Halfway through an 82-game season is the 41st game. With games required re-scheduling, most of the Metropolitan Division has finally crossed that mark. It is likely going to be a division of two halves for the rest of the season. Provided someone among the top half does not collapse. As it stands, no one in the bottom half has a real shot at getting hot enough to challenge them. Oh, by the way, the Pittsburgh Penguins are back near the top. They were in first yesterday morning. A sweep of the week by the Carolina Hurricanes put them in first again. While they have the tiebreakers in their favor to lead, there is a new contender in a tight race at the top. Because of Carolina’s sweep and the Philadelphia Flyers finally winning a game this year, the New Jersey Devils took the basement spot.
Did you know the NHL All Star weekend is next weekend? It is. That is why this week’s schedule is short for everyone. This is also where the make-up games begin for some teams. As ever, the one game within the division is 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: Carolina continued to get results. While they handed some points away in the process, it has no impact on the division. Carolina got wins and that matters more. On Tuesday, they hosted Las Vegas. By halfway through the third period, the Canes were up 3-1 thanks to Sebastian Aho PPG a couple of minutes earlier. Then the lead went up in smoke within the final ten minutes. Brett Howden put the visitors within one and Nic Hague tied it up with 2:30 left. Fortunately for the Caniacs in attendance, Aho struck again in OT for a 4-3 win. Thursday night saw the Canes go up to Ottawa. This was a challenge. Frederik Andersen saw a lot of rubber: 39 shots to be precise in four periods. Nick Paul of Ottawa answered Derek Stepan’s goal to open the scoring in the second period; while Nino Neiderreiter provided an equalizer after Alex Formenton put the Sens up. The game needed a shootout. Andrei Svechnikov was the lone scorer, giving the Canes a 3-2 shootout win. Last night, they hosted the New Jersey Devils. The Devils stunned them 7-4 last Saturday. Revenge was on the cards - kind of. In a competitive, close game, a put back by Andrei Svechnikov was the difference maker in 2-1 win for the Canes. As Carolina swept their week of three games, they edged out Pittsburgh for first in the division. With games in hand on Pittsburgh, New York, and Washington as well as leads in regulation wins and ROW, the Canes are in a very favorable position even with a one-point lead.
What’s Coming Up This Week: Carolina’s week is very short. They have one game and it is today against San Jose. San Jose does have a win over Washington recently. However, they played in Florida yesterday and it went poorly. No team will have a fatigue advantage. The Canes will likely take care of business and then wait. Their next game will be on February 7, which starts a four-game road trip.
SBN Blog: Canes Country
What Happened Last Week: The Pittsburgh Penguins finally did not win a game. Their winning streak reached six games and it was snapped. But they picked up points in all four of their games last week. Therefore, they entered Saturday first in the Metropolitan and are now very much in the fight for first with Carolina and New York. Last Sunday, the Penguins began a six-game run at home against Winnipeg. This one was not going so well until Kasperi Kapanen and Jeff Carter scored nine seconds apart (!!) in the third period to tie up the game. A shootout was needed; Sidney Crosby was the lone scorer; and so the Pens won another game at 3-2. Last Tuesday, the Penguins hosted Arizona. This one was close until the third period. In fact, just three minutes into the third, Arizona was up 3-2 on Pittsburgh. Then Brock McGinn scored. Then Crosby scored. Then Kris Letang scored. Then Brian Boyle scored. The Penguins won 6-3. Thursday night would be the end of the streak when the Penguins hosted Seattle. Yes, Seattle. Yes, the expansion team. This was a low scoring game as no one scored until the third period. Evgeni Malkin converted a power play and ex-Penguin Jared McCann tied it up late to force overtime. Adam Larsson lit the lamp for what was Seattle’s first ever overtime win. This meant the Penguins lost 2-1 in OT to Seattle. They hosted Detroit the next night. This was another close affair. Jake Guentzel was the scorer of Pittsburgh’s two goals in the game. But they could not score a third goal in regulation or overtime. A shootout was needed and this time, Guentzel, Crosby, and Letang all missed. Lucas Raymond did not - so Detroit took the shootout and the Penguins took another point. Dropping points to Seattle and Detroit at home has to be disappointing. But their six-point week was enough to catapult them for contention of first in the division. Carolina’s win on Saturday pushed them down to second - for now.
