The final full week of February is upon us. Trading season is emerging as the 2022 NHL Trade Deadline is a month from Monday. Make-up games from previous postponements continue to be fulfilled. The best in the Metropolitan Division continued to flex their quality with winning weeks. The Carolina Hurricanes beat out the Pittsburgh Penguins for first again with a win on Friday night. Those tiebreakers matter. The lower half, well, it was not so hot. Here is a snapshot of the division as of today:
This week’s schedule is loaded with games within the division. Your day off will be Wednesday. A whole lot of those are highlighted in yellow and in bold.
Let us go over what happened last week and what is coming up for each team in the Metropolitan Division.
What Happened Last Week: Carolina had two games to play this week and took three out of a possible four points. The first was on Wednesday night against Florida. The two titans of the Eastern Conference this season had a close game. Carolina struck first in the final minute of the first period thanks to Tuevo Teravainen. However, Aleksander Barkov tied it up to complete a lovely move in the second period. Tony DeAngelo put the Canes up early in the third period. It looked like a 2-1 win was going to be result. But with 49 seconds left, Sam Reinhart stunned the PNC Arena with a game-tying goal. Aaron Ekblad broke their hearts further with an overtime goal just 16 seconds into the fourth period. The Canes lost 3-2. While Florida is great, it is never great to drop points in the final minute. On Friday, the Canes set things right against Nashville. Brady Skeji, Jesperi Kotkaniemi, and Jaccob Slavin had the Canes up 3-1 going into the third period. Slavin’s goal was in the final second of the second period, so they seemingly had the Predators on the ropes. Further when Andrei Svechnikov scored a PPG in the third period. But they had to hold on tight after Filip Forsberg and Tanner Jeannot put the visitors within a goal. Nashville valiantly rallied but could not complete the comeback. Svechnikov sealed the game to make it a 5-3 regulation win. A sigh of relief and a return to first place in the Metropolian Division.
What’s Coming Up This Week: Carolina will play three games within the Metropolitan this week. Today is easily their biggest of the three. Carolina will visit Pittsburgh. As the two teams are battling for first, it carries some real meaning. A regulation win for Carolina is ideal but any win would be fine as the Canes have built up a huge lead in regulation wins and regulation/overtime wins over the rest of the division. After today, the Canes will head to Philadelphia. The Flyers have been a more competitive team recently even if their efforts have not ended with results. As it is a back-to-back for Carolina, they need to not empty the tank today so they have something for the Flyers. On Friday, the Canes will host Columbus. The two teams have traded blowout wins. It could go either way, although Carolina may need to get something out of that one to remain in first for another week. Which is entirely possible since, again, they are in the driver’s seat. Keep on driving, Carolina.
SBN Blog: Canes Country
What Happened Last Week: The Pittsburgh Penguins won another week by beating the teams they should have. On Sunday, the Penguins visited New Jersey. It was a close game for two periods and it was 2-2 early. But a put-back goal by Brian Boyle broke the deadlock in the third period. The Devils could not find a response and Jake Guentzel sealed the 4-2 win with an ENG. On Tuesday, the Penguins hosted Philadelphia. The rivalry was very much alive as the Flyers put up a real good game. Sidney Crosby scored his 500th career goal; however, the team needed a comeback from being down 4-2 going into the third period. They got it from Guentzel on the power play and Chad Ruhwedel’s first of the season on the shift after Guentzel’s PPG. Overtime was forced and Kris Letange ended it 31 seconds in to give Pittsburgh the 5-4 win. Two games, two wins, and a shot to sweep the week in Toronto on Thursday. Alas, it would not happen. Toronto would take the game decisively. Jack Campbell stopped 45 out of 46 shots; Auston Matthews scored 21 seconds into the game; Toronto scored 3 before Evgeni Malkin got the Penguins on the board; and the Penguins lost 4-1. Still, the 2-1-0 week kept the Penguins near the top and in first place prior to Friday’s games. Carolina has the edge in games in hand, regulation wins, and regulation/overtime wins. But the Penguins are not out of the first place race by any means.
