The Metropolitan Division continues to be group of haves and have nots. The haves are in great positions to not only compete for the playoffs but even contend to go All The Way. The have-nots are a dire quartet of sad-sack hockey teams who would need a miracle of a winning streak to get into the conversation of the wild card spots in the East. Competition is fierce among these halves of the division; but not between each other in the standings. For this week, we have a familiar owner of first place and a new owner in the basement. Both decided by last night’s results.
This week of games has Los Angeles, Dallas, Las Vegas and Seattle playing multiple games locally, everyone playing at least three games, and three games within the division itself. Those three are highlighted and in bold:
Let us go over what happened last week and what is coming up for each team in the Metropolitan.
What Happened Last Week: The Rangers entered this week atop the division. They slipped a bit during the week, but ultimately held onto first by week’s end. On Wednesday night, the Rangers made a statement. They hosted Toronto, one of the top teams in the East and easily one of the most heavily covered teams in mainstream hockey media. After going down 3-1 to the Leafs in the first period, New York roared back to tie it up in the second period, and took the game entirely with a three-goal third period. All while conceding nothing else to Toronto. The Rangers won 6-3. On Friday night, they visited Carolina - their closest opponent in the standings. This one would not go so well for the Rangers. Carolina went up early and ensured there would be no comeback as it was 5-1 in favor the Canes after 40 minutes. The Rangers got some consolation goals and lost 6-3. Last night, they hosted Arizona. Arizona seemingly had the Rangers’ number in the first half. They swarmed the net, they scored first, and were up 3-1 by halfway through the second period. Then Chris Kreider scored a shorthanded goal. Then Julien Gauthier scored. Then Artemi Panarin scored a power play goal. Then Krieder scored at even strength. Within ten minutes in the second period, the Rangers flipped a 3-1 deficit to a 5-3 lead. They tacked on two more goals for a 7-3 final score. And with that 2-1-0 week combined with Carolina’s surprising loss to New Jersey, the Rangers are in first place for another snapshot.
What’s Coming Up This Week: The grind continues for the Rangers as their place in the division is far from secure. Not only is Carolina right up in their business in the standings with Washington not far behind, Pittsburgh has joined the group of contenders. With that, the Rangers need to keep getting results. They will get a favorable game on Monday night when they host Los Angeles. The Kings will be in Newark the night prior, so the Rangers will be fresher for that one. The Rangers will have a trickier back-to-back later in the week. They will visit Columbus on Thursday and then host a good Minnesota team on Friday. Of the four non-playoff teams in the Metropolitan, Columbus could be the trickiest. Still, the Rangers have answered every doubter so far by earning their way to first in the division. They are in the driver’s seat for another week.
SBN Blog: Blueshirt Banter
What Happened Last Week: Carolina was only knocked to second place for a little bit. With their advantage in games played combined with the fact that they are a high quality team this season, first place was always going to be in their sights. They re-took it this week. On Tuesday night, they visited Boston. Boston retired #22 in honor of Willie O’Ree, the first Black hockey player in the NHL. Generally, a jersey retirement night bodes well for the home team. Plus, Tuukka Rask was back and in the net. Carolina chased Rask with a five-goal first period, and soured the retirement night with a 7-1 victory. Yes, 7-1. The Canes were not done scoring goals. On Friday, they hosted the New York Rangers. A big one for the cause of taking first since New York had it. Like their game in Boston, Carolina scored a heap of goals early and it was never close. Tony D put up three points, Jesper Fast scored, and the Hurricanes put down the Rangers 6-3. The win was enough to tie the Rangers in points, which gave them first place due to fewer games played. On Saturday night, they had a chance to sweep the week with a road game in New Jersey. It seemed like the Canes would bury their opponents early with goals. Which would be good for Jack LaFontaine, the college goalie in their system they signed to an ELC so they had a goalie available. Carolina did score the first two. Problem: they allowed two deflections to Nathan Bastian in the first period to tie it up at 2-2. Five more goals were scored in the second period, first by Carolina, second and third by New Jersey, fourth by Carolina, and the fifth one from New Jersey. The scoring continued - but all for the Devils with a power play goal by Jack Hughes and a rebound put back by Pavel Zacha. The Canes lost 7-4 to a non-playoff Devils squad in what ended up being the most difficult game of the week for Carolina. The 2-1-0 week is still positive, but it means another week looking up at the Rangers.