What’s Coming Up This Week: The Penguins have two more home games this week. Today, they will host Los Angeles. L.A. is a better team than what most expected. However, L.A. also played in Philly yesterday whereas the Penguins were off. The Pens at least have that advantage for the game. Tuesday night will be a bigger game. It is another round in the Crosby vs. Ovechkin saga as the Penguins will host Washington. Should the Pens want to keep the Caps mired in fourth (something Carolina and New York would appreciate), they will want to win that one in regulation. The Penguins continue to get results week-in, week-out. Their ascendency to the top is a result of that.
SBN Blog: PensBurgh
New York Rangers
What Happened Last Week: The Rangers entered this week atop the division for a second week. But their slipping this week did lead to a drop. It was not that good of week for the Blueshirts. Last Monday, they hosted Los Angeles. The Kings, fresh off a win over New Jersey, not only out-shot the Rangers but were up 2-1 in the second period. Barclay Goodrow had to provide an equalizer in the third to force extra time. A shootout was needed and it went six rounds. The deciding round saw Arthur Kaliyev get denied and Adam Fox score. The Rangers came back for a 3-2 shootout win. That would be their only result of the week. On Thursday, the Rangers visited Columbus. The Blue Jackets responded to a quick two goals by Artemi Panarin and Goodrow with four straight in the game - two in the first period and two in the second. Mika Zibanejad scored a PPG in the third to put the Rangers within one. But Sean Kuraly put home the empty netter to seal a 5-3 loss for New York. Additionally, Fox left the game due to injury. He was unavailable on Friday night against Minnesota. It was a special night as the Rangers retired Henrik Lundqvist’s #30 number. As is Ranger tradition for Lundqvist, they let him down on a big night. Like in Columbus, they (Goodrow and Chris Kreider) scored two goals to go up in the first period. Like in Columbus, they lost that lead with Kevin Fiala and Mats Zuccarello scoring in the second period and Frederick Gaudreau providing the difference maker early in the third. The Rangers tried to jam in a late equalizer - literally - but it was waved off for goalie interference. So the Rangers lost 3-2 in regulation to the Wild to close their week at 1-2-0. The Rangers are still well ahead of Washington, but if they want to keep hanging with Carolina and now Pittsburgh, they will need more results and soon. They are not waiting.
What’s Coming Up This Week: The Rangers have two home games this week where they should be able to get at least one result. Today, they host Seattle. Seattle was originally going to be playing on Long Island on Saturday, but the blizzard in the area caused a postponement of that game. So they will be fresh for their game at MSG today. Still, the Rangers should prevail. On Tuesday, they will host Florida - arguably the best team in the East this season. That will be a whole lot harder. After that Florida game, they are off until February 15, so they will do a lot of waiting as others play.
SBN Blog: Blueshirt Banter
What Happened Last Week: It was another poor week for the Capitals. It ended positively, but they dropped their first two games - which were both at home. Last Monday, the Capitals just could not beat Robin Lehner. He put up a 34-save shutout. Michael Amadio was the only one to score against Vitek Vanecek. The result: a 1-0 loss to Las Vegas. Last Wednesday, the Capitals hosted San Jose. This game just went poorly for the Capitals. The Sharks went up early and never looked back. Daniel Sprong put the Caps within one early in the third but they could not get a second goal. Jonathan Dahlen provided a dagger late in the third period and Andrew Cogliano sealed the 4-1 defeat with an ENG. Fortunately, the Capitals would avoid going pointless for the week when they visited Dallas on Friday. Whatever frustrations the Capitals had were taken out on the Stars. Vanecek stopped everything, the Capitals dropped five goals on Braden Holtby and chased him from the crease, and Washington cruised to a 5-0 win. That win must have felt great. They stopped the slide from the other top teams in the division. They remain a bit behind them, but they can start climbing their way back up after a win. In theory.
What’s Coming Up This Week: The Capitals will have a back-to-back set this week and it will be a tough one. The first game is on Tuesday when they will visit Pittsburgh. This game will be big for the upper-half of the division. Should the Capitals pull off a regulation win, that would be a big boost for their cause of getting back to the top of the division. Good luck with that; Pittsburgh is really good. On Wednesday, they will host Edmonton. On the one hand, this will be tough as Edmonton has two of the best players in the world in McDavid and Draisaitl and Washington has dropped games in regulation to non-playoff teams from the Pacific this month already (San Jose last week, Vancouver the week before that). On the other hand, Edmonton has not been good on the road this season, they have been falling apart over the last several weeks, and no amount of Evander Kane is going to fix their actual issues with goaltending, depth, and coaching. Mark that one as a maybe, I suppose.
