March is a busy month for the 2021-22 season. Not only is the NHL Trade Deadline on March 21, but schedules are loaded for just about every team in the division. This week sees only one team play fewer than three games. This week has two teams going on long road trips whilst one team will play four straight at home. In terms of the standings themselves, the Carolina Hurricanes remain at the top, looking down on everyone else. The Pittsburgh Penguins now have to worry more about the New York Rangers rather than catching Carolina. The only other position up for grabs is seventh between the Philadelphia Flyers and New Jersey Devils. It is currently owned by Philadelphia by a point. Here are how the standings look as of this morning.
(Note: I pulled the odds last night so it may be slightly different this morning, but the overall message remains: four teams are basically in, four teams are not, and Columbus’ odds for winning first overall are low.) While there are a lot of games to be played by the eight Metropolitan Division teams this week, only two are within the division. Those two are highlighted and in bold. Of note, it appears Winnipeg, Colorado, Florida, Las Vegas, and Minnesota are going to get a little more familiar with the division this week as well. Here are the schedules at a glance:
Let us go over what happened last week and what is coming up for each team in the Metropolitan Division.
What Happened Last Week: Some struggles. The Carolina Hurricanes did ultimately win their week of games, but it was not in the most ideal way. The week started off quite well with a home game against Edmonton. Frederik Andersen was on point as two first period goals were enough for the Canes to beat the Oilers, 2-1. On Tuesday night, the Hurricanes went into Detroit. The five-game winning streak would end in the D. After just two goals between the first two periods, the drama picked up in the third. Michael Rasmussen scored early in the period to put the Red Wings up one. Jesper Fast answered that goal minutes later. With less than four minutes left in regulation, Jordan Staal put the Canes up one. However, Dylan Larkin tied up the game on the very next shift - 38 seconds after Staal’s breakthrough score. Overtime was needed and rookie sensation Lucas Raymond scored a PPG with eight seconds left in the fourth period to hand the Canes their first loss in some time. Still a point for Carolina. Still one more point than what they got out of their next game on Thursday night in Washington. This one was all Capitals. Carolina put 36 shots on Vitek Vanecek. Vanecek stopped all 36. Washington pulled away with four goals in the shutout loss. On Friday night, the Canes returned to Raleigh to host Pittsburgh. This one was big for the standings. It looked like it would be Pittsburgh’s night early with two first period goals. But the Hurricanes came back. Staal made it 2-1 in the second and then he made it 2-2 in the third. Overtime was needed in this game as well, but this time the Canes got the benefit of a power play. Andrei Svechnikov converted it for the 3-2 win. A win that helped the Canes keep the Pens down a bit and secured a winning week by going 2-1-1.
What’s Coming Up This Week: Carolina will have two weak opponents and one really strong one coming up. Tonight, they are hosting the expansion team, the Seattle Kraken. The Canes should win that one. On Saturday afternoon, they will host Philadelphia - a team that is absolutely in the doldrums of being at or near dead last in the division. The Canes should win that one. The challenge will be on Thursday night when Carolina hosts Colorado. The Avs are the one team with a better record than Carolina, they score a lot of goals, they attack in waves, and they have been one of the league’s better teams on the road. For the neutral fan, this should be a fun game to watch. Provided that the Canes take care of business against Seattle and Philly, then this game is not so necessary. Although it would be a nice statement if they won.
SBN Blog: Canes Country
What Happened Last Week: The Pittsburgh Penguins were on the road for three games last week and were an overtime away from sweeping the week outright. Last Sunday, the Penguins went to Ohio to play the Blue Jackets. Say what you want about Columbus, but they are not doormats. They put up a fight and led Pittsburgh 2-1 going into the third. An Evgeni Malkin PPG tied it up with about 8 minutes to go. Sidney Crosby provided the go-ahead goal with less than 3 minutes left and the Pens held on to win 3-2. Pittsburgh went down to Tampa Bay on Thursday night. This would be difficult, especially as the Bolts came into that game with five straight wins. It did not matter to the Penguins. Danton Heinan and Crosby scored in the first period, Brock McGinn scored in the second, and Malkin and Jake Guentzel scored in the third. Tampa Bay could only answer one of those goals; the Penguins won big, 5-1, against the defending champs. On Friday night, it seemed that they would put Carolina in a similar spot. Guentzel and Crosby scored in the first period to make it 2-0. While Staal pulled one back, the Penguins could not beat (or put a lot on) Antti Raanta. Staal tied it up in the third and a Kris Letang slashing penalty in overtime was a costly mistake. Svechnikov scored on that power play so the Penguins lost 3-2 in OT. They still took five points out of six. However, the OTL to Carolina hurts the cause to get back into first. They should pay more attention to the team behind them. They are just ahead of the Rangers in the standings, who has both games in hand and the RW tiebreaker on them.
