Merry Christmas. Welcome to the eleventh Metropolitan Division snapshot of the 2022-23 season. There is a new team in first place. The winners of the division last year, the Carolina Hurricanes, have retaken the top spot. They have done so in impressive fashion. They have won their last eight games, earned points in their last 13, and swept this past week to not only move past the New Jersey Devils but build up a lead. The Canes faithful are enjoying their team as the season enters the Christmas break, which began on Saturday. Here is how the standings look after Friday’s games:
The break will end on the Tuesday, the 27th, and the roster freeze will end on Wednesday, the 28th. While this week is shorter than usual, there is plenty of action for all eight teams in the division. There are five games within the division and four of them are going to be important given where the teams are in the standings. Those games are highlighted and in bold in the following schedule for this week.
Here is the week that was and week that will be for all eight teams in the division.
What Happened Last Week: Carolina has been hot and they have remained hot all week long. In a week of four games in six nights and all within the division, no one could deny Carolina. On Sunday, they hosted Pittsburgh. The Penguins were right with the Hurricanes in the standings. This game led to Carolina pulling away from the Pens. It was close. After a scoreless first period, Derek Stepan opened the scoring early in the second period. Rickard Rakell tied it up on a power play goal in the second period. Brock McGinn made it a 2-1 lead for the visiting Penguins early in the third. But the Canes came back with scores from Brady Skjei and Jordan Staal to take a 3-2 lead with about six minutes left. They held on for the win. On Tuesday night, they hosted the Devils - who were then slumping. Carolina quickly added to the misery with Jesperi Kotkaniemi scoring twenty seconds into the game. Staal made it 2-0 early in the second period and Teuvo Teravainen added a shorthanded goal about two minutes after that. Pytor Kochetkov was perfect for about 45 minutes. Then Jack Hughes denied him a shutout with a far post shot to make it 3-1. Then Stefan Noesen scored of Mackenzie Blackwood’s back from behind the net to cap off the night at 4-1 for Carolina. The win saw Carolina take first place in the division. On Thursday night, the Hurricanes visited Pittsburgh. It appeared the game would go differently when Sidney Crosby scored a PPG with just over 2:30 left in the first period. It was enough time for Martin Necas to tie it up on the next shift and Jalen Chatfield to get his first NHL goal on the shift after that. The game held at 2-1 until 45 seconds left in the second period when Brock McGinn put home a shorthanded goal to tie up the game. Pittsburgh took a lead past the halfway mark of the third period thanks to Bryan Rust. Once again, Carolina came back with a goal from Jordan Staal to tie it up once more. Overtime would be needed. It would not last long. Jaccob Slavin led a breakout, passed it to Brent Burns on his right, Burns went across the zone to Seth Jarvis, Jarvis hit a crashing Slavin, who took a touch and went around Tristan Jarry for the win. Just 23 seconds into OT. The Canes won 4-3 and secured first for this snapshot. On Friday night, the Hurricanes hosted Philadelphia. A goalfest ensued. It was seemingly all Carolina at first. Jesper Fast scored early. While Travis Sanheim tied it up, Stefan Noesen’s PPG and Fast’s second goal made it 3-1 going into the second period. Anthony DeAngelo scored early in the second to cut the lead to one, but Carolina stormed back with goals by Andrei Svechnikov, Jordan Martinook, and a PPG from Kotkaniemi. Up 6-2, perhaps the Canes could relax. Philadelphia ensured they could not. Nick Seeler made it 6-3. While killing a penalty given to Sanheim, Scott Laughton made it 6-4 with a shorthanded goal. Later, the Flyers were killing a penalty given to DeAngelo, and Travis Konecny scored a second shorthanded goal. Really, Carolina? The Hurricanes had to hold on tight but they did to prevail 6-5. The Hurricanes swept their week and now have at least four-point lead on first place in the division. The merriest of times for Carolina.
