Between postponements, players in and out of COVID protocol, and the NHL deciding that empty arenas in Canada are bad for business (and they are), the 2021-22 NHL regular season continues onward. Balance is not a priority as some teams have a heap of games in hand on others. The make-up games are going to be tricky to set-up and will require some hope that they do not need to be pushed back again. Despite these changes, the Metropolitan Division story remains the same from last week. Three teams continue to battle for first place with it changing throughout the week. The Pittsburgh Penguins’ hot streak propelled them ahead of the lesser half of the division but not quite far enough to be right behind the top three. The lesser half is decided by thin margins as well. The only main difference was that the New York Islanders ended up being idle as they were originally going to travel through Canada last week.
The Islanders will finally get to play in this week coming up. Barring any changes, all eight teams are in action. There are even five games within the Metropolitan Division; those games are in bold and highlighted for your convenience.
What follows is the team-by-team breakdown for this week’s snapshot.
What Happened Last Week: With their game in Toronto scheduled for last Monday postponed, Carolina had a home back-to-back for this week. Friday night saw them host the Metropolitan-feasting Calgary Flames. While the Flames struck first, the Hurricanes responded with an equalizer in the first period (Jesper Fast) and three straight goals (Derek Stepan, Andrei Svechnikov, and Tony DeAngelo) before Calgary could get a second - which they did. Johnny Gaudreau made it interesting in the third period to pull Calgary within one; but the Canes put up a pair at the end for a 6-3 win. Very nice. Last night, the Canes hosted Florida. This was not as nice for the Hurricanes. Florida went up as much as 3-1 on the Canes early in the second period, thanks to a brace by Carter Verhaeghe. But there would be a comeback by Carolina. Brady Skjei made it 3-2 in the second period. Early in the third, Seth Jarvis provided the equalizer to make it 3-3. Both goalies forced overtime. There, Anthony Duclair became the hero with one overtime shot, one overtime goal, and one overtime loss for Carolina. The 4-3 loss did make it a 1-0-1 week for a winning result. And it keeps them ahead of Washington and the Rangers for another week due to fewer games played.
What’s Coming Up This Week: The Hurricanes will play three this week and will remain local for the week. They will head up to Philadelphia for a Tuesday night game against the Flyers. They have a chance to help themselves while keeping the second half of the division down a bit. They will have a second chance at that when they host Columbus on Thursday. The Canes stunned the Blue Jackets on New Year’s Day with a 7-4 win that featured seven straight goals. Columbus may recall that, but it is questionable if they can do anything about it in Raleigh. On Saturday, the Canes will host Vancouver. Vancouver has been hot since hiring Bruce Boudreau (8-1-1 in their last ten as of last night). It will not be a gimmie of a game. Then again, Carolina has the quality to remain in contention for first place. As well as the games in hand and advantage in regulation wins and regulation/overtime wins.
SBN Blog: Canes Country
What Happened Last Week: The Rangers had a hot start to last week. Last Sunday, they hosted Tampa Bay. The Rangers styled and profiled all over the Lightning. Mika Zibanejad put up a hat trick, Igor Shesterkin stopped all 38 shots, and the Rangers won 4-0 without Artemi Panarin. Last Monday, they hosted Edmonton. They added to the Oilers’ recent misery. Alexis Lafreniere got it started, Barclay Goodrow continued it, Chris Kreider scored his 20th of the season, and Ryan Strome also stayed hot with a goal. All while Alexandar Georgiev stopped 33 out of 34 shots for the 4-1 win. Two games, two wins, and a road trip began. Las Vegas had other ideas about the Rangers’ winning ways. While Kreider did make it 1-1 early in the second period, the Golden Knights pulled away later in the second period and put five past Georgiev for the night. New York lost 5-1 to start their trip. Last night in Anaheim, the Rangers set things right. Mostly in the third period. While the Ducks struck first, Zibanejad tied it up to set the table for a three-goal final frame of regulation. The Rangers won 4-1 to start their trek through California on a positive note. More importantly, they won the week at 3-1-0 and are now tied in points with Carolina. First place is possible, even if the tiebreakers are all against them.
