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Weekly Metropolitan Division Snapshot: 1/7/2024 - 1/13/2024

The first week of 2024 is in the books for the NHL season and the Metropolitan Division remains a dog fight. Only the Carolina Hurricanes and New Jersey Devils won their weeks and third and seventh place is separated by four points. Learn what happened last week and what’s next in this week’s snapshot.

New York Rangers v Montreal Canadiens
The Rangers may have taken a hit in Montreal but they remain on top in the division.
Photo by Minas Panagiotakis/Getty Images

Thirteen weeks into the season and the official halfway marker of the season looms for many NHL teams. If American Thanksgiving is seen as a rule of thumb as far as who is in, who is legit, and who should be concerned, then 41 games in could be another. The Columbus Blue Jackets are already there and most everyone else in the division are 1 to 4 games away from that milestone. The New York Rangers remain atop of a crowded middle. Although the Carolina Hurricanes are breaking ahead of that middle and - unlike last time - stay above that middle pack. The Columbus Blue Jackets remain at the floor and everyone else will feel that they have a shot of some kind. This is where the previous losses and dropped points begin to hurt. If you are not scoreboard watching yet, then you will soon.

Metropolitan Division Standings as of the morning of January 06, 2024
Metropolitan Division Standings as of the morning of January 06, 2024

This week coming up is all over the place for most of the division until Thursday. And everyone is playing on Saturday. There are only three games within the division, although one of those three is a particularly important rivalry within Pennsylvania and the division standings. Those three are highlighted and in bold:

Metropolitan Division Schedule for January 7, 2024 through January 13, 2024
Metropolitan Division Schedule for January 7, 2024 through January 13, 2024
Schedules via

Here is the week that was and the week that will be in the Metropolitan Division.

New York Rangers

What Happened Last Week: The New York Rangers began 2024 by splitting their week in going 1-1-1. Surprising as that meant dropping points to a lowly Montreal team but it is not too damaging of a situation. They still own first place by five points, and have all kinds of tiebreakers. Now if Carolina remains hot, well, let us cross that bridge if/when that happens.

January 2, vs. Carolina, 6-1 Loss: The 2023 part of the season was great for the Rangers. 2024 started off rather poorly. Carolina went into their rink and beat them by five. It started with the Rangers hurting themselves. An early penalty by Alexis Lafreniere put them down a goal thanks to Jack Drury’s resulting power play goal. A late penalty in the first period by Jacob Trouba was punished by Andrei Svechnikov’s PPG. Chris Kreider would get the Rangers on the board and the Rangers limited Carolina to just five shots in the second period. Problem: One of those went past Igor Shesterkin; a goal by Jordan Martinook. Carolina responded to that second period by dominating the third period. Jalen Chatfield dug the hole deeper and Svechnikov made it a four-goal deficit shortly after that. The Canes nearly doubled-up on the Rangers in shots in the third and got a third goal from Michael Bunting. The Hurricanes put the game away in strong fashion and sent the Blueshirts packing with a big loss. If Carolina starts closing down on first place, then a game like this one could be seen a point along the way.

January 4, vs. Chicago, 4-1 Win: The Rangers got it right against Chicago. At least, they eventually did. The Rangers would go up early thanks to Artemi Panarin finishing a play from Alexis Lafreniere in the first period. Chris Kreider deflected a Vincent Trocheck, well, bat-in attempt that popped up, laid in a dangerous location, and seemingly was put in by 20 or Alex Vlasic. Petr Mrazek wanted a kicking-motion to be called. He did not get it. The PPG stood. Colin Blackwell would answer back late in the second period to make it 2-1 and cause some nerves. Nerves that went away when Jacob Trouba put home a shot 91 seconds into the third period. Jimmy Vesey scored just over a minute after that to make it 4-1 and allow the Rangers to cruise to a win over the lowly Blackhawks.

