Welcome to the third-to-last weekly Metropolitan Division Snapshot of the season. The playoff teams and non-playoff teams have been set in the division for months now. It is all about jockeying for position among each group. Even that may not have a lot of wiggle room - except at the top. The Carolina Hurricanes became the first Metropolitan Division team to secure a playoff appearance. The New York Rangers became the second - and are right on the heels of the Canes for first place. And that is the race at the top. The bottom remains a contest between the already-eliminated Philadelphia Flyers and New Jersey Devils.
This week coming up will be heavy on Tuesday and Saturday. You can take Monday off. The middle of the week contains multiple games within the division. They are highlighted and in bold for all to see.
Let us go over what happened last week and what is coming up for each team in the Metropolitan Division.
What Happened Last Week: The division leaders had three games in four nights against non-playoff teams. The Carolina Hurricanes went out there and, um, lost two of them. What happened, Carolina? On Tuesday, they visited Buffalo. Jesper Fast scored first. But a quick double from Jeff Skinner and Casey Mittelstadt put the Sabres up 2-1. While Nino Neiderreiter tied it up early in the third, another two goals came from Buffalo’s sticks. Victor Olofsson broke the tie with just over 8 minutes left. Dylan Cozens tacked on a power play goal that held up the 4-2 final score - a loss for the Canes. Carolina hosted the Sabres on Thursday night. This one looked like it was going to spiral out of control early. Tage Thompson and Alex Tuch scored first and second, respectively, for the Sabres. Sebastian Aho got the Canes on the board early in the second period - only for Olofsson to make it 3-1 less than a minute later. Teuvo Teravainen put the Canes within one late in the second period. The Canes finally got their acts together in the third period; Jordan Staal tied up the game a little over 5 minutes in. Aho scored to make it 4-3 with over 7 minutes left. Staal sealed the game for a 5-3 win. The win gave the Canes the all-important ‘X’ for clinching a playoff spot. There would be no time to celebrate as they had the Islanders on Friday night. This game was an exercise in frustration for the Hurricanes. Ilya Sorokin - now healthy - stopped almost everything for Carolina. In a second period where Carolina had one (!!!!!) shot on net, Justin-Gabriel Pageau scored to put the Isles up 1-0. The Canes did not exactly roar back in the third period. But Vincent Trocheck seemed to be a hero to at least force overtime with a goal with 57 seconds left in regulation. This did not last. Kyle Palmieri scored with just 15 seconds left to stun the PNC Arena and make Canes fans everywhere palm their face and/or gnash their teeth. The Hurricanes lost 2-1, went 1-2-0 in the week, and now suddenly are holding to first place by a thread. Harsh. Such is life.
What’s Coming Up This Week: Carolina will have four games this week to try and restore their hold on the division lead. They have an early evening game against Anaheim today. Carolina should do what they can to win that game. It is not like the Ducks have a lot to play for anyway. Tuesday night is a massive game. The Canes will visit the Rangers. This game has a potential four-point swing depending on how the results go. The Hurricanes can help themselves a lot by beating NY in regulation that night. A loss there would really hurt and could see the Canes lose first place. Which would not be good. Thursday night has the Canes hosting Detroit. Like the Anaheim game, they really should try to get a result in that one as the Red Wings have little to play for. Saturday night will have the Hurricanes go to Colorado. It should be an interesting matchup to see two of the best teams in the league faceoff. For Carolina’s sake, they should hopefully not go into that one absolutely needing points. But that is up to them now.
