Thanksgiving is coming up and that is an important holiday in the hockey season. One, most NHL teams play around the American version of the holiday. Two, it has been pointed out that most teams who are in a playoff position by Thanksgiving end up in the playoffs. Most teams who are not do not qualify. This makes some sense. Close to a quarter of the season is done by Thanksgiving. We can develop a sense of who is good and who is not. Catching up is hard to do in this league, too. The Pittsburgh Penguins, for example, had a five game winning streak, lost two and actually fell to seventh from it, behind a New York Islanders team that snapped a losing streak. That stated, only one team looks really safe for the long-term and that is a New York Rangers team that has not lost in regulation in over a month. Everyone else not named Columbus appears to have a shot since four points separate second from seventh.
Everyone is playing on Thanksgiving Eve and on Black Friday. There is plenty of action on Saturday too. Not much is happening before Wednesday though with everyone in the NHL off on Tuesday. Still, there is plenty to prepare for both within and outside of the division in this week coming up. The games within the division are highlighted and in bold:
Here is the week that was and the week that will be in the Metropolitan Division.
New York Rangers
What Happened Last Week: The New York Rangers secured first place as early as Sunday night. They also won last night. They went 2-0-0 and have a commanding lead on first place. I am getting tired of typing it and you are getting tired of reading it. The snapshot does not care. Alas.
November 12, vs. Columbus, 4-3 Shootout (SO) Win: The start of the game was a bit flat. Both teams combined for 14 shots. Justin Danforth provided a late tip-in goal from Erik Gudbranson, only to be answered by Chris Kreider more than two minutes later. Business picked up in the second period as both teams took at least 14 shots each. Offensive business, not defensive. Alexis Lafreniere broke the tie amid the deluge of rubber. However, Adam Fantilli hit back hard on a counter-attack from a turnover to tie it up. On the next shift, Sean Kuraly dove to slam in a rebound from a Alexandre Texier shot to make it 3-2. And Elvis Merzlikins was in fine form to keep it at 3-2. The Rangers pushed and pushed and pushed some more in the third period. They out-shot the Blue Jackets 17-3! And just as the Rangers have done on their hot streak, they got something from the pressure. Lafreniere put home a late equalizer with 11 seconds left. Overtime was earned and solved nothing. In the shootout, Lafreniere was the hero there as well as the only scorer in the three rounds. The Rangers got the extra point, snatching a result from what looked like a defeat. It does not help them with tiebreakers but that is not a concern now. They got the win.
November 18, at New Jersey, 5-3 Win: The Rangers received the return of their ace goaltender, Igor Shesterkin. He proceeded to nearly cost the Rangers the game. The Rangers opened the scoring with a one-timer by Artemi Panarin on a power play. Shortly thereafter, Jack Hughes took a routine shot on net that Shesterkin caught in his midsection. Then the puck rolled into the net. Per Rule 37.3, that is a goal. The referees conferenced, agreed, and a review upheld it. It is not hyperbole to say it was one of the worst goals Shesterkin ever allowed. Later, Braden Schneider put a shot on net and Jimmy Vesey piled in the rebound. But a late power play for New Jersey - thanks to Vincent Trocheck boarding/cross-checking Jack Hughes - led to Jesper Bratt setting up Ondrej Palat in the slot. Shesterkin was caught standing as the shot went through his legs for a 2-2 score in the second period. The Rangers tried to break through in the second but failed. Early in the third, a rebound conceded by Shesterkin led to Erik Haula piling in that rebound to make it 3-2. Fortunately for Shesterkin, the Devils would make mistakes his teammates would punish. A simple icing call led to a faceoff win for Trocheck and a killer shot from Panarin to make it 3-3. Late in the game, the Devils got rushed down for a shot by Tyler Pitlick that led to a meatball of a rebound that Vesey ate up. 4-3. Add a Blake Wheeler ENG and that was game. The Rangers got a rivalry win, continue a run of no regulation losses since October 19, and own the division once more. Shesterkin was bad and they won. Which bodes ill for the rest of the league when Shesterkin gets good.
