December begins in this coming week. The New York Rangers continue their iron grip on top of the Metropolitan Division. Yes, they actually lost a game in regulation for the first time since October 19 in this past week. Between their other wins and the lack of push forward by others in the division, they have a rather strong lead. The rest of the group, well, it is just about now a seven-team race now that the Columbus Blue Jackets have won games (plural), the New Jersey Devils have continued to underperform, and the remainder remain consistently in the mix but never rising above it. And the top three spots are the one to think about. The Atlantic Division owns the wild card spots with Detroit and Toronto sitting on 23 points each. Here are the standings after a busy Thanksgiving period:
The grind of the season will continue as every team will play at least three games in this coming week with three playing four games. Of those three, Washington will do it entirely on the road as part of a trip out West. What about games within the division? There will be six of those, including the entirety of the week for the Philadelphia Flyers. Here is the schedule with those intra-division games 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 lost a game in regulation for the first time since October. With three wins following that loss, it ultimately did not matter within the division. They still control first. And have a claim on being the best in the NHL.
November 20, at Dallas, 6-3 Loss: Yes, a loss. It started off well for the Rangers. They held steady and Vincent Trocheck punished the Stars for Sam Steel tripping him with a wrap-around in the first period. Kaapo Kakko made it a 2-0 game in the second period. Then the Stars created a goal-splosion on Igor Shesterkin. Jamie Benn got the Stars on the board less than a minute after Kakko’s goal. Then the third period came and Dallas brought the pain. Joe Pavelski tied it up early. Mason Marchment converted a power play caused by Barclay Goodrow (he’s still on the team) high-sticking him. Then Tyler Seguin made it 4-2 a little bit afterwards. The Rangers got a power play with less than five minutes left and opted to pull the goalie. The result was not one but two shorthanded empty net goals from Steel and Roope Hintz. Goodrow would score a consolation goal within the final minute. Yes, the Rangers gave up six straight scores in this loss. Harsh.
November 22, at Pittsburgh, 1-0 Win: The loss in Dallas did not lead to any decline. I mean, I am sure they wanted to score more than one goal with 36 shots on net. Alexis Lafreniere’s backhander early in the first period was the game’s only goal. I am also sure New York did not want to be out-shot 15-4 in the third period either. But Jonathan Quick was perfect and so that goal held up as the only one of the game. A victory to rebound from a loss in Dallas and also keep the Pens down in the standings.
November 24, at Philadelphia, 3-1 Win: The Rangers scored two goals quickly and never looked back. Mika Zibanejad scored 45 seconds into the game and Chris Kreider scored 1:08 later to make it 2-0. The cushion helped the Rangers despite the Flyers upping their attack to get back into the game. A Zibanejad tip-in made it 3-0 in the second to add another pillow. Igor Shesterkin appeared to be locked in. A Sean Couturier tip-in late in the second period gave the Flyers some hope. And so they bombarded the Rangers with a 14-3 shot differential in the third period, helped by two Flyers power plays. Shesterkin got all of them and so the lead was maintained for another victory within the division.
November 25, vs. Boston, 7-4 Win: That is not a typo. The Rangers hosted a Boston team that simply does not lose consecutive games in the regular season. Yet, for the second time under Jim Montgomery’s reign, it happened. It was close until late in the second period. The first period opened up with a Nick Bonino goal and a PPG from Chris Kreider. Then Boston tied it up with back-to-back scoring shifts from Charlie Coyle and Morgan Geekie. That did not last as an Erik Gustafsson minor led to a Kreider shorthanded goal before the first ended. Early in the second period, David Pastrnak converted that power play to make it 3-3. The score held until Jimmy Vesey put in a rebound during a delayed penalty to make it 4-3. The penalty was going to be a double-minor for high sticking, that got downgraded to a minor with the goal, and the breakthrough came after that situation ended. K’Andre Miller clapped a bomb as a trailer on a rush to make it 5-3 going into the third period. A big goal yielded a larger lead when Tyler Pitlick scored early in the third. Coyle would respond shortly after to cut the lead to two. Then Artemi Panarin scored a goal to make it 7-4 to really put it out of doubt minutes later. A stupendous Boston team stepped into MSG and left a three-goal loss. New York remains hot even if they lost a game to Dallas earlier this week.
