This is the final full week of January and also the final full week for the division. The following week is either a full week “bye” or one begins in the middle of next week. It is around the NHL All Star Weekend and it could be an important time for all eight teams to rest, recharge, and recollect their seasons so far. While the push for the playoffs is typically known after the NHL Trade Deadline - which is on March 3 this year - it has been an ongoing effort for most of the Metropolitan Division. The separation noted from last week remains. The race for first place is between the leading Carolina Hurricanes and a New Jersey Devils team chasing them. Then there is a group where six points separate the New York Rangers, Washington Capitals, Pittsburgh Penguins, and New York Islanders; four teams fighting for three playoff spots. The Philadelphia Flyers are amazingly closer to that group than before and well ahead of the Columbus Blue Jackets, who are in a prime position for the Connor Bedard Sweepstakes. Here is how the division looks this morning.
The action this week is filled with games starting this afternoon with a crucial divisional game between the Devils and Penguins. There are no days off this week. There are only two games within the division, 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.
What Happened Last Week: Carolina opened the week with a Sunday home game against a Vancouver team that is just a mess right now. Somehow, the Canucks had their working skates on in Raleigh. Carolina went up early in this one with goals by Paul Stastny and Jordan Martinook. Then the Canucks clawed back. Ethan Bear put them on the board late in the second. J.T. Miller scored to tie it up in the third period. Sebastian Aho made it 3-2 within the final few minutes. Only for Brock Boeser to make it 3-3 with 17 seconds left in regulation. The game was forced into a shootout. Andrei Svechnikov scored, but so did Andrei Kuzmenko and Elias Pettersson. With a 2-1 loss in the shootout, the Carolina Hurricanes lost 4-3 to Vancouver. Really. Carolina confirmed it was just a blip on Thursday night when they hosted Minnesota. After a scoreless first period, Kirill Kaprizov put in a power play goal to put the Wild up in the second period. This was followed by three Carolina goals: Brent Burns, Brady Skjei on a power play, and Teuvo Teravainen on a Minnesota power play. The Hurricanes did not stop early in the third period as Jalen Chatfield and Martin Necas converted another Carolina power play. Matt Boldy scored a consolation goal as the Canes won handedly, 5-2. On Saturday night, the Hurricanes visited Long Island. The first period was tend. Jordan Staal and Jesper Fast put Carolina up 2-0 before the four-minute mark of the game. Then Simon Holmstrom and Brock Nelson scored to tie it up. From then on, Carolina provided the goals. Aho scored in the second and third periods to put the Hurricanes up 4-2. Aho would make it a hat trick with an empty net goal for the 5-2 win. Wins like that one and the one over the Wild sooth any sourness from dropping a point to Vancouver. Going 2-0-1 to be up in first place by four points helps with that too.
What’s Coming Up This Week: Carolina will get a light week of games as they are the only team to have a “heavy” set before their bye in the following week. Carolina is off to Dallas on Wednesday night. Carolina did beat them in December, but it was a 5-4 overtime win. The Hurricanes may need to be prepared for another high-scoring affair. They will at least be well rested for it. On Friday, the Hurricanes return to Raleigh to host a truly bad San Jose squad. They should aim for two points - especially with the three games to follow in the following week. Carolina may be at mathematical risk of losing first with the light week. But if they get results in both games, they will likely be fine to stay in first and definitely be fine in catching up if need be. Carolina is in a great spot right now. They need to stay the course.