What’s Coming Up This Week: In last week’s snapshot, I wrote that the Rangers should enjoy the short week. This week is anything but short. The Rangers will get to play four games in six nights. They will go to a very good Dallas team on Monday night. Then they will take on a presumably hungry Pittsburgh team in Pittsburgh on Wednesday. Right after Thanksgiving, they will go to Philadelphia for a 1 PM game. After that, the Rangers will be back in Manhattan to host the still-mighty Boston Bruins for another 1 PM game. That is a hard week of games and I would not even consider the Friday game against Philly to be a gimmie. By the way, the next time the Rangers will play only two games in a week will be in February 2024. Welcome to the grind, New York. At least you are hot going into it.
What Happened Last Week: The Capitals moved on up after last week. The short week of two games yielded two wins, 2-0-0. Thanks to games played, the Capitals are in second place of this morning.
November 14, vs. Las Vegas, 3-0 Win: I certainly did not expect this. Charlie Lindgren faced 35 shots and he got them all. This was crucial as the Caps led 1-0 from 16:39 of the first period until 19:11 of the third period. Plenty could have went wrong, but Lindgren ensured it would not be a game-tying goal after Dylan Strome’s first period goal. This even included the Caps not converting at all during a major penalty, a result of a match penalty given to Paul Cotter for head-shotting Evgeny Kuznetsov. The G-Knights were repelled and their fate was sealed when Connor McMichael put in an empty netter. Then Logan Thompson returned to the net and Beck Malenstyn scored on him. A big win for a Caps team that is heating up.
November 18, vs. Columbus, 4-3 Win: It took a period for the game to kick off on the scoreboard. Johnny Gaudreau, he of the benching in Columbus, opened the scoring early in the second period. The Capitals had an answer for that from Sonny Milano - featuring an assist for Hendrix Lapierre as an assist. Later in the second, the Caps opened up the game. Aliaksei Protas made it a 2-1 game. About two minutes later, Alex Ovechkin went bar down to make it 3-1. A solid lead, right? The Blue Jackets upped their attack with a 16-shot third period. Ivan Provorov made it a one-goal game about seven minutes in with a backhander. The Caps were sweating but got a huge lift from the rookie Lapierre. He scored his first of the season on a rush to make it 4-2. Of course, there would be more reason to sweat. Within the final five minutes, Justin Danforth made it a one-shot game. But Charlie Lindgren stopped the rushes, survived a penalty kill (Trevor van Reimsdyk for holding), and held on for the win.
What’s Coming Up This Week: Like their former Southeast Division rivals in Carolina, the Capitals will have a short and favorable week. They will get three days without a game before they host Buffalo before Thanksgiving. After Thanksgiving, they will play Edmonton at 3 PM. Both games are at home too. While both opponents are respectable, if the Capitals want to be legitimate about continuing their aims for playoff push later on in this season, then these two are teams the Caps should get results against. We shall see if they will. By the way, rest up Caps, the home cooking ends for a bit after Friday.
What Happened Last Week: Carolina had two games against Pennsylvania and they split them. No, it did not go how you would have expected it. At least, I did not expect this. Anyway, they fall to third by way of games played.
November 15, vs. Philadelphia, 3-1 Loss: I do not know whether Carolina looked past Philly or were caught unaware or what. But this surprised the national television audience. Owen Tippett scored within the first two minutes of the game, Travis Konecny tipped in a Nick Seeler shot within the final minute of the first period, and Ryan Poehling roofed a shot past Pytor Kochetkov 29 seconds into the second period. Even after Carolina settled the game down, they were in deep trouble. Carter Hart was in excellent form. Despite throwing 23 shots at him in the second and third periods, only a shot by Stefean Noesen got by him. The Canes lost at home to a Philly team expected to be in the bottom half of the division. A Philly team that went up by a good margin and maintained it. A result that put the Flyers just behind the Canes in the standings after Wednesday’s games. A position that still holds for this snapshot. A surprise, indeed.
