth (again, making up ground in this league is hard), and could keep on being hot through to Christmas.
What’s Coming Up This Week: The Penguins have three games coming up where they should relish their chances. Tonight in Newark and on Tuesday in Pittsburgh, they will have a home-and-home set with the New Jersey Devils. The Devils are slumping whereas the Penguins are hot. The Devils did dispatch the Penguins 4-2 in Pittsburgh back on October 30. However, that feels like a lifetime ago given how both teams carried on since that game. On Thursday night, the Penguins will host their hated cross-state rivals in Philadelphia. The Flyers have seemingly got out of their slump. That may not matter if the Penguins roll into Festivus with eight straight wins and a lifetime of grievances to air against their rivals. It may take a feat of strength to win nine straight, but it is entirely possible with how the Penguins are coached, set up, motivated, and perform. If it was not for some earlier struggles this season, the fight for first place in this division would be among four teams.
SBN Blog: PensBurgh
Columbus Blue Jackets
What Happened Last Week: Columbus has continued to swoon. A few weeks ago, they were neck-and-neck with Pittsburgh. Then December began. The Blue Jackets have only two wins and one post-regulation loss so far this month. That was affirmed with this past week. Their road trip through Western Canada has been fruitless so far. On Tuesday, they went to Vancouver and became the Canucks’ latest victims. Despite going up 3-0 in the first period, the Canucks roared back with a three-goal third-period comeback that was capped off by a Bo Horvat power play goal with 59 seconds left in regulation. The 4-3 loss hurt. On Thursday, the Blue Jackets visited Edmonton. This one was not close at all. The Oilers buried the Blue Jackets with a three-goal third period and a fourth goal in the second period. The goals by Gustav Nyquist and Justin Danforth were consolation goals in the third period. A Warren Foegele empty netter made it a 5-2 final score and a loss for Columbus. Columbus’ game in Calgary was postponed. However, I didn’t like their chances regardless because A) Calgary is really good, B) Columbus is flailing, and C) Calgary has owned Metropolitan Division teams this season. Still, the snapshot only cares about what actually happened. The Blue Jackets went 0-2-0 this week and remain in fifth only because the teams beneath them have been worse. That may not last as Philadelphia has at least started to get its act together (maybe).
What’s Coming Up This Week: The Blue Jackets will get familiar with the Buffalo Sabres. They will play them in a non-consecutive home-and-home set this week. On Monday night, the Blue Jackets will be in Buffalo. On Thursday night, they will host Buffalo. Similar to the Blue Jackets, the Sabres are not some doormat squad that teams can walk all over. They are not all that good, but they are not among the league’s worst for a change. If Columbus wants to pick up some precious wins this month, then they will need to show that they are better than Buffalo. If they do not, I think the downfall of Columbus will continue into 2022.
SBN Blog: The Cannon
What Happened Last Week: The Flyers ended their winless run with a pair of wins prior to this past week. Would they go on a run of results to make up for some of what they failed to earn? In a way, yes. On Tuesday, they hosted the New Jersey Devils. The Devils took them down decisively in their previous two meetings. However, that night was all about the Flyers making the Devils suffer. Cam Atkinson picked up a hat trick as the Flyers made it rain more misery on a slumping Devils team. They won 6-1. The Flyers then won three straight heading into Montreal. In a fan-less game (as requested by the Quebec government), the game was tougher than expected. Caden Primeau made a boatload of saves. While Max Willman and Jackson Cates scored in the second period to put the Flyers up 2-1, Laurent Dauphin tied up the game in the third period. The game needed a shootout and Jonathan Drouin’s goal held up. The Flyers lost 3-2 in a shootout to one of the worst teams in hockey. Still a point earned. Last night, they hosted Ottawa. Philly got off to a good start with two goals in the first period, one each by Claude Giroux and Oskar Lindblom. Then Ottawa responded with two of their own with the equalizer being a shorthanded goal by Alex Formenton. Artem Zub broke the deadlock in the third period, only for Joel Farabee to tie it back up at 3-3 about a minute later. Overtime was needed and Travis Sanheim became the hero of the night with a goal to give Philly the win. The Flyers may have wanted to do better in their previous two games, but 5 out of 6 points is a great week of results. They are now just behind Columbus in terms of tiebreakers. They have a mountain to climb before they even think about the playoffs. However, the big journeys start with a small step and the Flyers took some steps this week.
What’s Coming Up This Week: The Flyers are now out of their slump. Their last four games were against teams either also slumping or should be beating. This week will be a lot tougher than that. They have two games and they are against Washington and Pittsburgh. The first one is on Tuesday night and while it is a home game for Philly, the Capitals are first in the division for a reason. That will be hard. The second one will be in Pittsburgh, who could be winners of eight straight going into that one. Rivalry games are always an event and that could make it even tougher. If Philadelphia can get anything out of these two games, then that should be an achievement. After Christmas, they can go continue to try to salvage their season.
