There are two more Metropolitan Division snapshots until the end of the 2022 portion of the season. The New Jersey Devils are in first yet again. This will never get old. Not here. But the lead they have for first is back to single digits. The Carolina Hurricanes, New York Islanders, and Pittsburgh Penguins have been making pushes. The New York Rangers are not that far behind fourth place as they swept their week. The Washington Capitals also swept their week. Only the bottom two teams are entrenched.
The Metropolitan Division schedule is active for all but one day. OK, two days except for the Islanders on Friday. Wednesday is off. Go forth and do things. Do more things if you are a Penguins fan what with just two games in this week ahead. There are three games within the division and a whole lot of road games. The games within the division are highlighted and in bold as usual:
Here is the week that was and week that will be for all eight teams in the division.
New Jersey Devils
What Happened Last Week: The New Jersey Devils entered this week with such a lead that they locked in first place before a single minute was played. It feels good knowing that it was secured. The Devils bounced back from an ugly win in Philadelphia on Tuesday night against Chicago. The Blackhawks were expected to be bad this season and they lived up to expectations. Dougie Hamilton was exceptional in Newark as he played a part in all three goals. He scored the first after Jack Hughes styled and profiled on Chicago for about 50 seconds. Hamilton was involved in Nico Hischier making it 2-0 in the second period. During a power play, Hamilton sent a puck to Hughes who sent a puck across the slot to Jesper Bratt for a one-timer goal. Vitek Vanecek was perfect and the Devils won 3-0. That was great. Not so great was their Friday night against the Islanders. This would be no repeat of their first match up in October. The Devils started off well enough; Nico Hischier went shortside on Seymon Varlamov to convert a power play. But the Isles took the game over late in the first, yielding a wraparound goal from Brock Nelson and a last-minute snipe to the top left corner by Anders Lee. The Islanders continued to control things to start the second period. Casey Cizikas scored his first of the season and Oliver Wahlstrom scored on the next shift to make it 4-1 for the visitors. Vanecek was pulled, Akira Schmid came in, and the Devils had some hope when Hughes found Dawson Mercer in a 2-on-1 play to make it 4-2. But the Isles forced Schmid to work. A costly offensive zone penalty by Alexander Holtz ended with Jean-Gabrial Pageau finding Nelson all alone across the slot for a PPG. The Devils looked like they were done at 5-2. And really done when a turnover led to a Cal Clutterbuck goal to make it 6-2. The Devils were done, right? Not quite. Tomas Tatar put in a low shot to make it 6-3. The Devils pushed the tempo more and more and Lindy Ruff decided to pull Akira Schmid for an extra skater with over 7 minutes left. Which actually worked as Jack Hughes scored to make it 6-4 with over six minutes left. The Devils had the possession, the looks, and Hughes played forever with the extra skater, denying two ENG tries with his body. But Varlamov and luck were not there for the Devils to make it any closer. They lost 6-4. The Devils ended their week 1-1-0. A four-point swing in favor of the Isles in the standings was not ideal. Pittsburgh, Carolina and the Rangers were probably hoping for a Devils win. Still, the Devils remain at the top for now with a lead due to all of those banked points. Poor nights like the one against the Isles are why they are so helpful.
What’s Coming Up This Week: Did you like that short week of games? Well, it is over now. The Devils will play four games in six days this week. The good news is that most of them are at home. The bad news is that they are not simple games. On Monday night, the Devils will visit the New York Rangers again. This hated rivalry went the Devils’ way two weeks ago. They have to be careful about revenge. The next night, the Devils will host a really good and offensive Dallas team that is traveling through the Metropolitan Division. Dallas will not have a rest advantage as they are playing on Monday night in Pittsburgh. That game may come down to who has more left in the tank. On Thursday, the Devils will host the Philadelphia Flyers. The Flyers are one of the few teams to have beaten the Devils on the road this season and they gave them problems in their last meeting even though the Devils won. This will not be an easy game. Neither will be the final game on Saturday night against Florida. Florida may not be meeting expectations - road games have not been so good for them - but they are loaded with talent and cannot be discounted. The Devils can only add to their lead with a winning week and keep down their rivals. They should push hard because the last two weeks of this year will not be any easier (nor will the start of 2023).
