Now that every team in the division has played at least 21 games, the quarter-mark of the 82-game regular season has been passed in the Metropolitan Division. The story remains mostly the same as last week. The New York Rangers are still on top with a bigger-than-you-think six point lead with all of the tiebreakers in their favor. The Carolina Hurricanes are pulling away from the middle of the division where three points separate five different teams. But the story this season is that is much harder to do than it seems. Just ask the Pittsburgh Penguins and New Jersey Devils, who won their weeks and remain in sixth and seventh place, respectively. Here is where everyone stands as of this morning:
This coming week sees the New Jersey Devils, Carolina Hurricanes, and Pittsburgh Penguins playing entirely away from home. The Philadelphia Flyers and Rangers will embark from home during the week. The Washington Capitals will return home. There are just three games coming up that are within the division, but they are highlighted and in bold all the same:
Here is the week that was and the week that will be in the Metropolitan Division.
New York Rangers
What Happened Last Week: Much to my personal annoyance, the New York Rangers keep bouncing back from losses. And their six-point lead is huge given that no one else in the division wants to take a step ahead of the rest of the pack. This is the weekly Metropolitan Division snapshot, though, not the John’s Personal Take on Every Team in the Division. Anyway the Rangers went 2-1-0.
November 27, vs. Buffalo, 5-1 Loss: Loss? Yes, a week after the Rangers lost in regulation for the first time in over a month, the Rangers lost again in regulation. At home. With Igor Shesterkin in the net. By a wide margin. The Sabres went up with a goal by John-Jason Peterka. Buffalo made it 2-0 within the final minute of the second period thanks to Alex Tuch. While Mika Zibanejad scored a PPG to make it a 2-1 game, the Sabres rolled through the Rangers in the third. Shots were 17-3 in favor of the visitors. Tuch scored again to make it 3-1. Casey Mittelstadt made it 4-1 with a late empty netter. Kyle Okposo tacked on a fifth goal with seven seconds left to inflate the score. A heavy loss at home to Buffalo? Good thing the Rangers had that lead.
November 29, vs. Detroit, 3-2 Win: Good thing (for them) the Rangers won their next game. It was a tight and somewhat controversial one, given that Lucas Raymond grabbed Will Cuylle’s stick at one point and forced a high-sticking penalty. But the game was loaded with calls. Scoring began in the second period by Artemi Panarin. Yet, Detroit went up two with a quick pair: a PPG from Moritz Seider and an ESG by Robby Fabbri. It took until a period and eight seconds later for the Rangers to tie it up. K’Andre Miller was open for the shot and he finished it. New York rallied with a 19-shot third period. In addition to Miller’s goal, they got one more past Ville Husso. Jimmy Vesey provided the breakthrough within the final five minutes. The Rangers held on for the victory, further cementing their spot at the top.
December 2, at Nashville, 4-3 Win: The Rangers were in trouble early on in Nashville. Nashville dropped 18 shots on New York in the first period. Ryan O’Reilly scored first and Roman Josi punished a Barclay Goodrow penalty to make it 2-0 in the first period. The second period would flip the script though. Jacob Trouba scored a goal 31 seconds into the second period. While Colton Sissons scored during a Nashville too many men penalty, Chris Kreider scored right after that penalty ended to make it 3-2. On the next shift, Juuso Parssinen took a boarding penalty. That was answered quickly with a PPG by Vincent Trocheck tipping in a Mika Zibanejad play. The tie was broken in the third period by a Ryan Lindgren that went off a Predator skate and in. The Preds tried to tie it back up but they could not. The Rangers held on for the win to secure another winning week.
What’s Coming Up This Week: The Rangers will follow up their Saturday afternoon game with an early evening home game against San Jose. On the one hand, it is a back-to-back set with the second team coming off a day of rest. On the other, it is San Jose. The Rangers will go on the road for their next two games. On Tuesday, they will visit an Ottawa team that is no pushover even if they are at the wrong end of the Atlantic Division standings. On Saturday, another weekend back-to-back begins with an evening game at the Capitals. That could have implications on how the snapshot looks next week given that Washington is very much in the tight clump of teams beneath the Rangers. For New York, the goal is simple: Keep getting results and avoid a slump. So far, so good - for them.