November 18, vs. Pittsburgh, 4-2 Win: It took time but the Hurricanes overcame the Penguins in the third period to get a win on the board and avoid falling to fourth place. It did not start off well with Sidney Crosby scoring in the first period. And it took over half of the second period for Carolina to answer. But the Knee Hunter, Sebastian Aho did answer it with a game-tying goal in the second period. Brent Burns put the Canes up 2-1 early in the third but Crosby answered that one later. The breakthrough came from Seth Jarvis re-directing in a Jaccob Slavin pass past Tristan Jarry. A play that began with a heinous turnover by Pittsburgh / great forecheck by Carolina. A tripping penalty by Erik Karlsson within the final two minutes led to a rare PPG ENG that secured the win for the Canes. It was scored by the game’s hero, Jarvis. The Canes split the points and end up in the top three for another snapshot.
What’s Coming Up This Week: The Hurricanes will get another short week of just two games. Both are even at home too. Their pre-Thanksgiving game will be against an Edmonton team that really, really, really needs to pick up points after a miserable start that saw Jay Woodcroft fired. After Thanksgiving, the Hurricanes will host Tampa Bay, a team that may want some revenge after the Canes blanked them 4-0 on November 11. Not the easiest pair of games but certainly not the hardest. Plus, it is a very favorable week with three whole days to prepare for both. Make it count. The grind is coming.
What Happened Last Week: The Flyers, a team expected to rebuild and therefore be bad, continue to win games. They won both of their games this week and are now on a four-game winning streak. They are in fourth and breathing down the necks of second and third place.
November 15, at Carolina, 3-1 Win: The Philadelphia Flyers are now officially on a winning streak after that horrid loss to San Jose last week. Carter Hart was a stud and stopped almost everything Carolina threw at the Flyers. Philly went up early thanks to Owen Tippett firing a one-timer from above the left circle past Pytor Kochetkov. Late in the first period, Travis Konecny tipped in a Nick Seeler shot to make it 2-0. Ryan Poehling made it 3-0 just 29 seconds into the second period, a result of effective forechecking on Dmitry Orlov. The Canes turned up the heat, but Hart would stop the the rush of 23 shots between the second and third periods. Only Stefan Noesen broke through in the second period - no one else did. The Flyers held the 3-1 scoreline for their third straight win; a big one within the division.
November 18, vs. Las Vegas, 4-3 OT Win: The Flyers pulled out the win over the defending champions. It started in the first period. William Karlsson took a seat for slashing Owen Tippett. Tippett provided the payback with a PPG during that penalty. In the second period, the Flyers kept up with Las Vegas. An early roughing penalty by William Carrier led to a PPG from Tyson Foerster. The two goal lead was erased by the G-Knights. Karlsson made it 2-1 about four minutes in. Jonathan Marchessault made it 2-2 fifteen minutes in. Yet, on the shift after that goal, Sean Walker restored the lead for the Flyers. Alas, Philly’s own penalty trouble - three minors within two minutes, or two minors during penalty kills - gave Las Vegas an extended 5-on-3. Marchessault rifled in a shot to convert it and tie up the game with less than a minute in the second period. Then a funny thing happened. No one scored in the third period. Carter Hart and Logan Thompson held it down. Even with Philly getting a power play with less than three minutes left in regulation. Overtime was needed and it only took one shot to end it. Sean Couturier took away a pass in Las Vegas’ end and slid in a shot that Thompson would want back. The Flyers with another statement win.
What’s Coming Up This Week: The Flyers will play four games entirely within the division, including two against the same opponent. Fresh off yesterday afternoon’s game, the Flyers will host Columbus. Should Philly want to continue to defy expectations, then they really can help themselves by keeping Columbus down with a win. Which is doable since the Flyers are hot and Columbus is not. On Wednesday, the Flyers will go to Long Island against an Isles team that is hurting for points. Another opportunity for the Flyers to beat the expectations by beating someone else. After Thanksgiving is a tough back-to-back. The Rangers will come to Philadelphia on Friday. Even if they cooled off, that is a difficult matchup. Then the Flyers will go back to Long Island on Saturday night to play the Isles again. A potentially more contentious matchup given how Wednesday’s game goes. If this keeps up, we may have to regard the Flyers as a team that can legitimately make the playoffs. Maybe even now since they just beat Carolina and Las Vegas.
