As the first full month of the 2023-24 NHL season, the grind of the season will begin to set in. The “start” of the season is in the rearview. Now is the time where getting points becomes a bit more crucial, keeping up or ahead begins to matter, and successes in November can provide relief in March and April. Thanksgiving is usually seen as a day to see who is really in the mix for the post season as rule-of-thumb for some. And that is coming faster than you may think.
As for this week’s snapshot, the New York Rangers were hot. They secured first on Thursday night for this post. They were a shootout away from another sweep of the week. They have a small edge on the rest of the division, which is being led by the Carolina Hurricanes, New Jersey Devils, and New York Islanders. The rest is a bit too close to call - except for the Pittsburgh Penguins. They have more work to do even after decimating San Jose last night. Here are the standings after last night’s games:
In this upcoming week, the schedule is very light on Sunday, Monday, and Wednesday. The real action takes place on the other days. Some are out West. Some are coming back from the road. There are just two games within the division this week and both involve the Washington Capitals. Do not worry, more inter-division games will happen soon. They 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 remained hot. They finally did not win a game last night, but they got a point to go 2-0-1 in the week. They have an early lead on first place with all of the RW and ROW in their favor.
October 30, at Winnipeg, 3-2 Overtime (OT) Win: This one was a bit odd. There were no penalties at all in the first period and two goals were scored within the final two minutes. Artemi Panarin opened the scoring with a tip-in at 18:24 only for David Gustafsson to tie it up with 26 seconds left in the period. After a scoreless and a bit more penalty-filled second period, the Jets took a 2-1 lead thanks to a wrap from Nikolaj Ehlers. However, Brenden Dillon boarded Will Cuylle later in the third. That ended with a Chris Kreider tip of an Adam Fox shot to tie it at 2-2. Before overtime, Ryan Lindren took a tripping call. The Rangers survived the penalty kill. Overtime continued until the final 30 seconds. Panarin drew the Jets’ attention, he slung a pass to Mika Zibanejad in the right circle, and he finished the shot for the victory. New York swept their Northwestern trip. That is impressive even to the most ardent hater of the Rangers.
November 2, vs. Carolina, 2-1 Win: The Rangers were stuck in a tense one with Carolina. While they had five power plays to Carolina’s two, they had just 26 shots on net. They got an early power play goal from Chris Kreider, only for that to be matched by Seth Jarvis on a power play alter in the first period. The score held as Igor Shesterkin and Frederik Andersen were able to stop what they could get. A breakthrough would come past halfway through the third period. Jacob Trouba found Will Cuylle cutting alone to the net and Cuylle finished the pass. That made it 2-1 and the score held for another Rangers win. The win came at a cost. Sebastian Aho took out Adam Fox with a knee-on-knee hit in the first period and Filip Chytil missed time during the game. Those injuries, especially Fox’s, loom large for the Rangers’ success. What could be worse? How about Igor Shesterkin being “banged up” after this game? If that becomes a long term issue along with Fox, then the Rangers’ season may be flipped on its head real soon.
November 4, at Minnesota, 4-3 Shootout (SO) Loss: No Fox, Jonathan Quick in net, and seemingly no problem. The Rangers got out in front 3-0 within the first seven minutes of the game with a deflection by Jimmy Vesey, a goal from Artemi Panarin, and Erik Gustafsson sending Filip Gustavsson to the bench. Quick was perfect in the first as New York killed three penalties in a row (including a trip by Quick, so not so perfect?). Whatever Minnesota talked about during the first intermission worked, however. The Rangers were limited to just 13 shots on net for the remainder of the game. And the Wild began to chip at the 3-0 lead. Ryan Hartman and Joel Eriksson Ek scored less than a minute apart in the second period to make it a 3-2 game. But the Rangers could not respond. Early in the third, Mats Zuccarello provided the equalizer just 1:41 in. And Marco Rossi gave Minnesota the lead. Fortunately for New York, Chris Kreider was able to score and Quick was able to stop the deluge of shots. Overtime was needed and only one shot was taken. It was by Minnesota and Quick stopped it. A shootout was needed. Matt Boldy gave the Wild the 2-1 edge, Vincent Trocheck was denied, and the Rangers lost their first game since October 19. Still got a point, although an 18-shot game with blowing a 3-0 lead has to be a cause for some concern.
