The bye weeks within the Metropolitan Division are over. Another big trade happened within the division that brought Vladimir Tarasenko to Manhattan. The Carolina Hurricanes remain atop the Metropolitan Division for now. Below them is a lot of activity and a lot potential and actual drama. Whether some want to admit it or not, the playoff race is here. Most of the division - and the Atlantic Division - has something to play for from here on out. First place is now in sight of the New Jersey Devils and New York Rangers. The Washington Capitals and Pittsburgh Penguins still own the wild card spots with the New York Islanders chasing them. Those three need to pay close attention to Buffalo and Florida. Ottawa and Detroit remain within the Philadelphia Flyers as spoilers that are not completely out of the playoff picture. It is a far cry more interesting than the division snapshot of last season. Here are the standings as of this morning:
The Metropolitan Division is active every day in this coming week except for Monday. No real reason; just a quirk in the schedule. There will be some fanbases more focused on the Atlantic Division games that night and on others. Next Saturday is already jam-packed with games. The standout game on that day will be the division leading Hurricanes hosting the Washington Capitals at Carter-Finley Stadium. A rivalry game that will matter for other teams playing that night given where both teams are in the standings. Also: a rematch from earlier in the week too. It will be huge. There are three other inter-division games, all of which are highlighted and in bold:
Here is the week that was and week that will be for all eight teams in the division.
What Happened Last Week: Carolina was off all week until last night when they hosted the New York Rangers. The Rangers played the night before and so the Canes had the rest advantage in addition to home ice. However, it would not matter much. Zibanejad would punish a Jalen Chatfield penalty with a goal to open the scoring. The Canes would respond and take a lead in the second period thanks to Teuvo Teravainen and Jesperi Kotkaniemi. They even held the Rangers to just four shots on net in the second period. Unfortunately, one of those came from Artemi Panarin and he scored late in the second period to make it a 2-2 game. In a super-low shooting third period where the Canes were out-shot 4-6, the Rangers managed to score four goals on their six shots. Panarin scored twice in the third period to complete his hat trick; Kakko put in an empty netter; and Panarin scored a fourth goal of the night after the ENG to make it a 6-2 defeat. A big flop in their first game back. Worse, the Devils and Rangers are now within three and six points of them, respectively. Be careful, Carolina. (Yes, I know Carolina has a game in hand on the Rangers, they’re still a threat of sorts.)
What’s Coming Up This Week: Carolina will be the focus for many in D.C. this week. The Hurricanes will visit the Capitals on Valentine’s Day for a game that could impact each end of the playoff picture in the East. No love will be lost in that one. On Thursday, Carolina will return home to host Montreal. The goal will be to avoid slipping up to the Canadiens and be fully primed for Saturday’s showcase. The Hurricanes are playing at Carter-Finley Stadium in North Carolina as part of the NHL’s Stadium Series on Saturday night. It is Carolina’s first outdoor game and they are hosting Washington yet again. A big game to be sure. Carolina remains in the driver’s seat all the same. But if they struggle, then there will be many in the New York City Metropolitan Area pleased with that happening.