New Jersey Devils
What Happened Last Week: The Devils finished up a five-game road trip with just two games in this past week. A Monday afternoon game against a terrible San Jose team and a Thursday night game against a torrid Seattle squad. The good news is that the Devils ended up with points out of both games. The bad news is that both games were similar despite the quality of the opponent. The Devils got on the board real fast thanks to Ryan Graves in San Jose. Then the Sharks took the game over, a delay ensued due to a broken door, and when the first period resumed, Timo Meier and Erik Karlsson (power play goal) scored to make it a 2-1 deficit for the Devils. After a scoreless second period and several close calls with Vitek Vanecek making stops, the Devils tied it up early in the third period thanks to Nico Hischier finishing a pass from Ondrej Palat. This did not last as Nick Bonino scored on a turnaround shot to put the Sharks up 3-2. The Devils pushed but could not break through - until they pulled the goalie for the sixth skater. With 10 seconds left, Jack Hughes fired a shot from the right circle. The puck hit off Karlsson and went in. Overtime ensued and would not solve anything. In the shootout, Tomas Tatar scored and Vanecek stopped two Sharks’ shots with Bonino failing on his first shot. The Devils won 4-3 with their first shootout win of the season over San Jose. The ugliness returned in Seattle. This time it was Mackenzie Blackwood in net providing the bailout saves. Ryan Donato beat Blackwood high and shortside to open the scoring (not a great goal to allow but whatever) and Donato did it again in the second period from a better location. Damon Severson finished a drop pass from Jesper Bratt to get the Devils on the board. Still, the Kraken were beating the Devils as how the Devils beat many times this season. In the third period, the Devils got a huge equalizer from Erik Haula scoring on a shorthanded breakaway. This did not last as Donato set up Brandon Tanev for a backdoor shot to make it 3-2 for Seattle. Once again, the Devils tried to push and would need to get one late once more. With Blackwood pulled, the Devils were dominant and the 6-on-5 attack ended with another Hughes shot from the right circle. Only Hischier was at the crease to slam in the rebound. The Devils forced overtime. Alas, Andre Burakovsky ended it with a puck slid right through Blackwood’s five-hole. The Devils lost 4-3 in OT. The road trip ended at 4-0-1 and the week was also a success at 1-0-1. New Jersey trails Carolina but they currently have a five-point cushion over the Rangers with a game in hand on them. A game in hand that will be used up today but still.
What’s Coming Up This Week: The Devils will end this month with a tough four games in six days. The Devils could make life harder for Pittsburgh as they host the Penguins today for an afternoon affair. The Devils would be wise to get their home performances in order real soon as more home games are on the horizon. Also, the other games will not be any easier. The Devils will host Las Vegas on Tuesday night. Las Vegas is battling Seattle for first in the Pacific and they have been an exceptionally successful road team this season like the Devils and Kraken. It will be a tough game. On Thursday and Friday, the Devils are on the road and playing back-to-back. They are in Nashville on Thursday night, a team whom beat them back in December and really need points now. On Friday, the Devils will visit Dallas. Those two had a low scoring affair in December that the Stars won. With the Stars solid at home and looking to stay ahead of Winnipeg for the Central Division lead, do not expect any relenting from the home team. If the Devils can come out of this week with a positive set of results, then they should remain safe in second place at worse. If not, February could become a stressful month.
New York Rangers
What Happened Last Week: The New York Rangers had two games that, on paper, they should win against and then the Boston Bruins. The Rangers did not win those two games. Last Sunday, the Rangers hosted Montreal. Sam Montembeault played a fantastic game and frustrated the Blueshirts repeatedly. After a scoreless first period, Kirby Dach converted a power play to put the Canadiens up one. Artemi Panarin would tie it up late in the second period. But the 1-1 game would be broken by Cole Caufield before the midway mark of the third period. Montembeault held strong and the Rangers lost 2-1 to a Montreal team with little to play for this season. Ouch. On Monday, the Rangers visited Columbus. They got their groove back. Mika Zibanejad scored in the first period. Barclay Goodrow converted a power play near the end of that period. Vitali Kravstov made it 3-0 in the second period. Jaroslav Halak did not face a ton of shots and only Andrew Peeke beat him early in the third period. The Rangers won 3-1 over a hapless Blue Jackets squad. Then Boston came to Manhattan. Jeremy Swayman took to the net and denied nearly everything by New York. Only Ben Harpur beat him for his first of the season late in the third period. By that point, Pavel Zacha scored (early in the first), Patrice Bergeron scored (just before the 5 minute mark in the second), and Connor Clifton scored (28 seconds into the third). The Rangers were put to the sword in a 3-1 loss. Going 1-2-0 is not ideal when two of those three games were against non-playoff teams. Scoring five goals in three games is also not positive. But they remain solidly in the playoff side of things in the Metropolitan Division for now. New York fans are hoping this is a blip and not a start of something like a slump.
