If it was not for postponements due to COVID and COVID-driven issues (e.g. limited attendance in Canada), then this would be around the halfway mark for several teams in the Metropolitan Division. Instead, it is a division with some teams having been active and others have not. But the games still go on. There is a new ruler atop the division. Albeit with a four-game disadvantage in games played to second place as well as a disadvantage in regulation wins (RW) and regulation and overtime wins (ROW). The New York Rangers at the top of the mountain for this week. All other positions have remained unchanged.
Coming up this week for the division: the only game in the NHL today, five games within the division, and a very busy one for the Washington Capitals.
As All-Stars were announced last week and Last Men In voting is ongoing until the 17th (tomorrow), each team’s all star, Last Man In candidate, and other related thoughts will be included along with the usual summary of what each team did and what each team has coming up.
New York Rangers
What Happened Last Week: The Rangers wrapped up their five-game road trip with three games in this past week. The California trip was ultimately a success as wins sandwiched a loss. That loss was 3-1 to Los Angeles, last Monday. A game where the Kings took an early lead and never lost it. Still, the Rangers bounced back on Thursday night in the Bay. They visited San Jose and Igor Shesterkin stopped everything that was thrown at him. Combined with a brace by Chris Kreider and Braden Schneider’s first goal, New York left California with a 3-0 win. The Rangers ended their trip in Philadelphia last night. It was a tight affair, but the top Rangers did their job. Shesterkin only allowed two to the Flyers. Mika Zibanejad and Artemi Panarin found the score sheet. Adam Fox had the primary assist on Chris Kreider’s game-breaking goal. The Rangers won 3-2. Not only did they go 2-1-0 to be one of two teams in the Metropolitan to win their week, they gained two points on Carolina. A team they were tied with in points. This means they are now in first place. All of the tiebreakers are against them. But they are in first place. Seems like their rebuild is over, now, right?
What’s Coming Up This Week: A three day break before playing three games in four nights. The first two in that set will be tough. The Rangers will host Toronto on Wednesday night. Toronto is one of the more powerful teams in the East. As good as the Rangers have been at getting results, this will not be easy. Neither will be their Friday night game in Raleigh. Carolina is also a strong (stronger?) team and this game could help turn the tide for who has the edge on this division lead. After that presumably difficult game in Carolina, the Rangers will return home to host Arizona. The Rangers should win that one. They just have to have enough left in the proverbial tank to take care of that bit of business. First place has been obtained; they need to keep succeeding to stay there. Or hope Carolina starts to struggle more often. I would not bet on the latter.
All Star Selections: Chris Kreider and Adam Fox. Kreider has started off the season with a hot stick and it has not cooled off. As one of the nine players with 20 or more goals in the NHL (and just two behind the league leader in goal scoring, Leon Draisaitl, who has 26), Kreider getting in makes a lot of sense. As does Fox, who continues to be a point-machine from the blueline and in. Fox is among league leaders among defensemen in terms of production. So it makes sense that he is in as well. But the Rangers arguably have one of the largest snubs. Shesterkin was somehow not picked as a goaltender. How? He is having a better season than Andersen. Alas, you cannot vote for Shesterkin for Last Man In as it is a skater-only vote. That choice for New York is Mika Zibanejad. I still think Shesterkin should be in over Andersen.
SBN Blog: Blueshirt Banter
What Happened Last Week: Carolina had two games this past week due to a postponement of last Tuesday’s game in Philly. They hosted Columbus on Thursday. The Blue Jackets absolutely remembered how the Hurricanes came back from a four-goal deficit to win 7-4. Carolina went down big again to Columbus. Only there would be no comeback this time. No comeback at all. It was not so bad at 2-0 after two periods. Then, like a cannon, the blasts kept on coming as the Hurricanes were shut out 6-0 in their own building. Oof. Yesterday, they hosted Vancouver. This one went much better for the Canes. Even though it was 1-1 after the first period, Vincent Trocheck, Martin Necas, and Steven Lorentz all scored from the second period onward. No one on Vancouver scored any goals. This meant the Canes won 4-1 to split their two-game week. Unfortunately for them, it meant dropping to second place as the Rangers went 2-1-0. But they have four games in hand on New York; nothing is over for Carolina.
What’s Coming Up This Week: Carolina has three games coming up and hopefully they will play all three. They will not be simple games. On Tuesday, Carolina will visit Boston - a team on the rise as they grip the second wild card spot in the East with an iron hand. It will not be an easy time. The Canes will end their week with a back-to-back within the division. Friday night will see them host the New York Rangers, a squad they have been directly battling for first place in this division. It is a big game. On Saturday night, they will visit the New Jersey Devils - who are far from any kind of playoff spot. They have to avoid slipping up similar how they fell in deep to Columbus twice this month. Still, if anyone can pull out a winning week with these three games, then it is the legitimate contenders that are the Carolina Hurricanes. Will it be enough to take back first place? We’ll see. But a tie in points is all they need.