What’s Coming Up This Week: The Rangers will have a short week and they can hang out in Manhattan. They will come back from the Minnesota game on Saturday night and be off until they host Detroit on Tuesday, November 7. Detroit has started off this season quite well; that is not an easy one. The Rangers would also be wise to learn from that Saturday night game against the Wild too. They will host them on Thursday, November 9. The schedule remains light after this - although that will end after next week’s snapshot. We will get there when we get there. The lack of games is good for the team to recover a bit. They are in a good position to remain near the top at a minimum, if not stay in first for a third straight week.
What Happened Last Week: The Hurricanes got dirty in this past week. They also went 2-1-0 to claw a little closer to first place.
October 30, at Philadelphia, 3-2 Win: The Hurricanes began their week within the division in Philly. They found out first hand that the Flyers are no one’s doormats right now. They also had a game with fewer than six total goals in it too. The game opened with an early strike from Stefan Noesen. The Flyers responded and pulled ahead with Owen Tippett and Garnet Hathaway scoring less than three and half minutes apart late in the first period. Carolina would claw their way back into the game. The Flyers took only one penalty in the game; a Nick Seeler interference call on Michael Bunting. Bunting punished it with a PPG. Further, Carolina gave Philly five power plays and killed all five. This allowed the 2-2 game to be broken through by Carolina. Which happened within the final five minutes of regulation by Teuvo Teravainen, who has having a lovely start to his season. The Canes held on for the regulation win. Good for them, bad for Philly.
November 2, at NY Rangers, 2-1 Loss: The Carolina Hurricanes have done well over the years at frustrating their opponent’s offense. In this one, they were also frustrated by New York. The Canes were kept to 27 shots on net. Worse, the Canes were happy to give the Rangers power plays with five of them. The first cost them when Chris Kreider scored early. The Canes would hit back with a Seth Jarvis PPG to tie it up. But they could not generate a lot to beat Igor Shesterkin a second time. Not even after Sebastian Aho “got a piece” of Adam Fox with an apparent knee-on-knee hit that took out the Norris-caliber defenseman. How many times does a player have to do stuff like that for he becomes That Kind of Player? I don’t know. I think Aho did it on purpose. Anyway, it only took one big breakdown on defense to cost the Canes this game. It happened in the third period when Jacob Trouba found Will Cuylle cutting to the net ahead of Jarvis. Pass, shot, score. A 2-1 loss that sent Carolina down in the standings on Thursday night, too. They would recover that, though.
November 4, at NY Islanders, 4-3 OT Win: The Hurricanes came out fairly well, but left the first period down a goal to Noah Dobson late in that period. Within the first eight minutes of the second period, the Canes found themselves down three. They conceded a shorthanded goal to Simon Holmstrom. Mat Barzal made it 3-0 later on. This triggered Carolina to just swarm the Isles - and they did just that. They got a foothold in the game thanks to a Jalen Chatfield goal shortly after Barzal’s goal. They flooded Ilya Sorokin with shots. He was up to 27 shots in the first two periods alone. In the third period, he faced 19. The Canes did their best to deny the Isles as they kept them to five shots in the third. The ice was tilted and it paid off. Dmitry Orlov scored his first goal as a Hurricane to make it 3-2. A Scott Mayfield hooking call led to a PPG from Jesperi Kotkaniemi to tie up the game. The Canes did not let up but could not break through in the remaining four and a half minutes of regulation. It did not take long in overtime to end it. Mr. Knee-shot Sebastian Aho took a feed from Martin Necas, skated in, and torched Sorokin with Carolina’s one and only shot in OT to make it a 4-3 win. It was their 47th shot of the game. The Hurricanes are back to being Hurricanes with how they can dominate possession, which can help a team come back from a three-goal deficit. The victory put the Canes up to second place.
What’s Coming Up This Week: Carolina will face Atlantic Division opponents in this week. They will compete a run of games against New York state teams when they host Buffalo on November 7. Carolina would be wise to rest and prepare in the next two days. They are off to the Sunshine State for a back-to-back set to end this week. They will visit Florida on November 10 and Tampa Bay on November 11. Not an easy back-to-back at all for anyone even if Tampa Bay is more vulnerable than in recent seasons. But given Carolina is seemingly back in form and not bleeding goals, they can probably hang in that set. Their neighbors in the Metropolitan Division may hope otherwise. P.S. Watch your knees when Aho takes a shift.
New Jersey Devils
What Happened Last Week: The Devils beat Minnesota twice to win the week. Alas, they lost in St. Louis to go 2-1-0. They ended up in third place for this snapshot. Which seems unimportant due to what happened in that St. Louis game.