New Jersey Devils
What Happened Last Week: New Jersey got into a losing streak when they lost their first game. Then they beat Pittsburgh. Then they blew a third period to their hated rivals. A 1-2-0 week sent the Devils into fifth place by tiebreakers. So much for a returning Jack Hughes fixing what was ailing them.
November 14, at Winnipeg, 6-3 Loss: The Devils went up to Winnipeg, spent nearly 8 minutes without registering a shot on net, and nearly got beaten either due to poor defensive coverage and/or excellence from the Jets. That would happen in the second period. Kyle Connor opened the floodgate with a put-back on a rebound wherein Connor was open. A stupid cross-check by Tyler Toffoli to a fallen Nino Neiderreiter led to a power play that was converted by Cole Perfetti putting a shot that hit off Kevin Bahl’s stick and went past Akira Schmid. The Devils would hit back. Timo Meier put home a PPG and John Marino put back a rebound by Curtis Lazar to make it 2-2. Alas, this fell apart when Dougie Hamilton and the Devils’ fourth line seemingly turned off their controllers on defense. A wide-open Perfetti found an even more wide-open Nikolaj Ehlers for a tap-in behind Schmid to make it 3-2. It would get worse for NJ. Jonas Siegenthaler losing an edge led to Erik Haula not winning a puck at the point which led to Mark Scheifele feathering a cross-ice pass to Connor for a one-timer to make it 4-2. Minutes later, Vladislav Namestnikov pasted Bahl into the boards and sent a pass up to a wide open Morgan Barron for a one-timer to make it 5-2. Hope flickered when Dawson Mercer scored a PPG in the third, but little was built off that. A 3-on-1 during an empty-net situation was finished by Ehlers for the 6-3 final score. If you hated the Devils playing defensive hockey, then you loved this game.
November 16, at Pittsburgh, 5-2 Win: The Devils went to Pittsburgh, who was then the hottest team in the NHL with a five-game winning streak, and ended two streaks. Their own losing streak and that Penguin winning streak. The opening was rough with Penguin odd man rushes and Bryan Rust getting behind Dougie Hamilton for a breakaway goal. But the Devils got an equalizer with a shorthanded goal from Curtis Lazar with help from Erik Haula. In the second period, Rust re-directed a backhanded feed by Erik Karlsson past Vitek Vanecek. On the next shift, Haula and Nathan Bastian crashed the net and Bastian put home the rebound to tie it up at 2-2. The Pens were getting dangerous but the Devils were not so loose or shaky in net. The breakthrough came in the third. While Erik Haula taking a penalty during the lone Devils power play was not good, the 4-on-4 situation that followed was. Luke Hughes broke in and fed Jesper Bratt for a top-corner dandy to make it 3-2. Minutes later, Ondrej Palat won a board battle, found Dawson Mercer behind Pittsburgh’s net, and Mercer one-touched a pass to Alexander Holtz for a one-timer to make it 4-2. Tristan Jarry was not even looking for that one. And that may explain how Tyler Toffoli torched him with a shot off a rush on the next shift. The Devils kept the Pens from getting a sniff back into the game. A strong three-goal third period performance carried the Devils to victory. And the Devils even did it without Timo Meier, who was out due to an injury from the Winnipeg game. They would get someone back for Saturday.