SBN Blog: Canes Country
New York Rangers
What Happened Last Week: Carolina was not the only one to add a letter in the standings. The New York Rangers earned the vaunted ‘X’ in the standings in this past week. The Rangers were busy and the start was not ideal. Going down 3-0 to the Philadelphia Flyers in their own building last Sunday is not ideal. Yet, they rallied. Artemi Panarin scored less than a minute after Joel Farabee made it 3-0. Mika Zibanejad and Andrew Copp scored 12 seconds apart later in the third to tie up the game. Alas, they could not find a fourth goal - not even in a shootout so they lost 4-3. Still a point in the standings. On Tuesday, the Rangers faithful filled the Prudential Center as the Blueshirts played the Devils. The fans bizarrely and lustily booed P.K. Subban in a game where the Rangers power play gave them a 2-1 lead after one period thanks to Ryan Strome and Chris Kreider converting man advantages. The game had little action and a Justin Braun strike from distance made it 3-1 in the third - which was enough to secure the points. On Thursday, the Rangers hosted Pittsburgh in a huge game for second place. The Pens were reeling but could close the gap with a win. Igor Shesterkin said no and did not even allow Pittsburgh to get even one goal in the game. Frank Vatrano’s early second period goal was enough to get the win. Panarin and Dryden Hunt (empty-netter) scored just in case the Pens did break through. They did not so the Rangers won a big game within the division 3-0. Last night, they hosted Ottawa. The Sens struck first - Austin Watson early in the first - and it was the only time. Panarin tied up the game later in the first. New York pulled away in the second period with goals from Copp, Kreider, and Strome. Kreider scored a second time late in the third to cap off a 5-1 win over Ottawa. Results from around the league plus that win equaled a clinched playoff spot for the Rangers. The 3-0-1 week combined with Carolina’s and Pittsburgh’s week meant the Rangers not only have a strong hold on second place, but are now tied with Carolina for first place in points. Should the Rangers stay hot, they actually could take the division title.
What’s Coming Up This Week: The New York Rangers will get a huge opportunity to take a step towards first place. On Tuesday night, they will host the Carolina Hurricanes. The Canes have been reeling. The Rangers have been feeling it. This could be a big four-point swing and could put the Rangers in a position to take the division crown. The Rangers cannot go all out on Tuesday, though. They will visit Philadelphia on Wednesday. The Flyers may have nothing to play for, but proper contenders try to avoid getting spoiled by bottom-feeding teams. The Rangers would do well to not get trapped by the Winged P’s. On Saturday, the Rangers will host Detroit. That is another potential pitfall that the Rangers will have to try to avoid if they want first and ensure second place does not become vulnerable.
SBN Blog: Blueshirt Banter
What Happened Last Week: I am so old that I remember when Pittsburgh was pushing for first place. However, that was then, this is now. Now, the Penguins are mired in a losing streak. They had three games in this week, two within the division, and lost all three in regulation. The game against Colorado was a classic it was close until it wasn’t game. Nathan MacKinnon scored first and Bryan Rust responded. In the second period, J.T. Compher and MacKinnon scored to make it 3-1. But Evan Rodrigues made it 3-2 late in the period so not a bad situation. Then Josh Mason and Darren Helm dropped two more goals on the Pens. Jake Guentzel, Artturi Lehkonen, and Mike Matheson all scored within the final two minutes but all that did was make it a 6-4 loss for Pittsburgh instead of a 5-2 loss. Thursday night had Pittsburgh go to Manhattan. The game had big implications for who would hold onto second place in the division. New York made the claim for themselves. The Penguins were shut out by Igor Shesterkin. Frank Vatrano, Artemi Panarin, and Dryd(EN) Hunt all scored to make it a decisive 3-0 loss for Pittsburgh in a game that really needed if they wanted second place. The losing continued on Saturday afternoon at home against Washington. The Penguins did lead after the first period after Bryan Rust scored in 45 seconds and goals by Jeff Carter and Brian Boyle matched responses by Marcus Johansson and Dmitry Orlov. But the visitors completed the comeback. An Alex Ovechkin goal in the second period. A game-breaking goal by Tom Wilson in the third. Two ENGs to make it a 6-3 loss. Three straight losses and the Penguins go from challenging for second to now being just four points up on Washington - who have two games in hand on the Penguins. The Penguins have done quite well so far given their early injury problems. This current losing streak is punishing them.