What’s Coming Up This Week: The Rangers will continue to be on the road for this week, although they will come back to the area by next Saturday. The Blueshirts’ California trip will continue on Monday night in Los Angeles and then end in San Jose on Thursday night. Monday will be their first meeting with the Kings this season. The Rangers did beat the Sharks 1-0 back in December, but I doubt that will matter much. On Saturday night, the Rangers will be back in the ET with a game in Philadelphia. The Rangers and Flyers are not fans of each other (at least their fans are not fans of each other). The Rangers have a chance to keep the Flyers down again. We’ll see if they can do it. They remain in the mix for the top spot and have been so close to attaining first. Keep doing what you’re doing, basically.
SBN Blog: Blueshirt Banter
What Happened Last Week: Washington had themselves a bit of a struggle this week. Last Sunday, they were staring at a 3-1 deficit to the New Jersey Devils in their own building. They needed a fortuitous play from Nic Dowd and Mackenzie Blackwood to commit one of the most boneheaded turnovers in recent memory to Lars Eller, which set up Conor Sheary for the equalizer. Even so, Jack Hughes stole a puck and set up Nico Hischier for an overtime winner to hand Washington a 4-3 OTL. At least they got a point that night. On Friday night, they got nothing. The Capitals visited St. Louis. Daniel Sprong scored just over two minutes into the game and that was about it in terms of positives for the Caps that night. The Blues tied it up in that period and proceeded score four more goals which yielded a 5-1 win for Ville Husso and the squad. Or, a 5-1 loss for Washington. Last night, the Caps were in Minnesota. They were on their way to a win. They were up 2-1 late in the third. Then Mats Zuccarello denied them the ‘W’ with an equalizer with about 35 seconds left. A shootout was necessary and the Wild took it to hand the Caps a 3-2 defeat. The 0-1-2 record sees the Caps slip to third for the moment. Still in the mix, but not an ideal week to start the new year.
What’s Coming Up This Week: The Capitals will have a lighter week ahead. Not necessarily an easy one, but just two games. On Monday night, they will host Boston. Boston has had some issues of their own but doubting the B’s is a bad idea in general. After that, the Capitals will be off for four days before they go to Long Island. They will play the Islanders in a Saturday afternoon game. It will be their first appearance at UBS Arena, as their first scheduled first game there for December 23 was postponed. The Capitals may have the disadvantage of playing only two games. But if they take care of business, they should remain in the mix and keep them in a position to push ahead - which appears to be their goal standings-wise this season.
SBN Blog: Japers’ Rink
What Happened Last Week: The Penguins went into 2022 with a seven-game winning streak. It would continue into the new year. Last Sunday, they hosted and pulled off a big 8-5 win over San Jose. Bryan Rust and Evan Rodrigues each put up a hat trick while Jake Guentzel continued to find the scoresheet. On Wednesday, the Penguins hosted St. Louis. It was an action-packed second period where the Blues scored first and second, and the period ended 3-2. A quick two goals - from Sidney Crosby and Rodrigues - put the Pens up and an ENG sealed the 5-3 win over a good St. Louis squad. The very next night, the Penguins were in Philadelphia. A rivalry continued, which did not deter the Pens. Rust scored twice in the first period and Guentzel made it 3-0 in the first period. Pittsburgh never looked back in a 6-2 win over their hated rivals. Their 10-game winning streak went to Dallas. It looked good for an 11th early on with two first period goals. But this time it would be Dallas to make the comeback with Joe Pavelski and Roope Hintz scoring within two minutes of each other late-ish in the third for the 3-2 loss. Pittsburgh’s hot streak ended. It was still a successful week and they are now just three points behind the trio that has been in control of the Metropolitan Division for months. It speaks to how much of a mountain it is to climb in the standings that Pittsburgh took 20 out of 20 points in ten games and they are still in fourth place in this division. It also speaks to how well Carolina, Washington, and the Rangers started this season.
What’s Coming Up This Week: That game in Dallas was the start of a five-game road trip that will see the Penguins go out West. They will be in California for this week’s games. They will play in Anaheim on Tuesday, Los Angeles on Thursday, and San Jose on Saturday. San Jose may be up for that game if only to salvage some respect from that 8-5 loss they suffered on January 2. Those trips to California are never easy ones. Then again, doubting Pittsburgh has continued to be a losing proposition, so you doubt them at your peril. Will they move up to third this week? If they do their jobs and someone at the top does not, yes. I would not hold my breath at this juncture, though.
