There are three weeks left in the 2022-23 National Hockey League regular season. The ‘X’s are now coming. The letter that means in the NHL standings that the team has clinched a playoff spot. The division leading Carolina Hurricanes got it this past Thursday. The New Jersey Devils got it on Saturday night. The New York Rangers are about to get it real soon. The New York Islanders are leading the pack to get one in the wild card spot with the Pittsburgh Penguins right behind them and both with a little gap over Florida. The Washington Capitals are all but out of it, the Philadelphia Flyers practically have been out for weeks, and the Columbus Blue Jackets were officially eliminated already. Here are the standings after last night’s games.
You may note only three teams in the Atlantic are listed. My cut-off is 10 points from the second wild card spot and Detroit has now missed the cut with 11 points back. Truth be told, the only team in the Atlantic with a realistic shot at getting in is Florida and that took a big hit in this past week. Still, Buffalo and Ottawa within ten points, so they remain in this post for now.
Here is the week’s upcoming schedule. It is light today but Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday (no fooling) will be very busy. There are also four games within the division that could play some role in how playoff matchups end up. Those games are highlighted and in bold as usual.
Here is the week that was and week that will be for all eight teams in the division.
What Happened Last Week: Carolina took on the New York Rangers in a home-and-home on last Tuesday and Thursday to start their week. Last Tuesday was in Manhattan. It looked to be a close, low-scoring affair. For the first 49 minutes of the game, only one goal was scored and it was by New York’s Tyler Motte. Then the scoring picked up quickly with a flurry of three goals within a minute of the third period. Jalen Chatfield tied it up, Kaapo Kakko restored a Rangers lead, and Stefan Noesen tied it up again. All within 49 seconds of game time of each other. A breakthrough would come later in the period; Teuvo Tervainen broke the deadlock with 2:33 left in the game. Carolina took the first one, 3-2. The rematch was in Raleigh last Thursday. It would be a less dramatic affair. Sebastian Aho put the home team up a score in the first period. But the Rangers clawed back with an equalizer by Artemi Panarin in the second period and Adam Fox breaking the tie in the third period. That third period combined for 10 total shots, which is far from enough to put a second goal past Igor Shesterkin. The Canes did not so they lost 2-1 to split the home-and-home.
Last night, the Hurricanes hosted Toronto to start a nasty Atlantic Division weekend pair of games. Carolina started off this game quite well. Brent Burns scored an early PPG and Jordan Staal made it 2-0 in the first period. Then Toronto brought the flood of pucks to Carolina’s end. Calle Jarnkrok and Auston Matthews scored among an 18-shot deluge in the second period to tie it up. The game seem settled when Stefan Noesen scored 8:13 into the third period to make it 3-2 for Carolina. But it was anything but within the final three minutes of the game. Auston Matthews managed to tie it up at 17:02. On the next shift, Aho broke the tie to make it 4-3. Tervainen added an empty netter. The Hurricanes survived the scare and came away with a big regulation win, 5-3. Carolina won the week at 2-1-0. They continue to own a small lead for first place (2 points) with 2 games in hand on New Jersey (a potential 4 points).
What’s Coming Up This Week: The Hurricanes will use one of those two games in hand on the Devils today. That game is against Boston of all teams. The game is in Raleigh so the Canes have more of a chance to get a result against the league’s best team. The schedule will get easier on paper as the week goes on from there. On Tuesday, Carolina will host a Tampa Bay team that does not know whether they want to be hot or cold and seemingly secure in third place in the Atlantic. Anything from a Canes beating to a Tampa Bay beating would not surprise me. Carolina will go to Detroit on Thursday. Detroit will be starting a back-to-back set on that day, but it may not matter. They have slumped through March and Carolina can just make it rain misery on them. The Hurricanes will end their week in Montreal. While the Canadiens have locked up last in their division and have officially been eliminated from the playoffs, they have been competitive on most nights. Carolina’s goal remains the same: they are in control, they just need to keep getting points and more points than New Jersey. Should they slip up, then they have to worry about what the team below them is doing. Until then, it is status quo for the Canes.