What’s Coming Up This Week: The Penguins will have the lightest week coming up. They just have two games to play and both are at home. They will not be easy games at all. The first game is on Tuesday and they will host Florida - one of the best teams in the East. The Penguins can absolutely hold their own; they did just beat Tampa Bay by four and lost in OT to Carolina last week. It is still a challenging game. On Friday, the Pens will host Las Vegas. While the Golden Knights are not in a great place now, they do own one of the league’s better road records. It is not a contest to look past by any means. For the Penguins to hold off New York and inch closer to Carolina, they should aim to win both and hope for some help from their opponents.
SBN Blog: PensBurgh
New York Rangers
What Happened Last Week: The Rangers went 2-1-0 again. That kind of consistent results week-in, week-out does keep them near the top of the division standings. The week did not start off so well. Last Sunday, they hosted Vancouver. Alexandar Georgiev started that game and it was apparent that he is no Igor Shesterkin. Tanner Pearson beat Georgiev first. Tyler Myers scored his first of the season late in the first period. Juho Lammikko and Matthew Highmore added two more. Alexis Lafreniere and Ryan Strome scored consolation goals. An Elias Pettersson goal made it a 5-2 loss for the Rangers. New York would bounce back on Wednesday night when they hosted St. Louis. Shesterkin getting the start helped. So did scoring the first two goals, thanks to Lafreniere and Strome. The Blues stunned the Blueshirts with three goals within three minutes late in the second period to put them down 3-2. But Patrick Nemeth scored his first of the season to tie it up and a Chris Kreider PPG made it 4-3. An empty netter by Artemi Panarin finished off a 5-3 victory. On Friday night, the Rangers hosted one of their hated rivals in the New Jersey Devils. Shesterkin was in his best form as he robbed the Devils of many scoring opportunities. He was beaten just once, a high shot by Nico Hischier after he faked a drop pass. But the Rangers’ counter attack and their preying on some Devils miscues carried the day. Mika Zibanejad got away from Andreas Johnsson scored first; a Colton White error and a bad goal allowed by Nico Daws to Filip Chytil made it 2-1; and a seam pass by Zibanejad with no coverage to Chris Kreider provided the insurance goal at 3-1. The Rangers won 3-1, ending the week strong, and putting more pressure on Pittsburgh in the standings.
What’s Coming Up This Week: The Rangers have answered a lot of tests and questions this season. This week will be another one. How will they handle a week-long road trip? New York is slated to play four games in seven nights starting with tonight in Winnipeg. Tuesday night will have them go to Minnesota, a playoff team that does not lose a lot at home and recently ended a losing streak last week. On Thursday, the Rangers will go play St. Louis again. Expect some kind of revenge as the Blues have been even more successful at home than the Wild this season. The trip ends on Saturday in Dallas, a team that has the capability of hanging with good teams but not the consistency to be considered good. New York’s success this season is very much carried by Shesterkin, Fox, Kreider, Panarin, and Zibanejad. Watch for them to continue to do so should they want to make this road trip a success. They’ve done it so far.