What’s Coming Up This Week: Carolina will will get two home games after the break this week. They are hosting Chicago on Tuesday night and Florida on Friday night. Given how hot Carolina has been, you may expect them to win both games. Given how bad Chicago has been this season and how inconsistent Florida has been, then you may be right to expect it. It is clearly in their best interest to do so as slipping up may only embolden those now chasing them. They are at the top; the Hurricanes are now the target once more. Their logo is like a target anyway so they are probably OK with it.
New Jersey Devils
What Happened Last Week: The New Jersey Devils have been slumping. They not won in five straight games going into this week. A week with a back-to-back in Raleigh and Sunrise and a home game against the best team in the NHL. Brutal. The slump clearly continued in Carolina. It took all of 20 seconds for Jesperi Kotkaniemi to put the Devils down a goal. Some not so good goaltending from Vitek Vanecek and on-ice play yielded two relatively quick goals in the second period. One to Jordan Staal and a shorthanded ripper from Teuvo Teravainen. Vanecek was pulled for the return of Mackenzie Blackwood in the crease. His first appearance since being injured on November 3 in Edmonton. Pytor Kochetkov denied the Devils so many times to get into the game. But Jack Hughes beat him late in the third to offer a glimmer of hope. Only for Stefan Noesen to put a puck in from behind the net off Blackwood’s back for a 1-4 score. A sixth-straight winless game. In Florida, it appeared the Devils would be doomed once again. A collision with Zac Dalpe yielded a leg injury of some sort to Ryan Graves. He left the game early, leaving the Devils with five defensemen. Florida struck first when Eric Staal put in a free puck past Blackwood for an early goal. The Devils would get a goal from Jesper Bratt, his first in six games, on a power play to tie it up in the first period. All was good until Kevin Bahl took an interference penalty. The Devils were seconds away from killing it until Sam Bennett put on a move to set up Eetu Luostarinen for a shot in the slot. 1-2 Panthers. The Devils would need a third period come back to avoid a seventh straight winless game. They got it. Bratt finished a 2-on-1 himself to tie it up. Yegor Sharangovich scored his first goal in 10 games with a deflection of a Jonas Siegenthaler shot to make it 3-2. Blackwood was in form, the Devils held on, and Tomas Tatar put home an empty net goal in close to lock up a 4-2 win. The Devils’ winless streak was over! Alas, they would go home to host Boston on Friday night. The first period was excellent by the Devils. They kept the B’s to a minimum, pressured Linus Ullmark, and led 1-0 thanks to a quick PPG from Jack Hughes. Then the second period happened and the Devils essentially filled their pants. Boston tied it up when Patrice Bergeron tipped a Jake DeBrusk shot in front. Then Blackwood decided to clear a puck from behind the net to a Bruin, which ended with David Pastrnak sliding in his own rebound between Blackwood’s legs. Later, a 3-on-2 rush emerged where Siegenthaler decided to leave Pastrnak for Pavel Zacha and Blackwood went down first as Pastrnak got the puck. Pastrnak went high to make it 1-3. Then Damon Severson and Tatar went for a hit and missed, Kevin Bahl coughed up a puck behind the goal line to Brad Marchand, whom found DeBrusk all alone in front of the net. Pass, shot, score, 1-4. The Devils looked buried. Blackwood was replaced. How can you come back against the best team in hockey? Rebounds. A whole lot of attack time, possession, and rebounds. One such rebound was an easy put back for Tomas Tatar off a Nico Hischier shot to make it 2-4. Yegor Sharangovich had another juicy rebound put into the net after a Dougie Hamilton shot to make it 3-4. The Devils pushed but could not get another rebound or other shot to go. The Devils made it a game but their second period failures were too much to bear in a 3-4 loss. The Devils fell to second place with a 1-2-0 week. Given their upcoming schedule, another slide is possible. Then again, that win over Florida was not just enough to end the slide but stay in second place as Carolina put down Pittsburgh this week.