SBN Blog: Japers’ Rink
Columbus Blue Jackets
What Happened Last Week: You know how poor the bottom half of the division is? Columbus went 1-2-0 and still kept fifth place. All three games in this past week were at home and nearly dropped all three. Last Sunday, they hosted Ottawa and lost a close one. Sean Kuraly was the only one to beat Anton Forsberg that day whereas the Senators scored two. After that 2-1 loss, the Blue Jackets hosted Calgary. Remember when the Flames torched Metropolitan Division teams on the regular? It happened again. Calgary absolutely dominated Columbus. They set a franchise record for shots on net with 62 (!!!!!); Jacob Markstrom shut out the Blue Jackets; and the Flames scored six goals for the win. At least Elvis Merzlikins’ save percentage did not get wrecked too badly (90.3% for the night, 56 over 62). But the Blue Jackets did rise to the occasion on the next night when they hosted the New York Rangers. They responded to an early two goal deficit with goals by Gustav Nyquist, Boone Jenner, Kuraly, and Jenner again to go up 4-2 by the end of the second period. Kuraly sealed the 5-3 win with an empty netter to get one victory this week. It was enough to have a three-point lead over the Islanders for fifth. It is a hollow lead what with the Islanders having a ton of games in hand, but it is a lead for now.
What’s Coming Up This Week: The Blue Jackets will have a back-to-back before their All-Star break. They will visit Montreal tonight. Montreal is the worst team in the NHL this season. Columbus should do well. They will host Florida on Monday night. Florida is in the conversation for being the best team in the NHL this season. This could go poorly. Especially since the last time these two teams played, Florida whooped the Blue Jackets by a score of 9-2. Columbus did respond very well to one embarrassing loss earlier this month (7-4 comeback loss to Carolina, 6-0 win in the rematch). Maybe they can do it again? Maybe?
SBN Blog: The Cannon
New York Islanders
What Happened Last Week: The Islanders were supposed to have three home games this week. However, a blizzard in the New York metropolitan area forced the game against Seattle on Saturday to be postponed. It will be made up on February 2. What this meant was that the Isles’ week was just two games long. They split the games. Last Tuesday, they hosted Philadelphia again. This was the game where Keith Yandle set the record for most consecutive games played. This was also a game that Philly was on track to try to get a badly needed win. They scored two early. But Noah Dobson and Anders Lee responded in the first period to tie it up. Mat Barzal converted a PPG in the second period to put the Isles up 3-2. The Flyers seemingly had a hope for a win when Gerry Mayhew scored early in the third to tie it up. And they had a shorthanded chance at the tail end of an Isles power play. Which did not go. Which led to a counter-attack rush led by Anthony Beauvillier. Who saw Zach Parise trailing across the slot. Who Ivan Provorov played off just too much. Pass, shot, score, and the Isles held on to win 4-3. With a third win over the Flyers this month, the Isles moved on to host Los Angeles on Thursday. This did not go as well. Quinton Byfield scored the first of what will likely be many NHL goals in the first period to put the Kings up. Andreas Athanasiou scored late in the second period to put the Kings up 2-0. It looked like a shutout was on the cards for Cal Petersen. Then things got hectic within the final three minutes. Barzal scored with just over two minutes left. A goalie was pulled. But Adrian Kempe seemingly sealed the game with an ENG. Then with 20 seconds left, Casey Cizikas scores. Would their be one last dramatic play? No. The Kings escaped with the win, meaning the Isles split the week at 1-1-0. They have five games in hand on the Blue Jackets so fifth place will be a matter of time for them at this rate.
What’s Coming Up This Week: The Islanders will be busy going into February. They will have three games before the All-Star break, all of which are at home. Tonight, they will host Minnesota. They are a good team and should provide a challenge to the Isles. On Tuesday night, they will host Ottawa. The Isles should be able to get something out of that game given how poor Ottawa has been this season. But the Sens have been known to surprise some teams, so it is not a gimmie. That postponed game from Saturday against Seattle will now be on Wednesday night. Not ideal that the Isles have a back-to-back, but it is what it is.
SBN Blog: Lighthouse Hockey
What Happened Last Week: The Flyers run of sadness continued on into another week. They set a franchise record for futility as they lost more games. The Flyers hosted Dallas on Monday. Dallas scored first, Dallas scored a second goal late in the third period after Provorov scored in the second period, Dallas sealed the game with a third goal. 3-1 loss. On Tuesday, the Flyers went to Long Island. There, Claude Giroux and Justin Braun scored in the first period. That lead did not last for even the period. And when Barzal scored in the second period, you can sense the doom setting in. But Gerry Mayhew - the Gerry Mayhew -tied it up early in the third. It looked like a late (during the penalty kill) shorthanded opportunity could yield the go-ahead goal. Only for it to be denied and responded by a rush ended by Zach Parise. And that stood for a 4-3 loss, the team’s 13th straight winless game. Yesterday afternoon, the Flyers hosted Los Angeles. After a snowstorm and with 13 straight winless games, the crowd was light. But those who were there saw something different they saw glory.
