There are three more Metropolitan Division snapshots until the end of the 2022 portion of the season. The New Jersey Devils are still leading. Their winning ways have been interrupted. Yet, their lead remains intact. Strong and solid for the moment. Others trying to get ahead in the pack that is the remainder of the division. Except for the Columbus Blue Jackets, who continue to bring up the rear.
The Metropolitan Division schedule has an oddity in it. For some reason, no one in the division is playing on this coming Thursday. Games on Sunday? A few. Friday? You bet, almost everyone is active. Saturday is lighter than expected. But nothing on Thursday. Take the night off, I guess. There are four games within the division as well, which 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 may have seen their franchise-record-tying winning streak end last week, but they did go 3-1-0. They were still in a position to keep a lot of good times rolling. First up, a road game against their hated rivals in Manhattan: the New York Rangers. The Devils got off to a terrible start as Artemi Panarin scored on an early 2-on-1 and Mika Zibanejad put home a puck amid a scrum. Then the Devils responded. A blooper of a backhand shot from Tomas Tatar fooled Igor Shesterkin to get the Devils on the board. A turnaround shot from Yegor Sharangovich and the Devils tied it up well before the end of the first period. The Devils continued to beat Shesterkin in the second. Jack Hughes went five-hole to make it 3-2 and Michael McLeod put in a puck off a crossbar from a Miles Wood shot to make it 4-2. Shesterkin was jeered, the Rangers looked lost, and the Devils seemed strong. Then the Devils took a bunch of calls, played sloppy, and suffered a Vincent Trocheck PPG to make it a dramatic end. One that ended with Adam Fox losing the puck to Sharangovich, making the zone exit to Tatar, and then Sharangovich got the puck back for an easy ENG. The Devils won 5-3 for a third straight win and more bragging rights. Unfortunately, the winning would not continue on Thursday night against Nashville. The visitors scored 11 seconds into the game. The Devils struggled to beat Juuse Saros to get back into it. Then a poor exit attempt led to a bounce that Colby Sissons put home to make it 2-0. Fortunately, the Devils would have the responses ready in the second period. Hughes set up Kevin Bahl in the slot to make it 2-1. A power play goal right in front by Jesper Bratt made it 2-2. Another PPG, a one timer by Alexander Holtz, made it 3-2. The Devils pushed for a fourth goal. But due to Saros and luck, it would not happen. Nashville did not play a great third period, but got the break they needed with seconds left on the clock. Specifically, Mikael Granlund tipped a long shot on net and piled in his own rebound with eight seconds left in regulation. That hurt. What was worse was the Devils’ comedy of errors in overtime leading to a quick Ryan Johansen one-timer goal for the 4-3 OT loss - the first of the season for the Devils. While they got a point, it seemed they threw that win away. Against Philadelphia on Saturday, the Devils came out and faced a problem. Philadelphia played a conservative approach to try to deny the Devils opportunities in transition and rush plays. It worked out well as the Devils’ attack was like squeezing blood from a stone. They would strike first in the second period, though. Miles Wood went behind the net and set up Fabian Zetterlund for a score. On the next shift, Brendan Smith took a hooking penalty. This ended with Travis Konecny finishing off a tic-tac-toe one-timer from the slot to make it 1-1. In the third period, the Devils looked more like themselves. They got a gift from Carter Hart and Nick Seeler where Hart played the puck behind the net, it hit off Seeler (who followed Wood), and the puck went right to Dawson Mercer. Mercer wrapped in the puck into the empty net. Later in the third, Hughes turnstiled Ivan Provorov, made a power move to the net, took one shot, and put in his own rebound to make it 3-1. It was important as a poor shift from the fourth line and Dougie Hamilton led to a late goal by Lukas Sedlak. The Devils had to hold on and survive a very desperate and aggressive Flyers push. They would in a 3-2 win that was ugly. There are no style points in the standings or the Division Snapshot. The Devils continued their hold on first place with a 2-0-1 week.