SBN Blog: Blueshirt Banter
What Happened Last Week: Washington has been struggling and needed a successful week to stave off the chatter of a free fall. They got it in this past week. It did not seem so clear after Monday night’s home game against Toronto. The visitors took a 3-1 lead after the first period, with two goals scored within the final three minutes of the period. Tom Wilson helped the Caps claw back into the game with a PPG in the second period and a SHG early in the third period. Toronto’s response? A late goal by Rasmus Sandin and a game-icing ENG by Pierre Engvall. The Caps lost 5-3. They would get on the winning side in a big way on Thursday night against Carolina. Vitek Vanecek was sensational as he stopped everything by the Canes. Evgeny Kuznetsov had a nose for the net to score a PPG in the first period; Martin Fehervary made it 2-0 in the second period, Alex Ovechkin scored a PPG to make it 3-0; and Dmitry Orlov capped off the 4-0 rout. A huge win over a top team was what the Caps needed. Last night, they hosted Seattle. Would they slip up against the expansion team? No. Wilson and Orlov provided a two goal cushion in the first period, only answered back once by Joonas Donskoi. Colin Blackwell did tie up the game early in the second period. But Conor Sheary pulled through with a PPG to put the Caps ahead 3-2. In the third period, Ovechkin scored another PPG to pad the lead and Sheary secured a 5-2 win with an empty netter. The Caps went 2-1-0 and at least stemmed the struggles for now.
What’s Coming Up This Week: Washington has banked a lot of points such that they would need a full-on collapse to risk falling out of a wild card spot. Getting two wins last week should help guard against that unlikely catastrophe. However, this coming week is an auspicious one. The Capitals are going to Western Canada this week. Within four nights, they will play Calgary (Tuesday) and Edmonton (Wednesday) back to back and then go to Vancouver (Friday). Calgary has been on fire against Metropolitan teams, Edmonton has been rejuvenated since their coaching chance, and Vancouver has some of the strongest goaltending in the NHL. A good trip will quiet some of the critics of the Capitals’ recent form. A bad one will only create more. Good luck, Caps.
SBN Blog: Japers’ Rink
Columbus Blue Jackets
What Happened Last Week: Columbus continues to put up efforts with varying results. Last Sunday, they hosted Pittsburgh. The Blue Jackets did well to score first thanks to Oliver Bjorkstrand. While Chad Ruhwedel tied it up late, an unassisted goal by Jack Roslovic put the Jackets up 2-1. Alas, this lead would not hold for Columbus. Malkin scored a PPG in the third and Crosby scored a late go-ahead goal for a 3-2 loss. The Blue Jackets would rebound. They hosted New Jersey, a team they have done exceedingly well against for years. Jake Christiansen scored his first of the season to tie up the game, a result of Jack Hughes scoring 54 seconds into the game on a very greasy PPG. Bjorkstrand continued to be a thorn in New Jersey’s side with a go-ahead goal in the first period. In the second period, Boone Jenner converted a 5-on-3 to make it 3-1. Nico Hischier pulled the Devils within one. But Patrik Laine made Damon Severson look like a pylon before ripping a shot past Nico Daws to make it 4-2. A Pavel Zacha PPG made it 4-3, but the Blue Jackets held on to get yet another win over New Jersey. On Thursday night, the Blue Jackets hoped to do the same to Los Angeles. They built up a big lead in the second period. Viktor Arvidsson scored first, but Laine, Bjorkstrand, and Justin Danforth put the home team up 3-1. All within 46 seconds, too. But the Kings were not stunned out of the game. Dustin Brown clawed back a goal in the third period and Arvidsson scored late to tie it up. In overtime, Arvidsson finished his hat trick to hand the Blue Jackets an OTL, 4-3. Columbus could not dwell on that botched lead for long as they hosted Boston last night. Jake DeBrusk struck first, but Gustav Nyquist and Vladislav Gavrikov responded to put the Jackets up 2-1 after the first. In the second period, Erik Haula tied it up for the B’s but Zach Werenski converted a PPG to put the home team up again. In the third, Craig Smith provided an equalizer for Boston. Would Columbus respond to take the lead again? No. Patrice Bergeron finished a play for a PPG to go up 4-3. Would the Blue Jackets be able to provide a late equalizer? Especially with a power play within the final minute? Yes! Jakub Voracek with his third goal of the season with three seconds left on the clock! Overtime was needed after all. It was not enough, so a shootout decided the game. David Pastrnak was the only one to score, so the Blue Jackets ended up losing 5-4 after all. They went 1-1-2 in the week to further secure the fifth spot in the division.