What’s Coming Up This Week: The Rangers will keep on trucking. They can do some more damage to the Atlantic Division when they host Buffalo on Monday and Detroit on Wednesday. The latter will be for a national television audience. The Rangers will begin a somewhat tricky back-to-back on Saturday when they go to Nashville for an early evening start time of 4:30 PM. They have a game on Sunday and, yes, it is San Jose but treating anyone lightly in a back-to-back set is a great way to get disappointed. Then again, the Rangers lost a game in regulation for the first time in just over a calendar month and responded with three wins and have as many points in the standings as Boston. They are more than fine.
What Happened Last Week: The Flyers had a lot to do in this past week. They won last Sunday. Then they dropped two games and risked a fall. But they prevailed in a super-tight win game in Long Island to go 2-2-0 in the week and actually move up to second place. That’s how tight this division is; the Flyers were a loss away from falling to sixth but a post-regulation point secured their spot and a win ultimately moved them up.
November 19, vs. Columbus, 5-2 Win: Philadelphia took on a then-slumping Columbus squad and added more misery to their season. The first period was a deadlock; Joel Farabeee scored early and Alexandre Texier tied it up later in the first. The Flyers took a bigger lead in the second period after goals by Bobby Brink - punishing a Kirill Marchenko trip - and Ryan Poehling - despite Philly being down a man for too many men on the ice. The Blue Jackets were denied until late in the second when Boone Jenner deflected in an Ivan Provorov play to make it 3-2 going into the third. The Flyers got the insurance goals they needed for the win. Travis Konecny took advantage of a heinous change by Columbus and made it 4-2 in the third. Cam York put in an ENG for the final result. A solid win for the Flyers. A fifth straight win, at that.
November 22, at New York Islanders, 3-2 Loss: That streak ended in Long Island. Or is it on Long Island? Who cares. The Isles went up and the Flyers tried but could not get enough past Ilya Sorokin. Anders Lee scored early into the game and the Isles made it 2-0 with a Brock Nelson tip-in over 13 minutes into the second period. Philly got on the board with a Cam York score about a minute after Nelson’s goal. Nelson had an answer for that early in the third period to make it 3-1. Philly kept on shooting and really tilted the ice with a 14-4 shot third period. Joel Farabee tipped in a Bobby Brink shot with just over four minutes left to make it a one-goal game. The Flyers had hope. They had the effort. But they did not get the third goal. The winning streak ended at five games. Worse, it gave points to a divisional opponent.
November 24, vs. New York Rangers, 3-1 Loss: The Flyers hosted the Rangers with designs on upsetting them. Once again, they put in the effort in terms of shooting. A different Russian goaltender - Igor Shesterkin - ensured not much of those shots would go in. Also once again, the Flyers were playing from behind. Less than two minutes into the game, they were down 2-0 thanks to Mika Zibanejad and Chris Kreider. Zibanejad put them down three in the second period. Hope sprang once again after Sean Couturier tipped in a Nick Seeler shot to get Philly on the board. Again, they tilted the ice big time in the third, 14-3 in shots, but nothing went in. And so Philly lost a second straight game despite their offensive efforts.
November 25, at New York Islanders, 1-0 Shootout (SO) Win: Samuel Ersson took to the net and he was perfect through 65 minutes. Granted, it helped that the Flyers out-shot the Isles 40-24 with the most dangerous work coming in overtime. The Flyers survived their own penalties, could not punish the one penalty the Isles took all game, and could not beat Ilya Sorokin in 65 minutes either. Not with 2-on-1s, not with a breakaway, and not with any of the four shots on net. It all came down to a shootout. The first three shooters for each side failed. A hero emerged for the Orange and Black: Tyson Foerster. He was the first to put a puck in the net and that was all that was needed for the win. A badly needed one to avoid slipping in the standings.
What’s Coming Up This Week: I hope you like more games within the division, Flyer fans. Four-point potential swings are still on the menu. On Tuesday, the Flyers will host Carolina. On Thursday, they will host New Jersey. On Saturday, they will play a rivalry game in Pittsburgh. If the Flyers want to stay in the playoff picture, then they cannot afford to straight up lose these games even if they are in second place now. They salvaged themselves in this past week but the margin for error is thin right now. I think the Flyers know this. Will they play like it, well, that remains to be seen. For now, they are in a favorable position.