What Happened Last Week: Carolina rebounded from the big loss to Tampa Bay last week with a winning week. They nearly took all eight points by going 3-0-1 and have pulled away from the pack in second place.
November 26, vs. Columbus, 3-2 Win: It seemed like this was going to be Elvis Merzlikins’ night. He stopped 27 straight shots through the first two periods. The Canes controlled the run of play but could not beat Elvis. Worse, Columbus did beat Pytor Kochetkov first and second. Early in the third period, Kirill Marchenko put the Blue Jackets up a goal. Johnny Gaudreau made it 2-0. Was it going to be one of Those Nights? No. Jesperi Kotkaniemi said No when he scored halfway through the third to halve the deficit. Brady Skjei said No when he tied it up within the final four minutes of regulation. Would there be overtime? No said Andrei Svechnikov. He’s back, he’s back on the scoresheet, and he provided the winner with less than two minutes left. Poor Merzlikins. He made 40 stops - and it was not enough. Carolina rolled on with the win.
November 28, at Philadelphia, 4-1 Win: Carolina took this one more decisively. The first period had one goal and it came from Carolina’s Michael Bunting. That 1-0 lead held until Travis Konecny equalized in the second period. But Brendan Lemieux’s block of a clearing attempt led to a loose puck he put home to make it 2-1 for Carolina. The score held until late in the third period when Seth Jarvis scored a big insurance goal. Kotkaniemi added an ENG to seal the 4-1 win. No getting goalied. No late game heroics. Good.
November 30, vs. New York Islanders, 5-4 Overtime (OT) Loss: This, well, was a bad game for Pytor Kochetkov. Carolina kept the Islanders to 16 shots in the game. He conceded five goals. The goal fest began with a wrister by Jalen Chatfield to put the Canes up early. Bo Horvat tipped home a Mat Barzal shot to tie it up. Jordan Staal made it a 2-1 game early in the second. That held until the Isles had to kill a Mike Reilly interference penalty. Carolina was punished with a Simon Holmstrom shorthanded goal. After that was killed, Pierre Engvall made it 3-2 within the final two minutes of the second. Jack Drury tied it up within the first minute of the third. But a run of three penalties would cost the Canes. Kyle Palmieri scored on a Staal penalty for delay of game to make it 4-3. The Canes dodged danger when their challenge of the goal failed. And when they took a too many men on the ice. The score held until a last, desperate charge. A rebound slid home by Sebastian Aho with less than 3 seconds left tied it up. Overtime ensued. Past halfway through OT, Noah Dobson broke up a 2-on-1 by the Canes and passed it quickly to Barzal to start his own. Barzal kept the puck, passed it back to Dobson, Dobson passed it back, Barzal one-timed it, and the puck beat Kochetkov high for the 5-4 OT Loss. Good they got a point but boy does it look bad to give up just 16 shots and still concede five goals.
December 2, vs. Buffalo, 6-2 Win: The Hurricanes got it right against the Sabres. A defense to lock down the opponent to 22 shots? Check. Scoring early and building on a lead that Buffalo would struggle to overcome? Check. Special teams? Check. The first period featured two goals 50 seconds apart from Sebastian Aho and Jack Drury for a 2-0 lead. Early in the second period, Aho got his brace from a PPG that punished Alex Tuch’s interference penalty. Later in the second period, Stefan Noesen made it 4-0. Late in the second, a Kyle Okposo roughing penalty led to Teuvo Teravainen converting the situation for a 5-0 lead going into the third period. Buffalo would get on the board in the third thanks to Casey Mittelstadt. But it was a consolation goal made further meaningless after Brady Skjei scored a shorty later in the third. Tyson Jost scored a bit later for the 6-2 final score. A very fine win to end what was a very successful week for the Hurricanes.
What’s Coming Up This Week: Carolina will be away from Raleigh for the next six games. Four are next week and all of them are in Canada. The trip begins in Winnipeg on Monday night. Then there is a back-to-back set on Wednesday and Thursday in Alberta; Edmonton then Calgary. The week will end in Vancouver on Saturday night. None of these teams are real push overs. Winnipeg and Vancouver has something to play for. Edmonton has to play for their lives at this point of the season. Calgary is not a doormat. Carolina has shown they can control games and get results. They got the results to get ahead from Washington, the Islanders, Philadelphia, and (to a lesser extent) Pittsburgh. They just need to lay off the nightmarish games like the ones against the Isles from this past Thursday and keep it steady. Should the Rangers slip, maybe Carolina will be in a position to move ahead in the distant future.