All Star Selections: Sebastian Aho, Frederik Andersen, Rod Brind’Amour. Fine choices. Aho is Carolina’s leading scorer. Andersen has stayed healthy and excellent between the pipes. (Although he would not have been my choice as one of the two goalies.) Brind’Amour is the boss behind the team with the best points percentage in the Metropolitan. That’s fair. Their Last Man In candidate is Andrei Svechnikov, who is having a fine season himself with 12 goals and 14 assists. If there is a snub, then one could argue it would be Jaccob Slavin. However, non-offensive defenders tend to not get picked for these games.
SBN Blog: Canes Country
What Happened Last Week: It was a short week for the Capitals. It started poorly. They hosted Boston last Monday and took a beating from the B’s. Despite a two goal lead in the first period, a pair of penalties yielded two quick PPGs for Boston to tie it up before intermission. The Bruins just did not stop scoring in the second period with four straight before T.J. Oshie stopped the lamp-lighting in one end with a goal to make it 6-3. Brad Marchand capped off the 7-3 defeat for the Caps in the third period. Ouch. Yesterday afternoon, the Capitals visited the UBS Arena for the first time. They left with a victory. Tom Wilson scored first, Vitek Vanecek stopped everything, and that was enough for the win. Alex Ovechkin tacked on an empty netter to secure a 2-0 win. The win was needed to stop the Capitals’ slide. They got it. Now, can they rebound to start aiming upward in the division? Or at least get some needed space from Pittsburgh?
What’s Coming Up This Week: The Capitals will play a lot this week. Today, they will host a Vancouver team that has been playing a lot better recently than they have a few months ago. On Tuesday, they will host Winnipeg who have talent although they have not been so good on the road. Thursday night will have Washington go up to play Boston. Surely, Washington wants to show up better than they did last week against the Bruins. Right? Their four-game week will end back in D.C. when they play the Senators. Washington already has a games played disadvantage, so they really could use this week to be successful to re-take the throne in the division. Even if they do not, getting some distance between them and Pittsburgh would be very helpful. The Pens are just two points behind them with a game in hand on them.
All Star Selection: Alex Ovechkin. Ovechkin is close to the league leader in both goals (he has 25, Draisaitl has 26) and points (he has 53, Draisaitl has 54). He is also one of the sport’s biggest names. He is very much a deserving All Star. Their Last Man In candidate is Evgeny Kuznetsov, who is second on Washington in scoring. I think a better case may be for their third leading scorer, defenseman John Carlson - who is also sixth among all defenders in scoring this season. Given who else was selected on defense, he may be a victim of the All Teams Must Have a Representative rule and/or the 3-on-3 format of the All Star Game.
SBN Blog: Japers’ Rink
What Happened Last Week: Pittsburgh was on the road all week. Specifically, they were in California to play all three teams in that state. Their first game went quite well. Evgeni Malkin made his season debut after knee surgery, scored two goals, picked up an assist, and helped his team win in Anaheim, 4-1. Great stuff. Their second game went quite poorly. Pittsburgh and Los Angeles played a close game for two periods. But a flurry of three goals by the Kings drove a 6-2 loss for Pittsburgh. Their third game in San Jose would determine whether the California trip was an overall success. It was a close affair wherein Louis Domingue - yes, him - was a stud in the net for the Penguins. He stopped 40 out of 41 shots, getting beaten only once in the first period by Rudolfs Balcers. Kris Letang answered that score in the first - and that would be it in terms of scoring for regulation. Talk about pressure. But Domingue rose up to it to shine like a diamond. And presumably breathed a sigh of victorious relief when Jake Guentzel scored 37 seconds into OT. The Penguins won 2-1 to make it a successful 2-1-0 week on the road. They are even closer to the top three. Be careful, Washington. Pittsburgh is coming.
What’s Coming Up This Week: The Penguins will finish up their road trip on Monday night when they visit Las Vegas. The Golden Knights have righted their ship and now lead the Pacific. While it may not be an indomitable place to play, it will not be an easy game for the Pens. Pittsburgh will return home on Thursday night to host Ottawa. They should take care of business provided they do not look past them. There will be a temptation for that as they will go to Ohio to play an ornery Columbus team on Friday night. A Columbus team capable of taking down a team like Carolina. For the Penguins to continue to chase the top three in the division, they need to beat the teams beneath them. Will they do so? We shall see. I think they have a good chance as any.