What’s Coming Up This Week: The Devils will have a short week of games. They will play just two. Both are at home. One is a matchup they should relish. The Devils will host a struggling Chicago team on Tuesday. Chicago is not expected to do well this season (don’t tell the Rangers that) and they are not doing well this season. The Devils are expected to take advantage of that. The other game will be much more difficult and meaningful in the division. The Devils will host the New York Islanders on Friday night. The Isles can boast having the best goaltender in the league as well as playing rather well since their last meeting. However, it is a question whether the Devils will see that goalie and how much the Isles will go out for that game knowing that they have a home game against a divisional opponent on Saturday night. The Devils could prevail and further strengthen their hold on the division - even as they are idle. As ever, they still have to do it. They would be wise to sharpen up their game as the opponents will get better; starting with this short week.
What Happened Last Week: Carolina hit the road to play three games of a six-game road trip this week. The first stop was within the division; they went to Pittsburgh. While the Canes conceded a goal to Sidney Crosby first, they would take a small lead in the second period thanks to Martin Necas and Andrei Svechnikov. The Canes tried to hold on. Pytor Kochetkov did what he could. But Jake Guentzel scored in the final minute to tie it up. In overtime, the Canes were mostly in control. Only shot was taken and needed. Brett Pesce finished a rush to make it a 3-2 win for Canes. The point given to Pittsburgh is not ideal, but the win certainly was. On Thursday, the Hurricanes went into St. Louis. A high-scoring affair ensued. It started off well for the home team; Pavel Buchnevich scored a power play goal in the first period. Noel Acciari scored early in the second. Then the Hurricanes scored three goals within a minute and four seconds: a power play goal from Brent Burns, a goal by Jordan Martinook on the next shift, and then Seth Jarvis scored on the next shift. The Blues were stunned, but not out of it. Torey Krug converted a power play to tie it up going into the third period. It took over 15 minutes, but Carolina provided the breakthrough thanks to Martinook’s second goal of the game. Jordan Staal seemingly put the game away with an ENG. However, Ryan O’Reilly provided a late goal. Jordan Binnington was pulled again and Martinook was able to complete his hat trick in the 6-4 victory. Carolina already won the week and sought to sweep it on Saturday night in Los Angeles. This California trip only has two stops as Carolina played in San Jose way back in October. In this first stop, the Canes crowned Los Angeles. Brady Skeji started the scoring in the first period and Necas scored a PPG with 29 seconds left in the period to send the Kings to intermission gnashing their teeth. Sebastian Aho made it 3-0 in the second period. Arthur Kaliyev converted a power play in the third period. All that did was deny Kochetkov a shutout. Svechnikov scored shortly after to make it 4-1. Samuel Fagemo scored his first NHL goal to make the score look more respectable. Still a win for Carolina. And a sweep of their week! The six points pushed Carolina up to second place with a small (three point) lead on the Islanders and Penguins.
What’s Coming Up This Week: Carolina may be away from home but they may want to get to Raleigh on one of their off days this week. The team just has two games and will return to the East Coast for one of them. The Canes will visit a hapless Anaheim team on Tuesday. That should be a successful end for their time in California. Three days later, the Hurricanes will go to Long Island to visit the Isles on Saturday night. While Carolina has been traveling, they will have a fatigue advantage over the Isles - who will be in New Jersey on Friday night. Carolina may have to do some scoreboard watching in between their two games and, ideally, really beat the Isles to maintain their spot in the division for next week’s snapshot. Still, they are in a favorable position for a reason and should be able to get back to one should the other, more active teams get up to or past them in the standings. The three-point lead may help in terms of maintaining their position.
New York Islanders
What Happened Last Week: The Islanders swept the previous week of four games. With two games coming up, the Isles surely figured on picking up more points while taking a little rest. That did not exactly happen. They went to Philadelphia on Tuesday night. While they got an early 5-on-3 situation and a 5-on-3 goal by Noah Dobson, the Isles suffered a shorthanded goal against from Travis Sanheim. Brutal as that would be, the pain would be doubled when Kevin Hayes scored to put the Isles down 2-1. Would the Isles solve Carter Hart for another goal? No. Hart stopped everything else. Hayes put in an ENG. The Isles’ winning streak ended at the hands of the then-winless-in-ten-games Philadelphia Flyers. Ouch. The Isles looked to rebound against Nashville on Friday night. The Isles had a rest advantage as Nashville played (and won) in New Jersey the night before. It did not matter on the scoreboard. What did matter was Kevin Lankinen, Nashville’s backup, had a brilliant game. The Isles threw everything and possibly a sink at him for 48 shots on net. The shots went 9, 18, and 22 in each period. The only goal: a third period PPG from Mat Barzal. This goal was sandwiched between two Nashville goals - Filip Forsberg and Roman Josi both on the power play in the first two periods - and a pair of empty net goals from Matt Duchene and Mikael Granlund. The Islanders lost 4-1 in their own arena. Great for Nashville, not great for their spot in the division. The 0-for-4 points earned this week combined with results by Carolina and Pittsburgh saw the Isles slip down from second place to third place and just ahead of Pittsburgh due to the second tiebreaker of regulation-overtime wins (ROW). They are still the mix but they lost some ground in this past week.