What’s Coming Up This Week: The Penguins will have plenty of opportunities to end the losing and get some points back in the standings. At least in theory. The opponents will provide a challenge. Today, at 4 PM ET, the Penguins will host a playoff-bound Nashville team. That will not be easy. The Penguins will then visit Long Island on Tuesday and host the Isles on Thursday. The non-consecutive home-and-home will be tricky as the Isles have been good about keeping pucks out of their net and making games close enough to take. Just ask Carolina. On Saturday afternoon, the Penguins will have a big game at Boston. The B’s have been excellent as of late. Should the Penguins get a result there, that would impact the playoff picture. Possibly their own as well. But the losing needs to A.S.A.P. That is the main goal. Good luck, Pens.
SBN Blog: PensBurgh
What Happened Last Week: Washington had entered the week well behind Pittsburgh for third in the division and Boston for the wild card spot. All signs point to the Capitals taking the second wild card spot. Of course, winning some more games down the stretch may change that perception. This did not happen last Sunday. They hosted Minnesota and got waxed by the Wild. Joel Eriksson Ek put up a brace, Tyson Jost scored, and Marcus Foligno made it 4-0 just 30 seconds into the third period. Garnet Hathaway scored a consolation goal - which was responded to by a late empty-net goal from Nicolas Deslauriers. The Caps lost 5-1. On Wednesday night, the Capitals hosted Tampa Bay - who has hit some recent struggles. The first period was a goal-fest. Martin Fehervary struck first, John Carlson scored a PPG, Nikita Kucherov got the Bolts on the board a minute after that, Alex Ovechkin made it 3-1 with under 5 minutes left in the first, and Nick Paul made it 3-2 with under 4 minutes left in the first. Carlson converted a second power play in the second period to put the Caps up 4-2. This held until Ross Colton scored a PPG of his own with less than three minutes in regulation. But the Capitals held on to win 4-3 - something Boston appreciated as they sent Tampa Bay to the wild card. On Saturday afternoon, the Capitals visited Pittsburgh. Like Wednesday’s game, a lot of goals came in the first period. Bryan Rust and Marcus Johansson each scored within the first minute of the game. Dmitry Orlov put the Caps up 2-1, only for Jeff Carter and Brian Boyle to score a minute apart late in the first to put Washington down 3-2 after on period. Ovechkin converted a PPG in the second period to it up. The score held with Tristan Jarry stopping a whole lot of rubber from the visitors. Until the 11:35 mark when Tom Wilson broke the deadlock in the third period. Down 4-3 and with a late power play thanks to Fehervary, Pittsburgh went for six skaters. Evgeny Kuznetsov scored a shorthanded ENG to seal the game. Fehervary scored another ENG after his penalty ended to boost it to a 6-3 win for Washington. Two wins and closing the gap with Pittsburgh (who has two more games played than Washington) to four points is a fine week.
What’s Coming Up This Week: Washington will be busy with four games coming up. Today they will host Boston. Boston is not just a really good team, but they are charging up the Atlantic Division standings. They surpassed Tampa Bay and are just three points behind Toronto for second place. Washington should expect a hungry opponent. On Tuesday, the Capitals will host Philadelphia. They have to not get spoiled by the lowly Flyers. That’s the job. After that game, the Capitals will hit the road for five games. Two of those games will happen this week and both are in Canada. Thursday night will be the tougher of two games as they will visit Toronto. Toronto is also a really good team and is battling for playoff position (namely not to lose home ice) themselves. On Saturday night, they will visit Montreal. Montreal may be down in the depths of the standings, but they have been more competitive recently. As with the Flyers game, the job is not to drop points to the lowly team in Quebec. While they seem set on staying where they are, a third place finish in the division is still possible. Especially if Pittsburgh does not get their act together.