All Star Selection: Tristan Jarry. Yes, the star selection for the Penguins this season is goaltender Tristan Jarry. Jarry is having a really good season, so it is justifiable. There are only a handful of goalies who have performed better this season (one of them is Shesterkin). It is odd, but this has been a season for Pittsburgh where they missed Crosby and Malkin for significant time. Their Last Man In candidate is team leading scorer (goals, points) Jake Guentzel, who would be a good selection for it. I am surprised Kris Letang was not given more consideration and it would have been cool if Evan Rodrigues’ surprising season was rewarded with an ASG. Alas.
SBN Blog: PensBurgh
What Happened Last Week: This was a mountain of a week for Columbus. In that it peaked in the middle between two ravines. First, they hosted Chicago. Despite scoring first, they fell in deep to goals allowed to Alex DeBrincat, Calvin de Haan, and Conor Murphy. Down 3-1, they had a late lifeline with a shorthanded goal by Gustav Nyquist. But DeBrincat denied any late equalizer with an empty netter, securing a 4-2 loss for Columbus. On Thursday, the Blue Jackets visited Carolina. In their previous matchup on New Year’s Day, the Jackets went up 4-0 and gave up 7 straight for a 7-4 loss. Revenge was absolutely on their minds. They not only ensured there would be no repeat, but they made the Hurricanes lose by an even larger margin. Carolina could not beat Elvis Merzlikins. Emil Bemstrom, Patrik Laine, Cole Sillinger, Jack Roslovic, and a brace from Yegor Chinakhov all damaged the Canes. Columbus won 6-0 amid that beatdown. Surely, the Jackets felt good about that. It meant nothing to their opponent on Saturday night: the Florida Panthers. The Panthers are an elite team this season and absolutely wrecked Columbus. They scored 4 goals out of 20 shots in the first period alone. They tacked on two more in the second period. Nyquist and Boone Jenner scored the lone consolation goals in the third period - which did not deter Florida from putting up another three. Florida crushed Columbus by a final score of 9-2. That is not a typo. 9 to 2. Columbus suffered the biggest loss in the division, perhaps in the league, this week. Thanks to their one win over Carolina, they own fifth place for the moment. Not that it makes Saturday night’s beating feel any better.
What’s Coming Up This Week: The Blue Jackets just have two games coming up. It is a back-to-back against the Pennsylvanian teams. They will visit Philadelphia on Thursday and host Pittsburgh on Friday. Columbus can do some damage to their respective short term goals with some results. They kneecapped Carolina last week. Anything can be possible from the Blue Jackets. Even if they do not have much to play for, they can absolutely ruin either team’s day. Or falter themselves. Whichever. I will say that letting that 9-2 loss stew in their heads for a few days may either pump them up for these two games or drag them down. Who knows with Columbus this season.
All Star Selection: Zach Werenski. I am not quite sure how this was the move. Was it a case that the decision makers filled out the forwards, correctly concluded that Columbus’ representative cannot be a goaltender, and opted for a defenseman? I guess? I think Oliver Bjorkstrand, their leading scorer, has a better claim for going. Even better than their Last Man In candidate, Jakub Voracek. Although I am impressed that Voracek has 25 points and just one goal this season.
SBN Blog: The Cannon
What Happened Last Week: Philly’s week became a two game week with their game in Carolina postponed. They traveled up to Boston on Thursday night. A night where a Boston goaltender named Tuukka Rask made his season debut. Philadelphia went down early to two goals in the first period. They bravely battled back to tie it up in the second period with goals by Cam Atkinson and Joel Farabee. Then David Pastrnak scored a PPG to make it 3-2 and the score stood to the end. The Flyers lost in Rask’s season debut. Yesterday, they hosted the New York Rangers. They tried to make a game of it. While they suffered a PPG to New York early on, Oskar Lindblom tied it up in the first. Cam York scored his first NHL goal to put the Flyers up 2-1 just past halfway through the third period. Unfortunately, New York responded on the next shift, Kreider scored in the third, and the Flyers lost another game, 3-2. They went winless and remain mired in the have-not part of the Metropolitan along with Columbus and New Jersey.
What’s Coming Up This Week: It may be a massive uphill climb for the Flyers to re-enter the playoff discussion. However, this week will be big if they want to attempt to make that climb. They will play three teams they will need to show they are better than to make that claim. They will visit the New York Islanders on Monday night. Then they will host Columbus on Thursday. Their week will end with a Saturday afternoon affair in Buffalo. Should the Flyers do well in this week coming up, it is something they can build on. If not, then they may be doomed to their fate just bobbing around lower half of the division.