November 18, vs. New York Rangers, 5-3 Loss: The Devils got The Big Deal, Jack Hughes, back in the lineup. He was great. Eight shots on net, 14 shooting attempts, and scoring the one of the worst goals that Shesterkin has ever allowed. He also got an assist on Erik Haula’s third period goal. Did this elevate the Devils? No. Their defensive zone errors and goaltending issues (Vitek Vanecek) kneecapped the Devils once more. A power play goal allowed to Artemi Panarin was a result of no one covering the scorer or the cross-ice pass to said scorer. Then Hughes scored on a goal that Shesterkin let roll into the net unobstructed. Jimmy Vesey out-worked Brendan Smith and punished a rebound by Vanecek to make it 2-1. Then late in the period, Ondrej Palat got his first goal of the season when his shot hit off Nick Bonino and sailed through the legs of a standing Shesterkin for a PPG and a 2-2 game. Vanecek seemingly settled down in the second, the Devils kept attacking, and they were in a position to take the third. Something they did when Jack Hughes lost a handle, got a shot off a sprawled out Shesterkin, and Erik Haula piled in the rebound. 3-2. The Devils were leading 3-2. A lead that went away when an icing and a resulting faceoff loss led to Panarin scoring to make it 3-3. A game that was lost when Tyler Pitlick rushed downhill on the Devils, made Vanecek concede a juicy rebound, and Vesey beat John Marino to the puck to make it 4-3. A game that was secured in a loss by a Blake Wheeler ENG shortly thereafter. The Devils blew the game within the final nine minutes. A win over their hated rivals is always big. It could have moved the Devils up to right behind Carolina and Washington while also cutting the Rangers lead on the division to 3. Nope. Another loss by their own stupid errors.
What’s Coming Up This Week: The Devils will be busy with three games in four nights around Thanksgiving. They will have to travel a bit to start. They will go to Detroit, where the Red Wings have been more successful this season, on Wednesday night. After Thanksgiving, the Devils will host Columbus for an afternoon game. That is a game where the Devils really should get something out of - if only to keep the Jackets well in the distance in the standings. On Saturday, the Devils will host Buffalo - who will also be coming off a home game the night before. In theory, the Devils have a slight edge by not having to travel. Then again, second halves of back-to-backs have not gone well for the Devils so far this season. It would be great for NJ if they can turn that around on November 25. It would also be great if they can fix their fixable problems.
New York Islanders
What Happened Last Week: The Islanders had a lot to do and went up to the Northwest corner of the league for the week. It went badly. They did get a win in the final game of the week to end a losing run. And they got two post-regulation points in going 1-1-2. Which was enough to move past the Penguins for sixth place. Still, here is a suggestion ahead of the summaries: FIX YOUR PENALTY KILL, LANE.
November 13, at Edmonton, 4-1 Loss: Edmonton fired Jay Woodcroft before this game, replacing him with Kris Knoblauch. The Oilers have been unhappy with their terrible start to this season. They took it out on the Isles. Especially after Mat Barzal scored 40 seconds into the game. Leon Draisaitl tied it up later in the first period. That held until the third period. A Simon Holmstrom tripping penalty led to a Zach Hyman PPG to make it 2-1. After that, Ryan Pulock put a puck over the glass. That led to Connor McDavid converting another power play for 3-1. During a Ryan Nugent-Hopkins penalty, the Isles pulled their goalie for a 6-on-4. It led to Evander Kane putting in a shorthanded empty net goal. A third period meltdown for the Isles for another rough loss. P.S. Draisaitl should be suspended for cross-checking Bo Horvat in the back of his knees, but the league did not think so.
November 15, at Vancouver, 4-3 OT Loss: You know, I will admit that I expected the Islanders to be this defensive team leaning heavily on its goaltender. The 2023-24 version feels otherwise what with conceding 43 shots and a lead in this loss to Vancouver. The Isles built up a lead thanks to Vancouver’s penalties. Two power plays in a row led to two power play goals in a row: Pierre Engvall and Brock Nelson, respectively. The Islanders proceeded to get whistled for the next six penalties in the second and third periods. This would cost them. A Cal Clutterbuck boarding call led to J.T. Miller converting the power play. While ex-Canuck Bo Horvat scored to make it 3-1 in the second; an interference call on Noah Dobson led to Brock Boeser cutting the game to 3-2. The Isles put themselves down into a two-man disadvantage when Dobson and Justin-Gabriel Pageau fouled Andrei Kuzemenko separately. This led to Filip Hronek to tie it up on that power play. Yes, Vancouver scored 3 PPGs to make it 3-3. And in overtime, the trio of Miller, Boeser, and Quinn Hughes ended it for the visitors. Miller curled in the neutral zone and found Quinn breaking ahead behind all three Islanders. Pass, breakaway, OT loss for the Islanders. Teams with defensive reputations tend to be disciplined. Alas, the 2023-24 Isles disagree with that too.
