December has begun and most of the Metropolitan Division has come down with a case of the losses. After nearly two months of being very strong, several teams have suffered and looked more vulnerable in the standings. The New York Islanders are in a slump and are now winless in ten straight games. The Philadelphia Flyers and New Jersey Devils each have two wins in their last ten games and only New Jersey won a game between the two of them this week. Both the Pittsburgh Penguins and Columbus Blue Jackets are hovering around 55% point percentage, with Columbus going winless in this past week. The three teams at the top are rather clear of that rabble. Even among them, the Carolina Hurricanes have looked more vulnerable and had a tough week and the Washington Capitals, who are in first place, slipped a bit. Only the New York Rangers became and remained hot.
Will there be a turnaround? Maybe. There will be a lot of games in this coming week for one to happen. Including a rare five-game week among the eight teams. Also, there are some inter-division games that can certainly impact the standings. Those games are highlighted and in bold.
The New Jersey Devils game against Ottawa is a re-scheduled game from November. To date, there have been no new dates announced for the other Ottawa games that were postponed (which impacts the Rangers) or the two Islanders games postponed last week (which impacts the Rangers and Flyers).
What follows is the team-by-team breakdown for this week’s snapshot.
What Happened Last Week: The big game for first place was in Raleigh last Sunday. It was quiet in the first period, but Alexander Ovechkin - who else - emerged to open the scoring past halfway through the second period. Aliaksei Protas scored his first to make it a 2-0 lead. Then the Canes made a comeback in the third period. Jesperi Kotkaniemi and Nino Niederreiter tied it up in the third. Would there be overtime? No. Dmitry Orlov converted a power play with fewer than three minutes left in regulation to make it a 3-2 game. John Carlsson sealed the massive 4-2 win over the Canes. Washington took over first place. On Tuesday night, the Caps went into Sunrise. They did what few teams could do: build up a big lead on the Panthers in their building. By the second intermission, the Capitals were up 4-1. Florida then proceeded to show why they are so dang good this season. The Panthers made a massive comeback started by Ryan Lomberg, added by a shorty from Eetu Luostarainen, equalized by Sam Bennett on a power play, and completed by Sam Reinhart on a power play with just under 15 seconds left in the game. Washington lost 5-4 with that third period meltdown. And there would be no immediate bounce back. On Thursday, they hosted Chicago. This was a challenge as the Caps needed to respond twice to Chicago goals to tie up the game. While they went up 3-2 early in the third, Seth Jones tied it up in that period and overtime was needed. That was not enough and a shootout would decide the game. And only one goal from Patrick Kane was needed to make it a 4-3 shootout loss. Yes, by Washington, to Chicago. Against Columbus, they would like a positive result just to avoid a third straight winless game. They would get it. Protas would score first, Ovechkin would get his 20th of the season (!) and his 750th (!!!) career goal in the second period, and Garnet Hathaway sealed the 3-1 win with an empty netter. The Captials were one of the few teams to have a winning week and even that was not that impressive at 2-1-1. Still, they took first place in the division and kept it throughout the week. To that: Well done. Do not get cocky, though. They are just one point ahead of the Rangers, three ahead of the Hurricanes, and both of those teams have two games - four potential points - in hand on them.
What’s Coming Up This Week: Washington will seek to continue holding onto first place. It is a varied set of three games. First, they will host Anaheim on Monday. Anaheim has been a surprisingly good team this season. Less so on the road, though. After a three-day break, the Capitals will have a back-to-back set. They will host Pittsburgh in what could be a heated affair. The Penguins may recall their 6-1 loss to them on November 14 and may have a point to prove. Washington will follow that game with a game up in Buffalo. The Sabres are falling back to the form people expected ahead of this season. But they have been a more successful home team than on the road. The Caps should be wary of treating that game lightly after the Penguins game.
SBN Blog: Japers’ Rink
New York Rangers
What Happened Last Week: The Rangers got hot. Igor Shesterkin is stopping whatever he can. Chris Kreider has not cooled off. Even if some of the underlying numbers are not so good, the Rangers have put themselves in contention for the division lead. With weeks like this past one, how could they not? As the Rangers-Islanders game on Sunday was postponed, the Rangers were fully prepared for Philadelphia on Wednesday. The Rangers took care of business fairly well in a 4-1 win where the Flyers did not threaten on the scoreboard. On Friday, they squeaked out a 1-0 win against San Jose despite a less than encouraging performance. Shesterkin was taken out of the game due to injury, but signs point to it being not a major issue. Last night, they hosted Chicago. Patrick Kane struck first (and the Rangers challenged it - and failed), but the Rangers hit back with two in the second period - a PPG from Ryan Strome and an ESG from Adam Fox to put the Rangers up. Artemi Panarin scored in the third in what would be an important insurance goal. Alex DeBrincat did score late with the goalie pulled for Chicago to make it 3-2. But New York held on to win it for their sixth straight win. They easily had the best week in the division. Carolina’s swoon and Washington’s slight slip-up puts them in a position to take first place soon.