What’s Coming Up This Week: The New York Rangers will be tested in their three games this week. The first game is against a current non-playoff team but perhaps the Atlantic Division’s best shot at taking a wild card spot. (Feel free to disagree if you think Buffalo is legit.) The Rangers are hosting Florida on Monday night. Not an easy game by any means. On Wednesday, the Rangers are heading up to play a Toronto team that looks to contend and has been very strong at home this season (17-3-4). The Rangers return to MSG on Friday night to host Las Vegas. Las Vegas is competing for a division crown once again and they are one of the most successful road teams in hockey. These are not going to be simple games. Worse, struggling in this week could not only open the door for Washington - but also the Isles and Penguins.
What Happened Last Week: Washington had four games in six nights to play. They were and still are in a position to help themselves with results. They would start off the week fine in that respect. They visited the Isles and the Caps suffered early. A three-goal deficit to the likes of defenseman Sebastian Aho, Matt Martin, and Hudson Fasching. The experienced Capitals knew to eat an elephant one bite at a time and so they battled back into this game. Garnet Hathaway and Tom Wilson each scored shortly after Fasching’s goal to make it a one goal game going into the third period. T.J. Oshie provided that goal and the game was pulled into overtime. Dmitry Orlov finished it late in OT to give Washington a big two points over an Isles team chasing them in the standings with a 4-3 win. On Tuesday night, the Caps did have a bit of a let down against Minnesota. Martin Fehervary did score for the Caps late in the first period, but the Wild took the game over in the second period. Jared Spurgeon tied it up at 1-1 early in the second period. While Dylan Strome put the Caps up 2-1 in the middle frame, the Wild would get goals from Jonas Brodin and Spurgeon to make it a 3-2 deficit going into the third period. Joel Eriksson Ek sealed a 4-2 loss for Washington with an empty netter. The Capitals then went off on a three-game road trip with two of those games in this week. Thursday night took them to Tempe. Washington crushed Arizona. Strome scored early, Sonny Milano and Wilson scored late in the second period, Strome scored again in the third, and Darcy Kuemper shut out the Coyotes. 4-0, two more points, and onto the next one. A far tougher place to play: Las Vegas. The G-Knights are good this season and they struck first on Saturday night with an early goal by Alec Martinez. Nicolas Roy doubled the lead for Las Vegas. Then in the second period, Michael Amadio, Byron Froese, and Paul Cotter all scored to put the G-Knights up five. Oshie scored before the end of the second period but all that did was deny a shutout. In the third period, Cotter scored again, Marcus Johnasson tacked on another consolation goal, and the Capitals left Nevada with a big 6-2 loss. The result split the week for the Capitals, missing an opportunity to jump past the Rangers. As well as put some distance between them and Pittsburgh and the Islanders. With everyone else having so many games in hand on Washington, missing such opportunities could come back to bite them as the season goes on.
What’s Coming Up This Week: The Capitals have a pair of difficult games coming up. On Tuesday night, the Capitals will be in Denver to play Colorado. The Avs are getting healthier and they are in a position where they should be hungry for points. They have been in good form as of late; it could be a tough time for Washington. Thursday night has the Capitals host the Penguins. You could call this a rivalry since Ovechkin and Crosby entered the league. You should call this a meaningful game as a big swing in points could put the Pens in contention for Washington’s spot in the playoffs as well as the Rangers’. Or the Caps could make the Pens suffer along with the Isles and the Atlantic Division teams - while pushing themselves closer or even past the Rangers. The Capitals have played more games than everyone else in the division so this week will see some of those games in hand those other teams get used up. I would suggest the Caps faithful to watch scoreboards accordingly.