What Happened Last Week: The Devils returned from the All-Star Weekend with a home game against Vancouver. It was a performance that left something to be desired, but the Division Snapshot does not care about that. Just about what happened on the scoreboard and the results. While Vancouver went up early thanks to Andrei Kuzmenko, Jack Hughes tied it up in the first period. The Devils seemingly put the Canucks away with a stunning three goals in 50 seconds. A brace from Ondrej Palat and a second goal from Hughes. Up 4-1, the Devils would prevail, right? Well, not exactly. Luke Schenn put one in from distance and Curtis Lazar made it a one-shot game near the end of the second period. Philipp DiGuiseppe tied it up in the third period and overtime was needed. Yes, overtime from a 4-1 score. Fortunately, Kuzmenko hooked Jesper Bratt so clearly in overtime that it was called. On the resulting power play: Hughes to Hamilton to Bratt - game over. Devils won 5-4 in OT. The aftermath of that game led to the awful news that Jack Hughes would be out week-to-week. A very good Seattle team arrived at the Rock on Thursday against a Hughes-less Devils team. Mackenzie Blackwood weathered the storm and the Devils eventually went ahead in the game. Adam Larsson fired in a shot from distance to open the scoring, but a Will Borgen cross-check gave the Devils a power play on the next shift. That ended with a Dougie Hamilton blast for a PPG and an equalizer. In the third period, Yanni Gourde held up Hamilton for a penalty. From about the same spot at the opposite end of the rink (it was the third period), Hamilton scored again from a blast shortly after Bratt hit iron. The Devils iced the game when John Marino put home an empty net goal for the 3-1 regulation win over Seattle. The Devils began a four-game road trip on Saturday in Minnesota. While the Devils did not get dominated to start this game, they did concede the first goal. A stupid penalty in the offensive zone by Miles Wood led to Joel Eriksson Ek tipping in a shot from Calen Addison for an early Minnesota lead. The Devils would tie it up in the second period when Tomas Tatar fired a shot, had it blocked, and then fired it in after said block. Tatar would put the Devils up 2-1 in the second period when he re-directed in a shot by Damon Severson that was touched off by a Wild player. Unfortunately, a similar shot would tie up the game for Minnesota in the third period. Matt Dumba fired a hard shot and Ryan hartman, who was just setting a screen, took the puck hard in the elbow. The puck bounced off of it and went into the net for the 2-2 score. The Devils and Wild tried to break ahead but they could not. Overtime would not provide a breakthrough between the 3:30 of puck control and 1:30 of chaotic back-and-forth play. A shootout was needed. No one on the Devils scored while Mats Zuccarello and Frederick Gaudreau did. The Devils lost 3-2 through a shootout loss. A point earned for a 2-0-1 week is quite good. With the Rangers hot on their tails, some may regret not leaving Minnesota with a win. Then again, the Devils still have a game in hand on the Rangers so there is a cushion.
What’s Coming Up This Week: New Jersey is in full control but need to keep getting results to stay ahead of their hated rivals, the New York Rangers. The Devils will play three more games on their road trip in this week. Valentine’s Day will have the Devils in Ohio. Columbus has nothing to play for but can absolutely spoil someone’s night. The Devils need to be sure to not have another tough time in C-Bus. On Thursday, the Devils will visit the now Tarasenko-less St. Louis Blues. A team that certainly is not bad but the Tarasenko trade seems to indicate they are punting this season. The toughest test on paper will be on Saturday evening in Pittsburgh. A divisional game against a team that needs points for their own playoff race. The Devils have won once there before, but it will be difficult all the same. Nothing is actually easy in the NHL. Just look at the Vancouver game if you need a recent reminder. Still, the Devils are a mere three points behind the division leaders. They are certainly capable.
