There are two weeks left in the 2022-23 NHL regular season. This is the last full, seven-day week of games for the season. This is also the next-to-last snapshot of the season as the next week does go beyond a couple of days. There is playoff drama to be had in the Metropolitan Division.
Up top, the Carolina Hurricanes are fending off the New Jersey Devils and, to a much lesser extent, the New York Rangers for first place. The Canes continue to control their destiny but as the standings show, the race for first place is not quite over yet.
In the middle of the division, the New York Islanders and Pittsburgh Penguins are the battling for the two wild card spots in the East. It is essentially a triple threat with the Florida Panthers, who jumped Pittsburgh for that second wild card spot last night. Sure, the Penguins have a game in hand but the pressure is truly on for them. Given that first place is up for grabs and that means a first round matchup against one of these three teams, this is something to keep tabs on.
Down in the bottom, the Washington Capitals, Philadelphia Flyers, and Columbus Blue Jackets will be jockeying for a worse position in the standings. Specifically, 23rd or worse. Being in the bottom ten of the league standings is important as a lottery win limits a team to move up a maximum of 10 spots. The prize for the first lottery is Canada’s answer to Jack Hughes and Auston Matthews: Connor Bedard. The Caps are on the cusp of that bottom ten, Philly has been enjoying spoiling too many teams to fall to the bottom six (they were also mathematically eliminated last night), and Columbus (already eliminated) is in a fight with Chicago (tied with in points), San Jose, and Anaheim for dead last.
Here are your standings after last night’s games:
I have generously included Buffalo and Ottawa. I expect no last push from either but they are not totally out of it like Washington or Detroit. Here is the week’s upcoming schedule. I hope you have nothing planned today, Thursday and Saturday. Everyone is playing. And there are games within the division, mostly with some kind of stakes involved. Tuesday night will also feature plenty of action. Games within the division 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 went into this week in control of their destiny for first place. They had two games in hand on New Jersey, with one being used up on Sunday against Boston. The B’s would not make it easy in Raleigh. David Pastrnak opened the scoring in the first period with his 50th goal of the season. Jack Drury tied it up, only for Pastrnak to make it 51 on a power play. Shortly later, Jakub Lauko made it a 3-1 game. Carolina would need another comeback effort and they would get it in the third period. Within the first four minutes, Brady Skjei and Sebastian Aho each scored to make it 3-3. The score held through regulation and even overtime. Boston would make it quick in the shootout. Two saves, a Charlie Coyle goal, and a Jake DeBrusk goal yielded a 4-3 shootout loss. A point earned with the extra game - but a second would have been massive. Especially since the Canes would get nothing on Tuesday night against Tampa Bay. Nothing. Not a goal past Andrei Vasilevskiy. Not a chance on some power plays in the second period. No chance at stopping the Lightning as Steven Stamkos, Alex Killorn, and a brace by Brayden Point. No points at all in a 4-0 shutout loss. All in Raleigh, too. Ouch.
Surely, a better result would happen in Detroit. The Red Wings are all but out of the playoffs. The Canes are, well, really good. Of course, the game is played on the ice and not on paper. Dominik Kubalik ensured that it would not be an easy night with a goal for Detroit just under a minute into the game. Brent Burns would tie it up within the first minute of the second period and Jaccob Slavin made it a 2-1 game a little later. All was good? Nope. Dylan Larkin scored a PPG to punish Martin Necas for hooking Moritz Seider to tie it up in the second period. Ex-Canes goalie Alex Nedeljkovic held it down from then on and the Red Wings were good at keeping the Canes from firing away. They kept the Hurricanes honest all the way to the end. Overtime seemed inevitable until the Red Wings got one last attack. And Jake Walman found the back of the net with 3.8 seconds left. Yes, it would be the Canes on the wrong end of a shockingly late goal. The Hurricanes lost 3-2 in Detroit. Their hold on first place fell to one point, albeit with a game in hand.