What Happened Last Week: The Penguins had a week of games where they really should get results. They did that even if it was not in the prettiest way possible. On Monday, the Penguins hosted a bad Anaheim team. The Ducks had little quit in them on that day. Jason Zucker scored to open the game, which was answered late in the first period by a PPG from Adam Henrique. While Evgeni Malkin put the Pens up 2-1 in the second period, John Klingberg converted a PPG to make it 2-2. With less than five minutes to go, Trevor Zegras put Anaheim up 3-2 in Pittsburgh. It took Bryan Rust scoring with 25 seconds left to tie it up and Jake Guentzel finishing it in OT 33 seconds into that for the Pens to take a 4-3 win. A win is a win from the snapshot’s perspective. On Wednesday, the Pens visited Ottawa. Pay attention Isles fans. Ottawa followed Anaheim’s lead in a sense in making it a tough game for the Penguins. While Zucker scored first, Ottawa hit back with a two PPGs after a Jeff Carter double minor: Alex DeBrincat and Tim Stutzle. Malkin would tie it up late in the first with a PPG of his own. Mark Friedman scored his first of the second early in the second, but Ottawa answered back later in the second period with a Drake Batherson PPG. Then past the midway point of the third, Shane Pinto made it 4-3 Ottawa with a PPG of their own. The state of your penalty kill, Pittsburgh. And I suppose Ottawa’s too as Rickard Rakell scored a PPG to make it 4-4 later in that period. Unlike Monday, Ottawa won it quickly in overtime thanks to Brady Tkachuk. The Penguins get a point in a 5-4 loss to a non-playoff Ottawa squad. That is not so good. But Pittsburgh would get their revenge on Friday night. They hosted Ottawa and this was not a close game. Rakell on a power play and Zucker scored in the first period. Guentzel made it 3-0 in the second period, only for Tkachuk to score a little later before the end of the second. Guentzel scored a second goal in the third for a solid 4-1 win wherein a returning Tristan Jarry faced 45 shots. 45 shots to Ottawa? The state of your defense as a whole, Pittsburgh. Still, the Pens went 2-0-1 in this past week. That was enough to take a wild card spot from the Isles and get a little closer to Washington and New York.
What’s Coming Up This Week: Pittsburgh will have opportunities to get closer but they are going to have to be better than needing extra time to get results over the likes of Anaheim and Ottawa. Today, they are visiting a Devils team who has beaten the Penguins once before. The Devils have their own reasons to chase first place so the Pens should not expect an easy afternoon. On Tuesday, they will host a Florida team that has a lot to play for soon and decreasing time to do so. Fortunately for Pittsburgh, Florida will be coming off a Monday game in Manhattan. That could help the Pens in that one. Thursday night will be huge as they will visit Washington. The Penguins are chasing them in the standings and a win in D.C. would be huge for both bragging rights and their own playoff cause. It is the biggest game on paper that they will have this week. Pittsburgh’s week will end with a home game against San Jose. They just have to avoid being spoiled. They have the quality, although they had the quality over Anaheim and still needed OT to beat them. At the end of a busy week, we shall see how much the Pens have left in the tank for that one.