January 6, at Montreal, 4-3 Shootout (SO) Loss: The Rangers made a comeback only to not get the second point beyond regulation. Jonathan Quick started this one and got beaten by Brendan Gallagher in the first period. Sam Montembeault at the other end was perfect in the first frame. Montreal scored a quick double with goals from Sean Monahan and Joel Armia to make it 3-0. But the Rangers hit back with a 20-shot second period and would get in the game again. Trocheck got the Rangers on the board and Panarin made it a one-shot game. That one shot would come in the third period. Specifically from Adam Fox to make it 3-3. The goalies held true, especially Montembeault as he faced 49 shots between regulation (43) and overtime (6). But he held true and so a shootout was needed. There, Montembeault was strong again and only Cole Caufield scored. Hence, a 4-3 shootout loss for the Rangers. Surprising, but not too damaging to the cause, right?

What’s Coming Up This Week: New York will start a busier January in this week coming up. This week is the easier of the three weeks ahead. The Rangers will host Vancouver on Monday night. This could be another goal fest given how much the Canucks have scored this season. Then the Rangers will go to St. Louis on Thursday night and hope they can stop their surge a bit. Then the Rangers will begin a home-and-home weekend with Washington in D.C. on Saturday afternoon. It will be on ABC, too. A good time for the Rangers to flex their might. Provided they do not blow it.

Carolina Hurricanes

What Happened Last Week: Carolina went into 2024 hot and they continued it up until last night. They won by big margins within the division and saw their winning streak end in a shootout. That means they went 2-0-1. They locked up second for the moment and are now inching towards first.

January 2, at NY Rangers, 6-1 Win: Carolina kicked off 2024 by kicking the Rangers all over their rink last Tuesday. It began with a pair of PPGs to punish Ranger penalties. An early Alexis Lafreniere interference penalty led to a Jack Drury goal less than two minutes into the game. Jacob Trouba took a holding call within the final minute of the first period. That also ended with a Carolina PPG, which was by Andrei Svechnikov. In the second period, New York had some life when Chris Kreider scored. But the Hurricanes snuffed that out a bit with a Jordan Martinook goal minutes later. It was not a good period for the Canes, but they were up 3-1. They decided to take care of business early in the third period. Jalen Chatfield and Svechnikov scored within the first three minutes of the third period to broaden the lead. They pinned back the Rangers more, they put in that work, and Michael Bunting scored with over four minutes remaining to seal up what ended up being a rout. A very fine win for a Hurricanes team presumably aiming for the top of the Metropolitan Division.

January 5, at Washington, 6-2 Win: Carolina kept up the good times by putting down the Capitals in a four-point swing in the division. It did not seem like that would happen. After all, the Capitals led 2-0 after the first period with a goal by Nic Dowd and a power play goal by Dylan Strome. But Brent Burns gave them a foothold in the game in the second period, making it 2-1. Then the Hurricanes rained on the Capitals in the third period. Shots were 16-7. The goals did come. Seth Jarvis tied it up early in the period. An Andrei Svechnikov power play goal also begat a slashing call on Evgeny Kuznetsov. Which was punished shortly thereafter by Burns. The lead grew when Washington pulled Darcy Kuemper for an extra skater during a power play. It led to Dmitry Orlov putting home an empty netter for a shorthanded goal and a 5-2 lead. Vasili Ponomarev capped off the win with his first NHL goal with just over a minute left in regulation. The Canes appear to be Back.

January 6, vs. St. Louis : The Hurricanes have been hot but they had a tough time breaking through against the Blues. The first period had goals from each side. Nathan Walker opened the scoring. After that, Pavel Buchnevich took a tripping call. That was punished with a goal by Teuvo Teravainen to make it 1-1. Then the game was all about the defense and the goalies. Teams were kept to 26-19 in shots, favoring of Carolina. Antti Raanta and Jordan Binnington stopped everything but those two goals. The game went beyond regulation. Overtime had some action but no goals. So a shootout was needed. It took five rounds but Braden Schenn put home the winning goal for the 2-1 shootout win. Carolina’s winning streak ended. But their point streak continues.

What’s Coming Up This Week: The Blues game starts a six-game run at home for the Hurricanes. Two of those games will be played in this week. After a four-day break, the Canes will host Anaheim on Thursday. They should prevail, but the Ducks have been known to surprise some unaware teams. A bigger game will be on Saturday when the Hurricanes host Pittsburgh. This is a game within the division where the Hurricanes can worry less about Pittsburgh with a regulation win. And based on the team above them, maybe move a little closer to the top. Carolina is rising after all.