What Happened Last Week: The Capitals had two games to play and split them by going 1-1-0. Calling their defeat just a loss may undersell it a bit. And the win came with some dramatics. Due to Philly’s week, they fell to third as a result.
November 22, vs. Buffalo, 4-3 Overtime (OT) Win: The Caps went down in the game early on. John-Jason Peterka opened the scoring just past halfway through the first period. Zach Benson scored an absolutely ridiculous first NHL goal to make it 2-0 for the Sabres. A roof shot from between his legs in front of the net. In a word: Zounds. Washington would answer back with Alexander Alexeyev’s first NHL goal. No, it was not as amazing looking but it counted all the same. The Caps tied it up with a T.J. Oshie backhander. But a Connor McMichael hooking penalty led to Dylan Cozens converting it to make it 3-2. That score held going late into the third period. With the net empty for Washington, Tom Wilson provided a game tying goal with 1:15 left in regulation. A one timer from next to the slot. Overtime was needed. It went back and forth. It took a deflected and missed shot by Cozens for John Carlson to fling the puck forward for a, uh, methodical 2-on-1 led by Dylan Strome. Strome kept it and ripped the shot into the net with 8 seconds left in OT for the win. Dramatic and two big points for the Caps going into Thanksgiving.
November 24, vs. Edmonton, 5-0 Loss: It is good they got those points because Edmonton visited D.C. and absolutely dropped Washington like a bad habit. The Caps were out-shot 21- 6 in the first period alone. Two of those went past Charlie Lindgren: first by Evander Kane and second by Ryan Nugent-Hopkins. Frustration set in for the Caps, first with Alexander Ovechkin (you know him) high-sticking Vincent Desharnais at the end of the first. Just after Tom Wilson went to the box for roughing Mattias Janmark, Evan Bouchard bombed in a PPG. John Carlson was so mad, he spit the verbals at the referee like Mussolini from the balcony. This got him a rare abuse of officials call (!!) and another power play for Edmonton. Leon Draisaitl scored on that one to make it 4-0. Late in the period, Nic Dowd cleared the puck over the glass. The result was another Draisaitl PPG. At this point, the game was out of doubt. Would Washington score? Not with just five shots on net even with two power plays. A terrible loss to an Edmonton team thought to be buried in the standings.
What’s Coming Up This Week: The Capitals are heading out West. They will play four games in six nights as part of a five-game road trip. They will go to the state of California first. They will visit San Jose first on Monday night. Then they will play Los Angeles and Anaheim back to back in the middle of the week. Those two are definitely not pushovers and looking past San Jose is a generally bad idea. After Thursday night in Orange County, the Capitals will go to Nevada and play Las Vegas on Saturday night. This is a tough week. But a good week of results will help solidify Washington’s potentially real playoff aspirations.
What Happened Last Week: Carolina had two games once again. They split them. One was a big win over a team that cannot afford losses. One was a huge loss over a team that may emerge in part with a result like this. They also fell to fourth place between tiebreakers (Caps have 2 fewer games) and the Flyers taking 4 points last week.
November 22, vs. Edmonton, 6-3 Win: Carolina went up big and rode that to a win over Edmonton. Jesper Fast, Jack Drury, Teuvo Teravainen, and Seth Jarvis all scored from 9:17 into the first period through to 14:48. Edmonton’s Stuart Skinner was pulled for Calvin Pickard. (Aside: Washington could not score on Skinner on Friday. Weird.) Edmonton would get on the board when Zach Hyman converted a power play, a result of Stefan Noesen interfering with Warren Foegele. The Canes went up once more with an early second period goal from Martin Necas. Edmonton made it somewhat competitive when Mattias Ekholm scored a shorty late in the second period and Hyman tipped in a Connor McDavid shot intot he net early in the third period. But there would be no dramatic comeback. Victory was ensured with a Brent Burns shorthanded empty netter. Carolina took care of business at home.
