Breathe. The sixteenth weekly Metropolitan Division snapshot of the 2023-24 NHL season is entering a break for the majority of the team. The 2024 NHL All Star Game is next weekend. The regular season will be off from February 1 to February 5. For the snapshot, you will see some more information in the division: Playoff odds by Moneypuck and odds for the NHL Draft Lottery based on league position. Provided I can get to it, even a picture of the Atlantic Division teams in the wild card race. My rule of thumb in the past is to include all teams within 10 points of the wild card spots. I’m going to make it 8 this season as to keep the total long shots out. I did add the current Wild Card owners as a reference to prepare for it. Spoiler for the New Jersey Devils, Pittsburgh Penguins, New York Islanders, and Washington Capitals fans: No, you’re not close to a playoff spot right now. The season will return to the grind after this week and so there will be more focus on whether someone has something to play for.
In terms of the standings, a gap has formed between the top three teams that are guaranteed to make the playoffs. It may not be a big gap. The Philadelphia Flyers are only four points up on the New York Islanders. However, if it grows, then life is going to get a lot tougher for the teams beneath the top three. Especially as two Atlantic Division teams that own the wild card spots are at least five points ahead of those four teams in the Metropolitan. Not that they will do anything about it in this coming week, though.
Only one team in the division is active in this week: the last-place Columbus Blue Jackets. Sorry, Columbus. No break for you yet. You have a road trip to finish up. Those two games are the only games within the division this week.
Now for the week that was and the week that will be (which will be nothing for 7 teams) for each team in the Metropolitan Division.
New York Rangers
What Happened Last Week: The New York Rangers ended their road trip with some results, and rebounded after a rough loss at home to go 2-1-1 in the week. That’s a winning week and enough to hold onto first place. Be careful, though, second place is not far away at all.
January 21, at Anaheim, 5-2 Win: The first period for this one was rough for New York. In a low-shooting first period (12 shots total), the Rangers went down. Adam Henrique said “It’s started” with a pair of goals in the first period. A quick goal 51 seconds into the game and a jam at the left post later on. Then the Rangers said “No, it’s not over.” Vincent Trocheck got the Rangers on the board with a PPG late in a penalty-filled second period to get them on the board. New York pulled away in the third - even if it took 10 minutes for the equalizer. Will Cuylle provided that equalizer. Mason MacTavish tripped him about four minutes later and that led to Artemi Panarin punishing that foul with a goal. Chris Kreider batted in a puck late in the third to make it 4-2. Jimmy Vesey ended the run of goals with an empty netter for the win. It was not easy but wins are wins. The Rangers should be beating teams like Anaheim.
January 23, at San Jose, 3-2 Overtime (OT) Loss: They should also be beating teams like San Jose but, uh, they did not. Worse, the Rangers blew a 2-0 lead in this one. Adam Fox opened the scoring in the first period and Panarin scored an even strength goal early in the second period. The Rangers looked like they were in control. But even with holding San Jose to 6 shots on net in the third period, they botched it. Nico Sturm took advantage of a terrible mistake behind the net by Erik Gustafsson after Igor Shesterkin slowed a puck for him. Sturm beat Shesterkin to the post on the turnover to make it 2-1. Shortly thereafter, Ryan Carpenter tipped in a Jan Rutta slapshot to tie it up. Yes. 2-2. And the Rangers could not score. Overtime was needed. It ended after Mika Zibanejad lost his stick (and Jan Rutta kind of got in his way to make space for it). Barabanov spun around his K’Andre Miller, drew Alexis Lafreniere, fed Rutta open in space to Shesterkin’s right, Rutta sent a pass across to the open Tomas Hertl on the left (and through Miller), and Hertl finished it. The Rangers legitimately blew a game to the 2023-24 San Jose Sharks. At least they got a point? This ended their road trip at 1-2-1.