What Happened Last Week: Washington went to California and came out winners overall. What happened in Las Vegas, well, was a loss. The Caps went 2-2-0. They remain in third thanks to playing two fewer games than the Islanders and three fewer games than the Flyers.
November 27, at San Jose, 2-1 Loss: Loss? Yes. The Washington Capitals joined the elite club of teams who have lost in regulation to San Jose this season. Did the Caps own the shot clock? At 34-23, yes. Did the Caps have power plays? Yes, three of them. Did the Caps put the pressure on MacKenzie Blackwood? For two periods, yes. After Fabian Zetterlund opened the scoring with a put-back in the first period, it took almost the whole second period for an equalizer to come. Evgeny Kuznetsov provided it at 16:25. The 1-1 tie held until Martin Fehervary went to the box for a high-sticking penalty. This gave the space to Luke Kunin to break the tie with a PPG. The Caps responded with not much and so they lost 2-1 to San Jose. This garnered some laughter. But that would soon go away and transfer to a different Metropolitan Division team.
November 29, at Los Angeles, 2-1 Win: No one, except maybe Caps fans, were laughing on Wednesday night. Charlie Lindgren was sensational in the net. He faced 39 shots on net and stopped everything but an Arthur Kaliyev shot in the first period. Los Angeles kept the Caps in check for most of the game, but Anthony Mantha did tie it up in the first period. Lindgren had to put his team on his back to keep it 1-1 for most of it. Late in the second, the Caps got a big break when Connor McMichael batted in a rebound from a Mantha shot. Yes, batted in. Cam Talbot stopped the shot by Mantha, the puck popped up, and McMichael touched it into the net. 2-1 and Lindgren ensured it stayed that way. A big win after a poor loss.
November 30, at Anaheim, 5-4 Win: The Capitals still had gas in the tank to go to Orange County and get another two points. The game opened with a pair of unassisted goals: Mantha for Washington and Tristian Luneau for Anaheim. Brett Leason broke the tie. Then a run of goals late in the first period saw the Caps go from losing 2-1 to winning 4-2. Tom Wilson tied it up after he served his second minor penalty of the period. A power play was quickly punished by Wilson minutes later. Nic Dowd scored 20 seconds after that. The Ducks would make it 4-3 in the third period thanks to Brock McGinn. But Wilson would complete his hat trick for a big insurance goal on another power play with over five minutes left. A 6-on-5 push led to Frank Vatrano scoring with 28 seconds left, but the Caps held on for the 5-4 victory.
December 2, at Las Vegas, 4-1 Win: Charlie Lindgren did not play because he was sick. Darcy Kuemper was also not feeling well but when emergency call up Hunter Shepard arrived late, Kuemper had to start. The Capitals went out there and decided to, well, not help their goalie. They got out-shot 10-5 in the first period. A slash by Tom Wilson begat a Jonathan Marchessault power play goal for an early lead. In the second period, where the Caps were outshot 18-4, Jack Eichel broke away. He scored to make it 2-0. Within the first minute of the third period, Mark Stone scored at a sharp angle to make it 3-0. It would not be until there were fewer than four minutes left that Washington got on the board. Tom Wilson broke the shutout for Logan Thompson. Did it matter? No. Marchessault sealed the game with an empty netter. A disappointing end to what could have been a successful trip.
What’s Coming Up This Week: Washington will finish up its road trip on Monday night at Arizona State University. The Coyotes are challenging for a change this season. It could be a rough ending to their trip. What will also be rough are their home games upon returning. The Capitals draw a very good Dallas team on Thursday night. Then they will host the division (or conference, depending on Boston’s form) leading New York Rangers on Saturday night. That Saturday game starts a weekend back to back for them so they cannot just leave it on the ice for the Rangers. Similar to Philadelphia, the Capitals have done better than expected so far. Being in third place as of December 3 is an accomplishment for a team that struggles mightily to score - Just 50 goals! Even the Isles have 14 more goals! - Each week is a test to prove it is real and not just good results or fortune or hot play or whatnot.
New York Islanders
What Happened Last Week: Do you like dramatic third periods? The Islanders provided that in a week where they went 2-1-0. They won the week and remained in the mix of the division in fourth place.
