The All-Star Game just took place yesterday. Everyone is off until tomorrow. It was a week-long break for almost everyone in the Metropolitan Division. The Columbus Blue Jackets were the only ones to play last week. They split their two games to end their trip. Now they get their own break outside of the ASG. As such, the snapshot has remained the same since last week in terms of the division standings. The New York Rangers are on top with the Carolina Hurricanes lurking behind them.
However, as it is also after the All-Star Weekend, I have continued the tradition of adding further details. With just two and a half months left in the 2023-24 NHL regular season, keeping tabs on one’s playoff (or lottery) odds and the Atlantic Division is more important than before. As such, I have added playoff odds from Moneypuck, which I pulled a few days earlier on February 2. I have also added the lottery odds, which I have dubbed the Celebrini odds as Macklin Celebrini is the favorite to go first in the 2024 NHL Draft. For the wild card watch, the Atlantic Division has a three-team race for third place and the fourth and fifth place teams own the wild card spots. To that end, all three are in the watch for the moment. Get ready to cheer against Tampa Bay, Detroit, and Toronto if you are a supporter of the New York Islanders, New Jersey Devils, Washington Capitals, and Pittsburgh Penguins. And maybe even the Philadelphia Flyers too. With Buffalo and Montreal being over 8 points back and behind four Metropolitan Division teams, I see no reason to add them into the picture for now. Things can change, of course. All said, here is the new format for the snapshot that I intend to maintain in weeks up until the end of the season:
I have also added the Atlantic Division teams to the weekly schedule as well as italicized their games with Metropolitan Division teams. Those games will matter for the wild card, which makes scoreboard watching go beyond the division. Games within the division will still be highlighted and bold. There is only one coming up this week as everyone - save for Columbus - gets back to work on Monday or Tuesday.
Now for the week that was - which really only involved Columbus on the ice - and the week that will be for each team in the Metropolitan Division.
New York Rangers
What’s Coming Up This Week: The New York Rangers will get back to work on Monday night when they host Colorado. After a rough January, that is a difficult first game of the month given how good Colorado is and how much they can score. The challenges will not stop. On Wednesday night, the Rangers will host Tampa Bay. The team has a top scorer and they have shown they can hang with anyone. The Rangers will get some respite, at least, on paper they will. On Friday night, the Rangers will visit Chicago. The Rangers should beat them. Then again, they did lose to San Jose last month so anything is possible. The Rangers fans who want to see their team stay in first should be hoping their team does well this week and cheering on Carolina’s opponents.
What’s Coming Up This Week: The Carolina Hurricanes will return from their break with three straight games in Raleigh. Carolina’s push for first place is very much alive although none of the games will be all that easy. On Tuesday, the Canes will host an offensively-charged Vancouver Canucks squad. A squad that just added former Hurricane Elias Lindholm too. On Thursday, the Canes will host another offensively-charged team in the Colorado Avalanche. Yes, two straight games against the league leaders in team goals. Carolina’s week will end with a home game against the New Jersey Devils. While the Canes did beat them on January 25, a more desperate Devils team could surprise them if Carolina does not come correct on that night.
What’s Coming Up This Week: The Philadelphia Flyers will come back to regular season hockey on Tuesday night in the state of Florida. They will get a tough matchup against the Panthers that night. The Flyers did lose 5 straight before their break, they really need to avoid spiraling down further now that the break will end. Things will not get easier on Thursday night when the Flyers host a good Winnipeg team. Then on Saturday night, they will host another playoff-hopeful squad in Seattle. Philly needs a win badly. If not, third place could become up for grabs real fast and Flyers fans will need to cheer against three Atlantic Division teams along with other results.
New York Islanders
What’s Coming Up This Week: The New York Islanders restart their campaign on Monday night. They will go to Toronto for a potential swing in the wildcard picture. The Isles will need it but the Maple Leafs, who may want to aim higher than a wild card spot, could use the game too. The Isles will get another game against a Wild Card Watch team on Thursday night when they host Tampa Bay. The Islanders will have a rest advantage in this one as the Lightning will play the night before. That makes that game more important for the Isles, in my view. Their week ends with an early afternoon home game against Calgary. The Isles got a new coach and, presumably, a new directive to go for it. It has to start bearing fruit this week.