What Happened Last Week: Carolina had two games to play as part of their on-going road trip. Their first stop was in Anaheim, home to a hapless Ducks team. Or were they? They were seemingly hapful (?) as they hung with the Hurricanes. Adam Henrique opened the scoring, Brady Skjei responded, but Max Comtois gave Anaheim the 2-1 lead by the end of the first period. Carolina’s Sebastian Aho tied it up in the second period. That lasted for all of 43 seconds as Brett Leason made it 3-2 for Anaheim. That lead did not last into intermission as Jordan Staal tied it up with a tip-in for Carolina at 3-3. A tense third period yielded no goals. Overtime was needed. And in the only shot in overtime, Ryan Strome beat Pytor Kochetkov. The Hurricanes lost 4-3 to Anaheim in overtime. Sure, they got a point but a result like that to Anaheim? Really? In any case, the Canes returned to the East on Saturday night to play the Islanders. An Islanders team coming off a big win in New Jersey but also coming off a game at all. Would they take advantage? It took some time but the Canes struck first with Paul Stastny’s first of the season in the second period. The Hurricanes increased their lead with goals by Jesperi Kotkaniemi and Jordan Staal in the third period. They also took the game over, holding the Isles to a mere siix shots on net at home in the third period. Carolina took 14. The Canes won big in Long Island, 3-0, to salvage their week and, perhaps more importantly, hold the Isles back a bit. Pittsburgh says thank you, by the way.
What’s Coming Up This Week: Home will be where the Hurricanes end up this week. Not to start it, though. Their road trip will end in Detroit on Tuesday night. Detroit has been successful at home; it will not necessarily be a kind place to end the trip at. After then, Carolina will finally play a home game. Unfortunately, they will be hosting Seattle on Thursday in that home game. Seattle is both really good this season and Devils-like on the road with very few non-wins. This will not be a particularly welcomed return home. Saturday night will not be much easier either. Carolina will host a very good and offensive Dallas team on Saturday night. The Stars will play their fourth road game in six nights in that one, so the Canes may be able to jump on that. Carolina is quite good but they need these points with the Islanders and Penguins not that far away from them in the standings.
What Happened Last Week: The Penguins went into this week with two wins in a row. Would they make it a streak against Columbus on Tuesday? Yes. Johnny Gaudreau put the Jackets up with a goal in the first minute. That would be it as Tristan Jarry got everything else. The equalizer came early in the second period from Bryan Rust. Sidney Crosby broke the tie shortly thereafter. Crosby extended the lead with a PPG just past halfway through the second period. Teddy Blueger had a chance to make it 4-1 with a penalty shot in the second period; but he was denied. No matter. Blueger would make it 4-1 in the third period to cap off a solid-looking win. The Penguins then went off to Buffalo begin a home-and-home with the Sabres. It was a close one on Friday night. Jake Guentzel scored a power play goal with less than five minutes left in the second period to kick off the scoring. Only for that to be answered by Victor Olofsson and Jeff Skinner within the final two minutes. Down 2-1 going into the third, the Penguins needed a response. They got an early one from Rickard Rakell. They got a lead late thanks to Brock McGinn scoring with 4:30 left in regulation. Alas, Evgeni Malkin took a hooking call after that goal. That ended with Kyle Okposo putting home a power play goal to tie up the game. Things got ugly as Skinner and Guentzel got into it and Skinner was given a match penalty within the final minute. This meant Pittsburgh had a power play for overtime. One that ended with Jeff Carter scoring to give Pittsburgh the 4-3 win. The bad feelings from how that one ended could have went into Saturday’s rematch in Pittsburgh. However, Skinner was suspended for three games after his match penalty and Kris Letang, who suffered a stroke earlier, returned to action. This set the stage for a cleaner game and a Penguins night. Rakell put home a power play rebound goal to open the scoring and Crosby made it 2-0 in the first period. After a scoreless second, the Sabres looked to make it interesting when Peyton Krebs tipped in a goal with 9 minutes left. Crosby denied the Sabres’ chances with a late third period goal to make it a 3-1 win. Back-to-back wins over the Sabres, a swept week, and a return of Letang. You could not ask for a better week for the Penguins.