What’s Coming Up This Week: The Penguins will stay within the division all week. Two of them are massive games. Today at 1 PM, they will host Carolina. Given that Carolina has a big edge in tiebreakers right now, a regulation win for the Penguins would be wonderful for them. It will give them first place again and a slight lead. The Penguins will have to avoid slipping up against New Jersey on Thursday. They did beat them twice in their last two meetings, but they were not total blowouts either. On Saturday and on national television, the Penguins will host the Rangers. Given that the Rangers are just 3 points back, the Penguins will want to ward them off with a result. Pittsburgh has continued to impress by doing this well so far this season. Keeping up their pace is now less than a hope. It has become expected.
SBN Blog: PensBurgh
New York Rangers
What Happened Last Week: Shootouts were the order of the week as the Rangers actually played some games. On Tuesday, they hosted Boston. Charlie Coyle scored early, Filip Chytil scored in the third to tie it up, and Igor Shesterkin was responsible for much of the game being close and tied. A shootout was needed and it took nine rounds. K’Andre Miller provided the difference maker and a 2-1 win for the Rangers. On Thursday, the team hosted Detroit. Troy Stetcher scored early, but Miller provided an equalizer in the second period. Which was broken shortly after by Dylan Larkin. A power play goal by Mika Zibanejad tied up the game in the third period, which ultimately led to another shootout. In a seven-round shootout, Detroit prevailed thanks to Pius Suter. The 3-2 loss made it a successful week after a long layoff. It, along with games in hand, have the Rangers solidly in third place for the moment. They are a bit behind Carolina and Pittsburgh for first but not completely out of that picture either.
What’s Coming Up This Week: The Rangers will use up at least one of their games in hand on Washington this week with three games coming up. Today, the Rangers will play in Ottawa for an early evening game. The Rangers should be careful as Ottawa has been able to surprise some really good teams for wins. Just ask Washington. Speaking of, the two teams will play each other on Thursday. The game is in Manhattan and the Rangers can do themselves a lot of good if they win that one in regulation. It will ward off the Capitals while maintaining their playoff spot in the division. The division-important games do not end there for this week as the Rangers will visit Pittsburgh on Saturday. Should the Rangers want to re-enter the picture for first in the division, then winning that game would help them tremendously. As the game will be on ABC, it will also quell the doubts that the team is a top-heavy squad being carried by a Herculean-effort from Igor Shesterkin. They won’t go away, but results speak loudly and wins over Washington and Pittsburgh will say quite a bit.
SBN Blog: Blueshirt Banter
What Happened Last Week: It was a positive week for the Capitals, although it did not start that way. Last Sunday, they hosted Ottawa and, get this, lost. Lost 4-1. Went down 2-0 in the first period with a shorthanded goal allowed to start it all. Never had a lead against the Senators. Not good for a team looking up at the other playoff teams in the division. However, the Capitals set things right in their next two games. In Nashville on Tuesday, they rebounded. Alex Ovechkin scored a brace, which puts him at 30 goals for the season and presumably is an early favorite for the Hart. It was a little dramatic as Washington held onto a 1-0 lead going into the third and Nashville tied it up early in that frame; but Nick Jensen broke that tie and then Ovechkin emerged in the 4-1 win. On Thursday, the Capitals went to Philadelphia. This one was nearly another let down. While Washington scored first and went up 2-1 in the second, Philly tied it up late in the second period. With fewer than four minutes left in regulation, Gerry Mayhew scored to make it 3-2 Philly. Would the Capitals find a lifeline? They would thanks to Garnet Hathaway. He scored an equalizer about a minute after Mayhew’s goal. With just over a minute left in regulation, he broke Philly’s heart by making it 4-3. John Carlson sealed the 5-3 victory and a 2-1-0 week. The Capitals can feel good about pulling out results despite a decisive home loss to Ottawa. They are still chasing the Rangers. They may be two points back but the games in hand are absolutely unfavorable for Washington.