New York Islanders
What Happened Last Week: The Islander fans are in a state of frustration. After this past week, it is hard to fault them for it. It was a tough schedule on paper but they needed points to remain on the right side of the wild card race in the East. They got two out of eight. On Monday, they hosted Washington in what could have been a big swing for them. The Isles went up 3-0 on the Caps with first period goals by defenseman Sebastian Aho and Matt Martin and a second period goal by Hudson Fasching. Then the Capitals proceeded to make a big comeback. Garnet Hathway scored at the midpoint of the game and Tom Wilson scored shortly thereafter to make it a one-goal game. That one goal was provided by T.J. Oshie in the third period. In overtime, Dmitry Orlov scored with 33 seconds left to make it a 4-3 OT loss for the Isles. Blowing a three-goal lead in a big divisional game? Yeah, no one was happy about that - even with a point earned. On Wednesday, the Isles hosted Boston. As you may expect in this season, the B’s crushed the Isles. Zach Parise did put the Isles up early. Then came the Bruins. Charlie McAvoy and Derek Forbort flipped the game to a 2-1 Boston lead going into the third period. A Brad Marchand PPG and Trent Frederic goal in the third period secured a 4-1 decisive loss. On Thursday, the Isles headed up to Buffalo to play a high-scoring Sabres team. The good news is that the Isles limited their scoring. The bad news was that they did not score many and saw two leads erased. Brock Nelson scored in the first period, which was erased by Alex Tuch in the second period. Matt Martin put the Isles up 2-1 late in the second period. That was erased by Victor Olofsson in the third period. Just 12 seconds into overtime, Dylan Cozens beat Ilya Sorokin. A 3-2 loss. Again, even with a point earned, the performance and the Isles slipping behind Pittsburgh left a lot to be desired. This meant the Isles went into Saturday’s game against Carolina with a need for points. Needing points against the top team in the Metropolitan Division is a tall order. Especially as the Canes went up 2-0 within the first four minutes thanks to Jordan Staal and Jesper Fast. It seemed possible as Simon Holmstrom and Nelson scored to make it a 2-2 game by the first intermission. The Canes, namely the forward Sebastian Aho, would deny the Isles any points. Aho scored in both the second and third periods to put Carolina up 4-2. Aho secured his hat trick with an ENG for a 5-2 loss for the Isles. The Isles went 0-2-2 and fell to sixth place. They are at risk of falling further as they have lost 8 of their last 9. Remember what I wrote about the Penguins in last week’s snapshot? It gets late awfully early, Islanders.
What’s Coming Up This Week: The Islanders will follow up last week’s brutal schedule with a little less brutal one in this week. By no means it is going to be a cakewalk. The week begins with a game in Toronto. The Leafs are contenders and they are very good at home. A trip to Ottawa on Wednesday night is an easier match-up on paper. However, the Sens are getting a bit healthier and proving to be capable to be a difficult opponent. The same could be said for Detroit, although the Isles will host them on Friday. For the Islanders to truly compete for a playoff spot in the East, those two are games the Isles really have to take. Not to mention they will be hosting a really good Las Vegas team on Saturday. A game that could be a real slog as both teams are playing the night before, but definitely not an ideal matchup if the Isles are once again in a position of needing points by the end of the week. The Isles really need to get some wins if they want to stay in the picture. Another bad week and they could be closer to seventh place than fifth place in this division, nevermind just outside of a wild card spot in the standings.
What Happened Last Week: The Flyers chose infamy in this past week of games. They have earned the vitriol they have been receiving. But this is the Division Snapshot where the results matter more than what the team stands for. This past week saw a big cooling off of the Flyers. It started with Boston dropping a blowout on the Flyers. Each period had two goals scored. David Pastrnak had a brace, Pavel Zacha had a brace, and additional goals came from Brad Marchand and Matt Grzelcyk. The Flyers had none; they lost 6-0. On the next night, the Flyers took out whatever frustration they had on Anaheim. The game was close for a little bit; Kevin Hayes scored a PPG in the first period and Adam Henrique tied it up in the second. However, the Flyers pulled away when Rasmus Ristolainen scored a shorthanded goal (really) and Morgan Frost scored with 39 seconds left in the second period. Hayes made it 4-1 early in the third. Frank Vatrano scored a consolation PPG and Hayes finished his hat trick for the 5-2 win that virtually no one talked about after it happened. As the controversy raged, the Flyers hosted Chicago and proceeded to get soundly beaten by a team that has not won in the regular season in Philly since 1996. Frost did score int he first period. Then Chicago ran away with goals by Jonathan Toews, Reese Johnson, Tyler Johnson, and Philipp Kurashev as the Flyers lost 4-1. Philly sought to end the week strong in Detroit. It was very much a goalie duel between Carter Hart and Ville Husso for much of the game. No one scored for 49 minutes. Then at 9:01 into the third period, Scott Laughton put the Flyers up in the game. Noah Cates doubled the lead. A late, last minute goal from Lucas Raymond made it 2-1 with 43 seconds left but the Flyers held on. They won 2-1 to end their week at 2-2-0. The Flyers are now at 47 points and right behind teams like Detroit in the standings. They are behind four teams for that second wild card spot, so do not think that the Flyers are suddenly going to crash the playoff picture. But Philly is showing a lot more respectability in their game than it seemed back at the beginning of the season. As an organization, well, you know.
