March is upon us. The 2021-22 NHL Trade Deadline is on March 21. Schedules will get busy. Half of the Metropolitan Division will be in a dog fight for positioning. The other half is trying to ease the pain and have a little pride while looking ahead to 2022-23. There is still a lot to play for. As of right now, your division leaders are the Carolina Hurricanes. They had an awesome week and have a little separation from the teams behind them. The bottom of the division is also a battle, although most would understandably not care who is less futile between the Philadelphia Flyers and the New Jersey Devils. For this week, it is the New Jersey Devils again. The only major change is that the Washington Capitals have slid down to the second and last wild card spot in the East. Here are the standings as of this morning:
This week’s schedule has everyone playing at least three games. The New York Islanders will end a road trip, the Pittsburgh Penguins will be away from all week, and there are five games within the division. Those five are highlighted 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: Winning. The Carolina Hurricanes won all three games last week to secure first place for another snapshot. Last Sunday was important for that as the Canes visited then second place Pittsburgh. In a closely-fought game with a little drama at the end, Carolina prevailed 4-3 on the back of Antti Raanta and goals by Jesper Fast and Sebastian Aho in the third period to take the win. A regulation win, too. On Monday, Carolina visited Philadelphia. This one was also close and featured Philadelphia scoring a third-period equalizer to force overtime. The overtime period nearly went the distance. With 18 seconds left before a shootout, Brett Pesce scored to give Carolina a 4-3 OT win. On Friday, the Hurricanes hosted Columbus. Columbus came into this game hot with four straight wins and a big one in Florida (!) the night beforehand. Carolina cooled them off in a big way. Frederik Andersen was perfect in the net. The goals came from the Canes starting in the second period to get them on the board; Jordan Staal and Teuvo Teravainen to start it and Nino Neiderreiter and Vincent Trocheck to add more in the third period. The Canes blanked the Blue Jackets 4-0 to end Columbus’ winning streak and sweep their own week. The Canes secured first and put themselves in a great position to keep driving ahead for the remainder of this season.
What’s Coming Up This Week: Carolina will be very active with four games in their next six days. Today, they will host Edmonton. Edmonton does have two of the best players in the world and their performances have been better under new coaching. However, the Canes have won four straight and if anyone can slow down the Oilers, it is them. On Tuesday, the Hurricanes will visit Detroit. Detroit has been a good home team and better than expected; still the Canes should be able to come away with something that night. Thursday and Friday will be more challenging. They will be in Washington and then host Pittsburgh back-to-back. This is an opportunity for the Canes to push their divisional opponents down. But those games will not be easy and the latter could be more of a challenge depending on how much of a fight the Caps will put up. Still, the Canes are in the favorable position and likely will be by the week’s end.
SBN Blog: Canes Country
What Happened Last Week: The Pittsburgh Penguins struggled in this week and so they slipped in the standings for a few days. Last Sunday, they hosted Carolina in a contest that would play a role in who finished in first for this week. The Penguins did not prevail. They came back to an early 2-0 deficit with goals by Bryan Rust and Sidney Crosby to make it 2-2 going into the third period. Yet, they could not answer two more goals by Carolina in the third period; a late one by Evan Rodrigues gave them some life but ultimately fell 4-3. After a few days off, they hosted the then-last place Devils. The Devils shocked them by just ripping through their coverage for three goals in the first period. While their second period performance was better, they conceded a fourth goal. Malkin scored a PPG to deny Nico Daws a shutout but they conceded two more goals for an embarrassing 6-1 loss. Yesterday, they hosted New York in what would be a battle for second place. Would the Penguins be able to take the game and finish back in second place? Yes. It was a game filled with saves, penalties, beef, and just one power play goal by Bryan Rust. The Penguins won 1-0 to jump past the Rangers for second and not lose the entire week.
What’s Coming Up This Week: The Penguins will go on the road for all three games, and they will deal with more teams in the Metropolitan. Today, they will visit a Columbus team that has been playing well as of late and can absolutely make life difficult for Pittsburgh. There will be a three-day break of games. Then a nasty back-to-back. Pittsburgh will go to Tampa Bay on Thursday night and then go to Raleigh on Friday night. The Lightning are a top-tier team and a tough opponent under any circumstances. The Canes just beat them last Sunday and can definitely do it again in their home building. They are not safe in second as the Rangers are a point behind with two games in hand and a lead in RW. But if the Penguins know anything this season, then it is to go on a run.