SBN Blog: Japers’ Rink
What Happened Last Week: The Islanders were away from home all week and did quite a bit of travelling. On Sunday, they went to Newark. Ilya Sorokin was still not quite ready to play, Seymon Varlamov needed a break, so Cory Schneider got the start. And did mostly well. Justin-Gabriel Pageau got around and open enough to drop a natural hat trick on the Devils. A comeback was mounted by the Devils when Jesper Boqvist (second period) and Tomas Tatar (third period) scored to make it 3-2. But with just under five minutes to go, Kyle Palmieri rifled a wrister to make it 4-2. The insurance goal was important as Nico Hischier roofed a puck within the final minutes to make it 4-3. The score stood and the Isles won 4-3. On Tuesday, the Islanders went all the way to Texas to play a Dallas team fighting for its playoff life. Martian Studenic struck first for the Stars. Pageau provided a response, but Tyler Seguin scored to make it 2-1 in the final minute of the first period. Brock Nelson answered that 31 seconds into the second period. The Stars broke through with a Radek Faksa shorthanded goal around the midway point in the second period. Varlamov faced a lot of rubber, but his teammates could not beat Jake Oettinger a third time. The Isles lost due to that shorty, 3-2. Next on the trip was a game in Carolina on Friday. Ilya Sorokin was back in net - not that he faced a ton of work with just 21 shots apiece from both sides. The game was a frustration for the home team, which grew as Pageau scored in the second period and the Canes put up exactly one shot on net. It seemed like Carolina would get something out of the game when Vincent Trocheck scored with 57 seconds left in regulation. There was still time left on the clock. Kyle Palmieri worked over Brady Skjei, curled around the net, and fired a shot that beat Frederik Andersen with 15 seconds left on the clock. The Isles stunned the Canes, 2-1, in their building. Not that the Isles could appreciate it for long as they had to go West again to play the Blues on Saturday. The other three games were games. This one was a beating administered by St. Louis. Nick Leddy, Vladimir Tarasenko, a brace from Justin Faulk, and Ivan Barbashev all scored before the Isles even got one on the board thanks to Grant Hutton. And that was answered less than a minute later by Robert Thomas. The Isles were crushed 6-1 to end the trip. New York went 2-2-0 and it was enough to stay ahead of Columbus for fifth place. However, their lead over the Jackets is now just one point. It may not mean much but for the sake of pride, they both have some kind of thing to play for.
What’s Coming Up This Week: The Islanders will get to play three games in four nights, with a non-consecutive home-and-home with Pittsburgh. The Penguins have been reeling as of late. The Islanders can help make things worse for the Penguins and further solidify their fifth-place position. After the Thursday night game in Pittsburgh, they will travel up to play Montreal on Friday night. Montreal will have a fatigue advantage. But the Isles have shown they can rise above that and take some points. Should they get more results, they should remain in fifth place for next week’s snapshot.
SBN Blog: Lighthouse Hockey
What Happened Last Week: Columbus needed some wins. Results. The Columbus Blue Jackets were at risk of fading with their then-losing streak. Would they get a win at home against Boston on Monday? No. They came close. Emil Bemstrom scored first and Jake DeBrusk scored late for Boston to end the first period 1-1. Craig Smith scored in the second period and Zach Werenski scored late in the second period to make it 2-2. The third period had no goals, which meant a point for each team. The fourth period was won by Boston when DeBrusk scored his second of the night 1:03 into it. The Jackets lost 3-2. The winless streak became seven games. Would they get a win on the road in Philly on Tuesday? Yes. It was a challenge as Elvis Merzlikins faced 49 shots and the Blue Jackets saw an early 2-0 lead by Brendan Gaunce and Carson Meyer go up in smoke to Noah Cates and James van Reimsdyk by the third period. There, Justin Danforth emerged. He broke the tie with less than 7 minutes to play. Merzlikins stopped what he could. Sighs of relief were breathed in Ohio when Sean Kuraly scored an empty netter to secure the 4-2 win. The losing streak was over! Would the Blue Jackets beat Philly again on Thursday? No. Columbus were the hosts to a Flyers team that got some revenge. Eric Robinson scored a shorty to put the Jackets up 1-0 in the first period. In the second period, the Flyers rose up with Kevin Connauton’s first goal in over three years (!!), a score by Owen Tippett, and Noah Cates’ second goal of the week, season, and career. Travis Konecny tacked on a goal late in the third period to make it a 4-1 loss for the Jackets. Saturday night had the Jackets visit Detroit. This turned out to be a dramatic back-and-forth affair. Jack Roslovic scored in the first period. That held up until Jakub Vrana scored at 13:41 into the second period to tie it up. Sam Gagner gave the Red Wings a lead at 17:21. That lasted for 40 seconds; Cole Sillinger tied up the game to make it 2-2 going into the third period. Roslovic scored his second of the night early in the third period. At 12:34, Danforth made it 4-2 for Columbus - a seemingly good situation for the Jackets. They botched it. Dylan Larkin scored at 15:35 and Vrana scored again just under a minute after that to make it 4-4. Would the Blue Jackets blow it completely in the D? No. Roslovic completed a hat trick at 3:19 of overtime for Columbus to take the 5-4 win and make it a winning week at 2-1-1. While it was not perfect, the Blue Jackets ended their losing streak and continued to keep pace with the Isles in the standings. They are a point behind with two more games played than the Isles. Not a favorable situation for the Blue Jackets to take fifth in the division, but it is at least more possible than it seemed after last week.