What’s Coming Up This Week: The Penguins will have a short week of just two games coming up. Not exactly ideal for a team in a dogfight for points in the standings but it is what it is. On Monday, they will host Dallas. Both teams can rack it up scoring-wise so this could be just a fun one in general to check out. New Jersey will be busy in a rivalry game but they will play Dallas on Tuesday; they may want the Pens to drag this game out if they can. On Thursday, the Penguins will go visit Florida. Florida is talented but hardly the world-beaters that they were last season. Pittsburgh can absolutely go down there and make something happen. They may need to just because they have the two games to play and the first one against Dallas could be tricky. Still, a setback this week is not the worst for Pittsburgh - provided it does not become something worse in following weeks. Winning these two games will mitigate any drop.
New York Islanders
What Happened Last Week: The Islanders kicked off a busy week by hosting Chicago. Chicago was expected to be bad and they were indeed bad on Sunday night. Seymon Varlamov stopped all of 21 shots - yes, just 21 shots - as the Isles took the game. It took a period but Matt Martin, Zach Parise, and Brock Nelson all scored in the second period to lock up a 3-0 win. A good start to the week. Things went pear shaped against St. Louis on Tuesday night. The first period was not so bad. Josh Leivo scored first and Noah Dobson immediately answered back on the next shift. In the second period, Ivan Barbashev and Ryan O’Reilly made it 3-1. The Isles’ defense was down a man as Adam Pelech was injured. They kept coming. Noel Acciari and Colton Parayko scored on back to back shifts. Then the Isles attempted an unlikely comeback. Parise scored a PPG. Hudson Fasching made it 5-3 at 14:43 and Jean-Gabriel Pageau made it 5-4 at 15:04. Down a goal with about five minutes left at home? This is doable. Except it was not done. Robert Thomas and Acciari ended the Isles hopes about three minutes later with a pair of ENGs to make it a 7-4 loss. On Friday, the Isles took on the Devils. A win would not only be a good rebound from the Blues game but help their cause in the standings. While they conceded first to Nico Hischier, the Isles took the game over in the first period. They also led thanks to a wraparound by Nelson and a snipe to a top corner by Anders Lee within the final minute. The Islanders continued to control the game in the second period. That yielded goals for Casey Cizikas and Oliver Wahlstrom. Vitek Vanecek was pulled and Akira Schmid came in. The Devils had a brief hope after the replacement when Mercer finished a 2-on-1 feed from Hughes to make it 4-2. But the Isles kept pounding the Devils. A costly minor penalty by Alexander Holtz led to Pageau setting up a wide open Nelson for a PPG one-timer to make it 5-2. The Isles continued to prey on the Devils and they did so when a turnover led to a Cal Clutterbuck goal to make it 6-2. Surely, a safe lead, right? The Devils did their best to try to undo it. Tomas Tatar beat Varlamov low to make it 6-3 shortly after Clutterbuck’s goal. The Devils pulled Schmid for an extra skater with over seven minutes left and after about 30-40 seconds of that, Jack Hughes scored to make it 6-4. The Devils pinned the Isles like crazy. The Isles had two legitimate attempts at a game-icing ENG, only to be denied by both from Hughes - who played almost the entire final seven minutes. Fortunately for the Isles, Varlamov, a post, and fortune favored them and they held on - really - to win 6-4. The Isles had every reason to feel good going home to play Carolina. They won a four-point swing with the Devils. Why not one more with another team ahead of them in the standings? Well, Carolina came into this game with some rest. And the two teams played a less intense game compared to the one in Newark. The visitors struck first when Paul Stastny scored his first of the season. Then the visitors took over the shot clock, the run of play, and the scoreboard. The Isles were held to a mere six shots in the third period while Jesperi Kotkaniemi and Jordan Staal added goals for Carolina. The Isles were flabbergasted in a 3-0 loss to Carolina. Combined with Pittsburgh’s week, the Isles slip down to fourth place for the time being - and just a point ahead of their most hated rivals in Manhattan. That is how tight it is in the Metropolitan beyond the Devils and ahead of Philadelphia and Columbus. A 2-2-0 week hurts the cause.