The result meant that the trip to Montreal last night carried a little more weight. If only to get a win and stop the slide this week. They would make it so in Quebec. They drilled Montreal with 50 shots on net while allowing just 14. Antti Raanta stopped all 14 of those shots. Of those 50 on Sam Montembeault, three did go in. Brady Skjei opened the scoring six minutes into the game. Paul Stastny added an insurance goal around the halfway mark. Sebastian Aho converted a power play form a Jake Evans holding call while Johnathan Kovacevic took a tripping penalty. Carolina dominated Montreal for a 3-0 win, their first in this week. Carolina went 1-2-1. They remain in the driver’s seat for first place and have a game in hand on New Jersey, but this past week showed that the Canes are not totally secure in that seat. After all, New Jersey is just a point back and there’s no guarantee that game in hand will be a win.
What’s Coming Up This Week: Carolina will seek to keep hold on first place and possibly secure it in this week. On paper, the schedule appears favorable for that. The trickiest game will be this evening when they host the Islanders. The Isles may be a safe bet to lock up a playoff spot, but I would anticipate a team fighting for a spot that they have yet to fully earn. Especially a team that the Canes could face in the first round. Especially a team wanting to make a point after getting flattened by Tampa Bay last night. It does not help that Carolina is coming back from Montreal. The point is: It’s a tougher game than you may think. Carolina will host Ottawa on Tuesday, go to Nashville on Thursday, and then go to Buffalo on Saturday for an afternoon game. A month ago, this would be been a challenging week. The Nashville game could be harder than expected as the Preds may still have a shot at a wild card spot in the West by then. It’s up in the air. But the Sens and Sabres are all but out of it. Which makes it easier, on paper, for the Canes to maintain their hold on first. Despite their recent missteps, they are in the driver’s seat for first in the Metropolitan. They could secure the ‘Y’ this week with some help from the Devils’ opponents. Don’t slip up and it could happen.
New Jersey Devils
What Happened Last Week: The Devils would close out March with two games against local rivals before heading out to Illinois to start their last back-to-back set of the season. On Monday night, the Devils hosted an Islanders team that still had a lot to play for. The Devils struggled. Ilya Sorokin goalied the Devils while the Isles preyed upon mistakes. Most notably, Ryan Graves looked bad for falling down on a play that led to Pierre Engvall tapping in a rebound from a Kyle Palmieri rush. Graves looked like a statue as Palmieri went all the way around the net, the players, and fired a high shot. Ondrej Palat coughed up the puck from the corner that led to Palmieri making it 3-1 late in the third. Two ENGs from Bo Horvat and Zach Parise made it a 5-1 loss. The one was a shorthanded goal from Erik Haula which kept things tied in the second period until Palmieri’s first goal. It was not what the People Who Matter were looking for. Especially with the Rangers rising up behind them.
With just two points separating the two and a whole lot of hate between the fanbases and organizations, the Rock had a playoff atmosphere in the Devils-Rangers game on Thursday night. Every moment was tense with the thought that a turnover here or a play there could be the difference maker. The Devils provided more of those than the Rangers. Haula tipped in a Dougie Hamilton shot to open the scoring. Timo Meier finished from the slot to convert a power play. The Devils kept preying on sloppy puck management from the Rangers only for Igor Shesterkin and a post to deny them more goals. The Rangers would make it close when they converted a power play shortly after a Graves clearing attempt went off Adam Fox, the puck bounced to Mika Zibanejad, and he flung it to Chris Kreider for the score. But the Devils put in a strong team effort for the 2-1 win. Big for the division race and big in the rivalry.
The Devils closed out their week in Chicago against a hapless Blackhawks team. Not even the return of Jonathan Toews to the lineup would keep the Devils from rolling through them. It was a sluggish, scoreless start but the 10-4 shot differential in the first period indicated who had the better of play. The second period nearly went awry. The Devils opened the scoring with Hamilton dropping a long range bomb on a rush play. But Chicago answered a little later when Tyler Johnson was found all alone in front of the net by Taylor Raddysh to tie it up. Andreas Athanasiou went for a long jaunt in the Devils’ end, took a long shot from the center point, and the puck hit off Graves and Lukas Reichel for a 2-1 Chicago lead. The Devils seemed stunned. Then they were not and the Devils battled back. Erik Haula put home a rebound after a Timo Meier attempt to tie it up. Jack Hughes set up Jesper Boqvist, who broke through two Blackhawks and stretched Alex Stalock to put the puck over the line for a 3-2 lead. After Meier was taken down behind the net and play continued, Graves roofed the puck like a forward past Stalock for the 4-2 lead. Chicago gave NJ a scare when Toews found Athanasiou open on MacKenzie Blackwood’s flank for a tap in to make it 4-3. The score held and pressure mounted. Until Meier, who returned to the game, would ease the pressure. He charged in on a rush play and beat Stalock clean with a wraparound for a 5-3 score. Dawson Mercer iced the game with an empty netter for a 6-3 win in Chicago. The Devils went 2-1-0 in the week and sit just a point behind Carolina for first place. By the way, the Devils have a ROW tiebreaker if it comes to that right by the final night.