New Jersey Devils
What Happened Last Week: The Devils started their week by playing their final game against Tampa Bay. Their third in five days against the Bolts. This one was in Tampa Bay and it seemed grim to start. Nikita Kucherov opened the scoring in the first period and a rush up ice by Erik Cernak was finished by Alex Killorn to put New Jersey down two. Then Jesper Bratt said “Enough.” Bratt put one past Andrei Vasilevskiy just nine seconds after Killorn’s goal to make it a 2-1 game. Minutes later, Bratt fired a shot through a load of bodies that found its way into the net to tie up the game. Less than three minutes after that, Nico Hischier beat Vasilevskiy to make it a 3-2 game for the Devils. While the Lightning tried to fight back, the Devils quelled their offense and kept rolling. It paid off when Nolan Foote fired a low shot in to make it 4-2. With the net empty, Bratt was able to ice the game with an ENG and earn his first ever NHL hat trick. The Devils beat Tampa Bay in their building 5-2 with five unanswered goals. A great start to the week.
It would not get much better. On Tuesday, the Devils hosted Minnesota. This one ended up being a goaltender’s duel between Vitek Vanecek and Filip Gustavsson. Both goalies were dead set on goalie-ing the other side and came close to doing so. Mason Shaw opened the scoring in the third period with a wrap to end a bad shift for the Devils. Timo Meier provided an equalizer with a wrap of his own off Gustavsson’s skates and in. The Devils hammered the Wild with shots, specifically with 21 in the third period out of 48 total. But they could not beat the goalie. Overtime ramped up the drama and unfortunately ended in the final seconds with Jack Hughes hitting the iron, the puck bouncing out to Matt Boldy ahead of a tired Dougie Hamilton, and Boldy finishing his breakaway with 1.3 seconds left in overtime. The Devils lost 2-1 in OT. At least they got a point there. And it was enough to put the Devils in a position to clinch a playoff berth with two points in Buffalo on Friday night.
In Buffalo, they would get none. The Devils’ defense was exposed for goals by Dylan Cozens, Tage Thompson, and Jack Quinn in the first period. Yegor Sharangovich did one-touch in a pass by Michael McLeod prior to Quinn’s goal and Kevin Bahl’s shot bounced off a Sabre to go in late in the period to make it a 3-2 game. But the defensive issues arose. Alex Tuch got ahead of Erik Haula during a shift where the Sabres pinned back the Devils. Tuch got a pass from Jeff Skinner in the slot and rifled a shot in. Later, a bad penalty by McLeod ended with Rasmus Dahlin slap-passing a puck that Tuch re-directed in. The Devils were down three goals. Jack Hughes said “Enough” and mounted a comeback effort largely led by him. A goal that counted in the third period made it 5-3. A power play goal minutes later made it 5-4. The Devils tried to press but could not get enough offensive time to attack for a third goal. So the Devils lost to Buffalo, 5-4. The ‘X’ would have to happen on Saturday against Ottawa.
Last night, the Devils would receive that ‘X’ during their game against the Senators. Technically, not from their own game but from their hated rivals, who beat Florida in regulation on Saturday. The Devils announced it in the first intermission at the Rock. That first intermission featured Brady Tkachuk scorching a returning MacKenzie Blackwood after a bad Devils linechange and a highlight-reel worthy PPG from Jack Hughes for a 1-1 game. The Devils took an early lead in the second period. Jesper Bratt sniped an Ottawa turnover at their own blueline and finished the resulting breakaway to make it 2-1. An Ottawa turnover in their left corner led to Nico Hischier hooking up Dawson Mercer for a goal to make it 3-1. All was good - until Damon Severson took a high-sticking penalty. During the resulting power play, the Sens would score. Except they were offside a while earlier on that play and a challenge wiped that goal out. Then Ottawa scored legitimately right after Severson’s penalty ended when Thomas Chabot caught Blackwood looking the wrong way around a screen to make it 3-2. Ottawa tied it up when a hideous clearing attempt by Jonas Siegenthaler went to Travis Hamonic, who fired a shot that Mark Kastelic re-directed in. 3-3 to Ottawa and the concern was mounting. Concerns were eased when the Devils pushed ahead from the third period onward. Dougie Hamilton finished a rush to make it 4-3 off Dylan Ferguson and into the net. Bratt hammered the post on a rush and Blackwood made saves. Tomas Tatar would seal the game with an empty netter for the 5-3 win. The Devils went 2-1-1 in the week to win it. They honored their ‘X’ by winning their game. They are a longshot to catch Carolina and should be more concerned about staying ahead of their hated rivals. But they have the ‘X,’ 100 points, and nine games to take care of all else.