What’s Coming Up This Week: The Islanders begin a five game road trip this week. It is certainly not a simple trip. The trip starts on Tuesday night in Boston. While they are no longer perfect at home, Boston is a top-tier opponent. That will be a challenge under any circumstances. After that, the Isles will head down towards the Southwest. They will visit Arizona State University on Friday night to play the Yotes. After that experience, the Isles will head up to play Las Vegas on Saturday night. A back-to-back against Arizona and Las Vegas is not a simple one even if both teams are at the opposite ends of the standings. The Isles need to keep getting results to stay in the playoff zone. Good luck in getting them. Especially as there is more pressure to earn them now than there was, say, 24 hours ago.
New York Rangers
What Happened Last Week: The Rangers went into this week with an OT loss to Ottawa and a regulation loss to Chicago. Hardly a reason to feel confident. But the Rangers would not let those two games get them down in a home game with St. Louis on Monday night. It took until the final minutes of the first period for goals to be scored. Braden Schneider of all players opened the scoring. Pavel Buchnevich responded, which did not last as Adam Fox converted a PP within the final minute of the third. Twelve seconds into the second period, Vladimir Tarasenko tied up the game. That did not last as Vincent Trocheck made it 3-2 within a minute later. Jordan Kyrou on a power play and Ryan O’Reilly at even strength put the Blues up 4-3 going into the second intermission. The Rangers took over the third period and made the comeback. K’Andre Miller scored his first of the season to tie up the game. Alexis Lafreniere put the Rangers up a goal for a change. Chris Kreider provided an important insurance goal with a shorty. The Rangers won 6-4. Then they went all the way to Nevada to play the Golden Knights. New York must have taken their shots and did not suffer the Vegas Flu. Kaapo Kakko scored in the first period. Jonathan Marchessault tied it up with a PPG in the second period. Then the third period broke the game wide open for the visitors. Mika Zibanejad on a power play, 2-1. Filip Chytil less than a minute later, 3-1. Lafreniere just under a minute and a half after that, 4-1. Zibanejad again on a power play, 5-1. The Rangers dropped Las Vegas with a decisive third period as you would see. The Rangers had a chance to sweep the week in Denver against an injury-shortened Colorado team. The start went in favor of Colorado. Rantanen opened the scoring in the first period. The Rangers would respond with Schneider tying up the game in the second period. Despite Colorado’s best efforts, Igor Shesterkin stopped all shots in the third (11) and fourth (5) periods. A shootout was needed and the Rangers were perfect. Save, Zibanejad goal, save, Artemi Panarin goal, and the Rangers won 2-1. The result meant the Rangers swept their week. This puts them in a position to continue to chase the upper half of the division - third place is in sight - as well as staying a little bit away from Washington. A very good week for the Blueshirts.
What’s Coming Up This Week: The New York Rangers will play three games and stay relatively local. They have two home games and a road game in Philadelphia, which is about 100 miles away from their home in Manhattan. First up is a rematch with the Devils. The Devils fans made their presence heard as the Devils prevailed at MSG before the end of November. The Rangers may want some revenge both among the fanbase and the scoreboard. he competition does not get any easier on Thursday night. The Rangers will host a Toronto team that is talented and has seemingly figured out how to be a threat to just about anyone in the league. The best in the league? Slow your roll, there, Canada. Boston has a whopping five non-wins and a goal differential above +40. Toronto is very good but not the best. On Saturday night, the Flyers will host the Rangers. Given the Rangers’ recent tendency to drop points or games to lesser teams (see: Chicago, OT loss to Ottawa, Anaheim), Philly may be up for this one. The Rangers will have to take care of business and get out of their own heads. They are coming into this week with a great opportunity to move up. Especially since that team ahead of them is their hated rivals in Long Island. Don’t blow it, Blueshirts.