January 26, vs. Las Vegas, 5-2 Loss: Las Vegas may be injured but you would not know it from how they played. They did get Adin Hill back and Hill was the king on the ice. While the Rangers controlled the shots in the first period, the Sheldon Rempal opened the scoring by tipping in a Paul Cotter shot early on. Blake Wheeler would tie it up about a minute and a half later. All good, right? Then the second period happened. Keegan Kolesar blocked a Panarin shot from the blueline (why is Panarin that far back?) and went off. He beat Shesterkin to make it 2-1. Less than a minute later, Jonathan Marchessault tipped in an Ivan Barbashev shot in front to make it 3-1. Hill was giving up little. Marchessault made it 4-1 early in the third period. A commanding lead held up until there was just over a minute left. Kaapo Kakko scored a consolation goal to make it 4-2. Still, New York pulled Shesterkin for an extra skater. All that did was give Marchessault an ENG for his hat trick to continue his super-productive week and lock up a 5-2 loss. Hey, Rangers, these losses are getting to be a bit of an issue. Are you OK? Is Shesterkin OK for giving up 4 goals on 19 shots?
January 27, at Ottawa, 7-2 Win: Maybe all the Rangers needed was a trip to Ottawa? This one was revenge for a big loss on December 5 in Ottawa. While Brady Tkachuk scored in the first period and Jacob Chychrun scored a PPG early in the second, the Rangers roared back in the second period. Within an 11 minute timeframe, Alexis Lafreniere, Kreider, Zac Jones, Johnny Brodzinski, and Wheeler all scored. All at even strength. All to turn a two goal deficit into a 5-2 game going into the third period. They chased Joonas Korpisalo out when he gave up four of those five goals on just five shots. Mads Sogaard was beaten again. The score held until the third period when Ottawa decided to pull Sogaard for an extra skater. Down 3. Panarin scored an empty netter to make it 6-2. And Chychrun lost it and received a 10-minute misconduct On the next shift, Kaapo Kakko kicked the extra point for the 7-2 final score. A huge win to ultimately win the week and hold onto first through the All-Star Game Weekend.
What’s Coming Up This Week: Nothing! The Rangers will play their next game on February 5 when they host Colorado.
What Happened Last Week: Carolina stumbled in their first game last week and then proceeded to rattle off three wins. They won the week at 3-1-0 and sit just two points behind first place. The Hurricanes are Back.
January 21, vs. Minnesota, 5-2 Loss: This was a frustrating effort for the Canes. They came out hard in the first period. They out-shot the Wild 18-3 in the first period! And it was 1-1 by the end of the first. Martin Necas opened the scoring, but Kirill Kaprizov re-directed in an Alex Goligoski shot to tie it up. In the second period, the Wild did a bit better with 7 shots on net to Carolina’s 13. They also went up 2-1 thanks to Kaprizov. The Canes kept firing at Jonas Gustavsson. They would get an equalizer thanks to Michael Bunting in the third period. Then about a minute later, they lost it when Joel Eriksson Ek put in his own rebound to make it 3-2 with a bit over 10 minutes left. Carolina could not beat Gustavsson again. The goalie was pulled and Kaprizov got his hat trick with an ENG. Then the Canes did it again and Jacob Middleton added a second ENG to widen the score. 42 shots, 2 goals, and 3 allowed by Antti Raanta out of 17 shots. The people at the PNC Arena were surely gnashing their teeth at this one.
January 24, at Boston, 3-2 Win: Winning in Boston is a big deal given how good the B’s are this season. Carolina made a statement in pulling this one out in regulation. The scoring opened late in the first period. A Brandon Carlo stick-hold led to a power play goal by Martin Necas. In the second period, Morgan Geekie’s trip of Necas cost them a second goal. Teuvo Teravainen made it a 2-0 game. All good? No. Boston’s infamous Brad Marchand had another idea. He scored 90 seconds into the third period and he tied up the game at the 7:20 mark. At 2-2, it could have been anyone’s game. A hero emerged for Carolina, a real human being. Jordan Martinook got sprung for a one-on-one by Teravainen at Boston’s blueline. He shot it low and the puck trickled through Linus Ullmark to put the Canes up 3-2. They held on for a statement win on the road.