What’s Coming Up This Week: The Pittsburgh Penguins will resume their season on Tuesday night when they visit Winnipeg. Now with added Sean Monahan as the Jets made that deal with Montreal last week. But, seriously, the Jets are a quality opponent so it will be a tough test after the break. They should get familiar with them since they will see them again later this week. The Penguins will go to Minnesota on Friday night and then visit Winnipeg on Saturday night. They have to avoid the trap game in Minnesota and demonstrate they learned well from Tuesday’s game. They have fewer games played than others in the division but if they fail to get results, then it may not matter.
New Jersey Devils
What’s Coming Up This Week: The New Jersey Devils need points. They have a chance to get as many as six this week. It will not be simple since two of those games are at home and the last one is a rematch against a team they just lost to before their break The first game back is on Tuesday night against the mighty Colorado Avalanche. At least the Devils will have a rest advantage since Colorado will play on Monday night. Then again, that has not meant much to a Devils team content to miss opportunities. On Thursday night, the Devils will host Calgary. Then on Saturday, the Devils will go back to Raleigh to play Carolina. Maybe they will show up better for that one than they did on January 25. It’s put up or shut up time, Devils.
What’s Coming Up This Week: The Washington Capitals return on Tuesday with a home game against Montreal. What follows is a rough pair of road games. They will go to Sunrise on Thursday to play the Panthers. Not an easy matchup at all. Their week ends on Saturday afternoon when Washington visits Boston for a nationally televised game. They cannot leave it all on the ice there, they have a game next Sunday too (spoiler: It’s Vancouver at home, also not easy). This week could help set a tone for the Capitals as to whether they push forward or sag to the end like they did last season.
Columbus Blue Jackets
What Happened Last Week: The Columbus Blue Jackets were on a Northwest road trip. They had to finish it up before the All-Star Game Weekend. Their bye “week” comes after the ASG. Of those two games, they split them. Columbus fans are probably eyeing Anaheim, San Jose, Chicago, and Ottawa for a race to the bottom. Because the Blue Jackets are a bottom-five team in the standings right now.
January 28, at Seattle, 4-2 Loss: Seattle hosted Columbus and after 12 minutes of goal-less hockey, the Kraken gave them the welcoming present of a run of goals. Dmirti Voronkov held up Brian Dumoulin. This led to Jordan Eberle converting the power play for the game’s first goal. Less than four minutes later, Jared McCann made it a 2-0 game. Shortly after that, Boone Jenner hooked Jaden Schwartz. This led to a quick PPG for Jordan Eberle to make it 3-0 for Seattle. A sleepy second period followed that. But Columbus decided to compete in the third period and hit Seattle with a whopping 18 shots in the final frame. They did make it a one-shot game eventually. Yegor Chinakhov broke through to put the Blue Jackets on the board with less than 13:30 to go. He would make it 3-2 with just over four minutes left in regulation. But the comeback fell short. Brandon Tanev sealed the loss for Columbus with an empty netter at the end. Shame that effort did not come a period or two earlier, Columbus.
January 30, at St. Louis, 1-0 Win: Do you like shots? This game just had 43 of them on net between both teams. A rousing 22-21 shot difference in favor of the Blue Jackets. As evidenced by the score, Columbus got a shutout. Elvis Merzlikins stopped all 21 shots by the Blues. The one and only goal of the game would come early in the third period. Voronkov finished a feed from Zach Werenski on a counter-attack. That was it and that was enough for the two points. Their trip ends at 2-2-1, which is not bad given how rough that trip can go and how rough it has been for Columbus this season.
What’s Coming Up This Week: A break until Saturday. They did not get it before the ASG so they are getting it after. The Blue Jackets will return to action on Saturday night at home against Tampa Bay. Multiple Metropolitan division teams will hope the Blue Jackets can be an effective spoiler that night.
That was the seventeenth Weekly Metropolitan Division Snapshot of the 2023-24 season. Will the Hurricanes overtake the Rangers in this week coming up? Will the Flyers win a game this week? Who among the Isles, Devils, Penguins, and Capitals will rise up by next week’s snapshot. 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.