SBN Blog: PensBurgh
What Happened Last Week: It has not been a good week for the Blue Jackets. After getting stunned by Carolina on New Year’s Day, the team had two days to collect themselves before they hosted Tampa Bay on Tuesday. The good news is that the Blue Jackets did not build up a lead before giving up seven goals for a second straight game. The bad news is that the Blue Jackets never led in this game and gave up seven goals again. They lost 7-2 to the Lightning. On Thursday night, they began a non-back-to-back home-and-home with the Devils. Columbus has done quite well against the Devils in recent years. But on that night, the Devils prevailed with a 3-1 win. Max Domi scored the lone goal against the Devils and despite coming close a few times, they could not solve a struggling Blackwood more than once. Last night would be a better night. Oliver Bjorkstrand, who has made a point of it of frustrating Devils fans with points, scored the game’s first goal and the game-breaking goal in the third period. An odd carom off Jack Hughes’ skate gave Boone Jenner a score and Ty Smith making a meal of a dump-in turned into a goal for Yegor Chinakhov. Whilst fans may not be pleased with Joonas Korpisalo giving up three goals, he absolutely robbed Hughes, Hischier, and others to preserve the 3-3 and 4-3 scorelines. The game held at 4-3 to give Columbus their first win of the year. Thanks to having fewer games played, they are now in fifth place. Not that it means much, but it is something.
What’s Coming Up This Week: The Blue Jackets will have three games coming up. They do have a break with their game in Montreal on Monday postponed. They will be better rested going into their Tuesday home game against Chicago, who has been struggling themselves. Columbus would do well to make the most out of that game. The next two can be nasty. They will visit Carolina on Thursday. The same Canes team that dropped the 7-goal comeback on them on January 1. Good luck responding to that on the road. On Saturday, the Blue Jackets will visit Florida. Florida has the best home record in the league in addition to being one of the best teams in the league. Good luck at all there.
SBN Blog: The Cannon
What Happened Last Week: The Flyers ended their road trip last week and returned home for two games. Their trip through the West Coast ended with a dud. They visited Anaheim on Tuesday and were the victims of Troy Terry’s first NHL hat trick. Anaheim ended a losing streak of their own as the Flyers took a 4-1 loss. On Thursday, the Flyers returned home to play Pittsburgh. The then-super hot Pittsburgh Penguins. The Penguins went into the Flyers’ house, tracked dirt, ate their food, and left with two points in a game that the Flyers always trailed in from 12:21 into the first period to the end. They lost 6-2. With no wins in their last four games, they hosted San Jose on Saturday night with a hope to at least end their losing streak from reaching five games. The game was scoreless and filled with shots on net by San Jose until the third period. James van Reimsdyk scored first just over a minute into the third period and he scored a PPG later to make it 2-0. But the Sharks kept swarming. Tomas Hertl scored a minute after the PPG for a 2-1 score. About seven minutes later, Hertl tied the game. Overtime was necessary. Who was the hero? Tomas Hertl. He scored on San Jose’s 47th shot of the game, 24 seconds into the fourth period, to make it a 3-2 loss for Philly - their fifth winless game in a row. The Flyers are just fading at this point.
What’s Coming Up This Week: The Flyers will have three difficult games coming up. On Tuesday night, they will host Carolina. Carolina is one of the best teams in the league. While Philly does have a regulation win over the Canes this season, that was way back in November. I do not think that is very relevant now. On Thursday, the Flyers will play in Boston. Boston is angling for a wild card spot and need the results with their games to help their cause. I do not think the B’s are in a giving mood. Saturday night will have the Flyers back home to host the Rangers. Say what you want, but the Rangers are a quality team at this moment and could use the results by the time this game rolls around. These will be three challenging games as the Flyers try to figure out what their aim is for this season at this point.