SBN Blog: PensBurgh
New York Rangers
What Happened Last Week: The Rangers keep on getting results and further establishing themselves in the division. Last week, they avoided the trap in Kanata, Ontario. Ryan Strome answered an early goal by Ottawa, Artemi Panarin scored a PPG to put the Rangers up 2-1, and Igor Shesterkin held true for the victory in Ottawa. Thursday night at MSG, they hosted Washington. This one was more decisive - and did a favor to Boston, who is now right behind Washington in the wild card standings. Shesterkin stopped everything but one shot by Alex Ovechkin - which came after the Rangers scored four goals in the preceding 58 minutes. The Rangers won 4-1 and had every reason to feel great going into Pittsburgh on Saturday afternoon. Yesterday’s game was not so great. Plenty of penalties, some bad blood generated, and the Penguins punishing Ryan Lindgren’s hook on Sidney Crosby with a PPG by Bryan Rust. That goal would be the only goal of the game, so the Rangers would fall 1-0. Still, the Rangers won the week at 2-1-0 and are in an advantageous position to re-take second place soon.
What’s Coming Up This Week: The Rangers will be home all week for three games of varying quality. They will host Vancouver this evening. Vancouver is far better than what they were months ago and their goaltending has been strong. But they are an unlikely playoff team and the Rangers should be able to get a result. Wednesday night will see them host St. Louis. The Blues are a better team, will likely make the postseason, and give the Rangers the biggest challenge on paper. Friday night will have them face one of their fiercest rivals in New Jersey. Given the Devils’ season, they should be able to pick on the Devils more. Given that it is a rivalry game and the Devils have busted out some surprising performances (e.g. their 6-1 win in Pittsburgh, their 7-4 win in St. Louis), nothing should be assumed for that one. Still, the Rangers are in a very safe place playoff-wise. For them, the focus will be about positioning for the remainder of this season. That they have an edge in RW plus games in hand on Pittsburgh means they could end up in second place real soon.
SBN Blog: Blueshirt Banter
What Happened Last Week: Washington had a week free of games since beating Philadelphia two Thursdays ago. Unfortunately, this did not help them at all in Manhattan on this past Thursday. The Rangers shut them down for all but 59 minutes in regulation while putting up a four-spot on the Caps. Washington lost 4-1. Yesterday, the Capitals visited Philadelphia for an afternoon game. Philly has been slumping yet again and had just one win this month going into this game. Yet, the Flyers have been able to make games interesting. The Caps conceded a goal to Claude Giroux 11 seconds into the game and a goal later in the first period to Cam Atkinson. They only answered one of them as Carter Hart denied the Capitals ways back into the game. The Capitals lost 2-1. Between the two-game week and getting just zero points out of both, the Capitals are not only mired in fourth place in the division but are now behind Boston to take the second wild card spot. Washington and Boston are near-locks for making the playoffs, but falling to the eighth spot is not exactly encouraging.
What’s Coming Up This Week: Washington will be at home all week. However, they have two tough games to through before a third game that is easier on paper. They will host Toronto on Monday night. That is a team loaded with offense and very high expectations. On Thursday, the Capitals will host Carolina in what could very well be a preview of what their first round match up might be. New York and Pittsburgh fans will be hoping for Washington to take that game, for whatever that is worth. On Saturday, the Capitals will host the expansion Seattle Kraken. Please do not drop points to Seattle, Washington. At least try to do that. If they’re not careful a losing streak will only increase the anxiety level of the Capitals. A worried team weeks before the trade deadline may lead to some non-ideal decisions. Be careful, Capitals.
