As 2018 is quickly coming to an end, the Pittsburgh Penguins appear to have finally woken up and now find themselves third in the Metropolitan Division. That’s not much to brag about, but a far cry from just a few weeks ago when the Penguins were alone in the Eastern Conference basement. Casey DeSmith has taken full reigns of the starter’s role, even with a healthy Matt Murray back with the team. There is still a much higher level of play this team is capable of, and GM Jim Rutherford may still have a trick or two up his sleeve, but the Penguins have been getting better results and it has been showing in the standings the last several weeks.
The Penguins went 3-1 last week and now sit one point behind the Columbus Blue Jackets for second place in the Metro. The current top three in the Metro will most likely be the top three at the end of the regular season, but there’s still a lot of hockey to be played until then. The Metro as a whole has been quite shaky this year to say the least. The majority of teams in the division are in the bottom half of the league in goals allowed. The only two teams - NYI and Carolina - that are in the top 10 in goals allowed also sit in the bottom 10 in goals for. Only the Capitals and Blue Jackets have won over half the games they’ve played this year. Those two teams and the Penguins are the only three in the Metro with a positive goal differential. The midway point of the regular season is just around the corner, and the Metro is starting to take shape.
As I mentioned above, the Penguins went 3-1 last week and are 6-3-1 in their last 10 games. After a sluggish start on home ice to begin the season, the Penguins have now won four in a row at PPG Paints Arena to improve their home record to a respectable 9-6-2. However, the Penguins began last week in the middle of a three game road trip against the Islanders on Long Island. The Penguins would win that game 2-1 in a shootout in Pittsburgh’s first game at the Nassau Coliseum since 2015. The Penguins would end the mini road trip in Chicago two nights later in a very disappointing 6-3 loss, but Bryan Rust would snap out of his underwhelming season with a hat trick in that game. The Penguins returned home to face the Boston Bruins on Friday night and got a much needed spectacular effort from Casey DeSmith in a 5-3 victory over Boston. He made 48 saves in that game, but his glove save on Brad Marchand could be a candidate for save of the year. The following night, Matt Murray would be called upon for the first time since his time on IR and would make some huge saves in overtime to help preserve a 4-3 victory over the Los Angeles Kings. Phil Kessel would team up with Evgeni Malkin to win that game in overtime. It wasn’t all good news for Pittsburgh after a successful week, as defenseman Kris Letang appeared to injure his leg late in the game against Boston and would sit out against the Kings. He’s officially listed as day-to-day, and Captain Obvious had already mentioned several times that he is the most important player on this team.
The Penguins wrap up this three game homestand against Anaheim on Monday night before taking on familiar foe Washington Capitals at Capital One Arena on Wednesday night. The Capitals are winners of five straight and won’t be playing another game until that game, so the Penguins will need their A game if they want to come away with a victory in Washington. The Penguins return to PPG Paints Arena the following night when they welcome the Minnesota Wild in the last game in Pittsburgh before Christmas. The Pens will travel to Carolina on Saturday night and will then have their Christmas break and won’t play another game until December 27th.
The Capitals keep on rolling, and are getting their full compliment of players back from injuries at the same time. I mentioned about a month into this season that Ovechkin was quietly having one of his best seasons to date. That’s not the case anymore as Ovie is absolutely tearing the league to shreds. He scored back-to-back hat tricks last week in victories against the Red Wings and Hurricanes before tying the score at three against Buffalo with his 29th goal in 32 games this season. He would finish that game off for the Capitals with a shootout goal to give the Caps their fifth victory in a row to give them a six point cushion over the Metro. The Capitals have a three day break before they will play host to the Penguins on Wednesday night in one of the most anticipated games in the NHL this week. They will then host the Sabres for the second time in a week when Buffalo plays on Friday. The Caps then will immediately fly across the Canadian border to play in Ottawa the following night to wrap up this week and begin their Christmas break.