What Happened Last Week: Washington had their own road trip to finish up in this week; one more stop out West before returning for a local game with Philadelphia. It went quite well for the Capitals. Something they need because their road record stinks. On Monday night, they visited Edmonton. After a scoreless first period, the two teams traded goals. Brett Kulak was first, then Lars Eller, then Connor McDavid shorthanded, and then T.J. Oshie on a power play. At 2-2, a breakthrough would be needed. Nic Dowd would provide it in the third period. The Caps pounded Stuart Skinner with shots but the Dowd goal was enough for the Caps to prevail, 3-2. On Wednesday night, the Capitals ended their trip in Philadelphia. While the Flyers struck first, the Caps would take the game in time. Kevin Hayes’ PPG would be answered with an Oshie PPG in the second period. Dylan Strome would break the deadlock in the third period on this night. Alex Ovechkin inflated the score with two ENGs to lock up the win for Washington, 4-1. Another close one despite that final score. Still another win. The Capitals looked to sweep the week when they hosted Seattle on Friday night. It did not look great at first when Adam Larsson scored late in the first period. But the Capitals put up a pair of goals in the second period to take over; one from Anthony Mantha at even strength and one from Marcus Johansson on a power play. The Caps wanted more against a weakened defense - Jamie Oleksiak was given a match penalty in the first period (he was suspended on Saturday) - but Philipp Grubauer denied them. It was tense in the third period but Eller put in an ENG to make it 3-1. While the Caps won the game, Alex Ovechkin scored another ENG with four seconds left to put an exclamation mark on the game. The Caps swept their week, got some road wins, and at least put more distance between themselves and the very bottom of the division. Good for the Caps. Still chasing Manhattan, as the Rangers also swept their week.
What’s Coming Up This Week: Washington has four games to play this week. Thankfully with no back to back sets. They will go back on the road for the first half of the week ahead. Tonight, they will visit Winnipeg. The Jets have been quite good at home this season so it will take something good from the Caps to leave Manitoba with a result. On Tuesday, Washington will be in Chicago. Chicago has not much to play for but they are capable of spoiling opponents. Given Washington’s road struggles, it could be a bigger fight than it seems on paper. Washington will return home on Thursday night to host a very good and offensive Dallas team. That could prove for a rude return to D.C. On Saturday night, the Capitals will get little relief in a game against Toronto. Toronto has not been as prolific as Dallas at putting up goals but they are certainly not short on the talent to do so. Plus, they are much stingier at allowing goals compared to Dallas. It is a tough week for Washington. They are coming into it in good form, so perhaps they can continue to go from strength to strength instead of wallowing in between the Rangers and Flyers.
What Happened Last Week: The Philadelphia Flyers went into this week to wrap up a five-game homestand. They went 1-2-0 last week. Would they win again? Yes. On Monday night, they hosted Colorado. Alex Newhook started the scoring with a PPG. But the Flyers responded with Travis Sanheim and Tanney Laczynski scoring to make it 2-1. The Flyers extended the lead when Anthony DeAngelo converted a power play in the second period. Another power play success - this time from Owen Tippett - made it 4-1 in the third period. Mikko Rantanen and Newhook scored late in the third period to make it dramatic; but an ENG from Konecny preserved the win for Philly. Worse for Colorado, Nathan MacKinnon left the game due to injury. Philly won another game at home on this homestand. They could make it successful with a win over Washington on Wednesday night. The Capitals had other ideas. It looked promising for the Flyers early on when Kevin Hayes scored a power play goal. However, T.J. Oshie tied it up with a PPG in the second period. Washington took the game in the third period. Dylan Strome broke the tie. Despite Philly’s efforts, there would be no equalizer. Alex Ovechkin put in two empty net goals to made the score look wider than the game was at 4-1. A loss to end the homestand. Philly began a four-game road trip in Las Vegas on Friday night.
What’s Coming Up This Week: The Flyers have four games to play and three are away from home. This is the majority of a four-game road trip that began in Las Vegas last Friday. The trip will begin tonight in Arizona. They will visit the college campus in Tempe and hope to prevail for what are three more challenging games. On Tuesday night, they will visit Colorado. The Avs are kneecapped by injury and the Flyers pulled off a win over them last week. I suspect Colorado wants to pay them back in Denver on Tuesday. We shall see if they can given who is available on the roster for that one. On Thursday, the Flyers will visit the Devils. The Flyers have a win over the Devils and played them very well in a loss to them earlier this month. Not that it was easy but the Flyers can make it difficult for New Jersey again if their tactics work out. At the end of a road trip, though, it remains to be seen how much they will have left in them for it. The Flyers return home on Saturday night to play the Rangers. The Rangers need points and would prefer to not get spoiled given their position in the standings. The Flyers will have to gear up for that rivalry game. Home crowd support will help. So would doing well in their three prior games. Whether they will, well, that is another matter.