What’s Coming Up This Week: New Jersey will finish up their local rival series in this week with two big games. The Devils will go to Long Island on Monday night. The Islanders are still in a position where they need the points to stay somewhat safe in a wildcard race. Plus, winning in Long Island is not easy and it has been a long time since October when the Devils crushed the Isles, 4-1. The bigger game will be on Thursday night. The Devils will host the New York Rangers. The Devils have been consistently ahead of the Rangers to keep second place for several months now. Should the Rangers want to flip positions, then they pretty much need to win that game. Which is possible depending on how that Islanders game goes and New York’s game against Columbus goes. Additionally, this is a rivalry game and so spirits should be high for that one. This is not to say the Devils can empty the gas tank on Thursday, though. They will start a weekend back-to-back on the road in Chicago on Saturday. That is a game the Devils should win given that the Blackhawks have nothing to really play for. But they are trap games for a reason. Avoid the snare, Devils. Staying in control locks up home ice for the first round. It is worth fighting for.
New York Rangers
What Happened Last Week: The Rangers opened the week by hosting Nashville. The Rangers creamed Pittsburgh 6-0 on the prior Saturday. The Rangers did one better by creaming Nashville, 7-0. The Rangers scored an impressive six goals in the first period with four goals on their first five shots against Kevin Lankinen. Jusse Saros would not stem the flood of goals from, in order: Filip Chytil, Mika Zibanejad, Tyler Motte, K’Andre Miller (goalie change), Artemi Panarin on a 5-on-3 power play (Ty Barrie took a hooking call and then the Preds were caught with too many men on the ice on a penalty kill), and Miller again. Chris Kreider added a second period goal and the Rangers cruised to a massive win at MSG.
Then the Rangers had a home-and-home with Carolina. At MSG, the Rangers would fall to the Canes. Tyler Motte gave the Rangers an early lead. One that stood up all the way to nearly the halfway mark of the third period. Jalen Chatfield scored. This led to two more quick goals. Kaapo Kakko restoring the lead only to be answered right back with a goal by Stefan Noesen. The 2-2 score held up until the final 2:33 of the game when Teuvo Tervainen broke the tie. The Rangers would lose the first game, 3-2. At Raleigh, the Rangers would get a measure of revenge. On that Thursday night, Sebastian Aho gave Carolina the early lead. Only for Panarin to tie it up just past halfway through the second period and Adam Fox to score on just one of the Rangers’ five shots in the third period to make it a 2-1 game. New York kept Carolina to five shots, yielding a presumably tense 2-1 win.
The Rangers ended their week in Sunrise, Florida to play a Panthers team itching to stay in the wildcard race. It was a poor start as the hungry Panthers got out to a two goal lead. Aleksander Barkov and Ryan Lomberg provided the early lead for the Panthers. The Rangers had a response: a two-goal second period wherein they put 22 shots on net. Florida, did you even defend? Nonetheless, Kaapo Kakko got New York on the board and Aleix Lafreniere provided a late equalizer in the second period. This set up a third period where the Rangers would breakthrough. Patrick Kane put the Rangers up 3-2 on a fluke early in the the period. Filip Chytil’s insurance goal was less fluky minutes later. It also became very important as Barkov scored again within a minute of Chytil’s goal. The 4-3 game was tense. Jaroslav Halak was called upon to hold it down. Halak did so as the Rangers attacked Florida enough to keep them more than honest. The Rangers held on to win 4-3. The game put a big dent in Florida’s playoff hopes and keeps them within four points of the Devils. Their ‘X’ should come next week but their eyes may be on second place rather than settling for third.
What’s Coming Up This Week: New York will play three games in four nights this week. On paper, they should win two of them. Their week opens at home against a hapless Columbus team on Tuesday night. Their week will end on Friday in Buffalo, a team that has slumped their way through March and effectively out of the playoff picture. The most difficult game will be the most important. A game in New Jersey on Thursday night. It is a hated rivalry. It is a fairly close road trip, far closer than Western New York. It is also pretty much a must-win if the Rangers want to take second place from the Devils. Of course, like the Devils, the Rangers must avoid snares in the form of the Blue Jackets and Sabres in that week. The Rangers have been quite good as of late. The key is not to burn it all up now and have little else for the postseason.