What’s Coming Up This Week: The Devils will not get a break in this short week. Their first game after their break is a rematch with Boston at home. The Devils did show on Friday night they can hang with Boston and beat them. But like many teams in the NHL, possibly doing it and actually beating a Bruins team with just six losses this season is another matter. On Friday, the Devils will visit Pittsburgh for the first time this season. Given that the Devils are no longer in first and the Penguins are still chasing them, this is an important game. How each team will fare against each other, who can say. Pittsburgh has cooled off and the Devils may push hard to avoid entering January with a potential losing streak.
What Happened Last Week: The Penguins had a sandwich of Carolina and the New York Rangers this week. The games against Carolina did not go well. On Sunday night, they went down early in the second period due to a goal by Derek Stepan. The Penguins would get a response from Rickard Rakell, who tied it up on a power play goal later in that period. They would even take a lead after Brock McGinn scored fairly early in the third. But the Canes came back with scores from Brady Skjei and Jordan Staal to take a 3-2 lead with about six minutes left. They held on for the win and so the Penguins lost their first game since November 29 - which was an OT loss to Carolina. The rematch at home against Carolina would also be an OT loss. Sidney Crosby scored a PPG with just over 2:30 left in the first period. Any good feelings from that were erased when Martin Necas tied up the game on the next shift and the bad feelings arose when Jalen Chatfield made it 2-1 on the shift after that one. The Penguins would tie it up late in the second period when McGinn scored a shorthanded goal. Whatever works. It seemed like the Penguins were on the way to get some revenge for Sunday when Bryan Rust made it 3-2 in the third period. Only for Jordan Staal to tie it up at 3-3. Then in overtime, the Penguins were made to look like pylons when Jaccob Slavin, Brent Burns, and Seth Jarvis combined for a rush that ended with Slavin rounding Tristan Jarry. The Penguins lost again to Carolina, 4-3. What about that game against the Rangers? Much better for Pittsburgh. It did not seem that way at first when Chris Kreider scored 22 seconds into the first period. The Penguins took the game back with a PPG from Evgeni Malkin and a PPG from Rust within the final six minutes of the second period. Crosby would make it a 3-1 lead at 8:40. Kreider made it close with a goal at 10:03, but the Penguins held on for the remaining 9:57 for the 3-2 win. A bounce back after that loss to Carolina and broke New York’s winning streak. It would be Pittsburgh’s only win. Their 1-1-1 week did keep them just ahead of the Rangers and they own third place on the basis of the games played tiebreaker. The Penguins are serious but they are no longer hot, thanks to Carolina and their own hot (hotter?) streak.
What’s Coming Up This Week: The Penguins will return from Christmas to play three games in four nights. They are not the most difficult but they will be tricky as there are no doormats this week either. The Penguins will return by going to Long Island to play the Islanders. The Isles have fallen in the playoff race but they are far from out of it. This game would be huge for them to try and move on up - which they need to pull others down to do so. And Pittsburgh is one of them. On Wednesday, the Penguins will return home to host a Detroit team that is very much in the mix of the Atlantic. Perhaps not a playoff team but definitely not a weak squad. Just ask Tampa Bay. On Friday, the Penguins will host the Devils for the first time this season. The Penguins are chasing the Devils in the standings and could very well move past them by or with this game. It is unknown how it will go based on each team’s form and how they match up. But it carries plenty of weight for two current playoff teams in the Metropolitan Division. Pittsburgh has to try to maintain form now that their winning streak was ended. They can do it. Will they? We shall see.