What’s Coming Up This Week: Carolina has three games coming up where they should feel somewhat good about their chances at winning another week. The first of the three, on paper, will be their most challenging. They will host Las Vegas. The G-Knights are back to ruling the Pacific and are 11-5-0 on the road as of Saturday evening. That will be a challenge. At least the Canes will have a fatigue advantage; Las Vegas is playing in Washington D.C. the night before that game. After that, the Canes will head up to Ottawa on Thursday night and host New Jersey on Saturday. While Carolina has crumpled against both opponents, both are teams well below where the Canes are in terms of the standings and in terms of quality. They should get results. Will it be enough to get back to first and retain it? We shall see.
SBN Blog: Canes Country
What Happened Last Week: After weeks of me teasing that the Penguins are coming up, they are finally here. They enter this snapshot in third place. They broke through the trio of Carolina, New York, and Washington. They did it by the same way they rose up to this spot: winning streaks. Pittsburgh swept all three games last week. A game in Las Vegas on Monday night? A 5-3 win where they went down three goals and then scored the next five straight. A return home against Ottawa on Thursday night? This time, the shoe was on the other foot as Ottawa made a spirited comeback effort in the third period to turn a 5-1 deficit into 5-4. But the Pens held on and Jake Guentzel sealed the win with an ENG for a 6-4 final. The Penguins back on the road on Friday in Columbus? A Sidney Crosby hat trick led the way to a 5-2 win. Three wins out of three this week. Four in a row. And now they are up to third in the division with a point behind the Canes and three behind New York.
What’s Coming Up This Week: The Penguins will be home all week. And given the quality of the opponents on paper, they could win a whole lot more. I am not saying they will enter next week’s snapshot with eight straight wins. Just that it is possible. They will have Winnipeg today, Arizona on Tuesday, Seattle on Thursday, and Detroit on Friday. That’s three non-playoff teams and a Jets team that has not been good on the road this year, has been fading in the Central, and just put Nikolaj Ehlers on Long Term Injured Reserve. The Pens can and should keep getting points in the standings. As they succeed, those ahead of them have to worry because one slip up means the Penguins could jump them real soon.
SBN Blog: PensBurgh
What Happened Last Week: It was not a good week for the Capitals. Last Sunday, they hosted Vancouver. They lost 4-2 in regulation after going down 3-1 in the second period on the back of a brace by Elias Pettersson. Sure, Alex Ovechkin scored in the third to make it close but that would be that: close, but no result. Last Tuesday, they hosted Winnipeg. It looked like they would win this one - only for them to give up an equalizer to Pierre-Luc DuBois with just over a minute left in regulation. Fortunately for the Capitals, Tom Wilson scored quickly in overtime for a 4-3 win. Onwards and upwards? No. Last Thursday, they visited Boston. The B’s wanted to make things right after getting creamed by Carolina. The Capitals were their victims. While it was close, the Bruins edged Washington with a late PPG by Charlie McAvoy to make it a 4-3 final score in regulation. Another loss for Washington. Last night, they hosted lowly Ottawa. After two periods, they were losing 2-0 to Ottawa. 2-0. To Ottawa. Come on. But in the third, the Capitals broke through. A pair of goals by, who else, Alex Ovechkin to make it 2-2. Overtime was needed. Would the Caps have a fourth period hero again this week? Yes. His name was Nicklas Backstrom, scoring unassisted just over a minute in to give the Capitals a 3-2 win and avoid the sadness of losing to Ottawa at home. The OT win made it 2-2-0 for the week, which is not the worst. Still, they fell to fourth in the division as Pittsburgh has fewer games played than Washington. The Caps will need a more successful week to get back into the fight for first place.