What’s Coming Up This Week: The main goal is to stay ahead of the Rangers, and catch Carolina if possible. The main goal is the relatively easy part with a five point lead. The Devils are more than capable to get the other one. They will have do so against a not-so-easy run of four opponents. The Devils will go from Chicago to Winnipeg tonight. The Jets are far from secure from a wildcard spot in the West. They need the points and badly. It could be a real battle. On Tuesday, the Devils will host Pittsburgh. As well as the Devils have done against the Pens, the Penguins may be fighting for their playoff lives and that could make for a difficult opponent. On Thursday, the Devils will have to avoid a trap game against Columbus. The Devils have beaten them twice; a third time should be expected given how the Jackets have nothing to play for. New Jersey’s week ends in the rink where few have won: Boston. Boston has locked up first in the league so maybe they will provide some mercy. Nah. There is no mercy in the NHL. Just ask Pittsburgh.
New York Rangers
What Happened Last Week: The Rangers, fresh off a 3-1-0 week, looked to make up more ground on the Devils in attempt to snipe second place - and home-ice in a first round matchup. First, they got an ‘X’ while idle. Results by Monday night yielded them a clinched playoff berth. On Tuesday, moving up to second place appeared to be possible after they played Columbus. The Rangers smacked down the Blue Jackets in time. The first period ended up being a goal fest with Filip Chytil, Vladimir Tarasenko, and Patrick Kane putting the Rangers up 3-0 in the first eight minutes only for Kirill Marchenko and Johnny Gaudreau make it a one-goal game going into the second period. Artemi Panarin relieved the pressure in the second period with a PPG. Zibanejad added a fifth goal in the third period and Vincent Trocheck got an empty netter for the 6-2 win. It put the Rangers just two points behind the Devils, adding further juice to an already dripping rivalry.
Unfortunately, the Rangers forgot to bring the concept of puck management to Newark. Their many turnovers in the first period led to many Devils attacks. They eventually yielded goals. A Dougie Hamilton shot led to a Erik Haula tip-in for a score. The offense drew a trip from K’Andre Miller that was punished when Timo Meier finished from the slot to make it 2-0. The Rangers would not get much going until the second period provided they could deny the Devils a zone exit. Even then, they would not generate much at 5-on-5. It took a power play and a clearing attempt bouncing off Adam Fox right to Mika Zibanejad, who set up Chris Kreider in front to get on the board. But the Rangers’ attempts to tie up the game were few enough and far between enough for the Devils to just lock it down. They lost 2-1. Now four points back of the Devils and down a regulation win to them as well.
Of course, the pressure could be put back on the Devils should the Rangers get a win in Buffalo on Friday night. The Sabres may be out of the picture and debuting a rookie goalie out of college in Devon Levi, but they brought it to the Rangers. John-Jason Peterka finished a sequence of shambolic defending by the Rangers to open the scoring. Jordan Greenway managed to make it a two goal lead in the second period. Kaapo Kakko and his line of “kids” woke up from a nap they took since the Columbus game and managed to make it a one-goal game in the second period. Adam Fox provided an equalizer close to halfway through the third. The Rangers just drilled Levi with shots, hoping for the breakthrough goal. Out of 21, only Fox’s goal would beat Levi in his debut. Overtime was necessary and Buffalo would take it thanks to Jeff Skinner. The Rangers would get a point, but the 1-1-1 week meant the Rangers remain a bit behind the Devils (and Hurricanes) going into the final two weeks of the season. Third place and starting the playoffs on the road seems more likely with each passing day.