What’s Coming Up This Week: The Blue Jackets will have a tricky week of sorts. On Monday night, they will host Toronto, the last of their current homestand. The Blue Jackets did beat Toronto in overtime back on February 22 in Ohio. They can do it again. But that is asking a lot given how much of a high-octane offensive team the Maple Leafs are this season. The Blue Jackets will then have a back-to-back. They will travel to Long Island on Thursday night to play the Isles. The Blue Jackets have not been to the UBS Arena yet this season and the last time these two teams played was back in October. Much has changed since then. On Friday night, the Blue Jackets will return home to host Minnesota. The Wild are a playoff-caliber team. They are not so good on the road as they are at home, but they have quality. The Blue Jackets have shown they can be competitive, but winning the games, well, that is not always a guarantee. Still, expect another week of getting something out of their games because Columbus has been consistent at doing that at least.
SBN Blog: The Cannon
New York Islanders
What Happened Last Week: The Islanders began the week on the road at Anaheim. It went quite well. Ilya Sorokin was perfect. Noah Dobson, Casey Cizikas, Andy Greene, and Kiefer Bellows all scored in the 4-0 shutout win. A very good start to the week. New York ended their road trip on Tuesday night in Colorado. The Isles made a game of it against the top team in the league. Ryan Pulock answered Nathan MacKinnon’s first period goal to end the first 1-1. In the second period, the Isles took a lead with goals by J-G Pageau and Kyle Palmieri. However, the Avs know how to score in bunches and they just needed two in the third period to take a lead. Gabriel Landeskog and Andre Burakovsky did just that and an ENG by Erik Johnson completed the 5-3 loss. The Islanders went back home to Belmont to host Vancouver on Thursday night. This was another game that slipped away from the Isles. The Isles struck first and last in a four-goal second period; Dobson and Palmieri with the goals for the Isles and Brad Hunt and J.T. Miller for the Canucks. An early third period goal by Anthony Beauvillier put the home team up a goal. However, an awful minute in the third period saw the Isles concede goals to Nils Hoglander and Vasily Podkolzin to go down 4-3. That score stood for the loss. Yesterday, the Isles hosted St. Louis. Sorokin was in an excellent form in a low-scoring game. The Isles did strike first and second thanks to a first period marker by Oliver Wahlstrom and a PPG by Brock Nelson in the second period. A third goal was taken off the board after review. Drama increased when Robert Thomas scored with less than four minutes left in regulation. But the Isles held on to win 2-1. The Islanders split their week. That is good for pride, but not good for their increasingly faint playoff hopes. They still remain behind Columbus even if they win all of their games in hand at this point. I am not sure they can catch them. At least they’re better than the two teams beneath them in the Metropolitan Division standings.
What’s Coming Up This Week: The Islanders will get one difficult opponent and then a back-to-back against two teams better than the Isles but are not going to the playoffs. The difficult opponent is Colorado. The Isles will host them on Monday. Colorado currently owns the best record in the league and can rack up a lot of goals. Good luck, Isles. The back-to-back is not an easy one but it is at least not against teams of Colorado’s caliber. Columbus comes to the UBS Arena on Thursday night for the first time. It has been a long time since the two teams played each other, that one can be seen as a toss-up. Friday’s game against Winnipeg can be seen in the same light. The Isles really do not have much to play for, but getting some pride may be on the cards after surviving whatever the Avs drop on them Monday night.