October 29, vs. Minnesota, 4-3 Win: The Devils finally scored first in a game! Jesper Bratt, who was a stud on this night, scored to open the game’s scoring! Great! Then Patrick Maroon burned Brendan Smith after Smith whiffed on a puck and Maroon put in his rebound to tie up the game. Minnesota’s power play was fierce but only got one conversion, an early second period goal from Ryan Hartman. The Devils would answer back minutes later when Tyler Toffoli re-directed a Jesper Bratt feed for a PPG. Shortly after that, Erik Haula took advantage of a Wild turnover and beat Marc-Andre Fleury with a slapshot from distance for the 3-2 lead. Bratt converted another power play by completing what I will call a “flowing” move on the man advantage for a 4-2 lead. All good? Well, until Jake Middleton overpowered a stick check to finish a wrap-around feed from Maroon to make it a one-goal game. It was tense by the end and the Wild received one late power play. But the Devils survived the 6-on-4 kill, did not convert an empty net, and held on to win. Nervy by the end, but two points were still secured.
November 2, at Minnesota. 5-3 Win: The Devils started off a four-game road trip to the midwest with a rematch against the Wild. The Devils got off to a very strong start. Alexander Holtz finished a pass from Nathan Bastian to open the game’s scoring early. Michael McLeod put home a puck later in the first to make it 2-0. Vitek Vanecek looked solid as did the Devils. Timo Meier added to the fun with a one-touch finish from a Jack Hughes to convert an early power play at 3-0. Then the Wild hit back. Kirill Kaprizov got fortunate by firing a shot past four skaters in front of Vanecek as well as the goalie to convert a power play and make it 3-1. Later in the second period, the Wild switched up their lines and it gave the Devils issues in the run of play. Something that led to damage when Marco Rossi got behind Vanecek and put home a loose puck to make it 3-2. The Devils did adjust and turn the tide a bit. They got a break when Calen Addison high-stuck Curtis Lazar. After a post was hit, Jesper Bratt finished the power play to make it 4-2 with less than five minutes to go. Easy, right? Well, no. Vanecek tried to cover up a sliding puck toward him, but he mis-judged its path. The puck hit off the thin part of his possibly interfered stick and then snuck through him. A goal for Jake Middleton and it was now 4-3 with less than 3:30 to go. The Wild put on the pressure at 6-on-5. Then the Devils got a double-break. First, Jack Hughes was about to break ahead for an empty net only for Matt Boldy to body him down. An easy interference call. Right after that power play started, Kaprizov got his stick up under Tyler Toffoli’s visor. The Devils had a 5-on-3 that they could have sat on for the win given there was less than 1:30 to play. The Devils took their time. Dougie Hamilton converted the 5-on-3 from Jesper Bratt (his fourth point!) and Jack Hughes to punish the fouls. The Devils iced out the 5-on-4 power play for 38 seconds to secure the win and a season sweep over the Wild. Thank you, Minnesota - nice discipline.
November 3, at St. Louis, 4-1 Loss: About nine minutes into the game, Jack Hughes split the defense and took a shot on Jordan Binnington. The goalie made the save. Hughes lost an edge trying to turn for the rebound and careened into the boards hard. Play stopped, he was checked, he skated hunched over to the bench, he played one shift on a power play, and that was his night. This is a massive loss as Jack Hughes is both the Devils’ most talented player and the NHL’s leading scorer. Breaths were held. Hopes and prayers were (and are) stated. A feeling of dread and concern came over the Devils fans all across the world.
Unfortunately, a game still had to be played. Akira Schmid acquitted himself quite well through the first period and the first few minutes of the second period. Alas, a breakdown happened. Sammy Blais found Jake Neighbours all alone in the slot heading to the net. He beat Schmid high for a score. A few minutes later, a breakdown in coverage combined with Jonas Siegenthaler and Brendan Smith doing a whole lot of nothing led to Kevin Hayes putting in a third rebound opportunity past Schmid to go down two. The Devils would get on the board late in the second when Curtis Lazar dove to put home a rebound. The Devils put in better efforts to attack but Binnington was too good. From the routine to the absolute robberies of Jesper Bratt and Tyler Toffoli at points in the third. Schmid was pulled for the extra skater and that ended with Hayes putting home an ENG. For reasons I do not understand, head coach Lindy Ruff pulled Schmid a second time and Robert Thomas one-touched in a second ENG. The Devils lost a game closer than the final score shows. Of course, the bigger concern is the status of The Big Deal.