What’s Coming Up This Week: The main goal is to catch-up to the Devils. This means out-earning them in this week of games and making up a five-point difference. The Rangers are capable of getting results but getting the help, well, that is a lot to ask for in this final week of the season. They’ll be big Jets, Penguins, Jackets, and Bruins fans this week. For their own games, the Rangers will have to get results against a run of four opponents that is, on paper, easier than who the Devils will face. Today, the Rangers will visit the Capitals, who are essentially out of the playoffs. Well rested, but they have little to play for. On Wednesday, the Rangers will host Tampa Bay. Easily their most difficult opponent of the week. There is also the challenge of that game being the first of a back-to-back set. The Rangers will go to St. Louis on Thursday. That game is a prime “trap game” opportunity what with the Rangers coming off a game with the Lightning and having to travel from Manhattan. The Rangers will end their week in Columbus, whom they just smashed last week. Can they have a good week? Of course. Will they actually do it? Maybe. Will they need help to make it important? Yes. Can they control that? Nope.
New York Islanders
What Happened Last Week: The Islanders went into this week in search of points after taking one out of four from a back-to-back set to end last week. They are in front in the wildcard race but far from safe. They hosted New Jersey on Monday, a team that already qualified for the playoffs. The Isles showed off how they can compete and prevail. Ilya Sorokin putting in a great performance and getting beaten just once: a shorthanded goal by Erik Haula. Punishing mistakes such as Ryan Graves’ bad night, which yielded a tap-in rebound goal for Pierre Engvall and a go-ahead goal in the second period from a Kyle Palmieri wraparound. Filling in lanes to further frustrate the offense while looking for mistakes for further insurance. The latter happened thanks to Ondrej Palat playing the puck out of the corner, missed Jack Hughes, and found Kyle Palmieri, who buried the puck. Two empty netters boosted the score to a 5-1 win. A great result made greater after Tuesday night where the Penguins faltered. The Isles capitalized on the Penguins faltering by getting a win out of Washington, who is very much out of the playoffs. It was a close game and pretty much all about the goaltending. Darcy Kuemper and Ilya Sorokin were in great form. Each were beaten just once in regulation: an Engvall goal in the second period and a Conor Sheary goal a little later. The game required a shootout, something the Isles have yet to win at this season. They would get their first in D.C. thanks to Sorokin denying T.J. Oshie and Nicklas Backstrom while Bo Horvat and Palmieri scored to make it a 2-1 shootout win. It may not help tiebreakers, but the second point is more valuable at this point.
The Islanders embarked on a difficult back-to-back set this weekend. Last night, they were in Tampa Bay. The Lightning are back to just being a nightmare opponent; just ask Carolina. Still, the Isles looked to sweep the week with a win in Tampa Bay. What they got was what the Canes received earlier this week: a beating. Mikhail Sergachev opened the scoring for the Bolts. Tanner Jeannot finally scored his first as a Lightning player in the second period, which was followed by goals from Nikita Kucherov and Steven Stamkos. A tripping penalty by Matt Martin in the third period yielded a Brayden Point PPG. You may have noticed that I did not mention an Islander scoring a goal. They did not. Not even with 38 shots on net and a 20-shot second period did they beat Andrei Vasilevskiy. The Isles closed out their week with a 5-0 loss. While it was a winning week, it keeps the door somewhat open for the Penguins and Panthers should the Isles slip up a bit more. Which is possible given their week coming up.
What’s Coming Up This Week: The Islanders have the edge in the wild card race by owning the first spot right now. They are up by 2 points on Florida and 3 on the Penguins. The goal is to have more than them by any amount but it is a slim cushion to lean on. The Islanders should be watching what the Penguins and Panthers do this week, hoping they lose and in regulation as much as possible. In the meantime, the Isles have their own business to sort out. Tonight, the Isles will complete their nasty weekend back-to-back set in Carolina. This is right after their beating by the Lightning, too. And the Canes have their own playoff positioning to play for. It is a bad time to go to Raleigh to try to get two points. Speaking of the Lightning, the Isles will host them on Thursday. The Isles will have a rest advantage as Tampa will play the Rangers on Wednesday. They may be able to get one over on the Bolts. They may want to given last night’s game. Then again, last night’s game may mean that is a tall order. The Islanders’ week ends on Saturday night when they host Philadelphia. The Flyers have been able to spoil teams over the past month; the Isles need to be real careful in that one. Especially if they get nothing from Carolina and Tampa Bay and/or the Penguins and Panthers keep getting results.
