As we are quickly approaching the end of 2018 and the mid-point of the NHL season, the Penguins have finally began to hit their stride. The Penguins won both of their games in convincing fashion last week to extend their win streak to a season high five-game win streak. It’s no fluke, either, as the Pens outscored their opponents 18-5 in those five games and have been getting stellar goaltending from Matt Murray who has now won all four of his starts since returning from injury several weeks ago. The Penguins have improved their record to 20-12-6 as of today, and are playing their best hockey of the season at the moment.
As you can see from the Metropolitan standings above, the top four have been trending up and creating separation from the bottom four in the division who have all been struggling over their last ten games. Three out of the top four teams in the Metro are on extended winning streaks, not including the Blue Jackets which just saw their own five game win streak come to an end last week. Finishing in the top three in the Metro this season may be vital, as the Bruins and Canadiens are currently the two Wild Card teams as we near the halfway point this season.
The Penguins came out of Christmas break last week at home with a complete 5-2 victory over the Detroit Red Wings on Thursday night. Derick Brassard and Phil Kessel each had two goals in that game and the Penguins scored three 2nd period goals which would end up being the difference in that game. Phil Kessel continued his great play with his second consecutive three point game two nights later in St. Louis in a dominant performance by Kessel and the Penguins when they defeated the Blues 6-1 on Saturday night to extend the Penguins’ win streak to five games.
The Penguins will continue their current three game road trip on Monday night when the Wild will host the Pens on New Years Eve. The Penguins will then kick off 2019 in New York City when the Rangers host the Penguins on Wednesday night at Madison Square Garden on national television. The Penguins return home on Friday night when the Winnipeg Jets will be in Pittsburgh.
The Capitals began the month of December with two losses against the Ducks and Golden Knights. Since then, only the Penguins have been able to defeat the Capitals. The Capitals were undefeated last week and improved their win streak to four in a row and 9 out of their last 10 games and have a comfortable four point lead over the Columbus Blue Jackets in the Metropolitan Division.
The Capitals hosted the Hurricanes to begin play post Christmas. Braden Holtby made 28 saves and the Capitals scored two second period goals and ended a Hurricanes rally with an empty net goal by John Carlson, who is having a career year and averaging over a point per game this season. The Caps then returned to Ottawa for the second straight Saturday game against the Sens, and the Caps came away with a second victory over the Senators by the final score of 3-2.
The Capitals return to action for the last time in 2018 with a Monday matinee against the Predators in DC. The Capitals will then begin a road trip through the Midwest with a back-to-back against St. Louis and Dallas on Thursday and Friday night. The Capitals will wrap up that road trip in two weeks against Detroit.
John Tortorella resumed play against one of his former teams when the Rangers played host to the Blue Jackets on Thursday night. The two teams played a back-and-forth game that the Jackets tied with a late 3rd period goal by Zach Werenski before Pierre-Luc Dubois sealed the deal 30 seconds into overtime for the Blue Jackets’ fifth straight victory. The Jackets returned home the next night to Columbus and the Maple Leafs put an end to their win streak with a 4-2 victory by the Leafs. The Jackets held off the surging Penguins to remain in second place in the Metro by one point.
Columbus ends 2018 at home against the Ottawa Senators on New Years Eve before a three day break and begin 2019 on the road with a set of back-to-back games in Raleigh on Friday and Sunrise on Saturday night.
The Islanders fans have been waiting a long time to get to see their former prized possession play against the Islanders. I’m talking about John Tavares, of course, as the Maple Leafs hosted the Islanders on Saturday night. Before taking on the Leafs in Toronto, the Isles hosted the Senators on Friday and beat them convincingly 6-3 at Barclays Center. Then came the night that Islanders fans have been eagerly awaiting and Mat Barzal became a superhero for the Islanders faithful. Robin Lehner made 36 saves and Barzal would record a natural hat trick as the Islanders shut out the Leafs 4-0 on Saturday night and now have won three straight to remain two points behind the Penguins in fourth place.
The Islanders will be in Buffalo on New Years Eve to take on the Sabres. The Isles return home on Thursday for their first game of 2019 when the Blackhawks will square off with the Islanders at Nassau Coliseum. The Blues will then host the Islanders on Saturday night in St. Louis.
The Rangers played two games last week that both ended by a score of 4-3. The Jackets stole one at MSG on Thursday night with a late goal to tie it in regulation before sealing the deal 30 seconds into overtime. The Rangers then shocked the Predators in Nashville two nights later with two 3rd period goals and held on for a 4-3 victory. That was only the Rangers fifth road victory in seventeen games. It was also the sixth straight loss for the Predators and ended a three game losing streak for the Rangers.