January 25, vs. New Jersey, 3-2 Win: Carolina went up and cruised to a win that was not as close as a 3-2 score suggests. Sebastian Aho took care of a Dawson Mercer spill and beat Simon Nemec for a breakaway. He roofed a backhander past Nico Daws to open the scoring 90 seconds into the game. The Canes kept up and looked sharper than the Devils even with the fatigue disadvantage. It helped that Antti Raanta played like a NHL goaltender too. Early in the second, the Canes went up by a commanding three goals in the game. Teravainen converted a power play to punish an Ondrej Palat penalty and Jordan Staal scored on the next shift with a tip-in of a Brady Skjei. Daws was replaced by Vitek Vanecek. The Devils challenged the Staal goal and failed. Carolina did not convert that power play but they blanketed the Devils so well that Raanta did not face a shot on net in the second period until there was about 8 minutes left in the period. The third period was more or less owned by the Devils as the Canes did not push to end it. But the lead held up well even after Alex Holtz set up Justin Dowling for a one-timer. That second goal came with 3 seconds left in the game. The Canes not only won their back-to-back set but got a big swing in their favor to stay ahead of the foursome beneath them.
January 27, vs. Arizona, 3-1 Win: Carolina really choked Arizona’s offense in this one. They conceded 8 shots in the first period, which included a goal by Logan Cooley. Then in the second period, they allowed only three. Carolina, more importantly, got an equalizer. A Nick Bjugstad holding penalty was punished by Martin Necas to make it 1-1. In the third period, Carolina took 18 shots and allowed none. Yes, none. Zero. Nothing. Arizona did not put a single puck on Antti Raanta in the third period. They had 11 shots on net all game. That said, Connor Ingram was up to the task to keep the Coyotes in a game in someway. But he was not perfect in that third period. Dmitry Orlov made it 2-1 with just 36 seconds left in regulation. Jesper Fast scored on the next shift - not empty net, he scored on Ingram - to make it 3-1. The game looked to be a frustrating result until that final minute. Instead, the Canes go into their break with a three-game winning streak and a real shot at first place.
What’s Coming Up This Week: Nothing! The Hurricanes will return to Raleigh for a game against Vancouver on February 6.
What Happened Last Week: The Flyers were hot not that long ago. Then they lost to Colorado. Then they lost all four games this week. 0-4-0. Thanks to the teams below them also struggling, they hold a four point lead. Then again, the games in hand those teams have on them could make up that gap. Either way, it was a rough week for the Orange and Black.
January 21, vs. Ottawa, 5-3 Loss: The Flyers looked to rebound after their loss to Colorado. They fell apart instead to the Senators. It did not start out that way. Egor Zamula scored a brace in the first period; a power play goal to punish a Jake Sanderson penalty and one later on to make it 2-0 going into the second period. But the Sens began their comeback in the middle frame. Zach MacEwen got a breakaway as a pass got through Zamula of all players. He finished it to make it 2-1. Jacob Bernard-Docker’s second penalty of the period was punished later on by Joel Farabee to make it 3-1. But Ottawa pulled a goal back thanks to Tim Stützle shortly after that Farabee goal. The Sens kept coming. Ex-Flyer Claude Giroux scored early in the third period to tie it up. Vladimir Tarasenko broke the tie late by burying a 2-on-1 caused by Mathieu Joseph forcing a turnover at Ottawa’s blueline. Tim Stützle locked up the comeback win with an ENG later on. Philly, this is not what you needed to do. The turnovers at the opposition blueline hurt badly.
January 23, vs. Tampa Bay, 6-3 Loss: Tampa Bay came to Philly and gave them a touchdown. In a hockey game. Brayden Point tipped in a Maxwell Crozier shot early to open the scoring early on. Near the end of the first, Nikita Kucherov scored his first of the game to make it 2-0. Early in the second period, Sean Walker held up Point. Kucherov made the Flyers pay for it with his second of the game to make it 3-0. There was a bit of a Flyers counter attack later on. Cam Atkinson made it 3-1 before the halfway mark. A Brandon Hagel hook yielded a power play goal for Jamie Drysdale - his first goal as a Flyer. But another Flyers penalty gave the Lightning a chance to go up by two. Rasmus Ristolainen’s trip up of Hagel led to exactly that: a PPG for Michael Eyssimont. Hope renewed early in the third period when Cam York put home a puck 42 seconds in. But Andrei Vasilevskiy held it down. the final minute would see the Flyers pull Sam Ersson for an extra skater. Hagel scored an ENG. Then they did it again, with Kucherkov completing his hat trick for the 6-3 final score. At least the Flyers battled instead of blowing it.