What’s Coming Up This Week: The Devils will finish up their four-game road trip this week with or without Nico Hischier and Jack Hughes. Tonight, they will get a first-hand look at Connor Bedard and the Chicago Blackhawks. Bedard is legit. The Blackhawks are, well, a work in progress. But a shorthanded Devils squad may have some issues regardless. On November 7, the trip ends against a mighty Colorado team. They are no longer hot but they are still frightfully dangerous opponents with their star players alone. Add to that fear should the Devils be without #86 along with #13. The Devils will return home to host Washington on November 10. Hopefully, that goes better than the first game against the Caps. Isles fans may hope that the Devils work over Washington a bit since they will get them on Saturday. We shall see if the results keep coming in. More importantly, hope that Hischier and Hughes return as soon as they can (Jack Hughes “avoided the worst case scenario” per Elliotte Friedman, which is good yet vague.) - and that the rest of the team can perform well in their absences.
New York Islanders
What Happened Last Week: The Islanders went 1-0-2, which is not ideal. They did win the week the hard way (4 points out of 6), and got a nice win over Washington. But those OT losses may sting as the Isles left two points on the table - and slipped to fourth in the division behind New Jersey.
October 30, vs. Detroit, 4-3 OT Loss: The Isles keep getting into high-event, offensive games. This was no different as both teams combined for 76 shots on net. Discipline was fairly good with two power plays for each side (except for a Cal Clutterbuck misconduct penalty); they just kept breaking the other’s defense down. The game was scoreless until the Isles had to kill a Simon Holmstrom slashing penalty. The Isles made the most of that with Casey Cizikas scoring a shorty to open the game’s scoring. Early in the third period, Brock Nelson beat Ville Husso for a 2-0 lead early in the third. The game proceeded to get away from the Isles a bit. After stopping 27 out of 27 shots, Ilya Sorokin gave up three within five minutes in the third. First, Daniel Sprong. Second, Jake Walman. Third (and to make it 3-2), J.T. Compher. Once again, special teams helped the Isles. A David Perron tripping penalty in the third led to a conversion by Bo Horvat to tie up the game. Overtime was needed, but it did not take long. A mishandle on the puck by Horvat led to Lucas Raymond taking the puck away on offense. He passed it across to Compher, Compher passed it back after Sorokin slid over, and Raymond ended it with a virtual tap-in. The Isles got a point but still lost 4-3. Not the ideal way to start the week.
November 2, at Washington, 3-0 Win: The Islanders went to Washington D.C. and left with two points and some of the Capitals’ dignity. It took just 22 seconds for Ryan Pulock to open the game’s scoring. That goal was all that was needed as Semyon Varlamov stopped all 32 shots the Capitals took in the game. Even though the Caps out-shot the Isles 9-2 in the first period, the Capitals went into the second period down 2-0. Yes, 9-2. The Caps made zero saves in the first period. Simon Holmstrom’s first period goal came at 10:41 so the Capitals held the Isles shotless for a while - and were losing by a pair. Past midway through the second, Brock Nelson added a third goal. A sad night for the Capitals and a happy and fruitful win for the Islanders. Although they did lose Adam Pelech due to injury.
November 4, vs. Carolina, 4-3 OT Loss: Say what you want about Adam Pelech, but he is a key part of the defense for the Islanders. Which the Isles could have used given how Carolina just attacked and attacked and attacked them in this game. The Isles did build a lead. Noah Dobson provided a late first period goal for the early lead. A shorty from Simon Holmstrom and a Mat Barzal goal made it 3-0. With Ilya Sorokin in the net, surely, the Isles can lock down the game? Nope. Jalen Chatfield got Carolina on the board shortly after the Barzal goal. Then the Canes just kept storming through the Isles like a hot knife through butter. The Canes took 14, 13, and 19 shots in each period in order. The Isles, well, 11, 8, and 5. And that rink dominance in the third period undid that lead. Dmitry Orlov put the Canes within one and a Scott Mayfield penalty was punished by Jesperi Kotkaniemi to erase the lead. Overtime was needed. Once Carolina got the puck on offense, it was not long before Sebastian Aho knee-capped the game. He flew to the circle after a drop pass from Martin Necas and beat Sorokin for the OT loss.