New York Rangers
What Happened Last Week: The Rangers returned to action with four games in six nights. Three games were against visiting teams from the Pacific Division. The first one against Calgary was the most dramatic. Filip Chytil continued his hot run with an early goal, which was then matched by Blake Coleman in the first period. In the second period, Chytil did it again. It would be matched by a Tyler Toffoli PPG late in the period. However, Mika Zibanejad converted a power play of his own to give the Rangers a lead going into the second intermission. Andrew Mangiapane and Michael Stone scored in close succession to put the Flames up 4-3. This did not last as Zibanejad scored at even strength to tie it up. Overtime was needed and Alexis Lafreniere finished the game for the 5-4 win. Wednesday night had the Rangers host Vancouver. It was a game where the Rangers never really looked back but did have some nervous looks over their shoulders. Chris Kreider and Chytil scored within two minutes of each other for an early 2-0 lead. Conor Garland scored late in the first period to make it a more nervy 2-1 game. Lafreniere made it a 3-1 game in the second period, but Vasily Podkolzin scored his first of the season late in the second to make it a one-shot game once more. Zibanejad seemingly ended it with a goal at 16:05 into the third period - only for Elias Pettersson to score 11 seconds later. The Rangers held on at the end to win 4-3, but it was closer than they probably wished. They would have a more comfortable outing on Friday night when they hosted Seattle. The Kraken were coming off a 3-1 loss in New Jersey and the Rangers pounced. The acquired Tarasenko opened the scoring just 2:49 into the game from a feed by Artemi Panarin. Get used to Panarin-to-Tarasenko for the next two to maybe three months. Kaapo Kakko doubled the Rangers lead minutes later and Vincent Trocheck made it a 3-0 game before the 15-minute mark. Jacob Trouba converted an early PPG in the second period to add more misery. At this point, the Kraken were just trying to make a game of it. I am not so sure they did. Oliver Bjorkstrand got the visitors on the board in the second period but they did not get anything more. A Zibanejad PPG made it a 5-1 game early in the third. While Jared McCann scored a PPG of his own later and Brandon Tanev made it a two-goal game, the game was really out of doubt. Ryan Lindgren secured it with his first of the season, a shorthanded empty netter for the 6-3 win. The Rangers immediately hit the road after that win to go to Raleigh to play the division leading Hurricanes. The Rangers did not shoot a lot in Carolina but they did not need it. Zibanejad opened the scoring with a PPG that included an assist from Panarin. The Canes took the score back in the second period with goals by Teuvo Teravainen and Jesperi Kotkaniemi. Then the game was all about Artemi Panarin. Panarin tied it up back at two late in the second period. Panarin then made it a 3-2 Rangers game early in the third. Late in the third, Panarin completed his natural hat trick with just over 4 minutes left in regulation. Kakko put one exclamation mark on the game a little later with an empty net goal. Then Panarin decided to add one more for his quad-trick with just 1:04 left. The Rangers won huge 6-2 in Raleigh. They swept this busy week, they gained some ground on the Devils (who have a game in hand on them now), and they do not have to worry about the wild card for a while.
What’s Coming Up This Week: The Rangers will remain on the road all week. They are going to Western Canada. They will visit Vancouver on Wednesday night and they play the Alberta teams back-to-back. Edmonton on Friday and Calgary on Saturday. While the Rangers have wins over all three teams - they beat Vancouver last week - this trip is never an easy one. While the Rangers’ form has been real good, they have only made up a little ground on the Devils. Asking them to sweep this trip is a big ask. That said, the Rangers have won five straight. They are hot. I doubt they will completely cool off in Canada. We will see. But the Devils and Hurricanes faithful have to be wary of the Blueshirts for the time being.
What Happened Last Week: The Pittsburgh Penguins returned to their schedule with a Tuesday night home game with Colorado. An increasingly healthy and very hungry for points Colorado team. It was a highly active game with both teams combining for 80 shots on net. Casey DeSmith and Pavel Francouz had to be near-perfect. It took half the game, but Nathan MacKinnon broke through to give the Avs an early lead. A lead that lasted all the way to the final four minutes of regulation. Bryan Rust provided the equalizer to thrill the home crowd. It would force overtime. There, the top three Penguins stars combined for the winning goal: Evgeni Malkin and Sidney Crosby dug out a puck from a scramble and Crosby set up Kris Letang for the winner. The Penguins won 2-1 to start their week off right. The Penguins headed to California. On Friday night, they visited Anaheim. Pittsburgh continued the misery that is the Ducks’ 2022-23 campaign. Pierre-Olivier Joseph opened the scoring. Then the final five minutes of the first period featured a PPG from Trevor Zegras, a PPG from Kasperi Kapanen, and a Jeff Carter goal with 13 seconds left to give the Pens an early 3-1 lead. A lead that Joseph extended in the second period. Rust and Jake Guentzel stretched it to six goals in the third period. Goals from Mason MacTavish and John Klingberg were simply consolation goals in a 6-3 win. Last night, the Penguins were in Los Angeles. They had to wait to start that game as the Kings were honoring Dustin Brown in a pre-game ceremony. The start did not go well for Pittsburgh as Jaret Anderson-Dolan put the Kings up 1-0 early in the first period. It did not get much better when Alex Iafallo made it 2-0 before the end of the first. Then it became the Adrian Kempe Show as he racked up a natural hat trick in the second period alone. Kempe made it a quad-trick with a PPG in the later part of the third period. The Penguins were just wasted in a 6-0 defeat at Los Angeles. A sour end to an otherwise winning week at 2-1-0. A frustrating result as a win or even a point earned would have put them past Washington for the first wild card spot. They have games in hand on them, the Islanders, and Florida - but they need to get results to make them count and move on up.