November 28, at New Jersey, 5-4 Loss: The Islanders were seemingly in a position to take the game within the division. They got the first goal, a PPG by Bo Horvat. Only for that to be answered by Michael McLeod beating Ilya Sorokin straight up on a shot. While they conceded a 2-on-1 and a goal to Dawson Mercer in the second period, the Isles preyed on some bad Devils defending (and goaltending) for three straight goals. Mat Barzal got a breakaway from the neutral zone and finished it to make it 2-2. Cal Clutterbuck finished a mess of a shift by New Jersey to make it 3-2. Barzal made a sick-nasty pass to an open Jean-Gabriel Pageau for a one-touch goal to make it 4-2. Vitek Vanecek was out, Akira Schmid was in. Alas, the third period was a disaster for the Isles. Jack Hughes made it a one-goal game just over five minutes into the period. A series of penalties ended up with a 4-on-3 for the Devils. That ended with Nico Hischier piling in a rebound from a Jack Hughes shot to make it 4-4. Sorokin was fighting it but holding on. Then in the final minute of the game, the Isles were caught out of sorts. A Kevin Bahl shot was stopped, Curtis Lazar played the rebound, and Alexander Romanov knocked it in before Alexander Holtz could slam it in. The lead was erased and the Isles left with nothing after a goal allowed with 27 seconds left. A terrible result to start the week.
November 30, at Carolina, 5-4 OT Win: The Isles surely cannot be pleased with being held to 16 shots on net. But scoring five in the process surely eases the pain of being pinned back so much. Semyon Varlamov handled the additional work load. The Isles, well, scored on very few opportunities. Jalen Chatfield opened the scoring in the first period, which was answered late in the first by Bo Horvat. Jordan Staal got the Canes ahead, but two shots out of three in the final five minutes of the second period flipped the score. A shorty by Simon Holmstrom and a score from Pierre Engvall made it 3-2 Isles going into the third. Jack Drury tied it up in the first minute. But the Isles took the lead back with a PPG by Kyle Palmieri that punished a delay of game penalty on Staal. Carolina challenged it, failed, and escaped getting scored on again. The Isles had to hold on for dear life. With three seconds left in regulation, Aho was in the right place, right time to pile in a rebound. 4-4. But OT was short lived. Mat Barzal hammered a one-timer from Noah Dobson past Pytor Kochetkov to give the Isles the two points. Dramatic, yes. But the winning helped.
December 2, at Florida, 4-3 Win: The Isles offense was more present with 27 shots on Anthony Stolarz. And they got 4 goals on them. Florida, well, was like Carolina. They just pounded Ilya Sorokin with shots all night long. 45 in total. The Isles struck first with a PPG by Anders Lee to quickly punish a Carter Verhaeghe hook. This was answered just over a minute later by Sam Reinhart to make it 1-1 going into the second period. In the second, Pierre Engvall and Simon Holmstrom made it a 3-1 game by the halfway mark. Matt Tkachuk turned it into a one-shot game to make it 3-2 going into the third. Early on, Julien Gauthier got his first of the season to make it 4-2. An important insurance goal as Verhaeghe made it 4-3 just before the 10 minute mark. At first glance, it would seem that the Panthers brought the house given they took 18 shots in the third. In reality, they took three since the Verhaeghe goal. Sure, there was a lot of concern and a lot of pucks that did not get through from Florida sticks. All the same, the Isles held on for the one-goal win to win the week and remain in the playoff picture.
What’s Coming Up This Week: The Islanders will kick off a six-game homestand with three games coming up. Two of them are quite favorable. The Islanders will host a San Jose Sharks team that is truly bad on Tuesday. Yes, they got a road win for a change recently. That does not make them the favorites in Long Island. On Thursday, the Islanders will play Columbus. It will be Columbus’ third game of the week and the Jackets know they have a game the next night. The Isles can take advantage of that. On Saturday, the home stand will get tougher. Los Angeles will visit the Isles. They are A) quite good and B) quite good on the road this season. The Isles would do well to get a majority of the points in this week coming up. If not, well, it could become a Problem as future weeks will not be so kind on paper.
What Happened Last Week: Philadelphia was in second place at last week’s snapshot. After going 1-1-1, they sit in fifth place in a tie with the Isles in points. It is that tight in the Metropolitan Division. But, hey, they got bragging rights for the moment.