What’s Coming Up This Week: The Islanders will get to do what the Rangers and Devils do on Tuesday, November 7, and play Minnesota. This is in Long Island so the Isles will have that to help them. They will ship up to Boston on November 9 for what could be a more difficult affair. Then the Isles will return to Belmont to play the Capitals once again on Saturday night, November 11. Without spoiling the following two weeks, this week coming up begins a three-week grind for the Isles. There are no back-to-backs but three games in five days could make that Saturday game against the Caps a little tougher to get going for. Hopefully, the team will manage their minutes accordingly.
What Happened Last Week: The Capitals would win the week by going 2-1-0. Saturday night’s results were helpful enough to put the Caps in fifth place.
October 29, vs. San Jose, 3-1 Win: The Capitals went into this one with a win in New Jersey and a shootout win over Minnesota. While no game in this league is easy, this San Jose team is, well, it is not good. Scoring seems to be a particularly difficult concept for the Sharks. They went into this game with zero goals since the first period of their game on October 24. They were shut out back-to-back since that game, a 3-1 loss in Florida. Well, the Sharks finally got a goal. Luke Kunin provided the game’s first goal in the first period. Impressively (or unimpressively, depending on who you are rooting for in this game), the Sharks held Washington scoreless for the first two periods. Sure, the Caps out-shot the Sharks but the Sharks gave them plenty to deal with. Then the third period happened. Dylan Strome continued his strong start to 2023-24 with a goal early in the third. Tom Wilson broke the 1-1 tie late in the third period. Evgeny Kuznetsov secured the two points with an empty net goal. It was not easy - but Washington got the expected win over San Jose. And a three-game winning streak going into their next game.
November 2, vs. NY Islanders, 3-0 Loss: Washington, what were you doing? Good that you kept the Isles to two shots in the first period. However, it is presumed that those 2 shots would not be 2 goals. Not a 22 second goal by Ryan Pulock. Not a Simon Holmstrom goal later. Semyon Varlamov was excellent but with that kind of dominance on the shot count, you had to have done better. Instead, you scored no goals, you conceded a third goal in the second period to really put yourselves in a hole, and so you lost pretty badly in front of your home crowd. The opponents are not going to be Sharks-level every night, guys.
November 4, vs. Columbus, 2-1 Win: As the score showed, this was a tight one. Charles Lindgren had to be great - and he was in this one. He also had a cushion to work with for most of the game. Tom Wilson, who was denied on a penalty shot earlier in the period, scored after splitting the defense to recover a turnover by Columbus. Later in the first, Sonny Milano scored backdoor to make it 2-0. The Caps did not so much lean on this lead; Elvis Merzlikins played quite well for Columbus. They could not afford to when Dmitri Voronkov scored on a tip-in early in the second to make it 2-1. But Lindgren was the star with 21 saves since that goal allowed to Voronkov. The Caps prevailed and moved on up in the standings at Columbus’ expense.
What’s Coming Up This Week: The Capitals will not play a game until next Wednesday. Then they will play three games in four nights. You have to be a bit wary of those longer breaks in the schedule. The games are likely to follow in quick succession. It is not a simple three-game-in-four-night run. The Capitals will host Florida on November 8 for a nationally televised audience. Then Washington will travel back to New Jersey on November 10 and then to Long Island on November 11. The Devils may want revenge. The Isles may want to relive their shutout win. The Caps have to be careful to at least maintain their rise after a successful week.
What Happened Last Week: The Flyers went 1-3-0. At least they did not get swept? They fell to sixth in the standings as a result.
October 30, vs. Carolina, 3-2 Loss: The Flyers were in a position to get something in a game against Carolina. However, they fell short. They also conceded the game’s first goal to Stefan Noesen. The Flyers did respond closer to the end of the first period. Owen Tippett forced a neutral zone turnover and ultimately finished the play with an equalizer. Garnet Hathaway stashed in a backhander that Frederik Andersen should have stopped to make it 2-1. The Flyers let that lead slip. Despite five power plays in the game and three in the second period, they could not expand the lead or convert any of them. They took one penalty - a Nick Seeler interference penalty - and it was punished by the fouled player, Michael Bunting to make it 2-2. The Flyers were holding steady late. But a breakdown in coverage left Teuvo Teravainen wide open in the high slot. He got the puck and ripped it past Carter Hart to make it 3-2. The Flyers could not respond and so they lost. Alas.