What’s Coming Up This Week: The Islanders will be one of the busiest teams in the division with four games coming up in this week. Theoretically, they could make up the ground they lost last week and take control of second place. But they have to get as much of the results as they can to make either possible before their last two games. The Isles will host Chicago on Sunday. Chicago has been struggling; the Isles have not; and so the Isles will want to take that game. Especially since Chicago played in Manhattan on Saturday night. On Tuesday, the Isles will host St. Louis. The Blues have found their form in recent weeks. A step up from Chicago but still a team not having a good season. Also: another team that the Isles should have a rest advantage over as they will be in Manhattan the night before. Then the Isles get a back-to-back set with first place in the division and their competitors for second place: New Jersey and Carolina. The Islanders will visit New Jersey on Friday night and then go back home to host Carolina on Saturday. It is as tough of a set of games could be in the East. The Isles have been playing real well and getting results in those games should put the rest of the division on notice. If not, they may end up slipping a bit more. Also: Isles fans should check out those three home games because the team will go on a five-game road trip in the following week.
What Happened Last Week: The Penguins had a trio of home games with at least two difficult opponents. On Tuesday night, they hosted Carolina - a team the Pens are chasing in the standings. This one went back and forth. Sidney Crosby scored in the first to open the scoring. The Hurricanes hit back for two goals in the second: an early one from Martin Necas and late one from Andrei Svechnikov. The Pens tried to get the equalizer in the third period. With 58 seconds left, they got it from Jake Guentzel. Alas, overtime would not go well for the Pens as Brett Pesce ended the game with an OT winner. The 3-2 loss did give the Pens a point. Plus, the three-point night surely annoyed the teams around them in the division. On Thursday, the Penguins hosted Las Vegas, who have been excellent this season. Las Vegas looked to reign again when Jack Eichel and Reilly Smith (power play) scored in the first period. But the Pens responded to both goals in the second period thanks to Brock McGinn and Rickard Rakell. A PPG from Shea Theodore put the G-Knights up early. Jake Guentzel tied it up with a PPG of his own. But who would break the tie? How about Kasperi Kapanen’s first goal in 13-games? Not only did that feel good for the forward, it felt good for the Penguins - who held on to win 4-3. The regulation win set the Pens up to win the week depending on their home game against St. Louis on Saturday. The Penguins took control of the game and never let up. Kapanen did not need to wait long for his next goal; he scored in the first period. Bryan Rust doubled the lead. Pavel Buchnevich cut into it on the next shift; but Kapanen scored his second of the night with a PPG a little later. Up 3-1 and the Pens kept going. Jason Zucker made it 4-1 early in the second. Vladimir Tarasenko put the Blues within two. Only for that to be responded by Kapanen scoring another PPG. A Kapanen hat trick in a game just after ending a goal drought in the last one. And it all but secured the game. Crosby scored in the third period to make it a 6-2 final score. The Penguins moved up to third place with the win over St. Louis in a week where they went 2-0-1. Remember when this team went winless for about two weeks? That was then, this is now.
What’s Coming Up This Week: The Penguins will get to play three times against two opponents. First, they will host Columbus on Tuesday. The goal in that one is to not trip up against the basement-dwellers of the division. Not that a loss to the Blue Jackets will condemn anyone in December. However, it is tight in the division where the Penguins are and a loss only helps the teams around them. The Penguins will have a home-and-home with Buffalo on Friday and Saturday. The Friday game will be in Buffalo and the rematch will be in Pittsburgh. Buffalo may have fallen in the Atlantic, but they are no pushovers. The Penguins will have to manage the first game while getting a result to maximize their chances in the second one. With Carolina just playing two games, the Pens can make some gains on them. As for the New York teams, Pittsburgh fans may want to cheer for their opponents to help out further. Regardless, the Pens are in a position to stay in the mix and make a move when the situation arises. That is a good place to be in December.