November 24, vs. Tampa Bay, 8-2 Loss: Tampa Bay returned Andrei Vasilevskiy to the lineup for this one. Yes, he’s back. And he did not need to be excellent because his teammates absolutely obliterated Carolina in their building. Seriously. 8-2! And the Canes were out-shot 24-14. Yes, Antti Raanta gave up 8 goals on 14 shots. Yes, Raanta stayed in the net for the entire game. I do not know why Pytor Kochetkov did not play. This was a 1-0 game after the first period due to a late Stefan Noesen goal. Then the penalties hit Carolina and the punishments came. Steven Stamkos with a PPG. Nikita Kucherov with a PPG. Brayden Point with a PPG. 3-1 just six minutes into the second period for the Bolts. Carolina pulled within a goal thanks to Michael Bunting scored a PPG. Then the bottom fell out in the third period. Raanta conceded goals to Brandon Hagel, Luke Glendening, Point, Kucherov, and Point with a PPG. An embarrassing loss against an Atlantic Division staple playoff team that may now become one with Vasilevskiy back.
What’s Coming Up This Week: Carolina will be very busy. Tonight, they will host an early evening game against Columbus. Columbus has won their last two games so do not think that this will be a walk-through for the Canes. On Tuesday, the Hurricanes will visit Philadelphia. While they won there back on October 30, it was not an easy one. On Thursday, the Hurricanes will host the Islanders, a team the Canes needed OT to win against them earlier in this month. Carolina’s week will end in Buffalo on Saturday night, which is also not an easy opponent. The Canes are in a more favorable position than most in the division. They have the quality. But they need the results because they are not that far from falling into the mix of teams behind them. It would help if the goaltender does not concede 5 goals out of 7 shots in the third period. Or 8 in 14. You know know what I mean.
New York Islanders
What Happened Last Week: The Islanders won a week after a terrible slump. They took five out of six points by going 2-0-1. An important swing after the last one. They are now up to fifth. Perhaps as important, they are a point behind second place - and it could have been them if they won their third game outright.
November 22, vs. Philadelphia, 3-2 Win: Fresh off their trip to the Northwest, the Isles hosted Philadelphia. The Isles showed some improvement. They only took two penalties and one of which led to a power play as the Flyers took two calls to one amid the same beef. They also went up 2-0 in the game. Anders Lee scored early in the first period. Brock Nelson tipped in an Adam Pelech shot about 13 minutes into the second period. The Flyers got some hope when Cam York put in a backhander. Fortunately for the home crowd, Nelson would score again early in the third period. Philly brought the pressure with a 14-shot third period to the Isles’ four. Ilya Sorokin was up to the task. It did get nervy when Joel Farabee tipped in a Bobby Brink shot to make it 3-2 with just over four minutes left. But Sorokin and the Isles held on for two big points within the Metropolitan.
November 24, at Ottawa, 5-3 Win: The Isles kept up the winning. They did get punished for a Ryan Pulock tripping penalty by Drake Batherson. However, Kyle Palmieri tied up the game at 1-1 in the first period. The second period saw the Islanders take a huge lead. Oliver Wahlstrom made it 2-1. Then Mat Barzal converted a power play to make it 3-1. Anders Lee scored six seconds later to make it 4-1. Ottawa finally had enough and responded with goals by Tim Stutzle and Batherson to make it 4-3 just 12 minutes into the second period. What could have been a rout turned into a tight one. The Isles would get some breathing room in the third period thanks to Simon Holmstrom; he scored over five minutes into the period to make it 5-3. That cushion helped Semyon Varlamov lock the game down and secured another victory. Three in a row now for the Isles. Unfortunately, the Isles lost Sebastian Aho (the defenseman) and Adam Pelech to injury in this one. Significant losses to the defense with a game to play the next night.
November 25, vs. Philadelphia, 1-0 SO Loss: The Islanders, well, they could have done better. With Samuel Ersson in net, the Isles took six, nine, and six shots on net in regulation. With Pelech and Aho down, the Isles conceded 12 shots in each period. Fortunately for the Isles, Ilya Sorokin got them all. Alas, the Isles will wish they did a bit better with three power plays yielding no goals, over time yielding nothing, and the shootout yielding nothing. Tyson Foerster won it in the fourth round as the lone scorer. A goal away from sweeping the week. Still five out of six earned, though.