November 28, vs. Carolina, 4-1 Loss: Carolina took this game early and began to pull away in time. Carolina’s Michael Bunting opened the scoring, but Travis Konecny provided a response in the second period. However, a bad break and play happened to break the deadlock. Brendan Lemieux denied a clearing attempt and then put home the loose puck to make it 2-1. Worse, Philly would get nothing past Pytor Kochetkov for the rest of the game. Seth Jarvis provided a late insurance goal in the third period and Jesperi Kotkaniemi scored an empty netter a little later for the 4-1 score. It was close for the most part but ultimately a zero-point night for the Winged P’s.
November 30, vs. New Jersey, 4-3 OT Loss: Here is an example of John Tortorella’s accountability. Joel Farabee, who has been somewhat good for the Flyers this season, was benched after not even playing a minute in the game. He didn’t listen to the coach and the coach made sure that was not happening. The first period went pear shaped for the Flyers elsewhere. Alexander Holtz scored from the high slot to open the scoring and Jack Hughes made it 2-0. Garnet Hathaway got tossed after charging into Luke Hughes and appearing to have injured him after a late icing whistle. Down to 10 forwards, what do the Flyers do? Turn up the shot count with a massive 25-shot second period. Recall they had 10 forwards. Carter Hart did well against 16 shots - defense became optional - and Morgan Frost got Philly on the board with a rebound PPG. The Flyers appeared sunk when Tyler Toffoli made it 3-1 with a PPG. But they got a break when a Sean Walker shot from the corner of the right point hit off Tyson Foerster and went in the net. The Flyers got a late power play due to a hooking call on Jack Hughes. During that penalty kill, Konecny went to cross-check Brendan Smith. Smith retalitated with a hard slash to Konecny’s arm. That was called and it later earned Smith a two-game suspension. The two-man advantage did not lead to a goal, but Tyson Foerster put home a goal with a second left on Smith’s penalty to tie it up late. Overtime was earned. It ended quickly. One turnover by the Flyers led to a counter-attack finished by Luke Hughes. A 4-3 loss that stung but the Flyers found a way to get a big point out of it.
December 2, at Pittsburgh, 4-3 Shootout (SO) Win: The Flyers took to the game early. They out-shot the Pens 22-11 in the first two periods. Alas, the goals were sparse until the second half of the game. Kris Letang opened the scoring by shooting a shot past Samuel Ersson after denying a zone exit twice. Owen Tippett tied it up with a breakaway backander a little later. Early in the third, Jake Guentzel put home a feed by Erik Karlsson in front to make it 2-1. The Flyers had an answer from Scott Laughton with a shorthanded goal during a Nic Deslauriers penalty. In an abbreviated power play, Tyson Foerster scored from the right circle for the PPG and a 3-2 lead. Pittsburgh got desperate late. Their late push with the empty net yielded a late equalizer; a rebound goal from Jake Guentzel. Overtime was needed and Philly was in trouble. Ersson was massive in OT with 7 saves and the Flyers, somehow, took a too many men on the ice penalty in a 3-on-3 situation. They survived going into a shootout. There, only Sean Couturier scored as Ersson stopped the other shots. The Flyers got a big rivalry win and remain in the mix in the division.
What’s Coming Up This Week: I hope you liked that rivalry game on Saturday because the rematch is on Monday. This time, the Flyers will be hosting Pittsburgh. A big swing is on the table plus the all-important bragging rights in the state of Pennsylvanian ice hockey. After that game, the Flyers will be on the road for their next three games. Two of them will be this week. Philadelphia will visit Arizona on Thursday and the mighty Colorado on Saturday night. Neither are gimmie games, but the Flyers have shown they can punch above their supposed weight. They will need to in order to avoid slipping further in the division.
What Happened Last Week: By taking four out of six possible points, the Penguins did win the week. At 1-0-2, though, it does not feel like it. Worse, they remain in sixth as they fall at least two points behind the group that owns the middle of the division. That last game really should have been a win.