January 25, at Detroit, 3-0 Loss: At least the Flyers scored goals against Tampa Bay. They scored none against Detroit. Alex Lyon, the former Flyer, was perfect on 30 shots. Detroit was held to (or only fought for, whichever) 17 shots on net. They only needed one to go in. Which it did when Dylan Larkin scored early in the second period. Insurance came later on thanks to Moritz Seider. Then during a Flyers power play, Andrew Copp received a pass from behind Philly’s net from Michael Rasmussen. Copp hit the pass with authority for a shorthanded goal. Down 3-0, the Flyers looked they were in deep. And they were for the loss. Flyers, what’s happening?
January 27, at Boston, 6-2 Loss: Boston went into Philadelphia and established that they would be winning this game in the first period. It took 14 minutes before a wave of goals would flood Sam Ersson. David Pastrnak scored first, then Charlie McAvoy less than two minutes later, then Danton Heinen about a minute after McAvoy’s goal, and Pastrnak made it 4-0 about 90 seconds after that third goal. Ersson was out at intermission and in came Cal Peterson. James van Reimsdyk scored 1:15 into the period and Boston just cruised after that with just four more shots on net after that goal. And why not? They were up 5-0. Tyson Foerster scored Philly’s first goal since Tuesday later in the second period. He made it 5-2 past halfway through the third period. But the B’s put in a more offensively competitive third period. And so Charlie Coyle put up the sixth goal for the visitors with 5:15 to go in the game. A decisive loss for Philly ended a brutal week in the standings. Carolina and the Rangers thank them for falling behind. The four teams behind them - well, they did not exactly take advantage.
What’s Coming Up This Week: Nothing! The Flyers return to the ice on February 6 in Florida.
New York Islanders
What Happened Last Week: The Islander won their first game under their new head coach, Patrick Roy. They proceeded to get one point out of their next three games. Somehow, going 1-2-1 was enough to move them up to fourth place.
January 21, vs. Dallas, 3-2 OT Win: Patrick Roy’s first game behind the Islanders’ bench was a victory. It was dramatic, though. Alexander Romanov opened the scoring early in the first period. But the Stars came to play after beating on New Jersey the night before. They racked up 16, 14, and 13 shots on net in each of the periods in regulation. The 14 shots in the second yielded two scores: an equalizer from Jason Robertson and a go-ahead slapshot goal from Nils Lundkvist. The Islanders would tie it up in the third period thanks to a Hudson Fasching deflection of a Noah Dobson shot. Overtime was quick and favorable for the Isles. Mat Barzal fed Bo Horvat up the right boards for a one-on-one with Scott Wedgewood. Horvat finished the rush with his backhander for the win. Well done.
January 23, vs. Las Vegas, 3-2 Loss: Alas, that win against Dallas followed a loss to a fatigued Las Vegas team that played (and lost) in OT in Newark the night before. The Isles brought the pucks with 42 shots on net. But the returning Adin Hill was in form immediately after his injury with 40 saves. The Isles also had to play catch-up early as Ivan Barbashev opened the scoring with a tip of an Alex Pietrangelo shot to make it 1-0 in the first. Brock Nelson tied it up early in the second period. But a Matt Martin holding penalty led to Sheldon Rempal’s first ever NHL goal: a power play goal. Bazinga. Nicolas Roy scored shortly thereafter to make it 3-1. Hill was in form so those three goals were enough. It was contentious in the third period. Especially in the final 10 minutes since Jean-Gabriel Pageau scored a shorty to make it a one-goal game. But the Isles clearly did not get that one shot to tie it up past Hill. Far from what they needed given their spot in the standings.