New York Rangers
What Happened Last Week: The Rangers were hot going into this week with six straight wins. They opened the week on Sunday night in Chicago. Chicago was the last team to beat the Rangers. New York enacted a whole lot of revenge in the Windy City. The Rangers absolutely bodied the Blackhawks with a seven-goal outburst. Filip Chytil, Artemi Panarin, and Kaapo Kakko in the first period. Jacob Trouba and Vincent Trocheck (PP) in the second period. Vitali Kravstov and Jonny Brodzinski in the third period. Early in the second, Philipp Kurashev scored for Chicago but who cares. The Rangers won 7-1 to extend their winning streak to seven. On Tuesday, they visited the Penguins. They had their own ideas about the winning streak given that the Rangers have been right with the Penguins in the standings. The Rangers sought to keep winning when Chris Kreider scored 22 seconds into the game. The Penguins hit back in the second period with a pair of PPGs from Evgeni Malkin and Bryan Rust. Sidney Crosby extended the lead to 3-1 in the third period. Kreider made it a one-goal game a couple of minutes after Crosby’s goal, but there would be nothing further. The Rangers lost their first game since December 3. The Rangers looked to take any bad feeling from the loss on their hated rivals at home on Thursday night. They would succeed, but in dramatic fashion. Anders Lee opened the scoring, only for Panarin to answer back with a PPG late in the first period. Mat Barzal opened the scoring in the second period. Julien Gauthier provided an equalizer, only for Alexander Romanov to break that with his first goal with the Isles. The Rangers would take the game in the third period. Barclay Goodrow tied it up, Kakko broke the tie with less than three minutes left, and Trocheck secured the 5-3 win with an empty netter. The Rangers went 2-1-0 and remain right with the Penguins in points. They are not going away anytime soon.
What’s Coming Up This Week: The New York Rangers will get two more tests in this week. They will host Washington on Tuesday night. The Capitals have been making moves up the division like the Rangers were about a month ago. This could play a big role in how the division looks by the time 2023 begins next Sunday. The Rangers will then head to Tampa Bay on Thursday night. The Bolts are back to being a really difficult opponent who have been really successful at home this season. The Rangers have shown they can get results in these kinds of games. Again, they just have to do so in order to get past or keep pace with Pittsburgh.
What Happened Last Week: Washington has turned up the heat this week. It was close. It could have gone worse. But they won all three games, with two going to overtime. On Monday, they hosted Detroit. The visitors went up early with David Perron and Oskar Sundqvist, who scored on a power play, scoring in the first period. The Capitals needed a comeback. They would get it in the second period thanks to Al, nope, it was Nic Dowd. Yes, Nic Dowd. He scored on back-to-back shifts to make it a 2-2 game. The third period featured Lucas Raymond scoring for Detroit and Erik Gustafsson tying it up just over a minute later. The game lasted into overtime and it nearly went the distance. Dmitry Orlov ended it with 22 seconds left in the fourth period on a one-timer to give Washington the 4-3 win. On Thursday night, the Capitals visited Canada’s capital: Ottawa. The Sens struck first with Alex DeBrincat scoring. But the Capitals responded just minutes later with a PPG by Evgeny Kuznetsov. Sonny Milano put the Caps up 2-1 in the second period. But a Drake Batherson PPG early in the third made it 2-2 and the score held. Overtime was needed again. The hero of this night was Marcus Johansson, who scored 2:04 to make it a 3-2 win for Washington. A chance to sweep the week was available on Friday night when the Capitals hosted Winnipeg. This would not be close. Alex Ovechkin scored his 801st career goal to make it 1-0 late in the first period. Milano made it 2-0 in the second period. Dowd made it 3-0 early in the third period. A goal from Kevin Stenlund only just broke a shutout bid for Charlie Lindgren. Ovechkin put home an ENG for a 4-1 final score. Six points out of six earned for Washington. They jumped past the Islanders and are just one point behind the Rangers, who have a game in hand on them. Washington is hot now.
What’s Coming Up This Week: Washington has three games to play and the first one is huge for the division. They will play the Rangers. A regulation win in MSG would have the Caps move up to fourth in the division. Even just for a little bit of time, that would be big after several weeks mired in sixth place. The Capitals will return home to play out this calendar year. They have Ottawa again on Thursday night and they have Montreal for an afternoon game on New Year’s Eve. Neither Ottawa or Montreal are doormats, but the Capitals should be able to take care of business against both. The Capitals’ hot streak may continue into 2023 and they could rise up the division faster than you may think. Of course, that presumes they keep on winning.