What’s Coming Up This Week: The Blue Jackets have the lightest week among the eight teams. They will host Montreal on Wednesday. That should be a night for points for Columbus. Surely, they can beat Montreal. After that game, the Blue Jackets will go on a three-game trip through California. Their first stop will be in Los Angeles on Saturday night. The Kings have a playoff spot to play for. The Jackets do not. That may inform how the game should go, but the Blue Jackets have been fairly competitive all season long. Columbus could make things messier for them. It may not be much, but it is something. They would need a lot of help to jump the Isles this week; but they could at least keep pace to challenge for fifth place.
SBN Blog: The Cannon
What Happened Last Week: Philadelphia had itself a week of ups and downs. Last Sunday, they went to MSG to play the Rangers. They gave them a game on the back of getting beaten 6-3 by Toronto on the previous Saturday. The Flyers went up 3-0 early in the third period with goals by Cam York, Owen Tippett, and Joel Farabee. That’s great. Then the Rangers responded. Artemi Panarin scored less than a minute after Farabee’s goal. Later in the third period, Mika Zibanejad and Andrew Copp scored 12 seconds apart to tie up the game. Overtime was needed but it was not enough. But the Flyers left with the extra point when Kevin Hayes scored the lone shootout goal for a 4-3 win. That was an up. On Tuesday, they hosted Columbus. A Columbus team that was slipping. But the visitors scored first and second. The Flyers would tie it up by the third period with Noah Cates scoring late in the first period and James van Reimsdyk scoring in the second period. The score held until about 7 minutes left when Justin Danforth broke the tie. Sean Kuraly sealed the 4-2 win for Columbus, a.k.a. a Flyers loss. That was down. Revenge would be on the cards in Ohio on Thursday night. It did not seem that way at first when Eric Robinson scored a shorthanded goal in the first period. Then hope came with Kevin Connauton’s first goal in over three years (!) to tie up the game in the second period. Tippett struck to break the tie and Cates scored to make it 3-1 going into the third period. Travis Konecny scored an insurance goal in the third period for a 4-1 final score. That was an up. Philly returned home to host Anaheim last night. The game started off well when Travis Sanheim and Ronnie Attard scored within the first three minutes of the game. But the Ducks’ comeback was on in the second period with goals from Sonny Milano, Zach Aston-Reese, and Trevor Zegras. Ivan Provorov put the Flyers on equal terms early in the third period; but Zegras struck again past the halfway mark in the third period to make it 4-3. Derek Grant added to the lead minutes later and the Flyers lost to a struggling Ducks team, 5-3. That was a down. The results keep the Flyers ahead of the Devils for the week - which may be all they can aim for at this point of the season.