Philadelphia Flyers

What Happened Last Week: The Flyers struggled to start off the week but salvaged with a win over Calgary to go 1-2-1. They remain in the playoff picture but their situation is far from safe.

December 31, at Calgary, 4-3 Loss: It started off well enough for Philly. Rasmus Ristolainen scored his first of the season in the first period. It held up until late in the second period. Then Calgary had the response: a Mikael Backlund goal with less than two minutes left in the middle frame. No matter, the Flyers could take it in the third. Except they did not. Dennis Gilbert scored his first of the season to break the 1-1 tie. Nazem Kadri scored with over five minutes left to make it 2-1. Then the game went a bit interesting. Bobby Brink would pop in a rebound from a Cam Atkinson shot (shot-pass?) to tie it up with over 3 minutes left. Calgary seemingly ended it with an empty netter by Blake Coleman with over 2 minutes left. Then Egor Zamula said “not so fast” with a blast from the center point to make it a one-shot game with about 102 seconds left. Alas, the Flyers could not get another goal to force overtime.

January 2, vs. Edmonton, 5-2 Loss: Edmonton was hot going into this game and they stayed hot. Connor McDavid scored in the first period and Zach Hyman made it 2-0 before the halfway mark. Philly would tie up the game in the second half of the second period, though. Travis Konecny scored and Marc Staal got his first of the season with three minutes left in the period. Alas, Atkinson took a tripping call late in the second and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins made the Flyers pay for that crime to make it 3-2 going into the third period. Leon Draisaitl scored early in the third for some relief for the home team. They got more when Nugent-Hopkins scored again in the third. The game was loaded with shots (36-37 in favor of Edmonton) but the goals were clearly in favor of the Oilers. The Flyers ended up splitting their trip to the Northwest and went back home searching for a win this week.

January 4, vs. Columbus, 3-2 Shootout (SO) Loss: The Flyers were up and they put the pressure on goaltender Daniil Tarasov. But only Travis Konecny could beat him. Not with a full two-minute 5-on-3 after Konecny’s first goal in the first period. Not with 38 other shots in regulation. Konecny would score his second of the game early in the third. But the Blue Jackets made the comeback. Damon Severson gave the Blue Jackets a foothold with a goal shortly after Konecny’s second of the game. Jake Bean tied it up around the halfway marker. And the Flyers had to deal with a pesky Columbus team trying to end it in regulation and, later, in OT. A shootout would be needed. The Flyers were denied on all three attempts. Johnny Gadreau beat Samuel Ersson and that was it for the shootout loss. The Flyers got a point out of the affair, which helped them somewhat. But losing to Columbus is not a thing they should be doing, should they?

January 6, vs. Calgary, 3-2 Win: In the previous game, Morgan Frost was a healthy scratch for Philadelphia. John Tortorella has his ways and if you do not follow them, then you shall sit. Message received. After a goalless first period, Jonathan Huberdeau opened the scoring for Calgary. This was answered less than three minutes later by Frost, a big goal to tie it up. This did not last as MacKenzie Weegar made it 2-1 just before the halfway mark of the period. But Frost set up Sean Couturier for a power play goal with just under four minutes left in the period to make it 2-2 going into the third. This second period had a lot of heat as an elbow by Elias Lindholm led to a big fight between Joel Farabee (who got a misconduct out of it) and Lindholm. The breakthrough came early in the third period. During a Garnet Hathaway roughing minor, Scott Laughton put a puck into space after a not-good Calgary zone entry. Konecny got onto it, went on a breakaway, and scored to make it 3-2. And the Flyers held on. For dear life at times, but they held on for the win to close out this week. Then there were six roughing calls issued at the end of regulation, so not a lot of love was on display. Still, two points is two points.

What’s Coming Up This Week: The Flyers will play four games in six nights coming up. The first one is a rivalry game against the hated (to them) Pittsburgh Penguins. This is a chance for the Flyers to keep the Pens down while elevating themselves in the mix that is the Metropolitan. They will have some more chances for points with games outside of the division so they can be free to go beyond regulation. They will host Montreal on Wednesday and then go on the road for a back-to-back set. A tough one, too. They will visit a resurgent Minnesota team on Friday and then go up to Winnipeg on Saturday. The Flyers continue to defy the expectations. Will they keep doing so?