New York Islanders
What Happened Last Week: The Islanders’ goal has been to keep getting results and hope for help that their games played disadvantage does not hurt them. Did they accomplish it? It seemed like it would at the start of the week. On Tuesday, the Islanders hosted Toronto. It started off with Toronto taking the lead with a Sam Lafferty goal. Then the Islanders hit back hard. Zach Parise scored 28 seconds into the second period, Hudson Fasching broke the lead, and Cal Clutterbuck made it 3-1 late in the second. Mitch Marner did pull a goal back in the third period for Toronto. Only for the Islanders to rain four more goals. Clutterbuck made it a brace shortly after Marner’s goal. Simon Holmstrom, Noah Dobson, and Anders Lee all added goals to make it a 7-2 blowout win over Toronto. A massive result, three straight wins at the time for the Isles, and surely a warmup for a trip to Ohio.
That game in Columbus on Friday night did go pear-shaped for the Islanders. Parise opened the scoring in the first period, then the Blue Jackets rampaged for four goals in the second period. Johnny Gaudreau on a power play, Liam Foudy, Kent Johnson with a Mike Legg Special, and Eric Robinson all scored in the middle frame. Brock Nelson’s goal between the Gaudreau and Foudy goals made it a 4-2 game. Of course, no lead is safe for the Blue Jackets. Kyle Palmieri scored early in the third and Nelson converted a power play eight minutes into the period to tie up the game. Overtime was necessary. A tough situation as Lee was given a high-sticking penalty with 29 seconds to go in regulation. The power play carried over and Boone Jenner finished it for an Islanders loss. But a 5-4 loss in overtime is still a point in the standings.
It would be more than what they got in their game with Buffalo last night. The Isles were out-shot by a Buffalo team that held on to beat the Devils 5-4 the previous night. The Isles were unable to solve Eric Comrie all night long. Keep in mind that Comrie’s last appearance saw him concede 10 goals to Dallas on March 9. The Isles tried to keep the Sabres off the board and were successful for 53 minutes. Then at 13:31, Kyle Okposo - the former Islander - beat Semyon Varlamov for the game’s only goal against a goalie. Jeff Skinner secured the loss with an empty netter. The Islanders lost 2-0 to end their week at 1-1-1. Disappointing that between Columbus and Buffalo, they earned one point. Especially after hammering Toronto. The good news is that the Isles are four points clear of Florida and still have a point over Pittsburgh. The bad news is that it will be a fierce next few weeks.
What’s Coming Up This Week: The Islanders have had a multiple game disadvantage for some time. Now that disadvantage is just one over Pittsburgh and Florida. The Isles are almost free from that threat; Pittsburgh will still have one after this week, Florida will not. Still, the goal is the same for the Isles. They must keep getting points to stay in the wildcard spots in the wild card race. It will not be an easy week. The Islanders will start on Monday by hosting the Devils, a high-scoring team with aspirations for first and/or staying ahead of the Rangers. The Islanders will go to Washington on Wednesday. The Caps have not been pushovers down the stretch; it will not be an easy trip. On Saturday, the Islanders will go to Tampa Bay to start a nasty back-to-back for the weekend. Will the Isles get a stomping Lightning squad or a sluggish one? Who knows, but the goal remains: keep getting results to stay ahead of the Panthers at least and the Penguins at most.
What Happened Last Week: The Pittsburgh Penguins have struggled as of late. They went into this week just holding onto the second wild card spot and with losses in their last three games. The week would begin with a home game against Ottawa - and a fourth straight loss. Dylan Ferguson made his first NHL start and absolutely goalied the Penguins with 48 saves out of 49 shots. Thomas Chabot scored early, Rickard Rakell tied it up late in the thired, and Drake Batherson scored a PPG with just over two minutes left for a 2-1 loss. At home. To Ottawa. In a playoff race. The Penguins needed to end this slide in the face of a very tough back-to-back in Colorado and Dallas.
They would end it in Denver. After a scoreless first period, Sidney Crosby opened the scoring for the game and put Pittsburgh up early. Jake Guentzel added to the lead with a PPG. While J.T. Compher got Colorado on the board, Jeff Carter added a PPG to make it a 3-1 lead at intermission. Colorado would make it a one-goal game for about two minutes after Devon Toews added a PPG in the third period. But Carter scored an insurance goal and Bryan Rust secured a 5-2 win to end a losing streak and gain two big points. However, Dallas would not be kinder to the Pens. The Stars have their own playoff race to win and they got it done late. Roope Hintz opened the scoring for Dallas. Crosby tied it up in the second period but the Pens had to chase the game in the third after a quick two goals from Joe Pavelski and Jamie Benn. Pierre-Olivier Joseph gave them a chance with a goal with a bit over six minutes left in the game. But it was not enough. The Penguins lost 3-2, still in need to results to hold off Florida.