What’s Coming Up This Week: Philadelphia will be busy once more with four games coming up. Tonight, they are hosting a really good Winnipeg team that few talk about because they are Winnipeg. On Tuesday, the Flyers will host a Los Angeles team that is also in a playoff position and seeking to improve their fortunes in a tough Pacific Division. On Thursday, the Flyers will head to Minnesota to play a Wild team looking to maintain their playoff spot in the Central Division. With Colorado and possibly St. Louis and Nashville chasing them, the Wild will have reason to not give away points. Philadelphia’s week ends in Manitoba when the visit Winnipeg on Saturday. Yes, the Flyers will take care of their games with the Jets in this week. While the Flyers have risen up from the basement, this week will test whether they can convince themselves they are closer than they think they are - even though they are not what with being behind four teams in the standings for that second wild card spot.
Columbus Blue Jackets
What Happened Last Week: Columbus entered this week with a win. This did not help them much in what happened in this past week. On Monday night, they faced the frustration of a Rangers team that lost to Montreal the night before. Mika Zibaenjad and Barclay Goodrow (power play) scored in the first period; Vitali Kravtsov scored in the second; and all the Blue Jackets could muster up was one Andrew Peeke goal to avoid being shutout. They lost 3-1. On Tuesday, the Blue Jackets visited Nashville. The game was close and Columbus actually attacked Kevin Lankinen. Yet, it was not enough. After a scoreless first period, Cody Glass and Yakov Trenin put the Preds up 2-0 in the second period. Gustav Nyquist broke the shutout Lankinen was working on but that would be it. The Blue Jackets lost 2-1. Columbus returned to Ohio on Thursday night to host Anaheim. In this battle of the bad teams, Columbus would be able to score more than one goal. In fact, they went up 3-0 in the first period with goals by Mathieu Olivier, Jack Roslovic, and Nick Blankenburg. It was 3-0. Then the Ducks got to work. Adam Henrique scored 22 seconds into the second period; Cam Fowler scored at 13:07; and with just under five minutes left in the period, Simon Benoit tied up the game. The 3-0 lead did not even make it to the third period. And it got worse for C-bus. Trevor Zegras put the Ducks ahead in the third period and Max Jones provided an insurance goal. The Blue Jackets blew a three goal lead to lose 5-3 to the Anaheim Ducks. Awful. On Saturday, the Blue Jackets hosted San Jose. After blowing a lead to Anaheim, confidence had to be at a low. It did not help that Timo Meier opened the scoring in the first period and Nick Bonino made it 2-0 in the second period. But the Blue Jackets rallied. Johnny Gaudreau scored a PPG and Boone Jenner scored shortly thereafter to tie up the game. Nico Sturm put the Sharks up 3-2 early in the third but the response would come. Patrik Laine tied it up at 3-3 less than two minutes later. Nyquist broke the tie later in the third. Sean Kuraly put home an ENG to give Columbus their first win of the week, a 5-3 win over a bad Sharks squad. The 1-3-0 week does nothing for Columbus’ positionally, but it is better than 0-4-0. Will it get better for Columbus next week?
What’s Coming Up This Week: Nope. The Blue Jackets will spend this week out in the Northwest. Yes, they are on that road trip through Western Canada this week. They will begin on Monday night in Calgary. They will then go to Edmonton on Wednesday night. Then the trip ends with a back-to-back in Vancouver and then in Seattle. The non-Vancouver teams are playoff or playoff-hopeful teams. They will not want to drop points to the Metropolitan’s basement owner. Vancouver may have a new head coach by Friday’s game and the team may want to impress the new boss. Columbus, well, there are just 36 games left?
That was the fifteenth Weekly Metropolitan Division Snapshot of the 2022-23 season. What do you expect to happen in this week coming up? Will the Devils be able to put some pressure on the Hurricanes? Who will end up in third place between New York, Washington, and the field? Can Pittsburgh surge? Will the Islanders stop struggling? 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.