December has not been a very jolly month for Columbus. The Blue Jackets are 2-4-1 this month with their two victories coming over two struggling teams - Philadelphia and Los Angeles. The Jackets began last week with coach John Tortorella losing against his former team in Vancouver. The Jackets would allow three 3rd period goals in that 3-2 loss with the final two tallies happening in the final five minutes on home ice. Columbus rallied two nights later at Nationwide Arena in a complete 4-1 victory over a struggling L.A. Kings squad. Former Penguin Daniel Sprong would then score the only two goals for Anaheim two nights later in a 2-1 overtime loss in Columbus to wrap this week up for the Jackets. The Jackets will finish a five game home stand this week with two games against Vegas on Monday and New Jersey on Thursday. The Jackets then head out to Philadelphia for an afternoon game on Saturday and will be in New Jersey the next afternoon to take on the Devils before their Christmas break.
The Islanders were passed over by the Penguins for third place last week and have not been playing their best hockey this December, either. The Islanders managed to gain a point in a shootout loss to the Penguins on Monday before losing in regulation to the Golden Knights two nights later, with both home games played at two different venues. The Isles would then alternate home ice again to wrap up this week for the Islanders in a shootout victory against Detroit Saturday night. The Islanders will be heading out west this week before returning home after Christmas break. They will be in Colorado on Monday night and then Arizona on Tuesday night. The Islanders won’t have much time to catch the Vegas Flu as the Islanders will play their third game across three states in four days when the Knights host the Isles on Thursday night. The Islanders will wrap up their road trip on Sunday night in Dallas before beginning their Christmas break.
The New York Rangers are also regressing after being a surprise success for the first few months of this season. The Rangers are 3-5-2 in their last 10 and lost both of their games last week. The Rangers were leading 2-1 after the first period against the NHL leading Lightning in Tampa on Monday night before being outscored 5-1 in the final two periods in a 6-3 loss for New York. The Rangers would then return back home after a three day break and lose to the Arizona Coyotes 4-3 in overtime on Friday night. It seems the NHL schedule makers gave the Rangers a break in the schedule at the worst time for them these last few weeks. The Rangers have only played five games this month and have lost four of them and haven’t looked very good in any of them. The Golden Knights will be at Madison Square Garden this afternoon to face the Rangers and the Anaheim Ducks will be next in line when they’re in town on Tuesday night. The Rangers then have three days off before playing the Leafs in Toronto on Saturday night and return home against the Flyers on Sunday night before beginning their Christmas break.
The Hurricanes are also struggling this month and only have one win in six games in December. The Hurricanes went winless last week and began their woes at home against Toronto in a 4-1 loss on Tuesday night. The Canes would then take on the Canadiens in Montreal two nights later and be soundly defeated in a 6-4 loss. Carolina was back in Raleigh 24 hours later and would be victimized by Alex Ovechkin in a 6-5 shootout loss to the Capitals, a game in which the Canes blew leads of 4-1 and 5-4 on home ice. The Hurricanes will look to salvage this month with four more home games before Christmas break. The Canes will host the Coyotes on Sunday, the Red Wings on Thursday, the Penguins on Saturday and Boston on Sunday before hitting the road after Christmas.
The New Jersey Devils didn’t have a great week last week, but it was enough to get themselves out of the basement for the first time in weeks. The Devils continued their turmoil on the road with back-to-back losses in a 6-5 shootout loss in Anaheim and a 5-2 loss in San Jose to begin last week. New Jersey would rally at home against Vegas on Friday with two goals in the 3rd period to tie it at four before Nico Hischier would win it for the Devils in overtime 41 seconds into the OT period. The Devils would tie the game at one late in the 3rd period in Nashville Saturday night before losing in the shootout to drop their road record to 3-11-3. The good news for the Devils is that three out their four games before Christmas break will be played in Newark where the Devils are 8-2-4. The Leafs will play at Prudential Center on Tuesday before the Devils are in Columbus on Thursday night. The Devils will be back home the next night to host the Senators before a quick rematch at home against Columbus on Sunday in their last game before Christmas break.