What’s Coming Up This Week: This reality makes their first of two games this week massive. The Capitals will go to Manhattan to play the Rangers. Should the Capitals want to catch up or surpass New York in the standings, then they really need to win that game in regulation. That will be easier said than done as the Rangers have been a tough opponent to crack if Igor Shesterkin is on his game. In favor of the Capitals, they will not play a game until this one. They should be well prepared. On Saturday, the Capitals will go back to Philadelphia for an afternoon affair. Washington did just beat them but they should aim for not needing a brace from Garnet Hathaway within the final three minutes of regulation to get a win. Sure, they should win that one but no need for late drama if they can avoid it.
SBN Blog: Japers’ Rink
Columbus Blue Jackets
What Happened Last Week: Columbus wrapped up their five-game road trip in this past week with stops in Calgary and Chicago. As expected in games by the Flames against Metropolitan teams this season, the Flames torched the Blue Jackets. Again. Columbus was out-shot 41-20 (just four shots each in the second and third periods, really, Blue Jackets). They took an early 2-1 deficit into the first intermission and it was 4-1 by the second intermission thanks to Matthew Tkachuk and a shorthanded goal by Dillon Dube. Calgary added to the pain with two more scores in the third for a 6-2 final. The last one coming from the newest Flame, Tyler Toffoli. Thursday night in Chicago went much better for Columbus. It was a high scoring affair starting off with a five-goal first period. Boone Jenner and Yegor Chinakhov made it 2-0. While Chicago tied that up, Max Domi put up the Jackets 3-2. Then it was the Patrik Laine show. He would score three of Columbus’ next four goals. While chicago tried to keep up on the scoreboard, Oliver Bjorkstrand put it out of reach and Laine’s hat-trick finisher made it a 7-4 win. Columbus split their week and can continue their claim of being the best of the rest.
What’s Coming Up This Week: The Blue Jackets have a lot to do this week. This evening, they will host Buffalo. This will be a respite compared to the three games after that one. On Tuesday, they will host Toronto. On Thursday, they will visit Florida. On Friday, they will visit Carolina. That’s Atlantic Division contender, best team in the East, and the current Metropolitan Division leader. Three tough games in four nights. Columbus will not be a push over but that is a tough run for anyone.
SBN Blog: The Cannon
New York Islanders
What Happened Last Week: The Islanders went 1-2-0 in Western Canada before going to Buffalo this past week and returning home on Thursday to host Boston. On paper, one would think the Isles would beat Buffalo but lose to the B’s. The opposite happened. The Isles went to Northwest New York and got lit up late in regulation. The score was 3-3 by the halfway mark through the third and then it all collapsed. Victor Olofsson scored his first goal in a long time with 2:55 left in regulation. The Isles pulled their goalie twice, which yielded two ENGs against for a 6-3 final score. For a team with faint playoff hopes, that loss hurts. But Boston has been struggling and the Isles took advantage there. This was more decisive. The Isles responded to a first period score from Taylor Hall with a PPG by J-G Pageau in the second period. Noah Dobson broke the dead lock, Mat Barzal extended the lead, and Brock Nelson sealed it to complete a three-goal third period to end a three-game losing streak. The Isles went 1-1-0 which does not do them a lot of good but it ends an ill-timed slide.
What’s Coming Up This Week: The Islanders will host Montreal today before embarking on another road trip out West. Montreal did get a new head coach and finally won a game, so the Isles just need to be careful to not get snared by a possibly more confident Canadiens team. Then they will head out to Seattle for Tuesday night, San Jose for Thursday night, and Los Angeles for Saturday night. These trips out to the West Coast are never simple. If the Isles want to improve their decreasing playoff odds, they have to make this a productive and successful week. Will Seattle, San Jose, and Los Angeles allow for that? I have my doubts. We shall see.