What’s Coming Up This Week: The Capitals will have three chances to do just that this week. On Monday, they will host Las Vegas. Las Vegas is good, leading their division, and are an impressive 11-5-0 on the road. Good luck, Capitals. On Wednesday, they will host a San Jose team that has not been particularly impressive on the road or as of late. The Caps really should aim for a result that night. On Friday night, the Capitals will be in Dallas. Dallas is a good home team, so it will not be easy. For the Washington Capitals to claim that they are among the best in this division and in the conference, they should strive for this week to be a more successful one than last week’s results.
SBN Blog: Japers’ Rink
What Happened Last Week: Columbus had two games in this past week and they split them. Last Thursday, they went to Philadelphia and beat them 2-1. The Blue Jackets’ season may not have much to play for but at least they could - and did - pour more misery on the Flyers’ woeful run of play. Oliver Bjorkstrand scored, Patrik Laine scored, and Elvis Merzlikins stopped all but one shot. Good. Last Friday, they hosted Pittsburgh. The other Pennsylvanian team is a whole lot better than the Flyers. While the Jackets made it 2-1 in the first period thanks to a Gustav Nyquist shorthanded goal and Boone Jenner, Crosby began his hat trick night by tying it up by the first intermission. In the third period, Pittsburgh put Columbus away for a 5-2 loss for the home squad. The Jackets went 1-1-0. Despite their poor record overall, it is enough to keep them ahead of the three teams below them. Although, the Islanders remain their biggest threat.
What’s Coming Up This Week: The Blue Jackets will be a little busier this week with three games on the schedule. They will be at home for all of them, but they will get harder with each game. First, they will host Ottawa in an early evening (6 PM ET) game today. That is a team Columbus should be able to get something from that night. Second, they will host Calgary on Wednesday. Calgary may have hit some struggles, but the Flames have torched this division and could do the same. Be careful, Jackets. Third, they will host the Rangers on Thursday night. Whatever they have left in the tank against Calgary will be tested against a team aiming to stay in first place. Good luck, as usual, Columbus.
SBN Blog: The Cannon
What Happened Last Week: The Devils had two games this week and plenty of time to prepare for both. The first game was against Arizona, whom had all of nine wins this season going into Wednesday night. The Devils dominated the first period and held them to one shot on net whilst Nico Hischier scored in the slot on a power play. Then the Devils were figured out by Arizona. The shots kept coming, as did the goals. Arizona scored three on eight shots in the second period with screens, giveaways, and errors galore as the Devils’ attack became more toothless. The third period saw Arizona make it 4-1, the Devils failing to make a game of it, and many fans at the Rock leaving early or staying to boo. The second game was against Carolina, arguably the best team in the division. As it was a back-to-back, Jon Gilles got the start. It did not take long for Carolina to beat him twice. Then, somehow, someway, Nathan Bastian gets two deflections late in the period to make it 2-2. In the second period, Josh Leivo torched Christian Jaros before torching Gilles to make it 3-2. But then Michael McLeod put home a rebound at 3-3. And Andreas Johnsson finished a rush up ice past Jack LaFontaine - his first NHL start - to make it 4-3. But the Canes hit back when Brady Skjei joined a 2-on-1 rush to make it 4-4. But Jesper Bratt had his say when he slammed in a rebound to make it 5-4 going into the second intermission. In the third, Gilles made a few stops, Jack Hughes converted a power play to make it 6-4, and Pavel Zacha finished a gaping rebound to make it 7-4. Yes, this was all against Carolina. Against a relative unknown, young back-up goaltender that fans fear always stun the Devils. The Devils split their week by embarrassing themselves against Arizona and somehow scoring a touchdown and converting the extra point on Carolina. The latter being enough to propel the Devils from eighth as of Saturday morning to sixth as of this snapshot. It is a tight affair among the playoffless teams in this division.
What’s Coming Up This Week: The Devils will have plenty of games this week. Their weekend is not done. They will host Los Angeles tonight. Los Angeles is a good team and does have an overtime win over the Devils this season (thank you, Damon Severson). Combined with the fact that the Kings did not play last night and this could be a challenge. The games will not get any easier. On Tuesday, the Devils will host Dallas. Fortunately, Dallas will play Philly the night prior. And Dallas is not a good road team. It gets nastier. On Thursday, the Devils will visit Tampa Bay. While the Devils beat them in Tampa Bay earlier this season, the Lightning are very good and the Devils are not. Lastly, their week ends in Carolina on Saturday night. The Canes are not going to forget the 7-4 loss they took last night. And given how bad the Devils have been on the road this season - 5-11-2 going into this week - it could get ugly. Given that the Devils are keeping it status quo for the most part, it likely will not move any needles in Newark. But, hey, not being in last place is something to smile about for a little bit.