November 1, vs. Buffalo, 5-2 Loss: The Flyers have to be gnashing their teeth. They took 40 shots in this game, conceded just 15, and they lost by three. Part of the issue is that Carter Hart got hurt in this game and Samuel Ersson had to come in. He got shelled in the third period for the loss. The first period featured a quick goal by Joel Farabee, a Casey Mittelstadt equalizer less than three minutes later, a Buffalo goal taken off the board, a goal from Brandon Biro halfway through the first, and a Cam Atkinson tip-in to make it 2-2 through the first period. All this and Hart was hurt too. Rough. The second period featured plenty of Flyers offense but nothing past Ukko-Pekka Lukkonen. In the third period, the Flyers out-shot the Sabres, 20-4. One of those four was for an empty net. Ersson was beaten on two out of three shots. First, an early go-ahead goal from Owen Power. Second, a Tage Thompson goal. Third, an empty netter for Biro. Frustration is not even the word for the Flyers. I am not a fan of Philly and I am a bit peeved for this effort to end with a 5-2 loss. Alas, no one ever said hockey or life was fair.
November 3, at Buffalo, 5-1 Win: The loss on Wednesday sure made the rematch a more interesting game to consider. In reality, this was all about Philly from the start. Scott Laughton scored just over a minute in. On the next shift, Louie Belpedio scored his first NHL goal to make it 2-0. Later in the third, Travis Konecny added to the lead. The second period featured just one goal - and that was also by Philly. Specifically, Garnet Hathaway. The blowout was on. Henrik Jokiharju did spoil Samuel Ersson’s shutout bid in the third period. It was OK. None of the other five (just five more shots, Buffalo?) went in. Philly took just four and Bobby Brink’s went in for the final result. A very solid win without much drama save for a fight near the end of regulation between Hathaway and Dylan Cozens. A great response for the Orange and Black.
November 4, vs. Los Angeles, 5-0 Loss: Unfortunately, that would be it in terms of scoring for the Flyers in this past week. Los Angeles came to Philadelphia with their silver helmets and left at least some of Philadelphia’s dignity. Despite their shaky goaltending to start this season, Cam Talbot was perfect. He stopped all 24 shots. Yes, only 24. The Kings got going and never looked back. Adrian Kempe tipped in a floating pass by Quintin Byfield. On the very next shift, Anze Kopitar tipped in a Matt Roy shot to make it 2-0. The Flyers stemmed the bleeding for most of the second. Then Cam York went off for a delay of game penalty and Arthur Kaliyev converted the power play to make it 3-0. Within the final minute of the period, Trevor Moore scored from the half-wall to make it 4-0; an awful goal for Cal Petersen to allow. In the third, Blake Lizotte completed the blowout at 5-0. After the high of a big ‘W’ over Buffalo, the Kings severed the Flyers a big ‘L’ to end a poor week for Philly.
What’s Coming Up This Week: The Flyers are off to California. Right after playing the Kings, who just hammered them, they are going on a four-game road trip where they will play all three California-based teams in this coming week. First up is a November 7 game against a truly wretched San Jose team. That may be a good warmup for the end of the week given their recent games. It gets harder after them. The Flyers get a tough back-to-back with Anaheim on November 10 and Los Angeles on November 11. Anaheim has surprised some teams - just ask Carolina - and a rematch in L.A. is not an easy proposition given what they just did to them in Philly last night. With Hart out, this could feel a long time in the Golden State. Hopefully the skaters are prepared for offense to help Ersson and Petersen out. Those two may not be so trustworthy in the crease.
Columbus Blue Jackets
What Happened Last Week: The Blue Jackets won a game! They beat Tampa Bay! They went 1-2-0 in the week, but hey, they got one (1) win. They also have an issue with their $9.75 million cap-hit winger, but more on that in a bit.
October 30, at Dallas, 5-3 Loss: The Blue Jackets extended their winless streak to four by taking a ‘L’ in the Big D. This was a close game for two periods. A bad start led to Thomas Harley scoring 22 seconds into the game. But the Blue Jackets hit back with a deflection goal by Dmitri Voronkov. Damon Severson got his first goal as a Blue Jacket late in the first period to give Columbus a 2-1 lead. This lead lasted to 5:52 of the second period when Roope Hintz tipped off a Jason Robertson deflection of a Nils Lundkvist shot for a 2-2 game. In the third period, the game fell apart for Columbus. Matt Duchene got his first as a Star early for a 3-2 deficit. Evgeny Dadonov made it 4-2 later in the third. Wyatt Johnston sealed up the game with an ENG. Sean Kuraly did score about a minute after that ENG but it was a mere consolation goal. The Blue Jackets were decisively defeated by Dallas.