November 28, at Nashville, 3-2 OT Loss: The Penguins needed a comeback and got one - to a point. In the first period, Michael McCarron was the problem for Pittsburgh. He deflected in a Ty Barrie shot in the first period and then late in the period scored a second goal. The Penguins would get back into it. Evgeni Malkin scored to make it 2-1 in the second period. Bryan Rust would tie it up early in the third. But the Pens could not get that third goal in the game. It would be dragged to overtime. One shift ended it: Filip Forsberg went end to end for the win just 14 seconds into the fourth period. The Penguins got a point but surely left Tennesee with disappointment.
November 30, at Tampa Bay, 4-2 Win: The Penguins had a better time against Tampa Bay on Thursday night. Not at first. Once again, the Penguins were bodied in the run of play and went down two in the first period. Steven Stamkos tipped in a Victor Hedman shot for the game’s first goal. A little later, Noel Acciari went to the box for tripping Tanner Jeannot. Jeannot would convert that power play to make it 2-0. The Penguins got their game right in the second period and would tie it up. Sidney Crosby got the Pens on the board. Within the final minute, Drew O’Connor one-touched a Malkin pass in the net to make it 2-2 going into the third period. Jeff Carter provided a lead early in the third on a give-and-go (give-and-score?) with Matt Nieto to make it 3-2. The score held thanks to Tristan Jarry. Then Jarry got a lot of love in the hockey world. With the Lightning net empty, Jarry went for it - and got the ENG. The goalie goal sealed the 4-2 win. The vibes were Good. Beating a team in a wildcard race helped with that too.
December 2, vs. Philadelphia, 4-3 SO Loss: The Penguins started off slow for a third time (3 shots on net. 3?!) and while they did not fall behind in the game, they have to feel they could have done more. Kris Letang scored first after denying Philly twice on a clearing attempt. But they conceded a breakaway to Owen Tippett, who scored. Jake Guentzel would put home a feed from Erik Karlsson right in front to make it 2-1. The Penguins even got a power play minutes later - only for Scott Laughton to break ahead and make it 2-2 on his own. Karlsson took a call during a Penguins power play later. During the abbreviated penalty kill, Tyson Foerster scored on an open shot from the right circle to make it 3-2. Pittsburgh pushed late and Guentzel scored on a rebound to tie it up with less than 30 seconds left. The Penguins owned overtime. They got a power play to end it and seven shots on net. But they could not beat Sam Ersson. In a shootout, they could not beat him again. Sean Couturier scored - and that was it in the shootout. Pittsburgh got a point out of it to stay ahead of New Jersey but they are likely wishing they could have done more to attack earlier or take the game after regulation. Two points would have been huge. Alas. It is hard to catch up in this league.
What’s Coming Up This Week: Pittsburgh will be on the road all week. They will get to go to Philadelphia for a rematch of their rivalry on Monday night. It is never an easy game or an easy time to do so. Revenge will be on their mind, for sure. Then the Pens will go to the state of Florida. They will visit a Tampa Bay team on Wednesday. The good news is that the Penguins just beat them. The bad news is that Tampa Bay might have an issue with that. On Friday, the Penguins will visit the Panthers in Sunrise. Never an easy opponent, especially as they are seemingly locking down second in the Atlantic and may want to make a move on Boston in first soon. It will be a challenging week. And the Penguins have to keep getting results if they want to stop being on the outside looking in.
New Jersey Devils
What Happened Last Week: The good news is that the Deivls won the week! They even had a winning streak. Then that ended in embarrassing fashion. Oh, even with the 2-1-0 week, the Devils remained in seventh place because catching up in this league is that hard to do. Lesson: Do not lose to terrible teams, guys.
November 28, vs. New York Islanders, 5-4 Win: It was so over until it was not for the Devils. The opening period began with Bo Horvat converting a power play. Michael McLeod provided a response by beating Ilya Sorokin straight up to tie it up. The second period started off well enough with Jack Hughes setting up Dawson Mercer in a 2-on-1 to make it 2-1. Then the bottom fell out. Mat Barzal scored on a breakaway to make it 2-2. Cal Clutterbuck took advantage of some passive Devils defending to make it 3-2. Jean-Gabriel Pageau banged home a sick feed from Barzal for his first goal of the season (really) to make it 4-2. Vitek Vanecek was out, Akira Schmid was in. The goalie switch worked out. The Devils entered the third down two. They chipped their way back into the game. Jack Hughes scored to make it a one-goal game. A sequence of penalties ended up with the Devils having a 4-on-3. Jack Hughes’ shot was put back by Nico Hischier to tie it up at 4-4. Was the game going to OT? No. Sorokin was fighting it and the Devils got one late chance. McLeod’s zone entry led to a long shot by Kevin Bahl. Bahl’s shot was picked up by Curtis Lazar on the rebound. Alexander Romanov clattered into that attempt before Alexander Holtz could dunk it - and it was in. With 27 seconds left, the Devils smashed and grabbed two big points within the division, 5-4.