What’s Coming Up This Week: The Rangers will play three games in four nights essentially in the middle of this week coming up. New York will have a back-to-back set with some travel on Tuesday and Wednesday. First, they will go to Chicago to play the Blackhawks again. Then, they will return home to host an offensively-skilled Colorado team. Their third game will be in Buffalo on Friday night. Buffalo played them close in their last meeting in MSG. As the Sabres have found more success at home than on the road this season, this may not be a simple game. Still, the Rangers have kept the fire burning. Depending on other results, they could end up in first place by next snapshot.
SBN Blog: Blueshirt Banter
What Happened Last Week: It is a good thing the Carolina Hurricanes started off the season so well. A week like the one they just had is not as damaging in the standings. Sure, they are not in first place anymore. However, they are still solidly in a playoff spot and could charge back up to first in short order. It was still not a good week on its own. Against Washington, Carolina made a comeback effort only for it to be foiled with a power play goal allowed late in the game. They lost that one 4-2. On Tuesday, the Canes went to Dallas. The Stars won four straight going into that one. Four goals, with three scored by Roope Hintz, later, the Hurricanes lost 4-1 and the Stars won their fifth straight. Thursday night saw Carolina get Football Managered against Ottawa. The Canes out-shot the Senators 49-20, including 20-3 in the first period. The Senators out-scored the Canes in the first period 1-0 and 3-2 in the game with Josh Norris breaking the tie less than 30 seconds after Andrei Svechnikov tied it up. Carolina, then losers of three straight, hosted Buffalo last night. Whatever frustrations they had were taken out on the Sabres. They dropped six on the Buffalo and never looked back. The only real downside was Vincent Trocheck violently hitting Tage Thompson and getting tossed for it. Still, the 6-2 win ended the slide for the Canes. They may have lost the week, but they remain in contention for first place - along with the New York Rangers, whom they now have to worry about for the moment.
What’s Coming Up This Week: Carolina will be on the road and going North and West. They will begin a five-game road trip up to Central and Western Canada. Three of those five games will take place this week. Carolina will be in Winnipeg on Tuesday. Thanks to the Devils, the Jets may not be slumping into this matchup. Thursday night sees Carolina going to visit Calgary, a legitimately strong team - especially on the road - that has been torching Metropolitan Division teams all season. On Saturday, the Hurricanes will visit Edmonton. Edmonton’s power play remains in the realm of ridiculously good and they have been fantastic at home this season. It will be a tough week for Carolina. Should they bounce back, they should be fine in the standings. If the losing continues, well, Pittsburgh and Columbus may appreciate that.
SBN Blog: Canes Country
What Happened Last Week: Pittsburgh has been on the road to take care of their season obligations in Western Canada. On Monday night, the Penguins came close to doing something few teams in this division have done: beat Calgary. The scoring in regulation was close: Milan Lucic scored in the second period, Jake Guentzel scored a PPG in the third period. A shootout was needed and it went seven-rounds. But it was not in favor of Pittsburgh; they lost for the 2-1 result. Pittsburgh went to Edmonton on Wednesday night. This one was close for a while as Teddy Blueger tied it up 2-2 for Pittsburgh a minute into the second period. Then the third period happened and it was not close anymore. Kailer Yamamoto, Evan Bouchard, and Connor McDavid each scored in the third to make it a 5-2 loss for the Pens. Last night, the Penguins were in Vancouver. Jake Guentzel continued to make the scoresheet with 12 straight games of points. Against the Canucks, he was a star as he put up a hat trick entirely in the second period. Only a score by Vasily Podkolzin denied him from a natural hat trick. Still, it was enough to give the visitors a lead and Sidney Crosby extended it to 4-1. That score stood to give the Penguins a much needed win this week. They now have a little breathing room from Columbus and remain in the wild card mix. They are also well behind the top three; but maybe the win is something to build on.
What’s Coming Up This Week: The road trip will continue until Saturday. There are just two games left in it. The Penguins will be in Seattle for the first time on Monday. The Kraken has been a more successful home team than on the road. That could be a tricky one. A tougher game awaits at the end of the trip: Washington on Friday. The Caps creamed the Pens in their last meeting in Pittsburgh in November. Pittsburgh should be up for that one, but we shall see if they actually will be. Or if Washington will even care. The Penguins will return home on Saturday night against Anaheim. The Ducks are not to be trifled with. Hopefully for the Penguins sake, they have something left for them after the Washington game.