SBN Blog: Lighthouse Hockey
What Happened Last Week: The Flyers had two games against two tough opponents in the division. On Tuesday night, they went into Pittsburgh and acquitted themselves quite well. They struck first when Claude Giroux scored in the first period. They went up big with a three-goal second period thanks to Scott Laughton, Nick Seeler’s first goal this season, and Justin Braun. The Flyers were up 4-2 going into the third period. Alas, they conceded the lead in a quick double from Jake Guentzel (PPG at 12:36) and Chad Ruhwedel’s first of the season (12:54, the next shift). In overtime, Kris Letang finished it 31 seconds in to hand Philly another loss in this rivalry. Still, a point was earned and losing 5-4 is a lot better than by a wider margin. Which is what happened in Philadelphia on Thursday night. They hosted Washington and once again a late lead was squandered. Gerry Mayhew scored a PPG in the second period to match Michal Kempny’s goal in the first period. Travis Sanheim scored within the final minute of the second period to make it 2-2, answering a PPG from Joe Snively. It seemed as if the Flyers would pull away when Mayhew completed a brace by scoring with less than five minutes left. However, Garnet Hathaway decided to become the hero of the night. Just under a minute after Mayhew put the Flyers up 3-2, he made it 3-3. With just over a minute left in regulation, he made it 4-3. John Carlson sealed the deal at 5-3 for another loss for the Flyers. This time in regulation. The one point earned plus games in hand puts them ahead of New Jersey by way of tiebreakers. It does not make up for the heartbreakers that were both games.
What’s Coming Up This Week: The schedule for this week is rough. The good news is that all three games are at home. The bad news is that they are against Carolina on Monday, St. Louis on Tuesday, and a re-match with Washington on Saturday. In other words, that’s the division leader, a strong playoff-bound team from the Central Division, and a Capitals team that just stunned the Flyers in their house last Thursday. This week begins a seven-game homestand and based on the opponents lined up for it, it is not going to be a very welcomed one. Good luck, Flyers.
SBN Blog: Broad Street Hockey
New Jersey Devils
What Happened Last Week: The Devils went into a two-game week with two straight wins. Would they build on it? No. Would they get anything out of either? No. On Sunday, the Devils hosted Pittsburgh. It was a close game for two periods, but the Penguins broke through in the third period. Brian Boyle put back a loose puck after posting up Ty Smith (learn to wrap a stick, man), to put the visitors up 3-2. The Devils tried (sort-of) but could not answer it and a Jake Guentzel empty-netter sealed the 4-2 loss for New Jersey. On Tuesday, they hosted Tampa Bay. The first half of this game was great. Dawson Mercer got the credit for a favorable play by a Bolt. While Pat Maroon answered back, Yegor Sharangovich put the Devils up 2-1 on a late first period power play. Early in the second, Jack Hughes put the Devils up further 3-1 as he put in his own rebound. Then the Lightning started to emerge. The Devils became overwhelmed in the neutral zone. Frantic in their own end. Jon Gillies tried to be Arturs Irbe but ended up, well, playing like Irbe would in his later years. The Lightning scored five straight goals from the 15 minute mark in the second period to just past half-way through the third period. The Devils lost 6-3 and no one supporting the Devils at the Rock or around the world was happy. The Devils dropped both games. Thanks to Philadelphia getting one point, New Jersey is back in the basement.
What’s Coming Up This Week: The Devils will be off until Thursday night when they begin a road back-to-back. They will be in Pittsburgh on Thursday night. On the one hand, the Devils did win in Pittsburgh earlier this season. On the other hand, Sunday’s game was a strong reminder of where the Penguins are and where the Devils are as teams. It may be competitive, but the Devils should not be favored. On Friday night, the Devils will play a team closer to their level in Chicago. The Blackhawks have been bad all season and not that good at home either. Perhaps the Devils can win there to get one more win before their month-ending game at home against Vancouver in the following week? Please? I hope?
SBN Blog: All About the Jersey - Where the bemusement continues with each passing game.
That was the nineteenth Weekly Metropolitan Division Snapshot of the 2021-22 season. What do you expect to happen in this week coming up? Will Carolina continue to reign over Pittsburgh? Will Washington catch New York? How will the Islanders sort their season out? Can last place be traded off again? 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.