What’s Coming Up This Week: Pittsburgh has three games coming up with the last two being big ones for them with respect to the division. The Penguins will finish their California trip first on Tuesday night in San Jose. San Jose has been real bad this season so the Penguins really should not drop points there. Then the Penguins will visit the Islanders on Friday night and host the Devils on Saturday evening. Two inter-division games with the first one being massive for the wild card picture. The Pens will still have games in hand on the Islanders but a loss to them just opens the door for the Orange and Royal Blue to stay in their business. The Devils game would be interesting should the Pens want to keep aiming higher than just a wildcard spot. The Penguins have the advantage of games in hand, but to maximize it, they will need to keep getting points. As they have been, much to the chagrin of those in D.C. and L.I.
What Happened Last Week: Washington ended their bye with a road game in Boston. Yes, at Boston. At a Boston rink where the Boston team has lost exactly one (1) game in regulation and four (4) games in total. The odds were against the Capitals. Of course, the odds are just that. On the ice, it was a different story. A myriad of penalties in the first period ended up with the Caps having a 5-on-3 power play. Nicklas Backstrom finished the situation to make it a 1-0 lead for Washington in Boston. Later in the second period, Garnet Hathaway doubled the Capitals lead. Further penalties mounted in the third period but the Washington penalty kill came through four times. Nick Foligno made it a 2-1 game late at even strength, but Darcy Kuemper held on to the end. Yes, the Capitals managed to beat Boston in Boston. In regulation. They are just the second team to do that this season. Yes, in February. Congrats to the Capitals. They have done what no one but Seattle have done so far this season. Penguins, Islanders, Sabres, and Panthers are all gnashing their teeth at that result.
What’s Coming Up This Week: Washington will be very, very busy with four games over seven days this week. Right after the Boston game, the Capitals are back at home today for an early afternoon game against San Jose. San Jose is not good but they could get a jump on a Caps team playing on little rest. On Tuesday, the Capitals will get to host the division leading Carolina Hurricanes. It is an old Southeast Division rivalry and a game that could impact the top of the division as much as wild card picture. It will be an important one, but the second-most in this week. Thursday night will be another wild-card-valuable matchup as the Caps will host the now in-form Florida Panthers. The Panthers have the Capitals’ and Islanders’ problem of having so many games played already. This means whatever points they could get now is valuable as they will have to wait later. The importance level of a game will be kicked up several notches on Saturday night. The Capitals will go to North Carolina to play the Hurricanes. Not just in any setting, but in Carter-Finley Stadium in Raleigh. It is the Stadium Series game and it is Carolina’s first ever outdoor game. Oh, and the points could still cause a big swing in the standings. It is a huge week for Washington. One where we may learn more about them than they may expect.