The Flyers just wrapped up a horrible road trip and will return home next week sitting alone in last place in the Metro. The Flyers traveled across Canada from east to west last week and went 0-3-1 and were outscored 22-8 in those four games. The Flyers never had a chance in a 7-1 loss to the Jets in Winnipeg on Sunday before giving up two goals in the final 68 seconds of the third period against Calgary to allow them to tie it at 5. Johnny Gaudreau would then win it for the Flames just 35 seconds later to complete Philadelphia’s epic collapse in that game. Connor McDavid would have his way two nights later with two goals and an assist in a 4-1 Edmonton victory. The Flyers wrapped up their horrible weak with no resistance against Vancouver the next night in a 5-1 blowout. The wheels are starting to fall off in Philadelphia and there is much finger pointing happening. The Flyers return home and will try to move out of last place when they host the Wings on Tuesday and the Predators on Thursday night. The Flyers wrap up a three game home stand on Saturday against Columbus before playing the Rangers in New York before beginning their Christmas break.
So there you have it, another week for the Metropolitans. As always, thanks for stopping by and don’t forget to vote for game of the week!
15-11-6; 36 pts; 110 Goals For (8th in the NHL; 9th last week); 104 Goals Against (21st in the NHL; 19th last week)
3-1 record last week
PIT: 2 SO
Casey DeSmith is stellar in Penguins’ 2-1 shootout victory over the Islanders
Rust breaks slump, but so too does Chicago
Zach Aston-Reese’s 3 point night helps Pittsburgh to win
PIT: 4 OT
Penguins Take Back-To-Back Set With Overtime Win Against Kings
Monday, December 17 - vs ANA, 7 p.m. ET
Wednesday, December 19 - @ WSH, 8 p.m.
Thursday, December 20 - vs MIN, 7 p.m.
Saturday, December 22 - @ CAR, 7 p.m.
- 10/13/18, D Justin Schultz - IR; fractured leg
- 12/4/18, LW Dominik Simon - IR; Lower-body injury
- 12/5/18, RW Patric Hornqvist - IR; Undisclosed injury
- 12/14/18, D Kris Letang - Day-to-day; Lower-body injury
20-9-3, 43 pts; 122 GF (2nd; 5th); 100 GA (T-16th; 18th)
3-0 record last week
Ovechkin’s Hat Trick, Oshie’s Return Launch Caps to 6-2 Win
WSH: 6 SO
Washington Downs Carolina in 6-5 Shootout Victory
WSH: 4 SO
Caps’ Captain Downs Buffalo in Shootout
Wednesday, December 19 - vs PIT, 8 p.m.
Friday, December 21 - vs BUF, 7 p.m.
Saturday, December 22 - @ OTT, 7 p.m.
- 10/30/18, D Brooks Orpik - IR; Lower-body injury
- 12/11/18, D Christian Djoos - IR; Thigh surgery
17-12-3, 37 pts; 107 GF (7th; 5th); 105 GA (22nd; 26th)
1-1-1 record last week
Better effort, but another late loss for the Blue Jackets
Jackets Dethrone Kings, 4-1
ANA: 2 OT
Blue Jackets Can’t Solve Ducks, Fall 2-1 in Overtime
Monday, December 17 - vs VGK, 7 p.m.
Thursday, December 20 - vs NJD, 7 p.m.
Saturday, December 22 - @ PHI, 1 p.m.
15-12-4 34 pts; 89 GF (T-25th; T-21st); 91 GA (T-5th; 7th)
1-1-1 record last week
PIT: 2 SO
Metro battle at the Coliseum
Vegas beats Isles for first time
NYI: 4 SO
Barzal breaks PP drought, wins shootout
Monday, December 17 - @ COL, 9 p.m.