January 25, at Montreal, 4-3 Loss: Roy is a legend in Montreal even with how his time as a Canadien ended. The Canadiens welcomed him back - and proceeded to gift him a loss. Within a five minute and change frame in the first period, Montreal scored three times. Nick Suzuki punished a Fasching delay of game call for the first one. In a 4-on-4 situation, Cole Caufield made it 2-0. Then just as an abbreviated power play was going to end, Sean Monahan scored to make it 3-0. Roy kept Semyon Varlamov in the net and the Islanders proceeded to just bombard Sam Montembeault for the rest of the game. It did work. Thanks to Motnreal just going to the box. A pair of early second period penalties gave the Isles a 5-on-3. Horvat converted that to get the Isles on the board. The shooting continued into the third period. Then Brendan Gallagher decided to get extra-stupid and dangerous with a high elbow to Adam Pelech’s penalty. He got five minutes and, later, a 5-game suspension for the hit. It should have been more but the NHL and the NHLPA are what they are. The Isles got some justice through goals. Barzal scored to make it 3-2 on the long power play. As it continued, Kyle Palmieri tied it up with the second goal on the power play before it ended. Alas, the Isles blew it after. Pierre Engvall lost a puck to Caufield in his own zone. He sent the pass through to Josh Anderson, who tossed it back to Monahan in the high slot. He one-timed a rising shot past Varlamov to make it 4-3. A rough sequence for another rough loss.
January 27, vs. Florida, 3-2 OT Loss: The Islanders at least took a point from this one - which has been one of their themes in their 2023-24 season. This time, they came back for it. After a goalless first period, Sam Reinhart opened the scoring in the second period. He converted a power play caused by Mat Barzal hooking Sam Bennett. The Isles had a response; Simon Holmstrom tied it up late in the second period. In the third period, Samuel Bolduc tripped Mackie Samoskevich. Matt Tkachuk tipped in an Alexsander Barkov shot to make it 2-1 for Florida. The Isles were not shooting the lights out. But they would get a late equalizer thanks to the Pride of Montvale, New Jersey, Kyle Palmieri. The Isles were 91 seconds from another regulation loss. Instead, they went to overtime. It was decided when Evan Rodrigues rushed up ice on a counter-attack and fed Oliver Ekman-Larsson in a 2-on-1. OEL finished it to hand the Isles an OTL. Welcome to Long Island, Roy. No one ever said it would be easy.
What’s Coming Up This Week: Nothing! The Islanders will resume their season February 5 in Toronto.
What Happened Last Week: The Penguins split the week by going 1-1-1. Due to playing fewer games than New Jersey and Washington, they are in fifth place due to tiebreakers. But all three teams are on the wrong side of the playoff bubble going into their breaks. It has to be better.
January 22, at Arizona, 5-2 Loss: Arizona hosted Pittsburgh and went on the front foot. Jason Zucker opened the scoring early with a slapshot goal. Lars Eller of the Penguins would tie it up in the second period. That would be broken later on by Juuso Valimaki’s first of the season. Sidney Crosby tied it up once more on a deflection of an Erik Karlsson shot. But Arizona re-took the lead again thanks to Alex Kerfoot with just under two minutes left in the second period. In the third period, Zucker was going to take a hooking penalty. During the delayed penalty call during a Penguins penalty kill, Kris Letang decided to make a back pass to Evgeni Malkin. The pass hit off Malkin’s stick and went into the empty net. This went viral for how stunning it was. The goal was credited as a power play goal for Lawson Crouse and is listed on the NHL gamecenter page as an Own Goal. Which, yeah, it totally was. 4-2, too. It gave Arizona some relief. Nick Bjugstad added an even strength goal for further insurance. The Penguins never led in the game but they certainly felt stupid for how this one went. Especially Kris Letang.
January 26, vs. Florida, 3-2 Shootout (SO) Loss: In a high shooting game, the game went the distance in Pittsburgh between the Panthers and Penguins. The first period featured a pair of power play goals. An early one from Jake Guentzel and one not long after from Evan Rodrigues. The second period was filled with penalties. Pittsburgh would end up getting 8 power plays in this game. That Guentzel PPG just 1:51 into the game would be the only conversion. Worse, Letang took two minors at the same time. Florida punished that; Sam Reinhart scored to make it 2-1. Pittsburgh would need a game-tying goal. They would get it by the last minute of regulation. Evgeni Malkin would put home a shot by the left post to tie it up late. Overtime solved nothing so a shootout was needed. Guentzel scored in between goals by Barkov and Reinhart. Which meant the Panthers won the shootout and the game. A point was earned for Pittsburgh - when they were less than a minute away from zero. So that is something.