SBN Blog: Japers’ Rink
Columbus Blue Jackets
What Happened Last Week: Columbus had themselves a very fine week, continuing to trash the pre-season predictions of them coming in last in this division. The Blue Jackets returned home from their successful road trip to host Buffalo. The game was filled with goals in the first period as it was tied 2-2 after one. But Columbus kept on scoring whilst the Sabres did not. By the second intermission, Columbus was up 5-3. They tacked on two late ones for a 7-3 final score to start off the week with a win. Tuesday night had Columbus host Toronto. This one was close as the two teams traded off goals. While Jason Spezza scored a late equalizer in the third period, Patrik Laine had the last laugh with an overtime winner just 20 seconds into the fourth period. Laine has been hot and the Blue Jackets had a winning streak going with the 4-3 OT win. A tough back-to-back on the road was up next and the first stop was in Sunrise. Yet, the Blue Jackets were not intimidated by Florida. It was a close game for two periods with Columbus holding onto a 2-1 lead on the back of J-F Berube and goals by Laine and Boone Jenner. The score exploded in the third period. Gabriel Carlsson scored first. While Jonathan Huberdeau pulled the Panthers back within one, Cole Sillinger and Justin Danforth stunned the home team with a quick pair of goals to go up 5-2. Sam Bennett clawed one back but Oliver Bjorkstrand restored the three goal lead. The Blue Jackets won 6-3 in Sunrise. A massive result. Alas, the next night in Raleigh was an end to that run. Laine’s point streak of 11 games ended. No Blue Jacket scored as the Canes shut them out 4-0. Still, the Blue Jackets went 3-1-0, further establishing themselves as the best of the rest in the Metropolitan and arguably in the Eastern Conference. (Are they close to Washington? No, they’re behind by 10 points.)
What’s Coming Up This Week: The Blue Jackets will be home all week. The first half of their week will stay within the Metropolitan Division. Today, they will host a Pittsburgh team that suddenly could use some results in response to a not-so-good week. On Tuesday, they will host a New Jersey Devils team and likely continue to pour misery on as Columbus seemingly knows how to take down New Jersey on a regular basis. The second half will be tougher with a back-to-back with Los Angeles and Boston. Both teams are good, Boston is back in form, and the latter of the two may shut down any faint hopes in Ohio for playoffs. Still, if there is one lesson to take away from this season, then it is that Columbus is far from a doormat and can bring a strong effort against anyone in this league. Doubt the Blue Jackets at your own peril.
SBN Blog: The Cannon
New York Islanders
What Happened Last Week: The Islanders had one home game to play before heading out West for a road trip. That one game was against the hapless Montreal Canadiens. And the Isles lost to them. In a shootout, yes, but still a loss to the worst team in hockey. The Islanders were at risk of losing 2-1 in regulation but Brock Nelson provided a late equalizer to force overtime and secure at least a point. Yet, Rem Pitlick provided the difference in a shootout for a 3-2 loss. Not at all the right way to start a four-game road trip. On Tuesday night, the Isles rebounded in Seattle. They scored the game’s first four goals, which included goals by Zach Parise and Kyle Palmieri, to basically cruise to a 5-2 win. Very nice. The game in San Jose on Thursday night was a lot tougher. The Isles peppered James Reimer with 47 shots. While they put three past him in regulation, they could not beat him in the third period, overtime, or in a shootout. Logan Couture did score in the shootout for the Isles to get a 4-3 shootout loss. At least they got points in every game so far, but still a disappointment going into Los Angeles on Saturday night. This one would be more decisive. Unfortunately, decisive against the Isles. The Kings crowned the Isles with two goals in the first period and a quick goal in the second period by Quinton Byfield before the Isles could get on the board with Mat Barzal. But the Isles had no response to a fourth L.A. goal until late in the third period, which was already too late. And Trevor Moore made it a 5-2 loss for the Islanders. The week ended at 1-1-2, but these results are not going to be enough for the giant mountain they have yet to climb this season. Even their games in hand are dwindling and would not be enough to overtake Columbus, nevermind get into any kind of playoff picture.
What’s Coming Up This Week: The Islanders will play two more road games before returning home this week. They will not get any easier. Tonight, they will visit Anaheim. The Ducks are not an easy team to beat by any means, particularly at home. The trip ends with a difficult game in Denver as the Isles will take on the offensive force that is Colorado. The Avs have only three regulation losses and two post-regulation losses at home this season. The Isles will have it all to do there. They will return home for Thursday night when they play Vancouver. This one will be more of the Isles’ speed but it is not at all a gimmie. Saturday will feature the Isles hosting a good St. Louis team. The Isles increasingly have little to play for. Perhaps a better week can soothe some of the pain.