What Happened Last Week: The Islanders returned from their bye with a four-game-in-six-day week. Given their position in the standings, the number of games played, and how many teams are in the wild card picture, the Islanders needed to have a successful week. A Monday night game in Philadelphia would be important to start it off. The score was close, but the Isles were on top thanks to a PPG from Kyle Palmieri late in the first period, Mat Barzal making it a 2-0 game in the second period, and the Isles holding the Flyers to just 25 shots total even after Nicolas Deslauriers made it a 2-1 game in the second period. The Isles hung on to win. On Tuesday night, they went back to the Island to host Seattle. The Isles just waxed the Kraken. Ilya Sorokin was unbeatable as he shutout the visitors. Samuel Bolduc and Simon Holmstrom gave the Isles a lead in the first period. Zach Parise and Bo Horvat - his first goal as an Islanders - made it a 4-0 score just over five minutes into the second period. The score held up and the Isles extended their then-winning streak to four games. It would end on Thursday night when the Isles hosted Vancouver. Despite losing closely the night before in Manhattan, the Canucks were up for it in Elmont. Palmieri’s goal was answered by Oliver Ekman-Larsson in the first period. A Brock Boeser goal shortly after led to a short-lived lead; Brock Nelson tied it up for a 2-2 game by the end of the first period. In the second period, the Isles seemingly took the game over after Barzal scored a PPG and Horvat scored. But Nils Aman scored shortly after Horvat’s goal to make it a one-goal game. A double from Pettersson made it a 5-4 game for the visitors and ex-Islander Anthony Beauvillier (he was part of the Horvat trade) put the game out of reach with a PPG late in the game. Noah Dobson converted a power play with 49 seconds left but there would be no more late magic for the home team. The Isles suffered a 6-5 regulation loss to Vancouver at home to end their winning ways. The Islanders looked to rebound in Montreal on Saturday afternoon. Nick Suzuki saw to making that effort tough by scoring first, but Nelson tied it up in the first period. With seconds left in the second period, Horvat converted a power play to give the Isles a 2-1 lead going into the third period. Justin Barron tied it up for Montreal. Matt Martin restored the lead, but Kirby Dach tied the game at 3-3 with just over three minutes left in regulation. In overtime, Mike Matheson set up Mike Hoffman with a long pass for a breakaway. Matheson followed the play and piled in the rebound. A review for offside upheld the goal and so the Islanders lost 4-3 in overtime. A crucial point dropped after a regulation loss to Vancouver. Not good for a team with so many games played in the East.
What’s Coming Up This Week: The Islanders will have three games coming up with a very unenviable back-to-back set at the end of the week. On Tuesday, the Islanders will host Ottawa. It is important for the Islanders, given their position, to get results over teams like them. Like Philadelphia, they are competitive but well on the outside of the wild card race. The Isles need to prevail if only to show that they really belong where they are. Dropping points to the likes of Vancouver and Montreal hurts their cause. So they really do need two points from the Ottawa game. They also need to do so because of the back-to-back set coming up. The Isles will have an absolutely huge home game with Pittsburgh on Friday night. The Isles are chasing the Pens for a wild card playoff spot. Both teams should want to take that game for themselves. We shall see if they do. The Isles will follow that game by a road game in Boston of all places. Boston. Again, the place where the B’s rarely lose. Should the Isles to leave with even one point, it would be a minor miracle. If the Isles need it to keep pace in the playoff race, then they are in real trouble.
What Happened Last Week: The Flyers returned from their bye week to kick off a week entirely at home. On Monday night, they hosted the Islanders. While the score was close, the Flyers did not get much going. They went down to a Kyle Palmieri PPG and a Mat Barzal before Nicolas Deslauriers (of all players) got the Flyers on the board. With just 8 shots in the third period, the hope of a comeback was faint and it did not happen. The Flyers lost 2-1, further securing their position of being better than the worst but not really good enough to push for a wild card spot. This does mean they can spoil other teams chasing the postseason. They did just that on Thursday night when they hosted Edmonton. The offense was much better as they did put up 35 shots on net. Alas, only Kevin Hayes managed to beat the goalie in the first period. Fortunately, Carter Hart was in great form and was only beaten once: an early second period goal from Evander Kane. The game stretched all the way at 1-1 into the third period, overtime, and then a shootout. In the shootout, Morgan Frost and James van Reimsdyk scored and Hart secured the second point when he stopped Leon Draisaitl. The Flyers won 2-1 through the shootout and added more chaos to the Pacific Division. Yesterday, the Flyers hosted Nashville in a bid to hurt the Preds’ chances at a wild card spot. It was a tough game. Filip Forsberg left the game due to injury after a hard hit from Rasmus Ristolainen with just a second left in the first period. In the second period, Nino Neiderreiter opened the scoring early in the second period. However, Hayes tied it up. From then on, the goalies for both sides stopped everything else in regulation. In overtime, though, Nashville’s Matt Duchene struck quickly for the win. Which meant the Flyers lost 2-1 in overtime. The Flyers’ chances of a playoff spot is rather remote, but going 1-1-1 and frustrating teams with more realistic aspirations could be seen as a win given where they are in this season.