What Happened Last Week: The Pittsburgh Penguins ended a slide with a regulation win against Washington last Saturday. Good, but they needed to build on it. If only to keep pace with the Islanders and keep ahead of the Panthers. They did not do that at all in their first game this week; a trip to Detroit on Tuesday night. They opened the game by giving up three goals: Jonatan Berggren with a PPG, Andrew Copp, and Dominik Kubalik made it 3-0 for Detroit. After what I presume was an angry team talk during the first intermission, the Penguins managed to battle back to tie it up. And quickly too as Jason Zucker and PPGs from Jake Guentzel and Jeff Carter made it 3-3 before the halfway mark of the game. Unfortunately for the Pens, they would fall apart in the third. David Perron put the Red Wings up 4-3 early in the third. Josh Archibald tied it up and that lasted for close to 11 minutes before Perron punished the Pens for Bryan Rust high-sticking Moritz Seider. Not content to just have a one goal lead, Perron scored on his next shift 35 seconds after his PPG to make it 6-4 for Detroit. Hats rained as Pens seethed. Dylan Larkin ended it with an ENG for a hideous 7-4 loss. Not what you want to see from a team looking to make the playoffs!
The Penguins would get their minds right and their game more correct on Thursday night against Nashville. The Preds have their own playoff hopes and the Penguins did well to hurt them. Credit to this goes to the skaters for putting up 43 shots on Nashville and the goalie, Tristan Jarry, for stopping just 28 out of 28. Jarry’s shutout meant the Pens needed just one goal. They got two past Juuse Saros: a Zucker goal in the second period and a Guentzel PPG in the third period. A 2-0 win to help stave off Florida for the time being. Still, the Pens needed points and, unfortunately, they had to play Boston on Saturday afternoon. The B’s are the President’s Trophy winners. They demonstrated why. To be fair, the Pens put up an effort in this one. Charlie McAvoy’s PPG in the first period was answered by Bryan Rust shortly there after. David Pastrnak’s PPG early in the second period took more time for an answer but Rust provided it in the third period. Then Pastrnak scored again - only for Guentzel to provide a third equalizer. Here’s the thing. Pastrnak is not someone who just stops when he wants. He can light the lamp when given a chance. A defensive zone turnover, a lost puck battle, one pass, a second pass, and Pastrnak earned his hat trick by making it 4-3 with 2:27 left. The Penguins could not answer that and so they lost. Worse: thanks to Florida winning, they have been knocked out of the wild card spot for the first time in weeks. The pressure is officially here - even with a game in hand on the Cats and Isles.
What’s Coming Up This Week: Play to win some games, please. Pittsburgh, your inconsistency has put you in a precarious position. There is no reason to believe any NHL game is easy but it is especially hard for Pittsburgh. Who knows which Penguins team are we going to see. Which will one will show up in a rivalry game at home against Philadelphia tonight? Which Penguins team will appear in Newark when they play the already playoff-bound Devils? Who shall arrive back in Pittsburgh when they host Minnesota, who is jockeying for playoff position in the Central Division? Will there be revenge when the Penguins visit Detroit on Saturday afternoon? The Penguins could get points out of all four of these games. They could sputter and slump through all four. May I suggest another p-word for Penguins fans: Pray. For help. And one more, depending on how this coming week goes: Panic.