January 27, vs. Montreal, 3-2 OT Win: The Penguins made another comeback in another game that had four goals in regulation. Kaiden Guhle put the Penguins down a goal when he scored with just over four minutes left in the first period. Lars Eller provided another equalizer this week with an early second period goal. Both teams were better about penalties compared to the Florida game. Letang’s inteference penalty in the second period was the only one called on Pittsburgh all game. That penalty yielded a PPG for Juraj Slafkovsky. Would the Penguins tie it up in the third? Yes. And around 10 minutes in instead of 19 minutes and change. Guentzel one-touched in a turnaround pass from Sidney Crosby to make it 2-2. A lovely play. Overtime was still needed. There, it was decided on a 2-on-1 play led by Rickard Rakell. He passed it over to Marcus Pettersson. He skated in and ripped a shot for the win. A big two points in a week where the teams closest to them flailed. Welcome to fifth place, Pittsburgh.
What’s Coming Up This Week: Nothing! The Penguins will start their post-All-Star Game part of the season on February 6 against Winnipeg at home.
New Jersey Devils
What Happened Last Week: The Devils went 1-2-0 wherein both losses featured some real struggles. It is not good when the captain of the team says “I hope everybody thinks about what team they want to be a part of coming down the stretch. If we want to be a playoff team, we have to figure something out” as per Amanda Stein after a loss. Devils are in sixth place by the grace of the Regulation Win tiebreaker.
January 22, vs. Las Vegas, 6-5 OT Win: Bruce Cassidy called this a “beer league game” after this one and I think he’s right. It certainly was not well structured. Pavel Dorofeyev opened the scoring off a feed from Colin Stephenson to beat Vitek Vanecek. The Devils hit back. Timo Meier set up Nico Hischier in front to tie it up. Within the final minute. Erik Haula did similar by setting up Curtis Lazar. Early in the second period, Tyler Toffoli torched Logan Thompson with a shot to make it 3-1. The Devils then proceeded to plotz. A Kaeden Korczak long shot hit bodies in front and dropped perfectly for Jonathan Marchessault to tap it in. Las Vegas tied it up shortly after a Cal Foote turnover yielded a 2-on-1 that Marchessault finished to make it 3-3. Then Brett Howden went Brad Marchand on Simon Nemec. A 4-on-4 was set up and Colin Stephenson burned Vanecek’s 5-hole to make it 4-3. There was still over eight minutes left in the second period. Lindy Ruff used a timeout. The next goal came within the final minute of the period. Marchessault set up Nicolas Roy in the slot for a score to make it 5-3. It was so over. Then Toffoli stunned the Rock and Thompson with a shot that went through the goalie 36 seconds later. It was 5-4 going into the third period. The Devils tightened things up as they looked for the equalizer. Which they would get when Lazar took a Nemec shot off the endboards and stashed it into the net by the right post past Thompson. Overtime came and Jesper Bratt was a machine. Denied by the post twice and Thompson another time. That save by Thompson led to an attempt by the G-Knights to spring a counter-attack breakaway. Luke Hughes picked that off, charged in, and fed Toffoli for the game winning hat trick goal. The Devils made another come back for a massive win over the defending champions.
January 25, at Carolina, 3-2 Loss: Do not let the score fool you. This was not a close game. Carolina looked fresher, more in control, and went up to never look back in this one. A turnover by Dawson Mercer and Nemec getting beat led to Sebastian Aho roofing a backhander past Nico Daws for the game’s opening goal. The Devils tried to come back but it was not happening. The second period came and it was a real struggle for the Devils. Daws got beat twice early: Teuvo Tervainen converted a power play to punish an Ondrej Palat (he’s back) penalty. Then Brady Skjei fired a long shot on the next shift that Jordan Staal (uncovered) tipped in as the screen. Daws was replaced, Ruff challenged the Staal goal, lost the challenge, and the Devils just had to survive. How bad was it? It took 12 minutes in the game to get a shot on Antti Raanta in the second period. The third period was more promising. Carolina looked fine to just cruise. Alex Holtz set up Justin Dowling for a goal in his Devils debut to make it 3-1. There were some moments that the Devils could possibly make it a one-score game. Problem was: Raanta was better than his stats imply, the Canes still played some defense at times, and the Devils’ effort was rather uneven when trying to come back. The Devils did make it a one-score game - Jesper Bratt through a screen - with three seconds left in regulation. Devils not only lost to a team that played on the road last night, but they lost a chance to close the gap to the top three in the division. Sad.