What’s Coming Up This Week: Philadelphia will be home for one more game before heading to the Northwestern part of the league. The Flyers will host Seattle today in another afternoon game. The Kraken’s time out East did not go so well and they may want to take it out on the Flyers. Philly would be wise to learn from that game, win or lose, as their first stop on their road trip is in Seattle. They will play each other on Thursday night. The Flyers will end this week with a game in Vancouver on Saturday night. The Flyers may like their chances but the Canucks are less of a pushover than it may have seemed a few weeks ago. They competed in the Metropolitan Division last week. But for the Flyers, the goal may be to keep being as they are. They are not at risk of falling to last thanks to the final team in this post.
What Happened Last Week: Columbus ended their bye week with a home-and-home with Toronto. Friday night was in Columbus. It was all Maple Leafs. The Blue Jackets could not beat Ilya Samsonov all night. John Tavares converted a PPG in the first period and that was all that was really needed. But the Leafs secured the dub with a quick double from Pierre Engvall and Tavares. The Blue Jackets lost 3-0 and had to play the same team in their building the next night. Would it go differently? Actually, yes. It did. Not at first. William Nylander scored within the first three minutes and Michael Bunting made it a 2-0 game for Toronto just past halfway through the first period. In the second period, the Blue Jackets would strike back. Boone Jenner scored for Columbus’ first goal since their bye week early in the second period. A quick two goals from Kirill Marchenko and Sean Kuraly put Columbus ahead 3-2 in the second period. Morgan Reilly scored a power play goal early in the third to tie it up. But Kent Johnson broke that tie with a tip-in minutes later. The stick was below the crossbar so it counted. Toronto had every reason to bring the house to Columbus but they just did not. Columbus out-shot the Leafs 21-10 in the second period and 15-8 in the third period, which certainly helped Elvis Merzlikins maintain the lead. The Jackets held on to win 4-3 and split the home-and-home with Toronto. A stunning result given what happened 24 hours earlier.
What’s Coming Up This Week: Columbus will play three playoff-bound teams in this coming week. They will host the Devils on Valentine’s Day. In the past, the Blue Jackets just ruined the Devils with consistency. That trend was broken on Mischief Night 2022 and the Devils are in a position where they could use the results. If only to stay ahead of their hated rivals and show the league they can perform without Jack Hughes. Not an easy game. It does not get any easier on Thursday night when the Blue Jackets host Winnipeg. Winnipeg is still chasing first in the Central Division and could stand to keep winning to avoid any surprising rises from Colorado or Minnesota. The Jets will try their best to avoid being spoiled. That first place team in the Central is Dallas and the Blue Jackets will visit them as part of a back-to-back trip that weekend. Dallas is really good and really good at home. Columbus’ season is not expected to get any easier any time soon. Then again, if they can recreate what they did in Toronto, those three teams and others cannot discount a night against Columbus.
That was the eighteenth Weekly Metropolitan Division Snapshot of the 2022-23 season. What do you expect to happen in this light week of games coming up? Will Carolina be able to maintain control over first place for another snapshot? How much longer will the Devils stay ahead of the Rangers? Can the Islanders get the help they need to stay in the wild card picture? Or will the Capitals, Penguins, and others start shutting them out? How many games will Columbus spoil in this week coming up? 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.