November 16, at Seattle, 4-3 SO Loss: Another game, another non-win for the Isles. The opening was good as Anders Lee tipped in a Bo Horvat feed for an early PPG. The response was two PPGs for Seattle. Scott Mayfield’s first penalty of the first period, a delay of game, was ended by Matty Beniers. Scott Mayfield’s second penalty of the first period, a slash on Oliver Bjorkstrand, was ended by Alexander Wennberg. The Isles would tie it up in the second period with some Identity. Casey Cizikas would put in a backhander past Philipp Grubauer to make it 2-2. The Isles even went ahead with a power play goal. Vince Dunn’s holding penalty lasted just eight seconds as Noah Dobson converted the situation. Did that last? No. A slashing call on Lee led to another PPG for Seattle by Kailer Yamamoto. Yes, another night of giving up 3 PPGs. The game at least held at 3-3. Overtime solved nothing; even with the Isles being the only ones to get shots on net (2) in the fourth period. Those 2 meant the Isles finished with 23 shots instead of 21. A shootout was needed. Horvat and Bjorkstrand scored within the first three rounds. More was needed. In the sixth frame, Jordan Eberle and Oliver Wahlstrom scored. It ended in the eighth round. Yamamoto beat Seymon Varlamov for a second time tonight. Dobson did not score again. The Isles once again lost and arguably beat themselves.
November 18, at Calgary, 5-4 SO Win: Eventually, the losing had to stop. It did in Calgary. It was close, though. The first period saw goals from players deeper in the lineup. Martin Pospisil of Calgary opened the scoring and Hudson Fasching of the Isles tied it up in the first. The Isles took a 3-1 lead in the second period thanks to a PPG from Kyle Palmieri and Mat Barzal burying a turnover in a 4-on-4 situation. Alas, that did not last too long. Blake Coleman deflected in a puck to make it a 3-2 game late in the second period. Mackenzie Weegar tied it up at 3-3 early in the third. But the Isles had an instant response to that. Brock Nelson buried a rebound in front on the next shift to make it 4-3. Of course, that did not last. Yegor Sharangovich tipped in a Noah Hanifin shot with over six minutes left to make it 4-4. Pressure was on but nothing else went in the net in the remaining six minutes of regulation or the five overtime minutes. A shootout was needed. Sharangovich and Bo Horvat each scored in the first round. Then saves in rounds two and three. In the fourth round, though, Connor Zary was stopped and Oliver Wahlstrom scored. The Isles won the shootout and the game. Their losing streak ended. It was nearly botched again but they salvaged the ‘W.’
What’s Coming Up This Week: Well, at the least the Islanders will come home. It may not be Festivus, but I will presume the local fans will have a lot of things to say to their team even after their win in Calgary. They will also get to see a lot of Philadelphia. The Islanders will host Philadelphia on Wednesday night and again on Saturday night. These games are big if the Isles really want to start clawing their way up in the division. The latter game will be tricky as the Isles have to go to Ottawa on Friday night. Ottawa may be near the bottom of the Atlantic Division, but they are no pushovers and, curiously, they have a positive goal differential despite their record. Of course, with how things are going, the Isles can lose to anyone. Again, fix your penalty kill!
What Happened Last Week: The Penguins extended their hot streak to five wins a row. Then they lost two games within the division and fell to seventh. Harsh but it speaks to how hard it is to move up in this league.
November 14, at Columbus, 5-3 Win: The Penguins would benefit from a four-point swing over the Jackets. They would get it. Sidney Crosby got his first of the night early in the game. Pittsburgh would go down by the end of the first with a mid-period equalizer by Kirill Marchenko and a late goal allowed to Yegor Chinakhov. But the Pens battled back. Jake Guentzel tied it up in the second period and Erik Karlsson provided a one-goal lead in the third period. A breakdown that saw Alexandre Texier put home a rebound tied up the game for the Jackets. Then, less than three minutes later, Crosby got his second of the night with a tip-in of a Karlsson shot to make it 4-3. Columbus pulled the goalie and that yielded the hat trick goal for Crosby. A third period rally for the win to move the Pens forward and keep Columbus back. A fine night for a fifth-straight win.