The Rangers continue a road trip on New Years Eve in St. Louis on Monday night. The Rangers return home to MSG when the Penguins will be in town on Wednesday night. The Avs will then host the Rangers in Denver on Friday night that will start a three game road trip through Colorado, Arizona, and Las Vegas for the Rangers.
Carolina had a disappointing week after Christmas break and lost both of their games while only scoring one goal in the two games. The Hurricanes got a great effort by Petr Mrazek but came up short in DC against the Capitals in a 3-1 loss for the Canes. It only got worse for Carolina as they were shut out in New Jersey on Saturday afternoon 2-0. The game winning goal happened while Carolina was on the power play and the Hurricanes continued their terrible shooting percentage this season as Mackenzie Blackwood turned aside all 37 of Carolina’s shots for his first career shutout in his fifth career game.
The Hurricanes will wrap up a disappointing 2018 on New Years Eve when they host the Flyers on Monday night. The Flyers will return the favor as the calendar turns to January and they will host the Hurricanes on Thursday night. The Blue Jackets will be waiting for Carolina in Raleigh the following night to wrap up the week for the Hurricanes.
New Jersey had an undefeated week last week and moved out of last place once again in the Metro. They kicked things off in Boston with a very rare, and much needed, 5-2 victory over the Bruins. That victory was only the Devils’ fourth victory in 19 road games this season. Mackenzie Blackwood would continue to impress management in his small sample size and record his first shutout in only his fifth career NHL game. The 2015 2nd round pick for New Jersey has played in five games for the Devils and has a .956 save percentage and goals against average of 1.59. The Devils are looking for any kind of positive signs, and Blackwood would be a very welcome sight for the Devils who have been struggling mightily this year, especially between the pipes.
The Devils will host the Vancouver Canucks on New Years Eve in New Jersey next week before traveling through the southwest. The Stars will host the Devils on Wednesday night in Dallas before the Devils finish next week against the Arizona Coyotes in Glendale. They will be looking to improve their road record and win on the road for consecutive games.
The Flyers continued a road trip through Florida last week that began before Christmas. Philly came out of break in Tampa and erased a 5-2 deficit heading into the 3rd period for the second game against the Lightning this season. Just like the last game in Philadelphia, the Flyers would also lose this game 6-5 in overtime. The Flyers jumped out to an early 1-0 lead against the Panthers two nights later but would later surrender that lead in the 3rd period and allow two 3rd period goals in a 2-1 loss to the Panthers.
The Flyers wrap up 2018 with their fourth consecutive road game in Raleigh on New Years Eve and will begin 2019 on New Years Day in Nashville to finish a five game road trip. The Flyers then return home on Thursday with a rematch against Carolina. The Flames will be in Philadelphia on Saturday afternoon to wrap up next week for the Flyers.
As 2018 wraps up, the likely candidates are at the top of the Metro standings. Scoring has been up in the NHL this season, and the Metro has been hit hard by that trend. However, the Islanders are tied for first in the NHL in goals allowed as of last night, which is quite an improvement from last place where they finished last season. The first half has been a roller coaster and the Capitals have been in the front row for most of the ride so far. How will the second half wrap up? Be sure to check back each week as we ride it out! As always, thanks for stopping by and be sure to vote for game of the week!
20-12-6; 46 pts; 130 Goals For (7th in the NHL; 8th last week); 113 Goals Against (13th in the NHL; 16th last week)
2-0 record last week
Let the good times roll
Kessel and Brassard lead Penguins to fourth win in a row
Monday, December 31 - @ MIN, 6 p.m. ET
Tuesday, January 2 - @ NYR, 7 p.m.
Friday, January 4 - vs WPG, 7 p.m.
- 10/13/18, D Justin Schultz - IR; fractured leg
24-10-3, 51 pts; 135 GF (T-3rd); 106 GA (6th; T-8th)
2-0 record last week
Washington Wins Third Straight
Rookie Rearguards Lift Washington to Win
Monday, December 31 - vs NSH, 12:30 p.m.
Thursday, January 3 - @ STL, 8 p.m.
Friday, January 4 - @ DAL, 8 p.m.