November 2, vs. Tampa Bay, 4-2 Win: A 4-2 win? Yes. The Blue Jackets ended a four-game slide. The game got off well on the scoreboard in the first period when Kirill Marchenko scored the game’s first goal. That held until a Bad second period for the Blue Jackets. The Lightning not only out-shot them 12-5, but took a lead. Steven Stamkos tied it up early in the second and close to two minutes after that, Conor Sheary finished a feed from Stamkos in the grill of Elvis Merzlikins to make it 2-1. Columbus flipped the script in the third period, though. While they did not convert a power play, it helped that Tampa Bay took the game’s final four penalties - three within the third period. In between the calls, the Jackets struck. Boone Jenner tied it up with a tip on a Zach Werenski shot. Erik Gudbranson heaved a shot from above the left circle that found its way in to make it 3-2. Tampa Bay pulled their goalie for the extra skater and it ended with Johnny Gaudreau scoring his first of the season (really!) with the ENG. The Blue Jackets got one in the ‘W’ column and did it over a struggling Tampa Bay team. Good job.
November 4, at Washington, 2-1 Loss: The Blue Jackets wanted to build on their victory. They did not largely thanks to one man: Charles Lindgren. Granted, the defensive zone turnovers that Tom Wilson and (eventually) Sonny Milano punished also led to the loss. But Dmitri Voronkov got one past Lindgren on a deflection - and that would be it. The Blue Jackets certainly tried. They put up 21 shots on net after that Voronkov goal early in the second period. They got power plays. They even got a good game from Elvis Merzlikins to keep it a one-shot game. But Lindgren was excellent. Unfortunately, that happens in hockey. Columbus got goalied in this one.
They also demonstrated some discord. Remember Johnny Gaudreau, he of the massive contract he signed in Columbus after spurning New Jersey and Philadelphia? Well, it appears the Devils and Flyers dodged a bullet as all is not well with Gaudreau. The big-money forward was benched for the majority of a one-goal game by Columbus head coach Pascal Vincent. Per Tom Gulitti, the head coach was candid as to why:
Johnny Gaudreau did not play final 16:07 for Columbus.— Tom Gulitti (@TomGulittiNHL) November 5, 2023
Coach Pascal Vincent said "I didn't like his game."
Full quote below. pic.twitter.com/cSYPLHpIEd
This with Johnny Gaudreau’s contract, the Mike Babcock imbroglio, Kent Johnson getting demoted to Cleveland, goodness, Jarmo Kekalainen is not going to make it through 2023-24 as Columbus GM at this rate.
What’s Coming Up This Week: Columbus will play three games, two away from home, and none will be simple matters. On Monday, November 6, they will visit the Panthers of Florida. Never an easy outing for anyone, much less a struggling Columbus squad. On Thursday, the Blue Jackets will host Dallas in a rematch. Will the home ice make a difference? If so, it will not help them on Saturday afternoon. The Blue Jackets will be in Detroit to start a weekend back-to-back set. The 1 PM start may throw them off a bit, but it may also mean a little more rest than a usual back-to-back set for that second game. Either way, the goal for Columbus is the same: get some more results. It will be how they can at least stay away from the Caps and Pens. And it may save some jobs in the short term.
What Happened Last Week: The Penguins went 1-1-0. They really should have went 2-0-0. Or even 1-0-1. But that first game, man.