Tuesday, December 18 - @ ARI, 9 p.m.
Thursday, December 20 - @ VGK, 10 p.m.
- 10/2/18, C John Stevens - IR; Undisclosed
- 10/2/18, LW Matt Lorito - IR; Undisclosed
- 11/13/18, LW Andrew Ladd - IR; Right leg
- 12/7/18, LW Tom Kuhnhackl - Day-to-day; Undisclosed injury
- 12/10/18, D Luca Sbisa - Day-to-day; Undisclosed injury
14-13-4, 32 pts; 91 GF (24th; T-19th); 102 GA (T-19th; T-21st)
0-1-1 record last week
ARI: 4 OT
Late Goal Against Leads to Overtime Disappointment at MSG
Sunday, December 16 - vs VGK, 12:30 p.m.
Tuesday, December 18 - vs ANA, 7 p.m.
Saturday, December 22 - @ TOR, 7 p.m.
- 10/24/18, D Adam McQuaid - IR; Lower-body injury
- 11/20/18, LW Cody McLeod - IR; Fractured left hand
- 12/10/18, D Kevin Shattenkirk - Day-to-day; Separated shoulder
13-13-5, 31 pts; 81 GF (T-29th; 30th); 93 GA (T-9th; 5th)
0-2-1 record last week
Canes drop 4-1 snoozer
Svech Shows Off, but Habs Hold Strong
WSH: 6 SO
Canes collapse, blow 3-goal lead in shootout loss to Capitals
Sunday, December 16 - vs ARI, 1 p.m.
Thursday, December 20 - vs DET, 7 p.m.
Saturday, December 22 - vs PIT, 7 p.m.
- 12/4/18, C Jordan Staal - IR; Concussion
- 12/10/18, LW Michael Ferland - Day-to-day; Upper-body injury
- 12/13/18, D Haydn Fleury - Day-to-day; Upper-body injury
11-13-7, 29 pts; 94 GF (21st; T-23rd); 111 GA (25th; T-23rd)
1-2-1 record last week
New Jersey Devils Decisively Defeated by San Jose Sharks, 2-5
VGK: 5 OT
Comeback Kids: New Jersey Devils Rally from Three Down, Beat Vegas Golden Knights 5-4 in OT
Tuesday, December 18 - vs TOR, 7 p.m.
Thursday, December 20 - @ CBJ, 7 p.m.
Friday, December 21 - vs OTT, 7 p.m.
- 11/22/18, RW Joey Anderson - IR; Fractured ankle
- 12/12/18, LW Taylor Hall - Day-to-day; Lower-body injury
- 12/13/18, RW Stefan Noesen - IR; Illness
12-15-4, 28 pts; 93 GF (22nd; T-19th); 116 GA (T-28th; T-23rd)
0-3-1 record last week
Sounds about right
CGY: 6 OT
Flyers lose in typical fashion, blow two goal lead in loss to Flames
Flyers lose third straight at the hands of McDavid and the Oilers
Who can say where the road goes?
Tuesday, December 18 - vs DET, 7 p.m.
Thursday, December 20 - vs NSH, 7 p.m.
Saturday, December 22 - vs CBJ, 1 p.m.
- 9/27/18, C Pascal Laberge - IR; Hip
- 10/1/18, D Samuel Morin - IR; Knee
- 10/26/18, C Corban Knight - IR; Dislocated collarbone
- 11/15/18, G Brian Elliott - IR; Lower-body injury
- 12/12/18, G Michal Neuvirth - Day-to-day; Personal reasons
Which Metropolitan game is the most intriguing?
This poll is closed
12.19.18 - PIT @ WSH, 8 p.m. ET
12.20.18 - NJD @ CBJ, 7 p.m.
12.21.18 - BUF @ WSH, 7 p.m.
12.22.18 - CBJ @ PHI, 1 p.m.
12.22.18 - PIT @ CAR, 7 p.m.