January 27, at Tampa Bay, 6-3 Loss: The Devils survived a first period where they had no shots on Andrei Vasilevskiy in the first 10 minutes or so at 0-0. Then the second period came and Tampa Bay broke through Vitek Vanecek. Nick Paul opened the scoring early with a tip on a Victor Hedman shot. Later on, Brandon Hagel was open in front to put home a rebound of a Hedman shot. Oh, the Devils had two shots on net between those two goals. The third period featured something more. Ondrej Palat put home a rebound early on to make it a 2-1 game. Then Steven Stamkos rounded Vanecek after getting free from the Devils to make it 3-1. Jesper Bratt pulled a goal back minutes later. Brayden Point then got a free gift from Kevin Bahl after Vanecek played the puck to him behind the net. That made it 4-2. Tyler Toffoli scored late with the goalie pulled to make it 4-3. With the goalie pulled once more, Hagel put in the empty netter. Then the Devils pulled the goalie again at 5-3 and that led to Point adding another ENG. A big regulation loss to a playoff team they are chasing? Also sad.
What’s Coming Up This Week: Nothing! The Devils can rest and recover as their next game will be on February 6 against Colorado in Newark.
What Happened Last Week: The Washington Capitals finished up a four-game road trip with three games this week. They earned one point out of six (0-2-1). Eight, actually, they lost the first road game on the trip last Saturday. They fell to seventh place due to tiebreakers.
January 23, at Minnesota: 5-3 Loss: The Wild went up early and never looked back in this one. Rookie sensation Brock Faber opened the scoring early and Marcus Foligno made it 2-0 a few minutes after. Marcus Johansson made it 3-0 in the second period. Then literally at the halfway mark, Washington finally got on the board with an Anthony Mantha goal. Did that slow down the Wild? No. Joel Eriksson Ek made it 4-1 early in the third. Johansson completed his brace later on in the third for 5-1. Washington’s two goals in the third period were both late and consolation goals: a TJ Oshie PPG and a second goal for Mantha. All it did was flatter Washington in a game where Minnesota clearly out-classed them.
January 24, at Colorado, 6-2 Loss: Out-classed is a good term for what the Avs did to the Caps in this one. Washington did keep it goalless in the first period - until they got a late power play. Cale Makar scored a shorty within the last minute of the first period to send the Caps to the locker room presumably annoyed. Colorado’s power play was far more effective. A Nicolas Aube-Kubel holding penalty ended with a Nathan MacKinnon PPG early on. MacKinnon got another PPG after Ethan Bear put a puck over the glass. MacKinnon completed his all natural hat trick all before the 10 minute mark of the second period to put the Avs up 4-0. Washington would get on the board over 7 minutes into the third period thanks to Dylan Strome. Colorado had something for that: more goals against Charlie Lindgren. Mikko Rantanen batted in puck to make it 5-1. Within the final five minutes, MacKinnon scored his 4th of the game for his 30th of the season (he has 84 points already!) to put the Avs up 6-1. Strome’s second of the game came a bit over a minute after that one - and it did not matter. Another decisive loss on this road trip for Washington.
January 27, at Dallas, 5-4 OT Loss: The Caps ended their trip with another loss. With a point earned, sure, but a loss all the same. The scoring opened in the first period thanks to Anthony Mantha. Just over a minute later, Wyatt Johnston tied it up for Dallas. And on the next shift, Thomas Harley made it a 2-1 game for the Stars. In the second period, Rasmus Sandin got his first of the season to tie it up. However, Beck Malenstyn tripped up Miro Heiskanen. This led to Mason Marchment converting the power play for 3-2. Matt Duchene put the Stars up by two goals early in the third. But the Caps would make a stunning comeback within the final minutes of regulation. Sam Steel tripped up Martin Fehervary late in the third period. Washington would make it a 6-on-4 situation with the goalie pulled. The Putinist scored on the power play from above the high slot (yes, a different spot). Shortly after that, a long shot from the Putinist led to a jam from Mantha and Strome. Strome tucked it in for the game-tying goal with 43 seconds left. That’s rough for Dallas. But they would prevail. Harley finished a 3-on-2 rush from Jason Robertson to make it a 5-4 OT loss for the Caps. Which would be the best result they would get on their trip.