November 30, vs. Anaheim, 4-3 Loss: Fresh off a 5-2 loss at home to Ottawa, the Penguins fell short in a rather frustrating fashion. The game started off well enough. Radko Gudas took a penalty and Erik Karlsson made the Ducks pay with a PPG early in the first period. But the Ducks responded with a backhander by Jakob Silfverberg that beat Tristan Jarry. John Gibson would leave the game after the first period and replaced by Lukas Dostal. The Ducks helped him with Frank Vatrano punishing a Sidney Crosby holding penalty for a PPG and a 2-1 lead. Then things got rough for Anaheim late in the period. They had an unsuccessful challenge for what I believe was a Ducks goal. Not only did they get the penalty for losing the challenge, they got another two for unsportsmanlike conduct against the bench. That meant a full 5-on-3 for Pittsburgh. Evgeni Malkin finished that to tie up the game at 2-2. This enraged Greg Cronin so much that he got a game misconduct and an ejection. A misconduct penalty and an ejection for a head coach is rare in this NHL. Clearly, he was mad. It would be the Pens fans at PPG Paints Arena and worldwide that would have reason to get mad later, though. Not immediately. Radim Zohorna scored early in the third period for a 3-2 lead. But Dostal then turned into a wall and stopped 16 more shots. Mason McTavish scored shortly after Zohorna’s goal to make it a 3-3 game. Late in the third, McTavish took a tripping penalty and Sam Carrick cleared a puck over the glass early in that penalty kill. The Pens would get a prime chance to take the game with a 5-on-3. They did not convert on their second long two man advantage of the night. In fact, Malkin hit the post by its end. Adam Henrique denied a pass by Karlsson and dove to push it ahead to McTavish, who was coming out of the box. Karlsson tried but could not catch him. McTavish went in, saw Jarry was just standing up, and roofed a shot past the goalie that, uh, could have done anything better in what was a very crucial situation. With 13 seconds left in the game, Anaheim took the lead on a shorthanded breakaway goal after a 5-on-3 was not converted wherein Malkin hit a post. A breakaway caused by Henrique intercepting a pass by Karlsson. A breakaway finished past a rather stoic Jarry. By a team that did not even have their head coach behind the bench for the third period, which was where the Penguins lost the game. That is how the Pens lost. Absolutely infuriating - and I am not even a Pens fan!
November 4, at San Jose, 10-2 Win: Pittsburgh began their California road trip on Saturday night in the Bay Area. With plenty of time to stew from that loss to Anaheim, would the Pens make things right? They are playing a team with fewer goals than the Hughes family, so this should be a win. And it was. Almost to a point where calling it a win is putting it lightly. This was an utter destruction of a truly terrible San Jose team.
This game out-did Las Vegas pantsing Colorado 7-0 as the biggest blowout of the night. This was the second straight game that San Jose gave up 10 goals in. Anthony Duclair took a roughing penalty against the Bay Area return of Erik Karlsson 49 seconds into the game and the long night for the Sharks began with a PPG by Reilly Smith at 1:30. Smith scored much later in the first for a perfectly reasonable 2-0 game after one. The bottom fell out in the second period. All before the 12-minute mark of the period: Jake Guentzel scored. Vinny Hinostroza scored. Duclair got a PPG to punish a Sidney Crosby hooking penalty on someone named Nikolai Knyzhov. Evgeni Malkin had a response for that: a goal. Kris Letang scored on the shift after Malkin’s goal. Matt Nieto (also an ex-Shark) made it 7-1 at 11:53. Absolute domination by Pittsburgh. Of course, there was more. Bryan Rust scored within the first minute of the third period. Jacob MacDonald scored a PPG after Hinostroza hooked Knyzhov. Once again, Malkin had an answer for that one: a power play goal of his own. Guentzel ended the scoring spree at 12:10 into the third period with a goal. 35 shots on net, 10 goals scored, Mackenzie Blackwood was chased after Malkin’s first goal only for Magnus Chrona to see 4 out of 17 go past him, and every Penguin had a point in this game except for Ryan Shea, Drew O’Connor, Radim Zohorna, and Lars Eller. This was a huge pick-me-up for Pittsburgh, who remain at the bottom due to that terrible loss to Anaheim.
What’s Coming Up This Week: The Penguins will finish up their time in the Golden State this week before returning home. The games will be harder by default. On Tuesday, they will get a rematch with Anaheim. Will the Penguins take care of business? Will they instead find another inventive and enraging way to lose in Orange County? Who can say. On Thursday, the Penguins will be in Los Angeles - a team with talent and struggles in net (and just relished a win in Philly). Pittsburgh can probably relate on some level. The Penguins will not get much of a break after that trip. They will be off on Friday and then host Buffalo on November 11. After a two-game week, welcome to the grind, Pittsburgh. You cannot run from it.
That was the fourth Weekly Metropolitan Division Snapshot of the 2023-24 season. What do you expect to happen in this week coming up? Who will be the most impacted by the various injuries within the division? Is Sebastian Aho of Carolina That Kind of Player? Will the Rangers cool off now? Can Pittsburgh build on a beating in Bay? Can Philadelphia avoid falling further? What do you do if you are Columbus? Most of all: What do you think the Devils will do 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.