SBN Blog: PensBurgh
Columbus Blue Jackets
What Happened Last Week: After getting put down 6-3 by St. Louis last Saturday, Columbus was surely looking for a better night in Nashville on Tuesday, November 30. They did not have a better night. They still gave up six goals. They also scored none themselves. Yes, the Blue Jackets at a 6-0 loss in Nashville. Ouch. The Blue Jackets then had to find a way to turn things around against Dallas, who was on a winning streak at the time, on Thursday night. The good news: Columbus scored. Twice, even. They even had a 2-1 lead for most of the second period. The bad news: Tyler Seguin and Jason Robertson tied it up and pulled the game ahead, respectively, within a minute late in the second period. The Blue Jackets lost 3-2. Last night, Columbus visited Washington. It did not go well as the Capitals kept Columbus down for most of the game. While they pulled within one in the third period, they could not find the equalizer. They ultimately lost 3-1. Columbus has now lost four straight games. Thanks to New Jersey and Philadelphia failing to earn a lot of points, they remain in fifth place in the division. However, staying in place is not something they can afford to do for long.
What’s Coming Up This Week: The Blue Jackets will return home tonight against San Jose as they seek to start turning things around. However, it is not an easy game and the week will get a bit tougher. On Tuesday, the Blue Jackets will visit Toronto. The Maple Leafs fanbase and its media (e.g. The Athletic) may be clamoring for playoff success over anything else, but the Maple Leafs are still a fantastically good team. Especially at home. On Thursday, the Blue Jackets will host Anaheim. Anaheim is far from a doormat. And the Columbus Blue Jackets may want to put their best foot forward in that one anyway since it will be their last home game until December 23. The Blue Jackets will begin a five-game road trip on Saturday in Seattle. The Jackets are still in a place to contend for a postseason spot. But they need results to actually do it. Weeks like the last one will not do it.
SBN Blog: The Cannon
New Jersey Devils
What Happened Last Week: The Devils returned from Nashville on Sunday night to play the Philadelphia Flyers. The Devils were a force in some respects. Dougie Hamilton took a ton of shots (15 attempts) and the line of Dawson Mercer, Andreas Johnsson, and Jesper Bratt were dominant. The Devils’ pathetic power play conceded a shorthanded goal and an odd carom off a referee helped set up a 2-2 score in the third period. But the aforementioned Mercer line broke the tie and helped lead the Devils to a huge 5-2 win. The good feelings in that game were dashed on November 30 against San Jose. While Jack Hughes made his return to the lineup, the Devils essentially took the second period off. The Sharks scored three times from the same location as the Devils looked out of sorts. The Devils lost 4-2 with two consolation goals making the score closer. After that game, the Devils had tough practices with head coach Lindy Ruff discussing how the effort needed to be better. On Thursday, the Devils went into Minnesota, got pounded early on, and ended the first period down two. Some effort. The Wild made it a three goal deficit before Ryan Graves and Tomas Tatar pulled the game back within one in the second period. But the defense got beat on a rebound put in by Dmitry Kulikov to restore the two-goal lead for the home team. The Devils ultimately lost 5-2. On Friday night, the Devils went to Winnipeg and clearly learned nothing from their last two games as they got worked over and went down three goals early in the first period. Amazingly, the Devils made a comeback. They put four in a row past one of the league’s best goalies in Connor Hellebuyck. Their power play scored their first goal since November 14. The Devils were leading early in the second period 4-3. Then the lackadiasical defending, the weak gameplan, and an inability to adjust saw the Jets stomp back into the game. And stomp on the Devils through the end of regulation with five unanswered goals. The Devils lost 8-4. The only solace is that their 1-3-0 week did not see them sink further in the standings. But that is due to other teams failing. The Devils are still drifting outside of the playoff picture (not a lot thanks to the rest of this division) and their performances suggest it is not going to get any better. Something may have to change in New Jersey. What, I do not know.
What’s Coming Up This Week: This week could be very important in terms of turning the season back around. They have three home games coming up before a fairly local road game. First, they will play Ottawa on Monday in a re-scheduled game. Ottawa knocked off Carolina, who is actually good, so do not assume this is easy. Second, they will play a similarly slumping Philadelphia team on Wednesday. The Devils pulled off a win over them last week. I would expect the Flyers to want revenge for that one. Third, the Devils will host Nashville on Friday. Nashville’s head coach John Hynes took the Devils to school two weeks ago. The Devils will need to show something different in that one. Fourth and finally for the week, the Devils will travel to Long Island for their first game ever at the UBS Arena. The Islanders may not be mired in a terrible slump by then. And even if they are, that may not matter. The Jets were in a slump prior to the Devils’ game against them on December 3 and the Jets beat them 8-4. The Devils put themselves in this position where they need to have successful weeks to pull themselves up from where they are. If they do not, they run the risk of a fourth straight season of having little to play for by New Year’s Day.