SBN Blog: Lighthouse Hockey
What Happened Last Week: The first week of March was played entirely at home for the Philadelphia Flyers. Avoiding last place, as a goal, was looking bleak after the first two games of it. On March 1, the Flyers hosted Edmonton and put nothing on the board against them. Edmonton put up three for the 3-0 shutout loss. On March 3, the Flyers hosted Minnesota. The Wild came into Philadelphia with a losing streak. It looked like the Flyers would add to that when they were up 4-3 after two periods. Goals from Scott Laughton and Patrick Brown put the Flyers out ahead in the first period. Travis Konecny made it 3-2 and James van Reimsdyk converted a power play to make it 4-3. Alas, the Wild scored two in the third period to take the game 5-4 to end their own losing streak and add another mark in the ‘L’ column for the Flyers. Yesterday, the Flyers hosted Chicago. Amazingly, the Flyers have not lost at home to Chicago since 1996. That surprising streak continued despite the best efforts of the visitors. While Oskar Lindblom scored in the first period, the Flyers were down a goal after Alex DeBrincat and Dylan Strome (twice) put up goals in the second period. A Cam Atkinson goal made it a one goal deficit. On March 5, it was Philly’s time to rally. Derick Brassard scored in the third to tie it up and Atkinson completed his brace to make it 4-3. The Flyers kept their home winning streak over Chicago alive. They won a game at home. The win was enough to stay ahead of the Devils in the standings for another week.
What’s Coming Up This Week: The Flyers have a tough week coming up. The first game is a home game against Las Vegas. On paper, this is their easiest game: a potential playoff team from the West that has been a more successful road team than home team this season. The second game is a trip to Sunrise to play the Panthers on Thursday night. Florida is a top-tier team this season and has beat them in their previous two meetings. Saturday afternoon is a trip to Raleigh to play the best team in the division and in the East: Carolina. Philly did drag Carolina to overtime back on February 21. They still lost to them, but there was that at least. Unless the Flyers put in a full effort and/or catch their opponents on off days, this week could get real ugly.
SBN Blog: Broad Street Hockey
New Jersey Devils
What Happened Last Week: After a high-scoring loss to Chicago, the Devils ended February with a home game against Vancouver. The Canucks had some of the best goaltending in the NHL. But they played on Sunday night and Jaroslav Halak got the start. The Devils made him pay with goal after goal after goal. Jack Hughes, Yegor Sharangovich, and Dawson Mercer made it 3-0 in the first period and they never looked back. The Devils won big, 7-2, to start their week. The next night, the Devils went to Columbus. While the Blue Jackets were beefy, the Devils were up to the challenge. But a few too many errors - thank you, Damon Severson - led to the Devils falling short, 4-3, for yet another loss to Columbus. On Friday night, the Devils went to Manhattan to play the Rangers. New Jersey did tie up a goal by Zibanejad when Nico Hischier faked a drop pass and roofed one past Shesterkin. The problem was that the Devils kept creating scoring chances and Shesterkin got just about all of the others. This meant the goal allowed to Chytil ended up being a game winner and the goal allowed to Kreider in the third was a backbreaker. The Devils lost to their hated rivals 3-1 and ended another week with fewer than half of the potential points (1-2-0). They remain embattled with Philadelphia for the basement of this division. Since Philly won yesterday, they’re in last. Again.
What’s Coming Up This Week: The Devils will be home all week. The problem is that the opponents could really mess them up real bad at the Rock. Today, the Devils will host St. Louis. The Devils did stun them in a high scoring, 7-4 win back on February 10. I would not expect a repeat of that today because the Blues are good and surely Jordan Binnington - assuming he plays that game - will not be as porous again. On Tuesday, the Devils will host the best team in the NHL in Colorado. Colorado would have played the night before in Long Island. That may not matter as the Avs have buried teams in goals all season long. The Devils’ goaltending has been a massive weakness; this does not bode well for Tuesday night. On Thursday, the Devils will host Winnipeg. While the Jets are not going to make the playoffs, the Jets were the first team to blow out the Devils in New Jersey’s season with a 8-4 win back in November. The Devils’ week will end with a home game against Anaheim, the first (and so far only) team to shut out the Devils, also back in November. The Devils have shown the ability to score a lot of goals against questionable goalies. But when it comes to competitive teams putting in full efforts, well, the Devils’ record should tell you how it goes when that happens. It could happen four times in a row. Sigh.
SBN Blog: All About the Jersey - Where the People Who Matter are counting the days to the end of this season.
That was the twenty-first Weekly Metropolitan Division Snapshot of the 2021-22 season. What do you expect to happen in this week coming up? Will Carolina continue to keep a lead on first? Will New York jump Pittsburgh? Will Washington get waxed in Western Canada? Can the Devils at least surpass the Flyers at some point? 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.