What Happened Last Week: Washington had two games to play. They did not win either of them. They took one out of a potential four points, all but securing that their final game on April 13 will be their last of this campaign. On Wednesday night, they hosted the Islanders. It was a goalie duel between Darcy Kuemper and Ilya Sorokin. No goals in the first period. Only two in the second period; one for each side. Pierre Engvall first for the Isles and Conor Sheary about two and a half minutes later. Then no goals in the third period and overtime. Not that the game was particularly offensive as the shots ended at 29-26 in favor of the visitors. In the shootout, there would be goals. Evgeny Kuznetsov first for the Caps. Then Bo Horvat matched it. T.J. Oshie was denied, but Kyle Palmieri put the Isles up, and Nicklas Backstrom was stopped. The Caps lost the shootout, 2-1, for a 2-1 shootout loss. Then the Capitals went to Tampa Bay on Thursday night. This was a beating by the Bolts. Alex Killorn opened the scoring with a PPG and Steven Stamkos doubled the lead with three seconds left in the first period. The Caps made it a one goal game late in the second period thanks to Craig Smith. But Patrick Maroon sealed up the win with an early third period goal and a late third period goal for insurance. A late power play for Washington led to pulling Kuemper for an extra skater - yes, Kuemper played back-to-back for reasons - and that ended with Erik Cernak adding an ENG for a 5-1 defeat. Washington, it’s over.
What’s Coming Up This Week: The Capitals selling off by the trade deadline was a sign that management did not think they could go for it. It is all but certain that they are not going anywhere after Game #82 other than the golf course. They could do some damage on their way out this week. Washington will host the Rangers this afternoon. A game that New Jersey and perhaps Carolina will hope the Caps prevail in regulation. On Thursday, the Capitals will go to Montreal. That game will be for little but it may be entertaining on its own. On Saturday, the Capitals will host Florida. This is a game that Islanders and especially Penguins fans hope the Capitals prevail in regulation. As for Capitals fans, just play it out and see where it goes. If you fall to 23rd or worse, then you’re in the Bedard hunt. If not, whatever. The team does not need Bedard. I’m sure it would be a nice pick-me-up. Especially as 23rd is just a point behind the Caps as of this writing.
What Happened Last Week: Say what you want about the Flyers playing themselves into worse draft lottery odds, their goal is to earn some respect down the stretch and get results for their player’s efforts. They continued to do that in this week even with no opponent to actually spoil given that the opponents took themselves out already. On Tuesday night, the Flyers hosted Montreal. A game that answered the question: Are the Flyers better than the 8th place team in the Atlantic? The answer was yes. Morgan Frost put up a brace surrounding a Brendan Gallagher goal, Owen Tippett added an ENG that ended up being the game winner thanks to a last-minute goal from Rafael Harvey-Pinard. The Flyers won 3-2. On Thursday, the Flyers went to Ottawa. They nearly put a dent in the Senators’ desperate last charge for a wild card spot. Austin Watson opened the scoring for the Sens and while Anthony DeAngelo tied it up with a PPG in the second period, Tim Stutzle and a last-minute second period PPG from Shane Pinto made it 3-1 for Ottawa going into the third period. Claude Giroux, the former Flyer, made it a 4-1 game early in the third period. Then Philly put the fear in Ottawa with a run of three goals. Cam York, a PPG from Noah Cates, and a late goal from Tippett to tie it up. The Sens would prevail in OT thanks to Alex DeBrincat and give Ottawa an important second point. But the point was made: The Flyers are capable of ruining teams. That thought was at least in my mind when they played Buffalo last night. It seemed like it was possible after a 1-1 first period where Morgan Frost and Kyle Okposo scored goals within the final five minutes. Okposo’s late strike was a forefather to a deluge of Sabres goals in the second period. Alex Tuch, Jordan Greenway, and Jeff Skinner all scored within the first four minutes of the second period to make it a 4-1 game. Tuch added a second goal late in the second to make it 5-1. Frost would get a brace after Tuch’s goal but it was a consolation goal. Travis Konecny would get on the board in the third period to pull the score within two goals. There would be no big comeback against the Sabres team that cannot afford losses now. Alex Tuch sealed the victory with a shorthanded goal for his hat trick and a 6-3 loss for Philadelphia. Oh, well, Flyers. It is what it is. Going 1-1-1 is not so bad given that a drop to the very bottom of the league was made impossible weeks ago.