SBN Blog: Lighthouse Hockey
What Happened Last Week: Did you know that the Flyers have been winless since February 1 when they beat Winnipeg. The February futility continued in this week. They made a game of it on Monday when they hosted Carolina. Gerry Mayhew responded to Nino Neiderreiter’s goal early in the second period on the shift after the goal against. Patrick Brown made it 2-2 early in the third period. Oskar Lindblom tied the game at 3-3 with just under five minutes left in regulation. This was a close affair against the best team in the division. But Pesce scored late in overtime and so the Flyers were left with a 4-3 OT loss. A point earned but not a win. The Flyers hosted St. Louis on Tuesday night. This one was decided in regulation and against Philadelphia. Brayden Schenn scored in the first period. While Lindblom tied it up in the third period, Vladimir Tarasenko scored within a minute of Lindblom’s goal, and the Blues pulled away with two ENGs for a 4-1 final score. Philadelphia’s final game of the month was a home game against Washington. Would they finally win their first game since the first day of the month? They would. Giroux scored 11 seconds into the game against Washington. Cam Atkinson made it 2-0 before the first intermission. Carter Hart was strong in net. The Caps only scored one and the Flyers held on to win 2-1. They finally won a second game this month. It was enough to stay ahead of the Devils in the standings. Such is the Flyers (and Devils) season.
What’s Coming Up This Week: The Flyers have three home games coming up this week and a new month to try to earn more than two wins in. It is theorehtically possible to do this week. It is not likely, though. They will host Edmonton on Tuesday, Minnesota on Thursday, and Chicago on Saturday. The first two will be tough as Edmonton is fighting for the playoffs and Minnesota is a playoff team. Those are games those teams should be beating on lesser opponents, which the Flyers are. The Chicago game may be the one to deny the third double-digit run of failure in 2021-22. Of course, the Flyers can catch the Oilers and Wild on bad nights and win there too. At this point, the Flyers will take any kind of win.
SBN Blog: Broad Street Hockey
New Jersey Devils
What Happened Last Week: After a long layoff, the Devils returned to action on Thursday night for the first of two consecutive games. On paper, Pittsburgh would be a tough opponent. On the ice, the Devils surprised many by ringing up three goals on the Penguins in the first period. Jesper Bratt was in the right place at the right time for the first, Bratt did it again off a Penguins turnover for the second, and Yegor Sharangovich was all alone in front for the third. A Mike Sullivan timeout only stemmed the bleeding of goals. While the Devils second period swoon was on in the run of play, Jack Hughes set up Dawson Mercer for a score on the Devils’ first shot of the period to make it 4-0. Sure, they allowed an Evgeni Malkin PPG later but it was already a consolation goal. And a pair of PPGs boosted the final score to 6-1. A massive win on the road against a good team that also featured a sterling performance by Nico Daws. The next night in Chicago was more enraging. The offense appeared, as did a combination of all of the things wrong with the Devils this season. Poor goaltending, defensive breakdowns/mistakes, a lack of focus on a goal allowed, special teams getting worked over (a rare bad night for the penalty kill with three PPGs allowed), and odd coaching decisions led to a waste of points from Hughes, Bratt, and Jonas Siegenthaler’s first goal as a Devil saw a 4-4 game midway through the third turn into an ugly 8-5 loss with two empty netters yielding hat tricks for Patrick Kane and Brandon Hagel. The Devils split the games but the latter one definitely left a bitter taste in the mouths of the fans - as they have done many times this season. With Philadelphia winning yesterday, they are back in the basement for another snapshot. Sigh.
What’s Coming Up This Week: The Devils will host Vancouver to close out the month on Monday night. This game does have the advantage in fatigue since Vancouver will play in Manhattan on Sunday. However, the Devils have been good at throwing away advantages this season. The week gets tougher after Monday. They will visit Columbus on Tuesday. Columbus has given the Devils fits for years and is playing really well in recent weeks. On Friday, the Devils will visit their hated rivals in New York. They are a playoff-caliber team and as top-heavy as they are, the possibility of this being a rout in the worst way is very real. Once again, the Devils may as well just count the remaining games until April 29 when the pain will stop for another long Summer. And it is painful as they are battling with a Philadelphia team who has multiple long winless streaks this season for last place. Battling with Philadelphia for who is worse this season. And currently losing to Philadelphia in that battle. Surprisingly, I cannot imagine ticket sales for next season are going well.
SBN Blog: All About the Jersey - Where everyone’s got their favorite scapegoats and whipping boys for this season’s many, many problems.
That was the twentieth Weekly Metropolitan Division Snapshot of the 2021-22 season. What do you expect to happen in this week coming up? Will Carolina continue to lead the whole division? Who between Pittsburgh and Washington will end their struggles first? How much of a problem is Columbus right now? How are the Devils on the same level as the Flyers? 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.