What’s Coming Up This Week: Fortunately, the Isles will not need to see the Flyers this week. They will go elsewhere. They will also play two games within the division that can help play a role for their position in the standings by next week’s snapshot. The Islanders will visit an underwhelming Devils team on Tuesday. The Devils do have a win in Long Island under their belts; just do not concede 4 power play goals for a different game. On Thursday, the Isles will visit Carolina. That is another game where a flip in points could really help the Isles. Or hurt them. The trip will continue and end in Sunrise, Florida. The Panthers are no pushover and it will be a tough ender for the week. But, hey, they are going into this week without a long losing streak or a penalty kill getting ripped apart.
What Happened Last Week: The Penguins started off this past week with a big win. Then they dropped two games. Then they won another big one in regulation to maintain their spot in sixth place.
November 19, vs. Las Vegas, 3-0 Win: After two straight losses within the division, the Penguins hosted the defending champions and ended the night with a big win. The hero was Alex Nedeljkovic. He returned to the net and he was unbeatable. 38 shots by the G-Knights. 38 saves by Nedeljkovic. And the goalie had support. Ryan Graves scored his first goal as a Penguin just over two minutes in to finish a sprawled out play in front and get the Penguins up 1-0. In the second period, Noel Acciari got his first of the season with a one-timer in front to make it 2-0. And the Penguins held on while not entirely relying on the goalie. They attacked Las Vegas (shots were 15-10 for Las Vegas in the third) and Evgeni Malkin secured the win with an empty net goal. A big home win to stave off a losing streak.
November 22, vs. New York Rangers, 1-0 Loss: The losing within the division would return, though. If Nedeljkovic was the hero on that night, Jonathan Quick was the hero. Quick is a Ranger. Tristan Jarry was not chopped liver. He only got beat early in the game by Alexis Lafreniere. He made 35 saves. But the Penguins skaters just could not solve Quick. Not even after tilting the ice with a 15-4 shot differential. The Penguins lost a close one but still lost all the same.
November 24, at Buffalo, 3-2 Loss: That loss to the Rangers was magnified by another one-goal loss to a New York team: Buffalo. This one hurt more based on how it went. The Penguins went up 1-0 late in the first period with a goal by Sidney Crosby. A result of a turnover caused by Jake Guentzel. The Pens kept going at Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen. Another turnover by Buffalo led to Matt Nieto setting up Lars Eller in front for a 2-0 lead. Then the Sabres responded. A Malkin hooking penalty led to Jeff Skinner scoring to make it 2-1. Past halfway through the second period, Kyle Okposo scored his first of the season to make it 2-2. Not a great goal for Nedeljkovic to allow. With less than three minutes to go, Skinner curled around the net for a shot and Alex Tuch piled in the rebound. Three goals in the third period and the late one broke the deadlock. The Pens could not respond and so they lost a second straight game. Would they be able to avoid the losing streak with another home game win over a superior opponent?
November 25, vs. Toronto, 3-2 Win: The Maple Leafs are no joke despite what you may think of the massive amount of coverage they get. The Pens found out first hand as the Leafs took an early lead. Tyler Bertuzzi opened the scoring. While Jake Guentzel tied it up less than 30 seconds after that goal, Matthew Knies made it 2-1 with a rebound goal just a few minutes later. However, Pittsburgh would take over the score in the second period. Halfway through the middle frame, Noel Acciari turned a turnover from a forecheck into a top-shelf dandy from a tight angle to make it 2-2. With less than a minute left in the second, Erik Karlsson blasted a slapshot off a faceoff win to make it 3-2. The third period was almost all Toronto with a 15-3 shot differential. It was actually all Tristan Jarry. The Penguins got his best version as he stopped all 15 shots in the third to preserve the 3-2 lead for the win. Two big points to avoid slipping to seventh place.