Mayhew put the Flyers up early and Cam Atkinson scored to make it 2-0 before the halfway mark. Viktor Arvidsson pulled the Kings within one to make it 2-1 by the second intermission. Then the third period carried more drama. Atkinson scored shorthanded at 9:06 to make it 3-1 Philly. However, Arvidsson scored his second of the day later on that same power play. The Flyers were holding on to dear life. And with 36 seconds to go, Anze Kopitar backhanded in a long rebound beneath Carter Hart for their 40th shot of the game. 3-3. Overtime was needed. While the Flyers got a point, they do not need a point. They needed two. They need a win. A ‘W.’ To end this winless streak. To finally win a game in 2022. To get one win in all of January. At 2:22, Scott Laughton put home a rebound created by Atkinson. 4-3. The Flyers won. The Flyers won a game. The long run of futility is over. They finally won. And because they won - they are now out of the basement in the Metropolitan Division.
What’s Coming Up This Week: The Flyers won. Now, can they avoid another long losing streak? We shall see. It will not happen this week alone, though. They just have one game to play on Tuesday. They will host Winnipeg. Even if they drop that one, it cannot spiral out of control. At least not for a few more days. Their season will resume on February 9.
SBN Blog: Broad Street Hockey
New Jersey Devils
What Happened Last Week: Losing. A whole lot of losing. Fresh off a stunning win over Carolina, the Devils hosted Los Angeles last Sunday night. It was a close one. Except when the team forgot to cover Carl Grundstrom. Dustin Brown found him wide open and Grundstrom finished the shot to put the Kings up 3-2 in the third. And that would be it as the Devils’ offense wilted in the third period for the loss. On Tuesday night, the Devils hosted Dallas. Less than 15 seconds into the game, an open Joe Pavelski scored. Later in the first, Jacob Peterson scored while Pavelski re-direcred a Miro Heiskanen shot to make it 3-0 in the first period. Akira Schmid was pulled for Jon Gilles. To start the second period, Roope Hintz forced a turnover from Damon Severson, Pavelski led a 2-on-2 rush, dropped a puck for Hintz, and Hintz torched Gilles with the shot 15 seconds into the second period. Jesper Bratt scored a PPG to put the Devils on the board, but it was already consolation at that point. In the third period, Pavelski picked up his fourth point of the night when he assisted on an empty-net goal by Jani Hakanpaa. Why was the goalie pulled for a Devils team down 3? Because. Anyway, the 5-1 loss was greeted with a chorus of disapproval. On Thursday night, the Devils put up a more respectable performance against Tampa Bay. Except when it came to covering the area in front of the goalie. Or preventing a shorthanded goal in a four-minute power play. While Jack Hughes tied it up in the second, an overload after a zone entry gave all the space for Anthony Cirelli to streak down the middle of the ice. He would get the puck, he would finish it, and the Devils lost 3-2. Against Carolina, they battled. They competed hard. They skated at Carolina’s pace. But other than a one-timer by Jesper Boqvist, the Devils could not beat Antti Raanta. Or challenge him much in a third period with only three shots on net. The Devils lost 2-1 for their fourth straight loss this week. With no points earned, they fell behind the Philadelphia Flyers in the standings. Yes, a team that just broke a 13-game winless streak. It has been a terrible season for the Devils.
What’s Coming Up This Week: The Devils will have a home-and-home with Toronto this week. Monday’s game in Toronto is a make-up from the one postponed earlier this month. February’s game against Toronto was on the original schedule. Either way, it will be a very tough set because the Maple Leafs are rather good and the Devils are rather not good enough. For those who would like to argue otherwise, please see the standings.
SBN Blog: All About the Jersey - Do not expect much to change. Because who wants to make changes to a 15-23-5 team? No need to change anyone on or off the ice. It is fine. Apparently.
That was the sixteenth Weekly Metropolitan Division Snapshot of the 2021-22 season. What do you expect to happen in this week coming up? Will Carolina be able to hold onto first even with only one game to play? Can Washington catch up to make the top half of the division a closer race? Will the Islanders surpass Columbus this week? What will be the rationalization for the Flyers and Devils this season? 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.