November 16, vs. New Jersey, 5-2 Loss: The winning run would end to the Devils. A Devils team who lost three in a row and did not have Jack Hughes, Nico Hischier, or even Timo Meier. Sure, the start went well. Pittsburgh found plenty of spaces for odd-man rushes. Bryan Rust got behind Dougie Hamilton for a breakaway and a goal in the first period. But the Penguins power play conceded a chance to Erik Haula and Curtis Lazar, the latter who put home a shorthanded goal to make it 1-1. In the second period, Rust re-directed a pass from Erik Karlsson to make it 2-1. The lead only lasted seconds as the Devils crashed the net and Nathan Bastian put home a rebound from an Erik Haula rebound try to make it 2-2. The Penguins found the Devils were sterner than in previous games. While they got a break during a penalty kill from Haula taking a penalty to end it, the 4-on-4 situation led to Luke Hughes finding Jesper Bratt off the rush to make it 3-2 for the visitors. The Pens would not find a way past Vitek Vanecek again. They would get broken down for two quick goals that all but ended the game: a one-timer by Alexander Holtz from Dawson Mercer that no Penguin expected - not even Tristan Jarry. Then on the next shift, Tyler Toffoli blazed a shot past Jarry to make it a 5-2 game. Not even a Penguins power play helped, which even saw the Devils nearly score on that. It was a rough third period and so the winning run ended. And the Penguins remained in the bottom half of the division standings after that run. I told you it is hard to catch up in this league.
November 18, at Carolina, 4-2 Loss: The Penguins were in it until they were not. Sidney Crosby gave the Penguins an early lead and that was maintained for quite some time. It survived a Chad Ruhwedel high-sticking penalty. It failed to get extended from a Jack Drury call. It was tied by Sebastian “Knee, Please” Aho in the second period. The Pens fell down in the game when Brent Burns made it 2-1 early in the third. But the game was leveled thanks to Crosby before midway through the final period. Alas, the dagger came from a terrible turnover to Carolina’s forecheck by their top line. It led to Jaccob Slavin finding Seth Jarvis in front for a killer one-touch redirection to go down 3-2. There would be no answer. Erik Karlsson’s tripping penalty within the final two minutes all but sealed the loss. Which it did when Jarvis put in the empty netter to convert the power play. The Penguins lost two after winning five in a row and fell a spot in the division. Pain.
What’s Coming Up This Week: Pittsburgh’s week starts tonight with a home game against the defending Stanley Cup Champion Las Vegas Golden Knights. An excellent team and a difficult matchup for anyone. One made harder by the fact both teams played yesterday. It does not get much easier for the Pens after that one. On Wednesday, the Penguins will host the New York Rangers - another tough game as the Rangers have not lost in regulation in over a month running now. After Thanksgiving, the Penguins will go to Buffalo on Friday and then return home to host Toronto on Saturday. The Penguins still need results to move on up and this will be a real test as to whether they can get it done. Even then, they may not move up if they get the results. Pittsburgh is finding out how tough it is to move up in this league.
Columbus Blue Jackets
What Happened Last Week: Columbus went into this week with a losing streak. It continued as they went 0-3-1. Pain reigns in Ohio.
November 12, at New York Rangers, 3-4 SO Loss: This one hurt for Columbus. Justin Danforth re-directed in an Erik Gudbranson shot to open the scoring. Chris Kreider tied it up a little bit later. Then the second period featured a ton of shots. Alexis Lafreniere broke the tie, but then Columbus hit back. They more than just hung with the Rangers in this one. Adam Fantilli took a turnover in the neutral zone and gave the Rangers an equalizer. Right on the next shift, Alexandre Texier took a shot on net and Sean Kuraly literally dove to put home the rebound to make it 3-2. The Jackets were skating and playing well with the Rangers in that second period. The third period, well, not so much. Columbus was out-shot 17-3. Elvis Merzlikins was great. But with 11 seconds left, Lafreniere beat him to tie up the game. It would have been huge to both end their losing streak and New York’s winning run. Alas. Overtime solved nothing and Lafreniere was the only one to score in the shootout. Yes, Columbus got a point but they need a win.