What’s Coming Up This Week: The Penguins will head out on the road for a pair of games. They will go to Nashville on Tuesday, a team that has seemingly figured things out a bit. On Thursday, they will visit the Tampa Bay Lightning, a team that now has a healthy Andrei Vasilevskiy in the net and an 8-2 win over Carolina in their pockets. The Penguins will return home on Saturday night. It will not be easy. It will be a game against their hated rivals, Philadelphia. The Flyers may have stumbled recently but they have been a surprisingly competitive opponent given their rebuild. With the Penguins taking losses after wins, this is going to be a big matchup that could mean more than just a four-point swing and bragging rights. Good luck Pens.
New Jersey Devils
What Happened Last Week: The Devils struggled and continued to do so. Then they released their struggles all over Buffalo to salvage the week at 1-2-0. They remain in seventh, three points behind the teams lumped from third to fifth and three points ahead of last place Columbus.
November 22, at Detroit, 4-0 Loss: One of the main frustrations from the Devils fans about the team this season is their lackadaisical play, especially in their own end. Simple concepts like wrapping up sticks or picking up open men or rotating coverage eluded the Devils in the D. A sleepy first period gave way to the Red Wings storming the net for three goals within five minutes to close out the first period. Lucas Raymond, Dylan Larkin, and Robby Fabbri all but closed out the game in that run. The Red Wings tacked on a Moritz Seider power play goal, a long shot through a screen, to make it 4-0 before halfway through the game. The Devils’ response was a whole lot of not much. They put just 16 shots on Alex Lyon, including just 2 in the third period. It was a sad effort that deserved a 4-0 loss.
November 24, vs. Columbus, 2-1 Loss: After a bunch of post-game comments about accountability, needing to work harder or work at all, and needing to show up, the Devils may have well come out in slippers at home against Columbus, who just recently won their first game in a while. Dougie Hamilton and Jonas Siegenthaler followed Johnny Gaudreau on a rush up ice - which left Boone Jenner all alone in front of the net. Pass, shot, goal, 0-1. Ondrej Palat forced a turnover in the first period and Alex Holtz fired a shot through Elvis Merzlikins to tie it up. Within the final minute of the first period, Hamilton got too aggressive, coverage behind him was not there, and so Eric Robinson got a breakaway and scored past Akira Schmid to make it 2-1. The Devils’ response to this in the second period was, well, not much. In the third period, the Devils woke up and attacked Elvis Merzlikins with a remarkable 20 shots (they had 18 in the first two only). They hit the post three times but got nothing past the goalie. It was a lot in the third but ultimately not enough and too late. So the Devils lost to the last place team in their division. The talk about hard work was just that: talk.
November 25, vs. Buffalo, 7-2 Win: Nico Hischier returned to the lineup for this game and it was as if he was the missing piece. Plus, whatever discussions and/or garbage cans were thrown after Friday’s loss to Columbus. The Devils went up and just stomped on the Sabres. A one-touch pass from Erik Haula to Alexander Holtz made it 1-0 early. The rout came later on in the period. A delayed penalty call for New Jersey led to a long possession, a re-direction by Brendan Smith (!), and a rebound goal for Tyler Toffoli. Minutes later, Eric Comrie robbed Ondrej Palat of a one timer but the rebound popped up and it went off Nico Hischier and into the net for 3-0. Late in the period, Palat finished a rush play as a trailer to make it 4-0. Comrie out, Devon Levi in. Buffalo got on the board in punishing a Dougie Hamilton tripping penalty; Jeff Skinner finished a flowing move by the Sabres PK. The Devils had a response right after: another rebound goal from Toffoli, this time created by Holtz. The Devils never got complacent and their lead grew. A long shot from Hamilton yielded a deflection by Dawson Mercer and Connor Clifton’s skate to make it 6-1. Smith did take an unnecessary penalty and Kyle Okposo punished that with a tip of an Owen Power shot. But the Devils would get their own power play drawn by Nico Hischier. Luke Hughes took matters into his own hands and ripped a shot through Levi to make it 7-2. The Devils out-shot the Sabres 38-11 and they really could have scored more. A brilliant performance and win to end the week. Now the Devils need - and I do mean need - to build on this one.