New York Islanders

What Happened Last Week: The Islanders went on a trip and took three out of a potential eight points, going 1-2-1. While they can hold their heads up high for a win in Arizona, their week being bookended with losses yielded a drop to fourth place by tiebreakers.

December 31, at Pittsburgh, 3-1 Loss: The Islanders had a chance to avenge a 7-0 beating in their own building in the prior Wednesday. They did not. Lars Eller scored early. Noel Acciari made it 2-0 in the second period as he re-directed a Drew O’Connor feed home. The Isles could not really solve Alex Nedeljkovic until Samuel Bolduc scored off a loose puck in the right circle with just over six minutes left. While the Pens had to sweat some of that, the Isles were kept honest as well. And there would be no equalizer. Eller sealed up a loss with an empty-netter. Dropping two in regulation to the Penguins hurts.

January 2, at Colorado, 5-4 OT Loss: The Islanders suffered a lot of shots against in this game as well as an injury to goaltender Semyon Varlamov. Yet, they frustrated the Avs enough to take the game beyond regulation. Pierre Engvall opened the scoring. While Devon Toews made it 1-1 shortly thereafter, the Isles ended the first up a goal. Brock Nelson converted a power play to punish a Nathan MacKinnon penalty. The Isles even made it 3-1 early in the second period thanks to Simon Holmstrom. Alas, the Avalanche hit back with goals about four minutes apart after from Valeri Nichushkin and Jonathan Drouin. But the Isles went up 4-3 with an Alexander Romanov goal. Despite being outplayed, Ilya Sorokin was doing his best to keep it close. While Nichushkin would tie it up in the third period with a PPG to punish a Mike Reilly penalty, the Isles managed to take the game into OT while being out-shot 38-22. Unfortunately, it would be their undoing there. Especially with Scott Mayfield serving a holding penalty within the final minute of the third period. It took one shot for Colorado to convert the 4-on-3 and it came from their ace, MacKinnon. The Isles lost 5-4. They got a point from it. They are hoping Varlamov will not be out for long.

January 4, at Arizona, 5-1 Win: The Islanders took care of business with a big win in Tempe. They got a Bo Horvat power play goal and a Mike Reilly even strength goal to give them a 2-0 lead in the first period. The Isles had to survive the second period a bit as the Coyotes put up 13 shots to the Isles’ 6 and Nick Schmaltz scored on a PPG to punish a Cal Clutterbuck slashing minor. But the Islanders would not blow the lead in the third period. They locked it down. Arizona was held to four shots and Ilya Sorokin got them all. Anders Lee scored early in the third and Julien Gauthier scored shortly after that to give the Islanders a lot of breathing room. They got even more when Horvat stole a puck from Sean Durzi and roofed a shot past Connor Ingram for the third goal of the period. The Isles won 5-1, a very solid win to sweep their two games against the Coyotes this season.

January 6, at Las Vegas, 5-2 Loss: The Islanders had a chance to salvage their week and even win it with a victory in Nevada. The Golden Knights, though, had other ideas. Jack Eichel hammered a one-timer from the inner edge of the left circle to make 1-0. But the Islanders had an answer from Mat Barzal, who tied up the game about five minute after that goal. The score held until late in the second period when the G-Knights hit the Isles with a double. A tip from Pavel Dorofeyev broke the tie with fewer than three minutes left in the second period. Then Nicolas Roy made it 3-1 with fewer than two minutes left. The Isles challenged the Roy goal and failed. The resulting power play was punished shortly before it was over in the third period thanks to Eichel. Matt Martin got a goal back for the Isles shortly thereafter, but Roy scored again less than two minutes after Martin’s goal to keep Las Vegas ahead by three. The Isles could not beat Jiri Patera again and so the score held at 5-2. The disappointing trip ended with a disappointment.

What’s Coming Up This Week: The Islanders will return home for two games before starting another four-game road trip. On Tuesday, the Isles will return to Belmont to play Vancouver. On Thursday, the Isles will get a lot of attention as they will host Toronto. Then another trip begins with a game in Nashville on Saturday night. The Isles can be free to go beyond regulation with these games coming up. Not that they needed anyone’s permission. They just keep doing it.