New York Islanders
What Happened Last Week: The Islanders had a road trip to finish up and then a home game on Friday night against Florida. Their losses have put them at risk of falling to sixth place in combination with Washington getting hot. The Islanders would not avoid a drop thanks in large part to the Caps continuing to win games. Plus their own results. They did their best. On Monday night in Colorado, nobody scored. Ilya Sorokin stopped all 46 shots in regulation and overtime. Alexandar Georgiev made all 26 saves. Clearly, the Avs did more in the game. In a shootout, Evan Rodrigues was the only one to score as the Isles were stopped once and made two failed attempts. The Isles lost 1-0 from that shootout. On Thursday, the road trip ended in Manhattan. For two periods, the Isles went up on their hated rivals first. Anders Lee scored in the first period, only to be answered by an Artemi Panarin PPG. Mat Barzal scored in the second period. While that was answered by Julien Gauthier, Alexander Romanov scored his first goal as an Islander to give the team a lead going into the third period. That was when the game was lost. Barclay Goodrow tied up the game early in the period. Kaapo Kakko broke the tie late in the third period. Vincent Trocheck tacked on an empty-netter for the 5-3 loss to the one team Islanders fans do not want to see their team lose to. Frustration was clearly at hand. They took it out on Florida on Friday night. Maybe the Panthers put in a good effort. You would not know that from the score. Sure, Matthew Tkachuk scored first. Then it was all Islanders on the boxscore. Anthony Beauvillier and Ryan Pulock scored in the second period to make it a 2-1 game. In the third period, Aatu Raty scored his first NHL goal in his first NHL game to make it 3-1, Zach Parise made it 4-1, and Beauvillier scored again to make it a 5-1 win for the Isles. A feel good win at home, surely. A 1-1-1 week, though, still saw the Islanders fall to sixth place. They are two points behind the Capitals, so it is not a big deficit. It is still not an ideal place to be in.
What’s Coming Up This Week: The Islanders will end 2022 with a pair of games in the division. They will host Pittsburgh on Tuesday night. For a team to move up in the standings, they not only need to win games but they need the teams ahead of them to lose games. This game is an opportunity for the Islanders to get both to happen - should they win. A loss will only move Pittsburgh away from the Islanders aside from other results. On Thursday, the Islanders will host a Columbus team that has very much earned the basement spot this season. The Isles will begin 2023 with a road trip out West so that game on Thursday does have additional value to give the home fans something to cheer before they return from their trip. The Isles should really beat Columbus. Simple as. As far as moving back up the standings, well, they need help along with helping themselves.
What Happened Last Week: The Flyers began their week at home against the Blue Jackets. Who would truly be the worst in the Metropolitan? Not the Flyers. It was close, but the Flyers would prevail in this battle of the worst. Travis Konecny started the scoring with a shorthanded goal in the first period. The second period featured Kirill Marchenko and Kent Johnson scoring to put Columbus up 2-1; only for Philadelphia to answer both goals minutes later thanks to Morgan Frost and Owen Tippett. A Travis Konecny even strength goal put the Flyers up 4-2, Andrew Peeke made it a one-goal game within the final eight minutes of regulation, and Tippett sealed the win with an empty net goal. The Flyers won 5-3 over Columbus. They are not the worst. Then the Flyers hit the road to start a trip with a nasty back-to-back in Toronto and Carolina. The Flyers at least kept the games close, but did not win either. Anthony DeAngelo opened the scoring in Toronto with a PPG. Calle Jarnkrok and a PPG from Mitch Marner made it 2-1 for Toronto. It seemed that Toronto would pull away with a comfortable win when Michael Bunting and William Nylander extended the score to 4-1. Then a shift after Nylander’s goal led to a goal by Frost. Joel Farabee made it 4-3 with six minutes and change left. The Maple Leafs had to ward off the Flyers. They did so and so the Flyers lost 4-3. On Friday night, the Flyers went to Carolina. Again, Carolina seemingly put the Flyers away within the first two periods. Jesper Fast scored twice in the first period and Stefan Noesen scored a PPG to make it a 3-1 first period with Sanheim scoring between the Fast and Noesen goals. While DeAngelo made it 3-2 early in the second period, Andrei Svechnikov, Jordan Martinook, and Jesper Kotkaniemi made it a commanding 6-2 going into the second intermission. The Flyers scared a whole lot of Carolina fans, players, and coaches in the third period. Nick Seeler scored and then a pair of shorthanded goals from Scott Laughton and Konecny made it a 6-5 game with time left to tie it up. As with Toronto, the Hurricanes had to hold off the Flyers - and they did. The Flyers lost 6-5. They can hold their heads up over not being flattened by superior teams in Toronto and Carolina. The standings do not care for that; it was still a 1-2-0 week. At least they are not Columbus. They can feel good about that.