New York Rangers
What Happened Last Week: The Rangers had a busy week lined up and was coming off a pair of regrettable losses. Perhaps a home game against a hated rival in the New Jersey Devils would fix it. Not quite. The Rangers went up early on the Devils with a goal from Artemi Panarin and Mika Zibanejad within the first three minutes. A lead that did not even make it to intermission when Tomas Tatar dropped a blooper backhand past Igor Shesterkin and Yegor Sharangovich turned around on a shot to torch the goalie. In the second period, Jack Hughes broke in all alone and made it 3-2. Michael McLeod put in a loose puck off a Miles Wood shot hitting the cross bar to make it 4-2. Shesterkin was then jeered at home. The Devils would play undisciplined and sloppy enough to almost get the Rangers back in it. Which they did when Vincent Trocheck fished out a loose puck to put it in for a PPG late. But the late efforts would come up short. An Adam Fox turnover became an easy ENG for Sharangovich and so the Rangers lost their third straight, 5-3. Ouch. Perhaps a pair of games against Ottawa would help? The Wednesday night game in Ottawa would. Jaroslav Halak had his first good game with the team. Jimmy Vesey and Barclay Goodrow gave them a 2-0 lead. While Shane Pinto responded shortly after, the Rangers held onto 2-1 until Chris Kreider made it 3-1 in the third period. The Rangers then held it steady to win the game at 3-1. In the rematch at MSG on Friday night, it was a bit tougher. Vitali Kravstov did play and scored his first of the season to open the scoring. Ottawa responded with a power play goal from Tim Stutzle in the second period. Just over six minutes into the third period, Mika Zibanejad broke the tie and put the Rangers up 2-1. It seemed like they would hold on to the end. Only for Brady Tkachuk to tie it up with 49 seconds left in regulation (and without an extra skater, interestingly). That hurt. In overtime, Tkachuk would hurt the Rangers again with a goal with 18 seconds left in the fourth period. The Rangers lost 3-2 in OT. They still got a point and a chance to win the week at home against Chicago. The Blackhawks had other ideas. Chicago scored early thanks to Reese Johnson. In the second period, Zibanejad and Ryan Carpenter took penalties which turned a Rangers power play into what would be a 5-on-3 for Chicago. Patrick Kane converted the two-man advantage and then Max Domi converted the one-man advantage that followed. Zibanejad converted a power play late in the second period to give the Rangers some hope. Hope that was ripped away when Taylor Raddysh converted a power play to make it 4-1 for the visitors. Kreider did score a late third period goal but that was ultimately a consolation goal amid a penalty-filled game of frustration for the Blueshirts. Domi put in an empty netter They went 1-2-1, they sit solidly in fifth place as the Penguins pulled a little bit away from them, and the Capitals remain a concern behind them. Also, the Rangers are now 4-6-4 at MSG. That has to improve if the Rangers want to improve overall.
What’s Coming Up This Week: The New York Rangers will wrap up a short set of home games on Monday night against St. Louis. St. Louis are playing better than they did when their season started. Plus, the Rangers have dropped some games to some pretty junky teams this season. Such as Chicago. It is not a gimmie, but one has to like their chances in that one unless the Blues really want to take out their loss to Pittsburgh on someone. The next two games, not so much. The Rangers will visit Las Vegas on Wednesday night. The Golden Knights are the leaders of the Western Conference. While not-so-amazing at home, they have been playing very well this season and can give the Rangers a lot of problems. The same applies on Friday night when New York visits Colorado. The Avs are winning plenty of games recently. Their home record may not be impressive but their team sure is and they could give the Rangers problems like Las Vegas could. The Rangers need a good week to keep pace in the division and possibly move on up. If not, they may need to worry a bit more about Washington.