What’s Coming Up This Week: Nothing! The Caps will get back to the regular season on February 6 when they host Montreal.
Columbus Blue Jackets
What Happened Last Week: The Columbus Blue Jackets went 1-1-1 in the first week of their Northwest trip. Yes, first week. But, hey, that’s a better result than some other teams in the division.
January 23, at Edmonton, 4-1 Loss: Edmonton is on a heater. They are on a wagon. They are a juggernaut. And they broke down Columbus as part of it on this night. An Andrew Peeke penalty yielded a Warren Foegele PPG to open the scoring. Columbus would respond later on with a goal by Dmitry Voronkov. This held all the way to the third period. Even with Edmonton’s penalties and their known concerns in their back end, they held it down. In the third period, the Oilers just pulled away. Evander Kane broke the tie early in the third, Connor McDavid scored shortly after that Kane goal, and Dylan Holloway scored late in the third to just further the score. Another W for the Oilers and another L for the Blue Jackets.
January 25, at Calgary, 5-2 Win: Zach Werenski returned to the rink for this one. A welcome sign for the Blue Jackets. They also played well after the first period. The first period saw the Jackets out-shot 18-9. But the goals were 2-2 after the first frame. Yegor Chinakhov scored early, MacKenzie Weegar tied it up, Damon Severson scored after that, and Connor Zary tied it up. From then on, Columbus did all the scoring. The breakthrough came in the second period during a Severson penalty. During that kill, Alexandre Texier kept the puck in a 2-on-1 shorthanded rush and buried the shot to make it 3-2. This held until the third period. Jonathan Huberdeau boarded Jack Roslovic and got a major and a game misconduct for it. Voronkov would punish it to make it 4-2 for some breathing room. After that major penalty ended, Calgary pulled Jacob Markstrom. This led to Adam Fantilli scoring an empty netter to cap off a win in Calgary. Nice job.
January 27, at Vancouver, 5-4 OT Loss: Oh, this one hurts when you consider how it happened. After no goals in the first period, the second period blew up for Columbus. Texier scored his second shorty of the week to open the scoring 4:30 into the second. Then at 6:14, Sean Kuraly made it 2-0. After nine minutes of no goals, Brock Boeser tipped home a J.T. Miller play to get Vancouver on the board. Columbus hit back with a quick double. Jake Bean at 17:27. Thanks to a Nikita Zadorov penalty, Kirill Marchenko got a PPG to put Columbus up 4-1. All good, right? Well, no. The Jackets went into intermission down a man thanks to Severson slashing Sam Lafferty. Elias Pettersson converted that power play to make it 4-2. Then Voronkov hooked Miller. That led to a PPG from Boeser to make it 4-3. After that goal, Boone Jenner slashed Conor Garland. Take a guess as to what happened. A power play goal for Vancouver! Boeser completed his hat trick with Vancouver’s third power play goal of the third period. All within six minutes of each other! Columbus, come on. Are you serious? Later in the third, Tyler Myers elbowed Sean Kuraly, got a major for it, and was thrown out with a game misconduct. Columbus did not punish it. And the score held to go to overtime. Overtime lasted four minutes - as Pettersson scored to end it. It was 4-1 and Columbus’ lack of discipline saw that go up in flames.
What’s Coming Up This Week: Not nothing! Sorry, Columbus, but you have to finish up your road trip before your break. Tonight, the Blue Jackets will be in Seattle to play the Kraken. The Blue Jackets will end their month on Tuesday, January 30 in St. Louis as one of the few games in the whole NHL that night. Columbus will then go on a break through February 10.
That was the sixteenth Weekly Metropolitan Division Snapshot of the 2023-24 season. How will you spend the break? Will Columbus end their trip with some respectable results? Please leave your answers and other thoughts about the week that was and the week that will be for the Metropolitan Division in the comments. Thank you for reading.