New Jersey Devils

What Happened Last Week: The New Jersey Devils won the week! It may not feel like it given how the week ended with another loss in the second half of a back-to-back set (now 1-7-1) and how Jack Hughes has joined a growing injury list that includes Dougie Hamilton, Tomas Nosek, Ondrej Palat, and now Jonas Siegenthaler. Still, 2-1-0 was enough to keep them in the wildcard picture for the moment. As well as in fifth place in the division.

January 3, at Washington, 6-3 Win: This one was close until it was not and the Devils pulled away. A bit of vengeance given the last two Devils-Caps games this season were embarrassing losses for the Devils. The first period went quite well with Nico Hischier getting a brace early, including a PPG on a tip-in of a Luke Hughes shot. Unfortunately, a dumb penalty by Nathan Bastian was punished by Connor McMichael to make it 2-1 by the end of the first. Dawson Mercer put home a puck to make it 3-1, but Evgeny Kuznetsov caught him flat-footed and put a puck past Nico Daws despite the best efforts of the defender Hughes. A late penalty ended with a blast by John Carlson to tie it up at 3-3. But then a shocking turn happened in the final minute. Michael McLeod made space for Alex Holtz to rush up ice, he dished it back to McLeod, and with Martin Fehervary and Nic Jensen coming over to help, McLeod pulled a Savard-like spin move to slide a backhander through Hunter Shepard’s legs. 4-3 for New Jersey. A Mercer goal in the third gave them some insurance. A jam play by McLeod gave him a brace and a 6-3 lead. A big win in the division to start 2024.

January 5, vs. Chicago, 4-2 Win: Somehow, Chicago and New Jersey ended up at a point where the game was more of a blood feud. It kicked off during a Kevin Bahl penalty. Connor Bedard, Chicago’s young star forward, leaned forward and took Brendan Smith’s shoulder on the chin. He was knocked out of the game and so Nick Foligno wanted blood. The remainder of the next two periods featured all kinds of nasty hits, illegal plays not being called, illegal plays that were called, and more penalties. Oh, Jason Dickinson scored on one of those penalties to make it 1-0 Chicago in the first period. In the second period, the Devils eventually figured out that extracting pounds of flesh will not get them back into the game. A give and go between Simon Nemec and Alexander Holtz would; Holtz put the puck in the net for a 1-1 score. Alas, a late power play led to Boris Katchouk picking off a breakout pass / clearing attempt and torching Vitek Vaneeck to make it 2-1 Chicago with a shorthanded goal. The Devils would make the comeback in the third period. It was started when Simon Nemec just rifled a shot past Arvid Soderblom to make it 2-2. With just over eight minutes left, Curtis Lazar nearly fumbled a pass, recovered, and slid the puck to the top of the crease for Michael McLeod to one-touch it in. The Devils held onto the lead and Tyler Toffoli secured the victory with an empty netter. It was a win. A costly one as Jack Hughes left the game left with an apparent upper body injury. Among other bumps, bruises, and other pains taken in that game.

January 6, vs. Vancouver, 6-4 Loss: The Devils went out there against Vancouver sans Jack Hughes and, well, did not really show up. Nico Daws had to stand on his head for 17 shots in the first period as well as have a goal disallowed due to a challenge (J.T. Miller interfered with Daws). The Canucks were basically doing everything but scoring. Then they got three quick ones in the second period. Elias Pettersson and a double from J.T. Miller (one off a skate, one more legit) put the Devils down three. Worse, Jonas Siegenthaler left the game with an injury just after the second Miller goal, so the Devils were down to five defensemen. There were some signs of hope from New Jersey. Colin Miller scored his first goal as a Devil off a faceoff win to make it 3-1. Late in the period, Erik Haula ripped a shot past Thatcher Demko to make it 3-2 with 22 seconds left. Unfortunately, Connor Garland torched Michael McLeod, wrapped around the net, and beat Daws and John Marino to the post to make it 4-2 with 11 seconds left in the second period. Pettersson got tons of space in front and finished a play to make it 5-2 early in the third. Then, somehow, the Devils made a comeback effort. Miller blasted a shot in to make it 5-3 for his second of the game. Then just under two minutes later, Brendan Smith clapped a bomb through traffic to make it 5-4. The Devils had a chance and even a late power play (which should have been a 5-on-3 after Miller tripped Luke Hughes during said power play). But they did not convert, Dakota Joshua got out of the box, fended off two Devils, and put home the empty netter. Some will feel this was a wasted opportunity. Some will feel this was deserved given how badly the Devils played for the first 25-30 minutes. Either way, it is a loss on the books.