November 30, vs. New Jersey, 4-3 OT Win: The game in Philly started off well enough. Alexander Holtz opened the scoring with a fantastic shot from the high slot. Jack Hughes doubled the lead later on. Then controversy. A late whistle on an icing led to a charging Garnet Hathaway to crush Luke Hughes. Luke Hughes left for concussion protocol and possibly an arm injury, but he returned for the second period. A major and a game misconduct were issued to Hathaway. The Devils did not score on the power play and the Flyers decided to just shoot away at Akira Schmid. Schmid was great but the 25-shot second period (!!!) gave way to a rebound goal on a power play by Morgan Frost. The Devils got some insurance with a PPG by Tyler Toffoli in the third period. But the efforts of the Flyers made it a game. A seeing-eye shot through traffic led to a tip-in goal by Tyson Foerster with five minutes left. Then Jack Hughes got called for a hook. During that PK, Travis Konecny cross-checked Brendan Smith way behind the play. Smith retalitated by whacking at Konecny’s arm. The refs saw that and gave Smith two minutes - he would be later suspended 2 games for it. The Devils survived the 3-on-5. But with Carter Hart pulled, it was a 4-on-6. With a second left on Smith’s penalty, Foerster found the back fo the net. 3-3. Overtime ensued. It did not last long as a missed pass by Philly led to Nico Hischier setting up the Hughes Brothers for a 2-on-1. Luke Hughes scored for justice and the win. If only the Devils did not give a point to Philly but the win was sweet for about 22 hours.
December 1, vs. San Jose, 6-3 Loss: Did you know that the San Jose Sharks went into this game with not only zero road wins, but also just six goals scored on the road? And they were shutout in Boston the previous night? The New Jersey Devils decided to do a bit of charity and help out the Sharks. Timo Meier gave them the gift of lazy defending, yielding a Jacob MacDonald goal. Dawson Mercer batted in a puck off the glass by the debuting Simon Nemec for a PPG to tie it up. Luke Hughes said, that was not enough. He committed a terrible turnover that ended with a long shot that MacDonald tipped in to make it 2-1 San Jose. Later, Luke’s brother Jack decided on a bad turnover of his own. Jonas Siegenthaler covered a ghost between Mikael Granlund and Anthony Duclair in the makeshift 2-on-1. Duclair finished the one-timer to make it 3-1. In the third period, the Devils tried to get serious and Jack Hughes made it 3-2 early on. Kevin Bahl decided to give the Sharks an awful pinch and John Marino sheparded a puck ahead for Duclair to break ahead, get a step on Mercer, and finish the one-on-one to make it 4-2 two minutes after Hughes’ goal. Ondrej Palat made it a one-goal game later on when he put home a shot from the slot. On the next shift, a misplay by Akira Schmid - yes, he started after facing 47 shots in Philly the night before - gave Granlund the gift of a goal. William Eklund put home an ENG to send the fans that were remaining at the Rock home booing. Many left earlier, also in disgust. The Devils now own the most embarrassing loss to the San Jose Sharks this season and is arguably their worst loss of their own season (Detroit on December 23 was a 4-0 defeat, so.) And the loss, combined with yesterday’s results, keeps them down in the division. Every game matters in this league - especially when you’re outside of the playoffs.
What’s Coming Up This Week: The Devils will get to go on the road all week. They will play three of a four-game road trip to the Northwest. The Devils will visit Quinn Hughes and the Vancouver Canucks on Tuesday night. Vancouver does not stink this season, so this will be a challenge. The Devils will go to Seattle on Thursday night. Seattle is better than San Jose, so that will also be a challenge. On Saturday afternoon, the Devils will begin a back-to-back in Alberta. They will play Calgary on Saturday with Edmonton on Sunday (covered in the next snapshot). The Devils really needed to go into this with wins. Instead, they will go into it holding onto a 6-3 loss to San Jose. The Devils need a successful trip just to stay relevant within the division. Should the Sharks lead to a slump, they may actually get jumped by the one team beneath them.