Columbus Blue Jackets
What Happened Last Week: The Blue Jackets hoped to climb further to reach Philadelphia. They ended up falling back in a miserable week. The first game, a Sunday night home game with Detroit, went badly. Austin Czarnik and Dominik Kubalik put the Jackets down two in the first period. A Lucas Raymond PPG made it 3-0. Marcus Bjork broke the shutout with a PPG late in the second period. Kent Johnson put the Jackets within one early in the third. However, Andrew Copp denied hope for Columbus with a goal and Ville Husso let nothing else in. The Jackets lost 4-2. The second game, a Tuesday night road game in Pittsburgh, also went badly. Johnny Gaudreau scored a minute into the game. That’s good. Then it would be all Pittsburgh on the scoresheet from the second period onward: a Bryan Rust goal, a pair of Sidney Crosby goals (one on the power play), and a denied Teddy Blueger penalty shot. In the third period, Blueger would actually score to make it a 4-1 loss for Columbus. Then came Wednesday night in Columbus, Ohio. They were the main character of the hockey world for a few hours that night. Mainly, they were getting jobbed by Buffalo. The Blue Jackets gave up six goals in the first period. They gave up a natural hat trick to Tage Thompson - who scored before and after said natural hat trick. Yes, he had five goals alone. Usually, when a team scores four goals, they are in the game. This was the rare time where all four goals were consolation goals. Joonas Korpisalo started the game, gave up 3 goals on 5 shots, was replaced by Elvis Merzlikins, who was replaced by Korpisalo in the third period after he gave up 6 goals on 21 shots. The Blue Jackets lost 9-4. 9-4! Absolutely embarassing for the Blue Jackets. Also: a third straight loss. On Friday night, they had a chance to salvage something against Calgary at home. At least make it up to the poor souls who paid money to witness their team getting demolished by a non-playoff team. I am happy to write that they did just that. Patrik Laine scored early in the game. Eric Robinson made it 2-0 early in the second period. The Jackets held on but risked a heartbreak when Michael Stone made it 2-1 with about two and a half minutes left in regulation. Fortunately for the Jackets, Sean Kuraly put home an empty net goal to secure a 3-1 win. The Blue Jackets went 1-3-0 and ended their awful week on a high note. However, even that win was costly as Joonas Korpisalo left the game after the first period. It is a long season for Columbus, clearly.
What’s Coming Up This Week: Columbus has a four game week with three road games like Philadelphia. Only Columbus is starting a trip with this week, not ending it. First, Columbus is hosting Los Angeles tonight. Los Angeles is currently the best of the rest in the Pacific but they are hardly dominant on the road. Columbus may want to push for that one before their road games. The Jackets will start their trip in Sunrise when they play Florida on Tuesday night. Florida is not as successful as some expected but they are quite talented and can make it a long night against anyone. The trip gets tougher on Thursday night when they play Tampa Bay. The Bolts are excellent at home this season and, like Toronto, have begun to figure things out to begin taking hold of a playoff spot in a competitive Atlantic Division. That will be tough for Columbus. The end of the week is the toughest: a game in Boston. Boston is among the best teams in the entire league and have lost one game at home this year. Just one and it was a shootout loss. Columbus will need to have a great night as a whole to have a chance in that one. The dream of moving up a spot is still there but this week is going to make it tough to manifest it into reality.
That was the ninth Weekly Metropolitan Division Snapshot of the 2022-23 season. What do you expect to happen in this week coming up? Shall the Devils build their lead in first place back up? Who among Carolina, Pittsburgh, and the New York teams will finish below the Devils and in which order by next Sunday? Who will fall first: the Rangers or Capitals? What do you even do if you are Philadelphia or Columbus? 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.