By the way, the Florida rout of Columbus combined with Philly loss mathematically eliminated them from the playoffs.
What’s Coming Up This Week: Philadelphia’s great spoiling of 2023 can continue in this week in three of their four games coming up in this week. Tonight, they will go their hated rivals in Pittsburgh. The Flyers can really put a wrench in the Pens’ playoff plans. Something that Florida will hope for. Revenge is also a driver for Philadelphia in that one; look out for what happens tonight. On Tuesday, the Flyers will go to St. Louis in their only game that cannot have spoils. Perhaps some lottery balls but that is not what the term really speaks to. That does apply when the Flyers go to Dallas on Thursday. The Stars are not secure in their position and the Flyers can do Minnesota and Colorado a solid by taking some points from them. On Saturday, the Flyers will go to Long Island. The Isles may be set for the playoffs by then but the exact wild card spot may not be and the Flyers could make an impact in that. It may not mean much for the Flyers themselves, but they are at least making an effort to spoil. And succeeding in spots.
Columbus Blue Jackets
What Happened Last Week: Columbus had a rough week on paper lined up: road games at Manhattan and Boston with a return home to play a playoff-hungry Florida squad. This after getting creamed 8-2 at Montreal. The Tuesday night visit to MSG was close - until it was not. The Blue Jackets conceded three goals within the first eight minutes to Filip Chytil, Vladimir Tarasenko, and Patrick Kane. But Columbus would battle back with a PPG from Kirill Marchenko and a very late goal from Johnny Gaudreau to end the first period at a more manageable 3-2 score. The score would hold until Artemi Panarin converted a power play to make it 4-2. Mika Zibanejad and Vincent Trocheck would add further goals for a 6-2 loss, another defeat by a big margin. Surprisingly, the Blue Jackets would make it tough in Boston on Thursday night. Instead of conceding three goals in eight minutes, they conceded none in the first eight minutes. In fact, Jack Rosolovic scored just over eight minutes into the game for an early lead. A lead that would last until Tyler Bertuzzi converted a power play to tie up the game about halfway through the second. Amazingly, the Blue Jackets did not concede another goal in regulation. Columbus forced overtime. But it would not take long for Boston to rake up another home win. Specifically, David Pastrnak scored 41 seconds for the 2-1 loss to Columbus. An OT loss that does not help Columbus in the race for 32nd. (And a loss that gave Boston the President’s Trophy.) Still, the Blue Jackets moved on. They returned home on Saturday night to play a Panthers team that needed the win to stay in the playoff hunt. Columbus would oblige by getting jobbed out by the Panthers. Sorry, Penguins and Islanders. Carter Verhaeghe dropped a four spot on the Blue Jackets, including a natural hat trick by 6:34 of the second period. Sam Reinhart’s PPG in the first period, Nick Cousin’s third period goal, and Eric Staal’s third period goal added to what was an absolutely dreadful night in Ohio for the home team. The Blue Jackets lost 7-0 to Florida. Brutal end to a 0-2-1 week.
What’s Coming Up This Week: The next to last week of the season means one last week before it is mercifully over. Columbus’ season has been a mix of Murphy enacting his law, injuries, poor goaltending, and all kinds of other issues. Last place is locked up. They have been out of the playoffs for weeks. They could take their superior opponents down a peg slightly, but they have not been able to do a lot of that as of late. I mean, they’re coming off a 7-0 loss to a team that the Islanders and Penguins wanted Columbus to beat. Anyway, Columbus will host Ottawa tonight, go to Toronto on Tuesday, go to New Jersey on Thursday, and go to Manhattan on Saturday. The Blue Jackets have only beaten Toronto in their prior meeting with any of those four teams, which was back on February 11. Could they take points in any of these four? Sure, it is possible. Does it matter? Not for Columbus it does not. 3 games left after this week.
That was the twenty-fifth Weekly Metropolitan Division Snapshot of the 2022-23 season. What will happen within the final full week of the season? Will the Carolina Hurricanes remain in first place? Do you even want the New Jersey Devils to jump Carolina? Can the New York Rangers make one last charge? Who will own the wild card spots by next Sunday? Will Columbus “retake” last place from Chicago? 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.