SBN Blog: All About the Jersey - I wish I could make it better, but all I can do is document it and give my take on it.
What Happened Last Week: The Flyers were coming off a brutal stretch of three games against three of the best teams in the NHL. They were to play three games within the Metropolitan Division that would at least be easier matchups than Florida, Tampa Bay, or Carolina. They would play two as their game against the Islanders on November 30 was postponed. Against the Devils on Sunday, November 28, the Flyers faded as time went on. While they kept the score close, they had no answer for Dougie Hamilton or the Mercer line where Johnsson just dropped four points on them. The Flyers lost 5-2. On Wednesday, the Flyers went to Madison Square Garden. This loss was much more decisive. New York ran up two goals in the first period, a third just 34 seconds in to the second period, and that was enough for the win. The Flyers lost 4-1. Philadelphia has not won since November 16 against Calgary and has not picked up a point in a game since November 18 against Tampa Bay. They have lost their last seven games. It appears their season is slipping even faster. Philly may end up breaking their odd-year, even-year curse and not in the way they wanted.
What’s Coming Up This Week: The Flyers will have plenty of opportunities to get some wins. They have a rare five-game week this week. Well, in theory they have the opportunities. In practice, it is going to be much harder. The level of competition is stiff until the end of the week. Tonight, the Flyers will host Tampa Bay. While the Flyers did lose to a shootout to them on November 18 in Pennsylvania, their last match-up was a 4-0 win for the Lightning. On Monday night, the Flyers will host Colorado - a team loaded with offense and getting into form again. Wednesday night sees the Flyers go back to Newark. The Devils really did a number on them last Sunday, this could be a repeat performance unless something changes. On Friday night, the Flyers will go to Las Vegas. The G-Knights appear to be climbing their way back up the Pacific Division. That will not be easy. Philly’s week will end in Arizona to take on arguably the worst team in the NHL in the Coyotes. For the Flyers’ sake, if their slump continues by then, that game will not be a gimmie. Dig in real deep, Flyers. If this is another bad week, then the season is going to become much longer and futile.
SBN Blog: Broad Street Hockey
New York Islanders
What Happened Last Week: Due to COVID-19 forcing many Islanders players to be unable to play, the NHL postponed their first two games scheduled for this week. The hope was that they would have enough people back and ready by December 2 against San Jose. The good news is that they were. The bad news is that the Islanders still lost. Mat Barzal scored early, Nick Bonino tied it up a few minutes later, and the goalies held it down all the way until overtime. Then Erik Karlsson scored within the first minute of OT to hand the Isles a 2-1 loss - their ninth winless game. Against Detroit, the Isles struck first with a shorthanded goal by Cal Clutterbuck. But they conceded two in the first period to go down. Oliver Wahlstrom scored on a power play goal to tie up the game at 2-2. However, Givani Smith scored to put Detroit back up. Wahlstrom scored again in the third period to tie it up and force the game to overtime. There, it happened again: the opposition scored. It was not quick but it was by a defenseman, Moritz Seider, to make it a 4-3 loss for the Isles. The Isles are now winless in ten games. They may have picked up two points but the standings still show a dire position. They are six points back of seventh place and 15 from a wild card spot at the moment. The Islanders will need to go on a run and get help to get out of this hole. It is imperative that they win a game - just one game - as soon as possible.
What’s Coming Up This Week: The Islanders are still searching for a win. They have four chances at that in this coming week. Tonight, they will host Chicago. While the Blackhawks have done well in recent games, they have not found a lot of success on the road. The win could be there. On Tuesday, the Isles will travel up to Ontario to play Ottawa. The Sens will have played the night before in New Jersey and have also been bad this season. The win could be there. On Thursday night, Nashville will come to Long Island. Nashville is the best team among the four they will play this week in terms of record. They are not that good on their own and they have been mediocre on the road. The win could be there. On Saturday night, the Isles will host the Devils for the first time in their new arena. The Devils smacked down the Isles back on November 9 with a 4-0 loss. As this is a home game, the Devils have been struggling, they helped Winnipeg snap their slump recently, and it is somewhat of a local rivalry, perhaps the Isles will find it in themselves to get something here. The win could be there. At this point, the Isles should have only one goal in mind: get a win. Just get a win.
SBN Blog: Lighthouse Hockey
That was the eighth Weekly Metropolitan Division Snapshot of the 2021-22 season. What do you expect to happen in this week coming up? Who will pull themselves out of their recent struggles in this coming week? Will the Rangers cool off anytime soon? Can Washington hold on to first place? Will the Islanders get their first win since November 6 this week? 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.