All Star Selection: Claude Giroux. Giroux is Philadelphia’s most recognizable player and their leading scorer. It is a fair pick. Their Last Man In candidate is Cam Atkinson, who is right behind Giroux in points. I am not sure who else would even qualify as an All Star from Philadelphia. Carter Hart has been doing very well, especially after last season’s debacle of a campaign. But he is in a division with Shesterkin, Jarry, Sorokin, and Andersen. Sorry, young man.
SBN Blog: Broad Street Hockey
New Jersey Devils
What Happened Last Week: Due to an increase in the number of players on COVID protocol in New Jersey, their game against Tampa Bay on Monday was postponed. Their game on Saturday in Montreal was postponed weeks ago due to the limit on attendance in Quebec. Despite having Mackenzie Blackwood and Akira Schmid on the protocol in the middle of the week, the game in Long Island on Thursday night was a go. The starting goaltender was Jon Gilles and the backup was New Jersey Jr. Titans assistant coach Kyle Shapiro, who was signed to an ATO. The goaltending was not the problem that night. The lack of finishing and breaking down of the Islanders’ defense was. The Devils lost 3-2. Their season is basically mired in this half of the division. At least more and more players are coming back off of protocol now.
What’s Coming Up This Week: The Devils’ game in Toronto originally scheduled for Monday was postponed, so their next game will be at home on Wednesday night against Arizona. Given how hapless Arizona is this season, the Devils should really do what they can to win this one. Especially since they will host Carolina on Saturday night. The Hurricanes will play the night before. That is to the Devils’ advantage. The fact that Carolina is really, really, really good this season is not.
All Star Selection: Jack Hughes. The Big Deal has emerged in recent weeks to live closer to the billing of being a star. He has 20 points in 20 games as he missed 17 due to injury; he is fully healthy; his skill on the puck is unmatched on the team. His #1 overall pick pedigree and being a USNTDP stud helps his star power. Was he the best choice out of New Jersey this season? No. Defensible choice, but no. Fortunately, you can vote for who is actually the most deserving player on the Devils: Jesper Bratt. He is their Last Man In candidate. Bratt is the team’s leading scorer of the team (by 10 points, in fact), elevator of Dawson Mercer’s rookie campaign, scoring winger who has helped both Hughes and Nico Hischier this season, and the AAtJ Devil of the Month for two months running. Go vote for Bratt!
SBN Blog: All About the Jersey - Alas may be the word of the 2021-22 season.
New York Islanders
What Happened Last Week: As the Islanders’ trip to Canada was postponed, they had two home games to play in this past week. They hosted the New Jersey Devils. The Isles were well-rested and well-prepared. Despite Ilya Sorokin giving up a bad goal to start, he settled down as did the skaters’ collapsing defense and structured play in the neutral zone. The game was 2-2 late before Mat Barzal exposed a bad decision in the defensive zone by New Jersey to make it 3-2. That gave the Isles a win. Yesterday, they hosted Washington. They had reason to feel good going into this one. They had a run of positive results. But they ran into Vitek Vanecek, who has having an even better day. Even though they conceded one goal with a goalie in the net, the Isles scored none. This always means a loss and so the Isles lost 2-0. This stalled their comeback effort for a moment. With at least five games in hand on everyone in the Metropolitan Division, they can rebound - if they do so quickly.
What’s Coming Up This Week: The Islanders will continue to be at home for this week. They will host Philadelphia. This is an interesting one as the sheer number of games in hand mean that the Isles can catch Philly. Taking this game would tremendously help them. After three idle days, they have a back-to-back with Arizona and Toronto. The Isles should be able to take care of business against Arizona. Toronto will be a far, far tougher task. But any success helps them inch their way out from the basement of the division. It may not be where they expected to be before this season, but it is a step forward. With so many games in hand, the time is now to take those steps.
All Star Selection: Adam Pelech. Really? Pelech? He is not even the Islanders’ leading scorer among defensemen; that would be Noah Dobson with 14. Why would this not be Mat Barzal’s spot? He has 22 points in 26 games and leads his team in scoring by eight points. He is the Last Man In candidate. But why would he not be their main representative? Or even Ilya Sorokin, who is having a very good season on the Island? Adam Pelech?
SBN Blog: Lighthouse Hockey
That was the fourteenth Weekly Metropolitan Division Snapshot of the 2021-22 season. What do you expect to happen in the first full week of the 2022 season? Will the Rangers hold onto first place, or will they drop the throne to Carolina sooner rather than later? Can Pittsburgh catch Washington? Who among the bottom four teams will have a good week - if anyone does at all? Please leave your answers and other thoughts about the eight Metropolitan Division teams in the week that was and the week ahead in the comments. Thank you for reading.