What Happened Last Week: Washington headed out West for their road trip, which started off with a 5-1 loss in Newark. The Capitals flipped the script in Vancouver on Tuesday night. This time, they would win by a 5-1 score. Alex Ovechkin scored twice (and passed a Wayne Gretzky record for road goals) to put the Caps up early. While Nils Hoglander made it 2-1 shortly after the second goal, Anthony Mantha restored a lead shortly after that. Goals from John Carlson and Martin Fehervary added to the decisive win. Washington went to Seattle on Thursday. The second season of the Kraken is a lot more fierce than the first one. The Caps went up by two in the first period with a goal from Fehervary and a PPG from Conor Sheary. But the Kraken kept pounding and responded to each goal. First, a Jaden Schwartz PPG in the second period made it 2-1. Then Yanni Gourde provided the equalizer within the final three minutes of regulation to tie it up. Overtime came and went very quickly. Matt Beniers got a breakaway and scored seven seconds into the fourth period. The Caps lost 3-2 to Seattle, but did get a point from the game. A Saturday night in Calgary would determine if the week, and possibly the trip, would be a winning one. It would not go their way. Blake Coleman scored late in the first. Conor Sheary tied it up before the first period ended on a power play; but Andrew Mangiapane restored the lead early in the second period. It took a while but the next goal came with less than seven minutes to go. It came from Adam Ruzicka of Calgary. Then another from Mangiapane about a minute later. While John Carlson made it 4-2 late; an Elias Lindholm ENG ended the game at 5-2. The loss made it a split week for Washington. Not bad for a team struggling on the road, but not good enough to get any traction in moving up from sixth place.
What’s Coming Up This Week: Washington’s road trip will continue for two more games this week before a return home. On Monday night, they will take on Edmonton. While their season has not gone so well and they are not a strong home team, they still boast two of the most dangerous players in the NHL. That is never a simple task for a Caps team. Especially for a Caps team that has not crushed it on the road this season. Washington will return to the East Coast on Wednesday when they visit Philadelphia. Given Philly’s struggles, the Capitals have a good chance to end their trip on a high note. They made need it. Their return home - a place where Washington has been very successful - on Friday is a game against Seattle. A Seattle team who has been excellent on the road this season and just beat the Caps last week. Washington needs to put together successful weeks to start catching up and needs the teams in front of them to falter. Unfortunately, what they cannot control only adds to the pressure they must handle.
What Happened Last Week: The Philadelphia Flyers went into this week needing a win. They had not won since November 8. Would they go winless in 11 to close out November? Would they lose again to an Islanders team that beat them the Saturday prior to the game on November 29? No and no! Carter Hart put in a fine performance and the Flyers responded well to an early 5-on-3 power play goal against by Noah Dobson. Travis Sanheim scored a shorthanded goal on the remaining power play to tie up the game. Before the ten-minute mark of the game, Kevin Hayes lit the lamp to make it 2-1. Hart and Philly held on to the one-goal lead. They relaxed a bit after Hayes put in an ENG to make it a 3-1 win and end the long slide. The Flyers finally won a game! Would they build on that in their next game, a home game against Tampa Bay? Nope. The Bolts came to Philadelphia and struck the Flyers down. Nick Paul scored twice, Ross Colton scored, and Ian Cole all scored before Philly even got one on the board. Which was a consolation goal by Travis Konecny. The Flyers resumed their winless form in the 4-1 defeat. The Flyers still had a chance to win this week when they hosted New Jersey on Saturday night. They beat the Devils once this season, could they do it again? They put together a very good game plan to do something most teams have not done: slow down and limit the Devils’ offense. It still was not perfect. Miles Wood got behind the net and set up Fabian Zetterlund in front for the game’s first goal. Philly hit back on a power play thanks to Brendan Smith taking a hooking call on the next shift and thanks to Konecny to put the puck in the net on a one-timer from the slot. In the third period, the Devils broke through. Carter Hart went behind his net to play a dumped-in puck. Wood skated hard at him and Nick Seeler went with him. Hart moved the puck ahead - and bounced right back off Seeler. Right to Dawson Mercer for an easy wraparound goal. Later, Jack Hughes styled and profiled on Ivan Provorov and then Hart to make it 3-1. The Flyers were angry and seemingly sinking. But they would get a lifeline. An offensive shift to pin back the Devils and some non-clearances ended with Lukas Sedlak putting home a long-ish shot past Akira Schmid to make it 3-2 with less than five minutes left to play. The Flyers pushed, attacked, stormed the net, had a Joel Farabee goal disallowed due to obvious contact in the crease, and stormed the net. But the Devils survived. The Flyers lost 3-2. Respectable and perhaps good data for their game later in the month. Yet, they finally ended their winless streak only to lose two straight in regulation. Columbus is coming up the standings soon, Flyers. Be careful.