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What Happened Last Week: The Islanders still have a slew of games in hand on everyone. Hence, they will win any tiebreaker for a while and still have better odds for playing any meaningful hockey over the next few months than the other three teams in this second half of the division. They are still low odds, but still better ones. It helps that the Isles have been successful as of late. They continued it this week. They took two wins in a back-to-back home-and-home with Philadelphia. Islanders prevailed 4-1 in the first game last Monday and 4-3 through a long, nine-round shootout on Tuesday. On Friday night, they hosted Arizona and blanked them in a decisive 4-0 victory. Last night would be their toughest test: a home game against Toronto. Toronto is a better team than Arizona and Philadelphia. The Leafs went up 2-1 on the Isles in the first with a last-second goal by Pierre Engvall. They extended it to 3-1 thanks to Morgan Reilly. The game ended with that score, which ended the Isles’ winning streak. Still, a 3-1-0 week is great for them. It pushed them up the standings and could rise up further with their games in hand. I do not think they will get much farther than fifth; but keep on winning and we will see then.
What’s Coming Up This Week: The Islanders will stay at home some more. They could do well again given who is on the schedule. They will host the Flyers again on Tuesday. They could very well get a third win over them given how poor the Flyers have been this month. On Thursday, the Isles will get more of a challenge from Los Angeles. The Kings are playing for a chance at the postseason and have done well this season. They are on a road trip so we shall see how they are once they arrive in Belmont. On Saturday afternoon, they will host Seattle. The expansion team is very much an expansion team and the Isles should get something from that afternoon. Fifth place is in sight, Isles, and that is likely the next short-term goal. (Yes, they have to get to sixth first, but with a point behind New Jersey with five games in hand on them, I’m going to figure they’ll do that.)
SBN Blog: Lighthouse Hockey
What Happened Last Week: I will spoil it. The Philadelphia Flyers are winless in their last eleven games. They lost all their games this week. This is the second time this season where they had a run of futility for ten or more games. Needless to say, the coaching change did not work for the Flyers. The pain kept on coming for the Winged P’s. A home-and-home with the Isles? A 4-1 loss in the first game and a 4-3 shootout loss in the second game. That last one stung because it could have been a win and could have been something to at least soothe the dulling pain of defeats. Nope. Hosting Columbus on Thursday? Give up two goals, score just one, and lose 2-1. Last night in Buffalo? Take a 2-1 lead for a few minutes before giving up a brace to Tage Thompson on the power play. First after a tripping penalty and second after a failed coaching challenge. Then they gave up a brace to Peyton Krebs for his first two NHL goals. Then they concede a goal to Jeff Skinner whom, oh yes, scored the first goal of the game. The Flyers lost 6-3 in Buffalo to end the week at 0-3-1. The pain seems endless at this point. And thanks to the Islanders’ surge and the Devils pulling out a win against Carolina (!?!?!), they are now in the basement of the division.
What’s Coming Up This Week: The Flyers will host Dallas on Monday, visit Long Island again on Tuesday, and then host Los Angeles on Saturday. This is not an easy three games for many teams. For the Flyers right now, they are all difficult games. Somehow, someway, they just have to win a game. Forget the playoffs. That is not happening for this team. Forget where it all went wrong. There will be a Summer to think about that. Just get a win at this point. Win a game in 2022 for once. Just win a game. That has to be mantra now. Win somehow.
SBN Blog: Broad Street Hockey
That was the fifteenth Weekly Metropolitan Division Snapshot of the 2021-22 season. What do you expect to happen in this week coming up? Will the Rangers hold onto first place, or will they drop the throne to Carolina sooner rather than later? Can Pittsburgh crash the top two teams this week? Will Washington rebound? Do you think the Islanders will keep surging? Will Philadelphia win a game? 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.