Last night, they hosted Washington. A team that has effectively been a Pittsburgh rival due to the parallel growth of Crosby and Alex Ovechkin. The game was loaded with shots and late drama. After a scoreless first period, the Penguins went up 2-0 in the second period with a pair of goals from Ryan Poehling and Chad Ruhwedel in quick succession. The lead became a strong 3-0 lead early in third period when Guentzel converted a power play. But Washington would march back into this game. Tom Wilson got the Caps on the board. Then Ovechkin converted a power play with less than seven minutes left in regulation. Within the final three minutes, Dylan Strome tied up the game for Washington. Would Pittsburgh blow a lead and potentially drop points? At 3-3 with time running down, Evgeni Malkin had other ideas. He saw Anthony Mantha in the neutral zone and he did not quite have the puck so strong on his stick. Malkin stole it, broke away, and torched Darcy Kuemper low to make it 4-3 with 1:20 left in the game. Pittsburgh would hold on and get a big 4-3 win. Going 2-2-0 after the past week is positive. It was more than Florida’s 1-3-0 week and it moved the Pens within a point of the Islanders for the first wild card spot. But it will only mean something if the Penguins actually build on it.
What’s Coming Up This Week: Pittsburgh would appreciate it if Florida’s opponents all make it difficult for the Panthers in this coming week. More importantly, they also need to take care of business themselves. That is easier said than done even if their form was more successful. The Penguins will go to Detroit on Tuesday. The Pens should basically try to add to Detroit’s slide. It gets harder from then on. On Thursday, the Penguins will host Nashville. The Preds still have an outside but not impossible shot at the wild card in the West. I would anticipate two hungry teams that night at the PPG Paints Arena. On Saturday, the Penguins will host Boston - the best team in the NHL. While the B’s may not need to go full throttle with their fate secured, the best teams tend to keep the good times going even when it is not necessary. Which would not bode well for Pittsburgh. The good news is that they are entering this week in a playoff position. The bad news is that dropping most or all of these potential points could see them at risk of losing it.
What Happened Last Week: Washington has had a games played disadvantage along with the Islanders. Unlike the Isles, the Caps were in desperate need of points to stay relevant in a wild card race that is quickly shrinking. The week did not start off well for them. On Sunday, they visited Minnesota. Matt Boldy put up a brace on them within the first five minutes of the game. While Alex Ovechkin scored a PPG in the second period, Ryan Reaves restored the two goal lead almost five minutes after Ovechkin’s goal. Brandon Duhaime made it a 4-1 game for the Wild early in the third. Ovechkin converted another PPG later in the third, but that was answered by Boldy registering his hat trick to make it 5-2. Dylan Strome would score late in the period to make it a little closer, but Washington still lost. Just 5-3 instead of 5-2.
Then on Tuesday, the Capitals hosted Columbus in what would be an utter goal-fest. The first period saw the Caps seemingly take control early. Ovechkin, T.J. Oshie, and Conor Sheary all scored within the first 16 minutes to make it 3-0. But Eric Robinson gave the Jackets a foothold with a first period goal, and Adam Boqvist made it 3-2 in the second period. Sonny Milano restored the two goal lead, Jack Roslovic scored a PPG to cut it to one, and Nick Jensen made it 5-3 with eight seconds left in the second period. All good, right? No, not at all. Columbus would tie it up before the halfway mark of the third period with another goal from Boqvist and a goal from Emil Bemstrom. Jensen would score late in the third period to make it 6-5 with less than five minutes to go. Only for that to blowup when Boone Jenner made it 6-6 with the extra skater in the final minute. And the Caps would ultimately drop a point when Roslovic beat Charlie Lindgren in OT for a 7-6 loss to Columbus. A point earned but blowing leads to Columbus does not bode well.
You would not have known that from their Thursday game against Chicago. Chicago is quite bad, like Columbus. Unlike Tuesday’s game, Washington just dropped a hammer on the Blackhawks and never looked back. It helped that John Carlson returned to the lineup as he made an impact in the game. Anyway, Sheary, Anthony Mantha, Nic Dowd, Nicklas Backstrom, and Carlson all scored before Chicago could get one on the board. And they would thanks to Nikita Zaitsev in the third period. Not that it was needed, but Ovechkin scored late to make it a 6-1 win. A fine victory over a team Washington should beat.