What’s Coming Up This Week: It is a short week for the Devils. They will go to the state of Florida after four days of no games. Even better: it is not a back-to-back set. Not that either game will be easy, but the Devils have been so bad at the second halves of back-to-backs this season that it is good to have a break between games. Thursday night will have the Devils in Tampa Bay. Saturday night will be a slightly earlier (6 PM ET) start in Sunrise for the Panthers. This is part of a larger three-game trip that will end on Monday, but that will be pointed out in the next snapshot. The Devils could use some time off and, hey, maybe get a player or two back for those road games.

Washington Capitals

What Happened Last Week: The Washington Capitals had an opportunity to help themselves and hurt their direct competition in the division with three games within it this week. They went 1-2-0 and conceded a total of 15 goals. Not a successful week for Washington. They fall to sixth place. They can thank Buffalo for not falling to seventh.

January 2, at Pittsburgh, 4-3 Win: The Capitals went into this one with four winless games in a row. They would not make it five. Plus, it kept the Penguins beneath them in the standings. Washington did this on the strength of a brilliant first period. Tom Wilson scored just 55 seconds into the game. Goals by Beck Malenstyn and Martin Fehervary sent Tristan Jarry to the bench for Alex Nedeljkovic. The Putinist finished a power play within the final minute of the period to put the Caps up 4-0. However, this did not mean the Caps could cruise to victory. Rickard Rakell scored with four seconds left in the first period. Sidney Crosby scored a PPG and Jake Guentzel made it a one-goal game in the second period. Darcy Kuemper had to be big, especially as the Penguins limited the Caps to just three shots in the final frame. But Kuemper was big, the Penguins would not tie it up, and the Caps picked up a big regulation win in the Steel City.

January 3, vs. New Jersey, 6-3 Loss: The Capitals went down, made it a tie for a bit, but were let down by Hunter Shepard and some really bad defending. It did not help that they went down 2-0 early thanks to Nico Hischier at even strength and on a power play. A Nathan Bastian penalty late in the first period did give them some life after Connor McMichael torched Nico Daws for a PPG. However, Dawson Mercer put the Devils back up two. The Capitals would come back. Evgeny Kuznetsov broke in alone and put a shot past Daws despite a stick-check from Luke Hughes. Late in the period, John Carlson clapped a PPG to make it 3-3. Alas, Michael McLeod beat Shepard low with a backhander on the ice from a spin move. Lovely for the Devils, but soft and a painful GA to go down 4-3 into the third period. The Caps could not solve Daws and the Devils kept coming at them. Mercer scored again to make it 5-3, McLeod jammed in a puck in front for 6-3, and the Caps just faded away for a big regulation loss in their building to a team they are competing with in the standings.

January 5, vs. Carolina, 6-2 Loss: It happened again against the Hurricanes, even though the Canes are a bit further ahead from Washington and the margin of defeat was larger. The start of the game was actually good for the Caps. Nic Dowd scored early and Dylan Strome put home a late-ish PPG for a 2-0 lead in the first period. The second period was not ideal but not terrible as Brent Burns made it a 2-1 game over five minutes into the middle frame. The bottom fell out in the third period. Seth Jarvis tied it up at the 3:23 mark. It held until Beck Malenstyn took a slashing penalty. Andrei Svechnikov converted that power play and Kuznetsov took a penalty at the same time. So the Canes went back to the power play and Burns scored on that to make it 4-2. Jarvis got hit with a delay of game penalty late in the third so the Caps pulled Kuemper for an extra attacker. It led to ex-Cap Dmitry Orlov putting in a shorthanded empty netter. After that penalty was killed, Vasili Ponomarev scored his first NHL goal to end it at 6-2. Not with a bang but certainly a lot of whimpering based on Washington’s performance. Getting out-shot 16-7 in the third and 34-17 overall will do that.