What’s Coming Up This Week: The Flyers will have a back-to-back against rival teams in the division and a chance to spoil their stretch runs to the playoffs. The Flyers will visit Washington on Tuesday and host the Rangers on Wednesday. The second game has the additional challenge of both teams playing after having games on Tuesday night. Again, it is all about spoiling for them. Philly’s week will end with a possible chance for points with a game in Buffalo.
SBN Blog: Broad Street Hockey
New Jersey Devils
What Happened Last Week: The New Jersey Devils had three home games to play before embarking for the first of a five-game road trip. Last Sunday, they faced the New York Islanders. Due to an injury to Ilya Sorokin and wanting to give Seymon Varlamov a break, former Devil Cory Schneider took to the net. He held off the Devils as Justin-Gabriel Pageau dropped a hat trick on the Devils. New Jersey did make an attempt at a comeback. Jesper Boqvist got the Devils on the board late in the second and Tomas Tatar scored early in the third. But a Kyle Palmieri goal pulled the Isles ahead. A Jesper Bratt jam with the net empty made it close, but it would ultimately hold as a 4-3 loss. On Tuesday, against the New York Rangers, many in blue filled the Prudential Center to boo P.K. Subban. Yegor Sharangovich blocked an exit pass by Jacob Trouba and took it in for the game’s first goal. He then left the game after fighting Braden Schneider a little later. His instigation penalty ended with a PPG for Ryan Strome. Late in the first, Pavel Zacha took a holding penalty. Chris Kreider rewarded that with a PPG. The game slowed to a crawl. Justin Braun made it 3-1 in the third and that was it in a poor effort in a rivalry game. On Thursday night, the Devils hosted the then-32nd place Montreal Canadiens. Andrew Hammond got the start and showed why he should not have as the Canadiens drop-kicked the Devils 3-1 in the first period. While A.J. Greer scored to make it 3-2 in the second, Joel Armia made it 4-2. The rout really came on in the third when Chris Wideman and Christian Dvorak scored on back-to-back shifts early in the third. Hammond was pulled, Ty Smith scored a quick consolation goal, Bratt made it 6-4 with about 9 minutes left, and Kale Clague made it 7-4. The Devils were booed off the ice, dropping all four games in their homestand. With 9 straight road losses, confidence seemed low going into Dallas. But Nico Daws held it down as the Stars attacked. Ryan Suter struck first on a power play, one of many (six). In the third period, the Devils turned the game around. Nico Hischier dropped a pass for Ty Smith, who took the puck to the high slot and wired a shot past Jake Oettinger to tie it up. The score held at 1-1. Then Hischier took Tyler Seguin to school around the zone, pivoted, got inside position, went goal-line to the net, and put home a puck past Oettinger’s poke check with 1:11 left in regulation. 2-1. Ten seconds later, Pavel Zacha finished a feed from Boqvist to make it 3-1. The Devils finally won their first road game since February 24, 2022. They finally broke their losing streaks. And they hurt Dallas’ post-season cause. New Jersey still lost the week and finished behind Philly for last place. The win at this point still feels good.
What’s Coming Up This Week: Get your coffee. Take a nap to stay up later. Set a DVR. Or just check on the game the next day. The Devils are on the road for three late night (local time) games this week. The Devils will visit Arizona on Tuesday, Colorado on Thursday, and Seattle on Saturday. The Devils have lost to Arizona in Newark, came back to win against Colorado in Newark, and beat Seattle in Newark way back in October. Does that matter this week? Probably not. Should the Devils want to avoid a bottom-three finish in the league standings, getting results over Arizona and Seattle are important. The Colorado game, well. Incidentally, Colorado has one of the best home records in the NHL this season. Whatever happens happens at this point.
SBN Blog: All About the Jersey - Hey, they won a game.
That was the twenty-fifth Weekly Metropolitan Division Snapshot of the 2021-22 season, covering the twenty-sixth week of the season. There are only two more snapshots after this one. What do you expect to happen in this week coming up? Will Carolina hold onto first place for another week? Can Pittsburgh and Washington make it somewhat interesting late? Can the Devils climb ahead of Philadelphia somehow? 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.