What’s Coming Up This Week: The Flyers have an unenviable week of three games on paper. Given their record and the state of their injury list, almost any week is unenviable. Still, check this out: a home game against Colorado on Monday, a home game against Washington on Wednesday, and a road game in Las Vegas on Friday to start a four-game trip. That’s three teams who can attack a lot against a team that has been hurting and suffering with poor results recently. The games are played on the ice so Philadelphia can certainly surprise with a result here and there. However, it looks like on paper that the season is going to get worse before it gets better for the Flyers. Good for the Blue Jackets. Not good for those who do not want to see the Flyers in last place.
Columbus Blue Jackets
What Happened Last Week: The Blue Jackets had a short week of just two games to play. In their first one, they managed to get a point against Las Vegas. That is something good on the surface given how great the G-Knights have been this season. Plus, the Blue Jackets came back to force extra time in this one. They went down 2-0 to a quick pair of goals from William Karlsson and William Carrier. After being Bill’ed down the Jackets fought their way back to a tie. Johnny Gaudreau scored inthe second period and Boone Jenner provided a third-period equalizer. After five minutes of a scoreless overtime, a long shootout ensued. Alas, the Jackets fell in the seventh round when Paul Cotter converted his attempt to make it a 3-2 shootout loss for Columbus. But, hey, a point from Las Vegas is still a point. The Jackets tried to make the week a little better in Winnipeg on Friday night. They would get a big lift in the return of Patrik Laine. Laine made an instant impact as he scored the game’s first goal. Erik Gudbranson got his first of the season to put the Blue Jackets up two in Winnipeg by the first intermission. Joonas Korpisalo had it all to do and he did a lot. In the second period he remained perfect as Laine scored a second goal - a brace - and Gustav Nyquist made it 4-0. Keep in mind Columbus had won just one road game going into this one and Winnipeg was 8-2-0 at home. Pierre-Luc DuBois broke Korpisalo’s shutout with 4:30 left in the third period, but it was just a consolation goal. The Jackets won 4-1 in a place where few have prevailed. Columbus won their week at 1-0-1 and now just three points behind the Flyers.
What’s Coming Up This Week: Columbus joins the Islanders as being the busiest team in the division with four games this week. The Blue Jackets’ goal now has to be trying to claw their way up out of last. With Philly reeling, it is possible to do it even in this week. But it will take a lot for the Blue Jackets to do so. They will host Detroit this evening. Detroit has not exactly succeeded on the road this season; Columbus could add to those issues. On Tuesday, the Blue Jackets will visit Pittsburgh. That will be more difficult given how well the Pens have played in general, even if their home record is not amazing looking. It is also a divisional game; the Blue Jackets can do some first-half-of-the-season spoiling if they come out hard in that one. Hopefully not too hard. The Blue Jackets will have to have something left in the tank for when they host Buffalo on Wednesday night. Buffalo is no easy opponent and they have been a bit better away from home than not. Columbus will need to be mindful. They will end their week on Friday night with a home game with Calgary. The Flames have absolutely struggled on the road this season in their under-performing season so far. The Jackets’ chances of a win on Friday might be a little better than you think. It may not be much but some gains here and there combined with Philly’s struggles could get Columbus closer to getting out of last place. Or actually doing so by next Sunday. It may not be much to aim for, but it is something.
That was the eighth Weekly Metropolitan Division Snapshot of the 2022-23 season. What do you expect to happen in this week coming up? Other than that the Devils will be in first as they have already mathematically clinched it for next Sunday? Will the Islanders keep slipping or will they rebound? Will Pittsburgh keep moving on up? Will the Capitals catch the Rangers? How about the Blue Jackets catching the Flyers? 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.