Their week ended with an important game against Pittsburgh. Pulling them down would help the Caps up in the wildcard race. A regulation loss would be brutal. To that end, going down 2-0 after two periods hurt. Ryan Poehling and Chad Ruhwedel put the Caps down two on the road. They would need a big third period to make a game of it. They would get one. But they had to suffer first; a Jake Guentzel PPG to make it 3-0 just 27 seconds into the third period. The Capitals clawed their way back against Casey DeSmith. Tom Wilson scored to make it 3-1. Ovechkin punished Pittsburgh for a penalty for a PPG to make it 3-2. With fewer than three minutes left, Dylan Strome provided the equalizer to make it 3-3. The Caps could at least drag the game into OT or a shootout. Instead: Mantha came out of the defensive zone too casually with the puck. Evgeni Malkin stole it from him and went in alone on Darcy Kuemper. Malkin finished the shot low for a 4-3 score with 1:20 left. It ended at 4-3. Washington was stunned. The Pens did not totally blow it. They got nothing in a game where they needed two points real badly. Going 1-2-1 when they needed more is not enough. They sit six points back of Pittsburgh in the standings and it feels like a mountain to climb with just eight games left in Washington’s season.
What’s Coming Up This Week: Since Washington has played more games than everyone else so far, they will only play two games this week. Which means for them to remain somewhat close in the wildcard race, they need a lot of help. The Capitals will be in action around the middle of the week. They will host the Islanders on Wednesday, which is a game the Capitals would need to win in regulation to really pull themselves a bit forward in the race. Or at least to pull the Isles down. On Thursday, they will go to Tampa Bay. A difficult trip even when one does not know what kind of Lightning team they will face. But it will be a more rested Lightning team playing a more tired Capitals team. Washington basically needs to get hot to have a chance in the wildcard race and get help. One thing they can (sort of) control. One they cannot. Such is their position.
What Happened Last Week: Would you believe me if I told you the Philadelphia Flyers had the best week in the Metropolitan Division? They did. They swept their week of games.
On Tuesday, they hosted Florida. One would think the Panthers should take this game for their own playoff hopes. The Flyers had very different ideas. A Matthew Tkachuk goal was answered by Joel Farabee in the first period. Then came a second period nightmare for Florida. Travis Sanheim scored. While Brandon Montour answered that, Florida was rocked with three goals scored within two minutes and one second of each other. Scott Laughton, Sanheim, and Ivan Provorov all torched Alex Lyon to make it a 5-2 game going into the third period. Sam Reinhart reduced the lead to two with a third period PPG amid a deluge of shots (it was 16-2 with goalies in the net). But Morgan Frost secured the spoils for a 6-3 win. A game that hurt Florida’s chances.
On Thursday, the Flyers hosted Minnesota. In this game, the Flyers would just not go away. Laughton scored in the first period and Oskar Sundqvist tied it up for Minnesota. Farabee opened the scoring in the second period. Matt Boldy and Marcus Foligno would provide two late period goals to make it a 3-2 game. Only for Rasmus Ristolainen to convert an even later second period power play for a 3-3 score going into the third period. Boldy would break the tie at 13:32. And Tyson Foerster restored it at 14:16. Minnesota could not pull away from the Flyers. The game went to overtime, which solved nothing. In the shootout, James van Reimsdyk provided the only goal. The 1-0 shootout meant a 5-4 shootout win for the Flyers. Denying Minnesota a second point? Spoiled.
Yesterday, the Flyers hosted Detroit. The Red Wings went from being in the wildcard mix to slumping their way out of it. The Flyers obliged in their downfall by adding to it. Carter Hart was perfect. 29 shots, 29 saves, and that included seven power plays for Detroit. The Flyers would prevail on the back of their goalie as well as goals from Kieffer Bellows, Laughton, and an ENG from Foerster. The 3-0 win for Philly all but kills Detroit’s playoff hopes. It also meant a 3-0-0 week for the Flyers. It means nothing now but pride. And hurting their opponent’s futures in this season.
What’s Coming Up This Week: Philadelphia will end their seven-game homestand on Tuesday when they host Montreal. On Thursday, the Flyers will visit Ottawa and can damage their faint playoff hopes. Then the Flyers return home to host Buffalo, where they can deal another blow to Buffalo’s slim chances at a playoff spot. The potential spoiling for this week is light, but it is what it is. They won four of their last five; they could go on a run of sorts just to have one. The Flyers do not seem so interested in getting some extra lottery balls, so might as well enjoy them as they are.