SBN Blog: Broad Street Hockey
New Jersey Devils
What Happened Last Week: The New Jersey Devils went into 2022 with two straight wins. With a game in Washington, it did not seem likely that they could make it three in a row. Washington D.C. has not been a favorable place for the Devils in a while. But the Devils would go up early with a rebound goal by Yegor Sharangovich and a lovely finish by Damon Severson. John Carlson scored late in a 4-on-4 to make it 2-1 by intermission. Nico Hischier tipped in a shot within 22 seconds of the second period to make it 3-1 for New Jersey. All seemed to go well until 13:22 into the third period. Somehow, someway, Nic Dowd flung a puck past Mackenzie Blackwood. About three minutes later, Blackwood retrieved a dumped-in puck and decided to pass it forward to Lars Eller. Eller is a Capital. This led to a Conor Sheary goal and a lot of Devils fans justifably angry at Blackwood. But in OT, Nico Hischier would prevail as the hero in OT when he finished a feed from Jack Hughes for the 4-3 OT win. A third straight win. Would it be four in Boston? No. Blackwood was real bad in the net. While Nathan Bastian scored on a breakaway, Tomas Tatar scored from the slot, and Severson scored on a breakaway out of the penalty box, the Devils were never ahead in this one. A star-play by David Pastrnak put the B’s up one in the third and that would be it in a 5-3 loss. On Thursday night, the Devils hosted Columbus. This night, the performance was better by Blackwood, despite leaving a rebound for Max Domi that he should have not allowed. Tomas Tatar finished in front of the net to open the scoring, Jack Hughes set up Jesper Bratt for a killer PPG from the slot, and Hughes sealed the win with a long ENG for a 3-1 win over Columbus. As this week went on, more Devils entered the injury list (Dougie Hamilton out with a broken jaw, Hischier missed the Boston game due to a lower body injury but returned for Columbus), and COVID protocol (Sharangovich, Pavel Zacha, Mason Geertsen, Andreas Johnsson, Bastian, and Bratt). This meant the Devils played with 11 forwards and 7 defensemen in Columbus last night. It went poorly to start with an Oliver Bjorkstrand PPG and an unlucky bounce off Hughes’ skate to give Boone Jenner a goal. But Hischier ripped one in from the high slot to bring the Devils within one and Jimmy Vesey scored with 20 seconds left to tie it up 2-2 going into intermission. In the second period, Ty Smith got beaten bad that led to a goal by Yegor Chinakhov. But Marian Studenic provided a response by dashing in a puck to make it 3-3. Who would prevail in the third? Bjorkstrand, who was left alone in the slot after a Devils faceoff win and turnover, hammered a one-timer to the top corner. That goal stood to make it a 4-3 loss, splitting the home-and-home set, and making it a 2-2-0 week for New Jersey. Not bad given recent weeks. Not good for those hoping for the Devils to rise up in the standings. Due to games played, the Devils were in fifth going into Saturday and the loss sent them back to seventh.
What’s Coming Up This Week: The Devils moved themselves up ahead of Columbus and Philadelphia. How long it will last depends in part in how they do this week. They only have two games as their originally scheduled game in Montreal next Saturday has been postponed. The Devils will have a tough one on Monday night when they host Tampa Bay. The Lightning are still a quality team and now have Nikita Kucherov back. Even with a full-strength Devils lineup, that will be a difficult night. On Thursday night, the Devils will go back to the UBS Arena to play the Islanders. Hopefully, the Devils put up more of a fight this time. The Devils do not have the advantage of games in hand, so even if they win these two somehow, they may fall a bit. Still, the Devils are battling for respectability and they have soothed some of the frustration built up over November and December with their January so far. More results coming up can only help.
SBN Blog: All About the Jersey - Victories for a change. They’re nice.
New York Islanders
What Happened Last Week: Nothing. Their games scheduled for this week were postponed.
What’s Coming Up This Week: Games. Their season returns on Thursday night when they host the New Jersey Devils. They should be fresh for that one. They should be well-prepared. And they beat the Devils earlier this season at UBS Arena. That is favorable. On Saturday, they will host Washington in an afternoon matinee. That will not be favorable as the Capitals will also be well-rested and prepared for that game. Plus, the Capitals are really good. If the Isles are going to make the most of their games in hand on the division, then they need results as soon as possible. It has to start this week. Good luck.
SBN Blog: Lighthouse Hockey
That was the thirteenth Weekly Metropolitan Division Snapshot of the 2021-22 season. What do you expect to happen in the first full week of the 2022 season? Who will take first place at this point? Will Pittsburgh break through to the top three soon? Who is the best of the rest among the Devils, Columbus, Philadelphia, and the Islanders? Will there be more postponements? 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.