- 10/30/18, D Brooks Orpik - IR; Lower-body injury
- 12/11/18, D Christian Djoos - IR; Thigh surgery
- 12/26/18, D Matt Niskanen - Day-to-day; Upper-body injury
(2)Columbus Blue Jackets
22-13-3, 47 pts; 123 GF (T-11th; T-10th); 116 GA (T-15th; 14th)
1-1 record last week
CBJ: 4 OT
Zach Werenski Forces Overtime and Pierre-Luc Dubois Delivers Second Point as Jackets Down Rangers
Five-Game Winning Streak Snapped in 4-2 Loss to Toronto
Monday, December 31 - vs OTT, 7 p.m.
Friday, January 4 - @ CAR, 7:30 p.m.
Saturday, January 5 - @ FLA, 7 p.m.
(4)New York Islanders
20-13-4 44 pts; 111 GF (19th; 25th); 101 GA (T-1st; 3rd)
2-0 record last week
Barzal stars in Isles comeback
It’s Mat Barzal’s world and we’re living in it
Monday, December 31 - @ BUF, 6 p.m.
Thursday, January 3 - vs CHI, 7:30 p.m.; Nassau Coliseum
Saturday, January 4 - @ STL, 8 p.m.
- 10/2/18, LW Matt Lorito - IR; Undisclosed
- 11/13/18, LW Andrew Ladd - IR; Right leg
- 12/16/18, D Thomas Hickey - IR; Upper-body injury
- 12/27/18, RW Jordan Eberle - Day-to-day; Undisclosed injury
(5)New York Rangers
16-14-7, 39 pts; 109 GF (T-22nd); 122 GA (T-22nd; T-21st)
1-0-1 record last week
CBJ: 4 OT
Rangers Blow Third Period Lead, Drop Second Consecutive Game in Overtime
Jesper Fast’s Two Goals Propel Rangers Past Predators
Monday, December 31 - @ STL, 7 p.m.
Wednesday, January 2 - vs PIT, 7 p.m.
Friday, January 4 - @ COL, 9 p.m.
- 12/10/18, D Kevin Shattenkirk - IR: Separated shoulder
15-17-5, 35 pts; 91 GF (30th); 108 GA (T-9th; T-8th)
0-2 record last week
Canes listless in 3-1 loss to Caps
Canes continue downward spiral, get shutout by Devils
Monday, December 31 - vs PHI, 6 p.m.
Thursday, January 3 - @ PHI, 7 p.m.
Friday, January 4 - vs CBJ, 7:30 p.m.
- 12/13/18, D Haydn Fleury - Day-to-day; Concussion
- 12/22/18, C Jordan Staal - Day-to-day; Upper-body injury
(7)New Jersey Devils
14-16-7, 35 pts; 109 GF (T-22nd); 127 GA (25th; T-25th)
2-0 record last week
Mackenzie Blackwood Dazzled in New Jersey Devils 5-2 Victory Over Boston Bruins
Mack Attack! New Jersey Devils Shutout Carolina Hurricanes 2-0
Monday, December 31 - vs VAN, 1 p.m.
Wednesday, January 2 - @ DAL, 8:30 p.m.
Friday, January 4 - @ ARI, 9 p.m.
- 11/22/18, RW Joey Anderson - IR; Fractured ankle
- 12/16/18, G Cory Schneider - IR; Abdominal strain
- 12/20/18, LW Marcus Johansson - IR; Upper-body injury
- 12/26/18, LW Taylor Hall; Day-to-day; Lower-body injury
15-17-5, 35 pts; 110 GF (T-20th; 20th); 133 GA (28th; T-25th)
0-1-1 record last week
TBL: 6 OT
Flyers’ furious rally falls short in 6-5 overtime loss to Lightning
We had to see this one coming, right?
Monday, December 31 - @ CAR, 6 p.m.
Tuesday, January 1 - @ NSH, 8:30 p.m.
Thursday, January 3 - vs CAR, 7 p.m.
Saturday, January 5 - vs CGY, 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 Anthony Stolarz - IR; Lower-body injury
- 12/27/18, C Nolan Patrick - Day-to-day; Upper-body injury
Which Metropolitan game is the most intriguing?
This poll is closed
12.31.18 - NSH @ WSH, 12:30 p.m. ET
12.31.18; 1.4.19 - PHI @ CAR, 6 p.m.; CAR @ PHI, 7 p.m.
1.2.19 - PIT @ NYR, 7 p.m.
1.3.19 - WSH @ STL, 8 p.m.
1.4.19 - WPG @ PIT, 7 p.m.
1.4.19 - CBJ @ CAR, 7:30 p.m.