November 13, vs. Pittsburgh, 5-3 Loss: Columbus would not get this win against Pittsburgh. It looked good after the first period. While Sidney Crosby scored early, Kirill Marchenko scored later in the period and Yegor Chinakhov got his first of the season within the last minute of the first. 2-1 is good. But it would not last. A little over 7 minutes into the second, Jake Guentzel tied it up. That held until 8:40 into the third period - that was when Erik Karlsson made it 3-2. But the Jackets were not done. Texier would bang in a rebound to tie it up a few minutes later. Columbus had hope. Hope that would go away when Crosby re-directed in a Karlsson shot to make it 4-3. There would be no fourth goal from Columbus. Crosby completed his hat trick with an empty netter to secure a sixth winless game for Columbus.
November 16, vs. Arizona, 3-2 Loss: The Blue Jackets came out hot with 17 shots in the first period. None went past Connor Ingram. The visitors went on the attack more in the second period, but the Jackets did get an early goal. A slapshot from Damon Severson not long after a Columbus power play ended. Of course, Arizona would tie it up amid their flurry thanks to Barret Hayton. It was a 1-1 game going into the third period. There, it fell apart as the Coyotes scored two within 30 seconds of each other. Logan Cooley converted a power play 12 seconds into a David Jiricek penalty. On the next shift, Nick Bjugstad won a puck behind the net from Erik Gudbranson and hooked up Lawson Crouse for a one-timer. 3-1. The Jackets would put up 17 shots in the third period and even got a late bit of hope from Severson scoring with 1:57 left. But that would be it - on the ice. It was noticed that Patrik Laine and Johnny Gaudreau were benched down the stretch in that third period, even after Severson made it a one-goal game. Even the GM has been critical of their performances. Given their contracts, it is a difficult situation amid their losing run. It remains a bad time in Columbus. (Aside: It was a costly win for Arizona as Hayton got hurt and will need surgery.)
November 18, at Washington, 4-3 Loss: After a scoreless first period, the previously punished Johnny Gaudreau scored a goal to open the game. Yes, Johnny Gaudreau did something. That good time did not last. Sonny Milano scored a little after that to tie it up. Washington made it a 3-1 deficit with two goals in about two minutes apart from Aliaksei Protas and Alex Ovechkin. There would be a push in the third period. 16 shots on net in the third. A goal by Ivan Provorov to make it a one-goal game. It was challenged and the goal stood. Alas, the Jackets fell back further when Lapierre broke ahead, had space due to a good angle on Provorov, and put in a backhander that Elvis Merzlikins should have stopped. There would be more hope. Justin Danforth scored within the final five minutes to make it a 4-3 game. And Washington almost dared to blow it when Trevor van Reimsdyk was given a holding penalty with about 2:30 left in regulation. But they could not get another puck past Charlie Lindgren. The Jackets fell short and so they remain winless in eight games.
What’s Coming Up This Week: It continues, Columbus. The Blue Jackets will host Philadelphia tonight in a game that may come down to who has more left in the tank. Both teams played on Saturday. The Blue Jackets will host Connor Bedard and Chicago on Wednesday night. Then, right after Thanksgiving, they will visit New Jersey for an afternoon game. It has been grim for Columbus and even if they get a win or two, they are likely to finish at the bottom of the division for another snapshot. By the way, Jarmo Kekalainen, the 2024 WJCs are 36 days away.
That was the sixth Weekly Metropolitan Division Snapshot of the 2023-24 season. What do you expect to happen in this week coming up? Will the Rangers lose a game in regulation soon? Can Washington and Philadelphia keep up the pace? How do you think the New Jersey Devils will do in this week? Will the Islanders fix their penalty kill? Will Columbus win a game in this week? 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.