What’s Coming Up This Week: The Flyers will continue their road trip this week. After a few extra days off after the break ends, Philadelphia will be in California. They will play in San Jose on Thursday night. They will spend New Year’s Eve with an afternoon game in Los Angeles. With only one road win earned all month, it is possible for the Flyers to enter 2023 with four straight losses. Then again, San Jose has been real bad at home this season and the Flyers did show that they can beat really bad teams like Columbus. Perhaps they will win that one as to not completely slide into a new year. That I am writing that up as a positive should tell you what you need to know about the Flyers this season.
Columbus Blue Jackets
What Happened Last Week: Columbus lost three games going into this week. They would lose three more. On Monday, they hosted Dallas in what would be a low-scoring affair. Jake Oettinger and Daniil Tarasov did quite well in this one. Wyatt Johnston opened the scoring early in the second period. Jason Robertson would lock up the win with an ENG. It would become the GWG when Kent Johnson scored with 15 seconds left. Still a 2-1 loss for Columbus. On Tuesday, they went to Philadelphia. The Flyers demonstrated that they are the better of the two definitely-not-playoff teams in this division. It was close in the second and third periods. While the Jackets conceded a shorthanded goal to Travis Konecny in the first period, the Jackets took a lead in the second period with goals from Kirill Marchenko and Johnson. That lead lasted just for a few minutes; Morgan Frost and Owen Tippett tied up the game and took a 3-2 lead respectively. Konecny struck again in the third period to make it 4-2, but Andrew Peeke made it a one-goal game later in the third period. Alas, Columbus would not make a comeback. An ENG from Tippett secured a fifth-straight loss, 5-3, to the Flyers. On Friday night, the Blue Jackets visited Chicago. The Blackhawks went up big on Columbus and never looked back. Patrick Kane and Max Domi scored late in the first period. Andreas Athanasiou and Taylor Raddysh scored within a minute of each other early in the second period. Being down 4-0 that early is never a good place to be in. Columbus attempted to claw back into this one. Marchenko scored a PPG in the second period to get the Jackets on the board. Marcus Bjork scored early in the third to make it a two-goal deficit. Yet, a Jonathan Toews PPG in the third period restored the three-goal lead. It would too much for the Blue Jackets to overcome. Columbus lost 5-2 for their sixth straight defeat. They are not mathematically eliminated from anything yet. Realistically, they are not going to do anything beyond Game #82 this season. Weeks like this one prove it.
What’s Coming Up This Week: Columbus is entering the final week of 2022 hoping to get their first win since December 11. It has been a bad, bad, bad, bad season for Columbus so far. Their opportunities to get said win: at home on Tuesday night against a high-scoring Buffalo team; on the road on Thursday night in Long Island against an Islanders team that could use the points; and an afternoon home game on New Year’s Eve against Chicago, who just waxed them on Friday. I would like to write that it cannot get any worse, but that would be a lie. Sorry, Jackets fans. At least the 2023 WJCs will be happening and Jackets fans can get close looks at future studs like Conor Bedard, Adam Fantilli, and Leo Carlsson.
That was the eleventh Weekly Metropolitan Division Snapshot of the 2022-23 season. What do you expect to happen in this week coming up? Can Carolina increase their lead or cool off to make first place up for grabs again? Will the Devils get back to winning ways? Who should be the most worried about their spot in the division: New Jersey, Pittsburgh, Washington, or either of the two New York teams? Will Columbus even win a game before 2023 starts? 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.