What’s Coming Up This Week: The Devils were flailing prior to the Buffalo win. The schedule is not going to make it any easier for them. But they need to build on the win. On Tuesday, the Devils will host an Islanders team that has come out of their own losing streak, started their own run of wins, and seemingly understood concepts like not taking heaps of penalties. Given that was a key reason as to how the Devils beat them in October, that may be an issue. On Thursday, the Devils will visit Philadelphia. The Flyers are no doormats and this could prove a challenge for a Devils team that could not play three periods of good hockey against Columbus. On paper, Friday’s opponent of San Jose should be a win. In reality, the second half of back-to-backs has proven to be struggle. Buffalo was their first such win of the season in those sets. Where the Devils are, no game should be taken for granted. But a winning week may get them closer to where they want to be. Their struggles mean they have to win more.
Columbus Blue Jackets
What Happened Last Week: The Blue Jackets won a game! Then they won another! They went 2-1-0 to win the week! And they are just three points behind seventh place New Jersey! Who they just beat! This is the most positive week for Columbus in a while.
November 19, at Philadelphia, 5-2 Loss: Of course, it began with a loss that saw Patrik Laine scratched and Damon Severson leaving early for an oblique injury that will keep him out for about six weeks. A harsh start to the week. The first period went well enough. Joel Farabee made it 1-0 early but Alexandre Texier provided an equalizer. OK then. Early in the second period, Bobby Brink punished a Kirill Marchenko trip for a PPG. Later, Columbus’ power play conceded a shorthanded goal to Ryan Poehling. There was still some hope when Boone Jenner deflected an Ivan Provorov shot to make it 3-2 late in the period. But there would be no third goal. Travis Konecny took advantage of a real bad line change by Columbus to make it 4-2. Cam York put in an empty netter and so the Blue Jackets losing streak continued. A horrid start to the week.
November 22, vs. Chicago, 7-3 Win: Columbus went into this game with no wins since November 2. They took out all of their pain out on Chicago. The first period alone was a statement: a Jenner wraparound, an Erik Gudbranson shot, and a Jenner PPG made it 3-0 in the first period. Connor Bedard made it a 3-1 game. But the Jackets ensured that there would be no comeback in the second period. Cole Sillinger got on the board with a tip-in. Dmitri Voronkov made it 5-1 minute later. Then Marchenko tipped in Adam Boqvist shot. The return of Patrik Laine yielded a late second period goal to end it at 7-1. At that point, not even Columbus could blow a six goal lead. Goals from Jason Dickinson and Reese Johnson were just consolation goals. The Blue Jackets ended a nine-game losing streak by blowing out Chicago. They needed this win.
November 24, at New Jersey, 2-1 Win: The next step for Columbus was not to follow that with the start of what would be another losing streak. They took that step in Newark. New Jersey came out with the intensity of a pillow and the Blue Jackets made them pay when their defensemen followed Johnny Gaudreau on a rush play that left Boone Jenner alone in front. Gaudreau got the puck to Jenner for the score. While Ondrej Palat forced a turnover that Alex Holtz put behind Elvis Merzlikins, Merzlikins would be perfect on all other shots. Plus, Columbus spoiled the end of the first period when Eric Robinson was behind the entire Devils team and got a pass for a breakway. He scored to make it 2-1. Columbus could not really get much going for a third goal and Akira Schmid did well to deny one. The Devils threw everything at Merzlikins in the third (not second) period and it was not enough despite three posts coming close to tying it up. The Blue Jackets held on for a close win on a team they are chasing. Dare they win another game for a winning streak?
What’s Coming Up This Week: To do that, the Blue Jackets will need to beat Carolina tonight in Raleigh. Hardly an easy matchup for anyone, much less a team that won two games in a row for the first time since October 21. And the Jackets cannot go all out in that one. They have to host the East-leading Boston Bruins the next night. Yikes. Columbus will remain at home after Monday’s game against the B’s. They will host Montreal on Wednesday and Ottawa on Friday. Those two games may be more favorable for the Columbus Blue Jackets to try to climb out of the basement of the Metropolitan. We shall see. Suggestion for the Jackets: Call Kent Johnson back up. He seems good.
That was the seventh Weekly Metropolitan Division Snapshot of the 2023-24 season. What do you expect to happen in this week coming up? Can the Rangers cool off once more? Will Philadelphia be able to be ahead of the pack for another week or will they fade? What of Washington, Carolina, and the Islanders? Can the Devils or Penguins go on a run following their week-ending wins? 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.