SBN Blog: Broad Street Hockey
New Jersey Devils
What Happened Last Week: The New Jersey Devils continued to fall into a tailspin. The season is dwindling away and last week absolutely contributed to that. The Devils went to Philadelphia on Tuesday night. The Devils have beaten Philadelphia twice this season and absolutely played them off the ice six days earlier in Newark. It was like that did not happen as the Devils fell early to the Flyers and kept falling to a 6-1 game. Sure, the Devils were not well - which did not stop head coach Lindy Ruff from starting Mackenzie Blackwood, whom the coach noted was sick that day - but it was an embarrassment. On Thursday, the Devils hosted Las Vegas. The fans chanted for assistant Mark Recchi, in charge of the worst power play in the NHL, to be fired. The chants changed to Ruff at some points. Someone threw a jersey on the ice at the end of the game. The start of the game was not so bad. Jack Hughes scored on a rebound to open the scoring. While Dylan Coghlan scored a PPG later in the first and William Carrier scored in the second, it was a 2-1 score going into the third. Then the Devils proceeded to put up one shot on net in 13 minutes of 5-on-5 play in the third period. One. William Karlsson got behind Ty Smith thanks to a Craig Smith dime and roofed one past Blackwood to make it 3-1. On the next shift, Mason Geertsen put himself out of position to create a two on one for Nicolas Roy and Mattias Janmark. Roy scored to make it 4-1. There was an attempt at a comeback as a blown PK coverage led to a rare PPG by the Devils (from Tomas Tatar) and a fortunate deflection during shorthanded hockey from Jimmy Vesey made it 4-3. But with Blackwood pulled late, Marchessault beat out an icing to put home an empty netter to seal the game at 5-3. Should have been 5-4 but Toronto buzzed in for a missed offside call to wipe out a consolation goal for Jack Hughes. The Devils went into Detroit, who has one of the best home records this season, last night. Between players being sick (Jesper Bratt was a late scratch), players going into COVID-19 protocol (Hischier, Graves, Subban, Boqvist, Jaros), and Utica having their own COVID-19 issues, the Devils had to play with just 17 skaters in Detroit. The first period was valiant. As the game went on, Detroit picked on the Devils’ flaws like so many teams before them. The Devils conceded a natural hat trick to Dylan Larkin as they fell to the Red Wings 5-2. The Devils went winless and have now fallen behind the Flyers into seventh place. With the Islanders behind by four points with three games in hand on them, a fall to last is entirely in the cards if the Devils do not end their spiral into oblivion.
What’s Coming Up This Week: Despite the statements from management before the season that the Devils were not going to be a doormat this season, the Devils are now entering this Holiday week with one win this month. Seems pretty doormat-like to me. It would take an epic winning streak to put the Devils back into the playoff picture. And then somehow, someway, the Devils need to keep on winning to stay there. But their goal now should be to win a dang game. Good luck with that. They will host Pittsburgh tonight and visit them on Tuesday in a non-back-to-back-home-and-home pair of games. The Devils did well in Pittsburgh back in October. But that was then and this is now. The Devils may have to play Sunday’s game with 17 players unless someone is not-sick in either New Jersey or Utica. The Devils are going to have to pull something out of somewhere to get some results in either game. Especially as the Pens have been hot. On Thursday, the Devils will host Montreal. Montreal has been miserable this season. But their ongoing slump, the shorthanded roster, and the increasing negativity - which is fully warranted! - about the Devils may make that game another possible loss. The Devils have dug themselves into a hole this season. What do you even say now? Dig up, stupid?
SBN Blog: All About the Jersey - Bemusement is on the menu, everyone.
New York Islanders
What Happened Last Week: The Islanders went into a short week with a 2-1-1 result in the week prior. They finally won a game and they also finally won a home game. Would this spur on a winning streak? No. Detroit ensured that on Tuesday night. The Islanders could not beat Alex Nedeljkovic until there was 2:33 left in the game when Anders Lee did it. By that point, Dylan Larkin scored a PPG and Michael Rasmussen scored. It did not help the cause that the Isles allowed 39 shots either. Lee’s goal would be it as the Islanders lost 2-1. On Thursday night, the Islanders hosted Boston. Would this be a better night? Yes. Seymon Varlamov made even more saves (40) and the Islanders took a lead and never looked back. Cal Clutterbuck put up a brace, which sandwiched an Anthony Beauvillier PPG. Mike Reilly denied the shutout for Varlamov with 54 seconds left, but it was only a consolation goal for the visitors. The Islanders won 3-1 to split the week. They are still entrenched in eighth, but they are a few steps closer to catching a falling Devils team.
What’s Coming Up This Week: The Islanders are still in the basement. However, New Jersey’s slide and the Isles having only 25 games played makes climbing up a spot possible. It may not be this week, though. They would need to win while the Devils keep on losing. The Islanders will be at home for this week but the opponents are varied in terms of difficulty. The Isles will host Las Vegas this afternoon, host Montreal on Monday night, and then host Washington on Thursday. Las Vegas has risen up the Pacific standings, Montreal is in the basement of the Atlantic, and Washington is battling for first in this division. Even if the Devils’ slump continues, the Isles may not make up enough ground this week. But the door is open now that the Isles have a few wins (3) under their belt this month. Slow and steady, Isles. Slow and steady.
SBN Blog: Lighthouse Hockey
That was the tenth Weekly Metropolitan Division Snapshot of the 2021-22 season. What do you expect to happen in this Holiday-shortened week coming up? Who will take first between Washington, Carolina, and the Rangers? Will Pittsburgh stay hot? Can Philadelphia and the Islanders avoid falling back into a slump? Will the Devils and Blue Jackets get out of their own slumps? 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.