Columbus Blue Jackets
What Happened Last Week: Columbus Blue Jackets games had the goals this week. Every single game had at least nine scored between the two teams. The week was also bookended by blowout losses. After getting wrecked and mathematically eliminated by a 7-4 loss in Anaheim in the previous Friday, the Blue Jackets started this past week in Las Vegas. They conceded another seven-spot. Phil Kessel scored a PPG in the first period, Kirill Marchenko tied it up early in the second period, and after the halfway mark of the second, the G-Knights just went off on Columbus. Jack Eichel, Pavel Dorofeyev (PPG), Zach Whitecloud, and Eichel again put the Jackets down 5-1 by the third period. Paul Cotter and Eichel (hat trick) added to it in the third. A Liam Foudy goal made it a 7-2 loss. Last night, the other blowout loss of the week happened. Only to the Atlantic Division’s worst team, Montreal. The first period was seemingly fine. Lane Pederson scored early for Columbus. Mike Hoffman and Jesse Ylonen made it 2-1 for Montreal, but Marchenko provided a late period equalizer. 2-2 is not bad. Then it went south real fast. In the second period alone, Rafael Harvey-Pinard scored a hat trick with Brendan Gallagher adding one among them. The third period featured Alex Belzile and Nick Suzuki scoring in quick succession. The Blue Jackets ended this week with an 8-2 defeat. Ouch.
The good news (?) is that the Jackets did a little spoiling in the middle of this past week. On Tuesday, the Blue Jackets went to Washington D.C. and gave them fits. While Columbus went down 3-0 to goals by Alex Ovechkin, T.J. Oshie, and Conor Sheary in the first period, Eric Robinson got Columbus on the board late in the period to have something to work with. Adam Boqvist would pull the Jackets within a goal. Sonny Milano answered that, then Jack Roslovic converted a power play to make it 4-3, and Nick Jensen made it 5-3 going into the third period. Not great, but not impossible if they chip away at it. And so Columbus did. Boqvist made it a one-goal game and Emil Bemstrom tied it up. Yes, 5-5. Jensen restored the lead within the final five minutes, only for Boone Jenner to provide the 6-on-5 equalizer within the final minute. And in overtime, it would be Roslovic to be the hero. The Blue Jackets won 7-6, denying Washington a second point that they really needed.
On Friday, the Blue Jackets hosted the Islanders. The Blue Jackets took an early deficit thanks to Zach Parise in the first period. But the second period was a boon for the Blue Jackets. Johnny Gaudreau converted a power play, Brock Nelson restored a 2-1 game, and then Columbus went off. Foudy scored. Kent Johnson hit the biggest Michigan in Ohio since (enter The Game reference here). Robinson made it 4-2 Columbus going into the third period. Alas, Columbus and leads do not always hold up well. This one did not. Kyle Palmieri and a Nelson PPG tied up the game. The score held into overtime, where Columbus had an advantage. Anders Lee took a high-sticking penalty with 29 seconds left in regulation. The PP carried over into the overtime period. At 40 seconds, Jenner redirected a Boqvist shot for the PPG and the win. A 5-4 win that denied the Islanders a second point they could really use given Pittsburgh being behind them by one point.
The Blue Jackets went 2-2-0 and did some spoiling. That may ease some of the burns of the blowout losses. At least goal fans got to see a lot of them if they followed Columbus in this past week.
What’s Coming Up This Week: Blue Jackets fans, this could be ugly. Well, uglier than usual. The Blue Jackets will visit the Rangers on Tuesday, go to Boston on Thursday, and then host a Florida team fighting for their playoff lives on Saturday. Those are three superior opponents. The Blue Jackets can spoil two of them - Boston is pretty much safe at #1 in the East - but that is asking for a lot given how poor Columbus has been this season and how good their opponents are. They are better than Washington and the Islanders. Just count the games left. There will be 7 games left after this one, Jackets fans.
That was the twenty-fourth Weekly Metropolitan Division Snapshot of the 2022-23 season. Will Carolina continue to hold off the New Jersey Devils for first place? Will the New York Rangers seriously challenge the Devils for second place? Can the Islanders and Penguins keep the Panthers and all others back? Will Philly get hot? Can Columbus spoil some of their opponents 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.