Columbus Blue Jackets
What Happened Last Week: The Blue Jackets caused a big upset as they split the week, 2-2-0. They are still mired at the bottom but they can feel some motivation about being just three points behind New Jersey. Shame about the games played difference.
November 26, at Carolina, 3-2 Loss: Elvis Merzlikins was fantastic for about 50 minutes. So was Pytor Kochetkov, but Carolina limited Columbus’ offense. The Blue Jackets would break through first. 13 seconds into the third period, Kirill Marchenko scored the game’s first goal. Johnny Gaudreau made it 2-0 later on. Up two with a hot goalie? Carolina questioned the latter. In a 16-shot third period, the Canes would break through Merzlikins. Jesperi Kotkaniemi scored just past the halfway mark of the period. Brady Skjei tied it up late. Andrei Svechnikov finished a make-shift 2-on-1 from Sebastian Aho to make it 3-2 with less than two minutes to play. A heartbreaker in that the Jackets got a lot of saves but it was not enough.
November 27, vs. Boston, 5-2 Win: Yes, that says “Win.” And “Boston.” Boston has not had a proper losing streak in the regular season since Jim Montgomery became their head coach. Columbus would give it to them as this would be Boston’s third straight loss. Dmitri Voronkov put the Jackets up in the first period. Ivan Provorov made it 2-0 in the second and Yegor Chinakhov made it 3-0 late in the same period. A power play goal from Kirill Marchenko made it 4-0 in the third period. Yes, Boston was put down four goals in succession. Matthew Poitras finally got the B’s on the board but it was only for consolation. A bold decision to pull the goalie very early led to Justin Danforth scoring an empty netter with 6:19 left after a long ENG try missed. John Beecher added a second consolation goal; a deflection of a Kevin Shattenkirk shot. Columbus came out early and showed no fear. A big win and something to build on, right?
November 29, vs. Montreal, 4-2 Loss: Not quite. This was a close game until the end. After a scoreless first period, Patrik Laine opened up the scoring early in the second. Alex Newhook tied it up later on. But Yegor Chinakhov said “not-so-fast” and made it 2-1 just before the halfway mark. Cole Caufield would answer that about four minutes later in the second period. The score held at 2-2 until there was less than three minutes to go in regulation. Joel Armia of Montreal broke the deadlock with a deflection on a Michael Matheson shot. Gustav Lindstrom added an empty netter to seal another home loss for the Jackets. So much for building on the upset win.
December 1, vs. Ottawa, 4-2 Win: It looked like the Blue Jackets were going to sink in this one. Claude Giroux and Brady Tkachuk scored three minutes apart in a period where Ottawa put up 16 shots on Elvis Merzlikins. But the Blue Jackets had some help from Joonas Korpisalo, Ottawa’s goalie. Patrik Laine and Dmitri Voronkov scored on back-to-back shifts to tie it up within the first period alone. In the second period, Columbus was held to five shots. But those five shots were a problem as Adam Fantilli and Boone Jenner scored among them. Columbus scored four straight goals. They would be four unanswered goals too. Despite Ottawa putting up 27 shots on net in the second and third periods, Merzlikins gave them no mercy. No goals against. He was perfect and so the Blue Jackets add a little more frustration to Ottawa’s season. They also end the week on a higher note.
What’s Coming Up This Week: Columbus will get to “enjoy” four games in six nights against some challenging opponents. Tonight, they will go to Boston. I am sure the B’s remembered last Monday’s loss. This may not go well for the Jackets. On Tuesday, they will host Los Angeles. The Kings have played very well, especially on the road. Good luck to Columbus there too. Then there is a back to back set; a trip to Long Island on Thursday and a home game against St. Louis on Friday. Both teams could use the points and the Jackets will have try to spoil them. Columbus knows they can - they did it to Boston last Monday - but actually doing it is going to be a tough endeavor.
That was the eighth Weekly Metropolitan Division Snapshot of the 2023-24 season. What do you expect to happen in this week coming up? Can someone please knock off the Rangers? I am tired of putting them first. Who will prevail more on the road? Can the Devils get into the mix instead of staying outside of it? What of Pittsburgh? Will Washington, the Islanders, Philadelphia fall at all? If so, when? 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.