What’s Coming Up This Week: The Capitals will continue at home all week. They will host Los Angeles this afternoon. That will be a challenge because the Kings have been, well, kings of the road this season. They will not be thrown off by being in D.C. The homestand continues on Thursday against Seattle. Then there is a big divisional game on Saturday that will be on ABC of all channels: a 1 PM ET start against the division-leading New York Rangers. If there is a time for the Capitals to make a statement, then it is then. (It also is a home-and-home set for the weekend so get familiar with the matchup.) This past week was not the one they wanted to make.

Pittsburgh Penguins

What Happened Last Week: The Pittsburgh Penguins split the points, split their games within the division, and split their games against the Atlantic opponents. The result in going 2-2-0 is seventh place in the division. Still. It is hard to catch up in this league.

December 31, vs. NY Islanders, 3-1 Win: Pittsburgh closed out 2023 with a second straight win over the Islanders and three in a row over all opponents. A big result given that the Pens are chasing the Isles (among others) in the division. The game was loaded with shots, which made it all the more impressive that Alex Nedeljkovic was beaten just once. And when Sam Bolduc did that, it was 2-1 Pittsburgh in the third period. Lars Eller scored early in the first period and Noel Acciari one-touched in a Drew O’Connor feed in front early in the second period. Bolduc’s goal made it a one-shot game for about six minutes. But Nedeljkovic held it down and Eller sealed the win with an empty net goal. That’s a big swing in favor of the Pens.

January 2, vs. Washington, 4-3 Loss: Unfortunately for the Penguins (and fortunately for others in the division), the winning could not yield another big swing in the division. The Capitals blew up Tristan Jarry with three goals on seven shots in about 13 minutes into the game. Tom Wilson scored 55 seconds in, Beck Malenstyn scored at 11:16, and Martin Fehervary sent Jarry packing at 13:02 with a goal. The Penguins’ pain would not end. A Valtteri Puustinen penalty led to a last minute PPG by the Putinist to make it 4-0 for the Caps. Ouch. But the Pens did have some hope. With four seconds left in the first period, Rickard Rakell scored to make it 4-1. In the second period, Nedeljkovic settled things, Pittsburgh hit back, and Sidney Crosby batted in a PPG of his own to make it 4-2. Jake Guentzel made it a one-goal game just over a minute left in the second period. Alas, the Penguins could not beat Darcy Kuemper. They tried hard, they pinned back the Caps with a 13-3 shooting period, but no goals. The winning streak ended and another chance to move up in the division went away.

January 4, at Boston, 6-5 Win: It was a dramatic goal fest that ended with the Penguins leaving Boston with two big points. The first period followed this format twice: Boston scored, and then Pittsburgh scored twice. Brad Marchand scored in the game’s first minute. Drew O’Connor tied it up less than five minutes later and Ryan Graves scored just over a minute after that goal. David Pastrnak provided an equalizer on the next shift. Less than a minute after that, Jake Guentzel made it 3-2. After some goalless minutes, Lars Eller put the Penguins up 4-2. All good? No. Jeff Carter made it a 5-2 game in the second period, but the Bruins would not stand for that. Morgan Geekie made it 5-3 around the halfway mark. Just before the end of the period, Jake DeBrusk tipped home a Brandon Carlo shot to make it 5-4. Boston would tie it up early in the third period. Marchand finished a shorthanded attack as the Bruins were killing a Charlie McAvoy delay of game penalty. It was 5-5 with less than 17 minutes left to go. But the Penguins’ power play would have the last laugh. McAvoy’s second penalty of the period yielded a Sidney Crosby PPG.

January 6, vs. Buffalo, 3-1 Loss: A painful loss as the Penguins got dropped in regulation. Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen was on fire in the crease for Buffalo. 17 shots against in the first period, 17 saves. And Alex Tuch scored early, driving the Penguins to play harder for a goal. Multiple power plays in the second period? UPL got the stops, no conversions for the Pens. However, Connor Clifton and Zegmus Girgensons got called for minors at the same time. Rickard Rakell would convert the 5-on-3 situation to make it 1-1. But Luukkonen stopped all of the other 15 shots he would see. Zegmus Girgensons would beat Tristan Jarry just inside of the final five minutes to make it 2-1. And Rasmus Dahlin effectively iced the game with a wrister with less than 90 seconds left. The Penguins could have moved up but instead, they remain where they are: seventh place.

What’s Coming Up This Week: The Penguins will have two more shots within the division to pull themselves up while pulling someone else down. They will absolutely want to do that on Monday night when they visit their hated rivals in Philadelphia. That would be a glorious turn of events for the Penguins. On Thursday, the Penguins will go home to host Vancouver, who is clearly traveling through the division this month. On Saturday is another big test: a road game in Carolina. Again, this is a chance to pull someone down in the Metropolitan and so the Penguins may relish that.

Columbus Blue Jackets

What Happened Last Week: The Columbus Blue Jackets began the new year by going 1-1-1. That is a step forward given how their 2023 went. They will remain mired in eighth place for a while, still.

January 2, vs. Boston, 4-1 Loss: This one was close for about 40 minutes. Then the B’s pulled away with this one. After a goalless first period, Kevin Shattenkirk opened the scoring with an early goal in the second period. Columbus would have an answer from Kent Johnson less than two minutes later. But a PPG from James van Reimsdyk, a double-deflection from a Hampus Lindholm shot, broke the tie and it would be the difference maker. The third period saw goals from Danton Heinen and Trent Frederic for Boston to pull away with the victory. So it goes for Columbus in 2024.

January 4, at Philadelphia, 3-2 SO Win: Columbus grinded out a result in this one and took it in the shootout. They were out-shot heavily, 41-28, but Daniil Tarasov made the bulk of the saves. Even with a 5-on-3 disadvantage late in the first period, the only goal Tarasov allowed in the first period was a Travis Konecny shot before those potentially killer penalties. But the Blue Jackets killed them. They went down two thanks to Konecny in the third period. But Damon Severson provided a ray of hope with a goal less than a minute after Konecny’s second of the night. Jake Bean scored an equalizer halfway through the third and played Philadelphia rather honestly. Overtime solved nothing so a shootout was needed. Tarasov stopped all three attempts and Johnny Gaudreau scored to give Columbus the extra point. Others in the division may not like that result but that is not Columbus’ concern.

January 6, vs. Minnesota, 4-3 OT Loss: It was the Cole Sillinger show for Columbus. He opened the scoring with a tip-in of a Jake Bean shot. This was answered later by the Wild with a PPG from Matt Boldy. In the second period, Yegor Chinakhov stole a puck and fed Sillinger for a goal 17 seconds into the period to make it 2-1. This was answered later in the period by another Boldy PPG. In the third period, with 5:45 left, Sillinger tipped home a PPG of his own from Adam Boqvist. His hat trick had the Jackets up 3-2. Alas, the Wild tied it up late. Marc-Andre Fleury was caught out going to the bench for an extra skater, but Justin Danforth could not hit the empty net. Ryan Hartman made the zone entry on the counter, found Marcus Johansson in the middle, and he slid a shot through Tarasov for the equalizer. Overtime would be needed. It was exciting but it ended when Marco Rossi finished a feed from Boldy from the bottom of the left circle. The Blue Jackets got the point and Sillinger can feel good about the hat trick. But I am sure they are feeling they could have had two points. Alas.

What’s Coming Up This Week: It is a light week coming up for the Blue Jackets. They will get to go all the way up to Manitoba on Tuesday night. Then they will get three days off before a home game with Seattle on Saturday night. Given how banged up and run over Columbus has been this season, the extra rest should do them some good. And, hey, they may spoil both of those teams.

That was the thirteenth Weekly Metropolitan Division Snapshot of the 2023-24 season. What do you expect to happen in this week coming up? Can the Hurricanes’ point-streak continue and make the Rangers sweat a bit more? How long can the Islanders and Flyers stay ahead of the Devils, Capitals, and Penguins? Can the Devils avoid further injuries? Will the Caps or Penguins get it together? What will Columbus even do? 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.