Barry Trotz and the New York Islanders have been the biggest surprise in the NHL this year and are now in first place in the division a week before the All Star Weekend. Not many people were paying attention to them last offseason and even fewer people predicted the immediate results that Trotz would instill upon a team that finished last in team defense last season. That hard work and execution has led the Islanders to their current position in the standings.
While the Islanders may be in first place as of this morning, the Metro Division is anything but settled. As of this morning, two points separate first through fourth place, and of course, only the top three teams are guaranteed a playoff position. With the season about 60 percent of the way complete, the final two and a half months are going to be a sprint towards the finish line, be sure to check back here to recap week-to-week.
The Penguins finished up an extended west coast road trip that began in Anaheim nine days ago on Sunday and begin their bye week this week with the All-Star Weekend also taking place this weekend. The Penguins will not play another game until January 28 when they will host the New Jersey Devils.
Last week began for the Pens with a second straight 5-2 defeat on Tuesday, this time by the San Jose Sharks. Joe Thornton played in is 1,000th NHL game that night and scored the game-winning goal early in the 2nd period in a game that the Penguins never appeared capable of winning. The Penguins needed overtime Friday night in Glendale but ended that two game losing streak by a 3-2 final in the desert over the Coyotes. Derek Stepan tied the game late in the 3rd period but Phil Kessel would score the game-winning power play goal parked in front of the Coyotes net, which isn’t the way you’d expect it, but a win is a win.
Marc-Andre Fleury was full of usual mischievous ways before the Penguins and Golden Knights met in Las Vegas for the second time ever in Vegas, and MAF also had the last laugh after the game as the Knights ripped through the Penguins by a final of 7-3. The Penguins briefly tied the game at 3 in the 2nd period before the Knights ran away with the game and scored the games final four goals.
The Penguins finished the five game road trip with a record of 2-2-1 and now begin their bye week in fourth place in the Metropolitan with 58 points. All in all, not as bad as it was shaping up to be a few months ago and the Penguins are certainly very much in the mix to win the Metropolitan with a strong second half. The Pens have been trending in the right direction for months and have scored the most goals in the division. Their plus-23 goal differential is tied for the Islanders for best in the Metro. Mike Sullivan will have plenty of time to think of ways to improve this team and will likely not be sitting back and enjoying this break as much as his players will be.
The Islanders had a busy week last week and took down two of the NHL’s better teams. They began last week at home against Tampa Bay on Sunday on the back end of a back-to-back. The Islanders scored three goals on their first five shots and shut the Lightning down the whole game, which is no easy task. The Islanders never looked back after those three goals and had their way with the league’s best team by a final of 5-1 at Barclays Center. It was a much closer game two nights later against one of the league’s worst teams in St. Louis, and the Islanders needed overtime to secure that 2-1 victory again on Barclays Center ice. The Islanders changed venues back to Nassau Coliseum on Thursday night when the Devils came to play and the Devils were swiftly taken care of the tune of 4-1.
The following night was one of the biggest matches in the Metropolitan Division this year when the Islanders flew to DC to battle the Capitals for the Metro Crown. Trotz returned to Capital One Arena for the first time since winning the Cup last spring and was greeted to a standing ovation. It was an awkward ending after last season, but nice to see Trotz being recognized by the fans and ownership of the Capitals; there’s really no other way it should have gone, but still nice to see. The fans returned to their seats and Trotz and the Islanders never gave them a chance to stand back up as the Capitals were shut out by the Islanders 2-0 and took sole ownership of the Metro in that win.
The Islanders are one of the few teams in the Metro that will have their bye week after the All-Star Weekend. They begin this week this afternoon at Nassau Coliseum when the Anaheim Ducks will come to battle the Islanders. The Islanders will then head to Chicago and take on the Blackhawks on Tuesday night before taking their extended break. The next Islanders game after Tuesday will be February 1st against the Tampa Bay Lightning at home.
The Capitals were overtaken in that loss to the Islanders on Friday night and had a relatively short week compared to the rest of the Metro. It was anything but pretty for the Capitals. They kicked off last week at home against the Blues and it was looking good for the Capitals early with another Ovechkin PPG, but the Blues would take control after that goal and score the final four goals of that game and defeated the Capitals 4-1 on Monday night. The Capitals played the Predators on Tuesday night and couldn’t get out of Nashville quick enough after losing 7-2 in that contest, which was the Capitals third loss in a row. It was another disappointing night for the home fans on Friday night when the Isles shut the door in the Barry Trotz reunion game I mentioned above.
The Capitals are also playing this week before the All-Star Weekend and will have their bye next week. The Blackhawks will be hosting the Capitals this afternoon for a 12:30 scheduled start in that one. That’s 11:30 a.m. start in Chicago, which would drive me nuts if I had tickets for that game. Why ask why in the NHL, though. The Capitals will return home to play San Jose on Tuesday before immediately flying north of the border to Toronto to play the Leafs the following night before beginning their All Star break and bye week. The Capitals will return to action on February 1st when they will host the Calgary Flames.
It was another eventful week in the Blue Jackets saga last week. News finally was reported on what caused Sergei Bobrovsky to be suspended by the team, and it was because he reportedly removed his pads and showered after getting pulled against the Lightning on January 8, essentially removing himself from the game when he could have been needed in. Bobrovsky returned to action on Sunday against the Rangers and allowed five more goals, but finished the game this time and the Blue Jackets won 7-5. The Rangers made things interesting in the third period with two quick goals to make it 6-5 late in the game before Nick Foligno would score a goal to seal the victory for the Jackets.
Columbus played host to the Devils on Tuesday and the Jackets scored three first period goals and Joonas Korpisalo would make 29 saves in a 4-1 victory for Columbus at home, extending the Jackets win streak to four games. That streak ended on Friday night in Columbus when Carey Price and the Canadiens defeated the Jackets 4-1 for Montreal’s fourth straight victory. Bobrovsky was back between the pipes for the Jackets the following night in Minnesota and played well enough to win, but the offense was stymied by Devan Dubnyk and the Minnesota Wild and the Wild held on to win by a final of 2-1 in regulation, with both of the Wild goals coming in the first period.
That game marked the beginning of the Blue Jackets bye week and the Jackets next game will be at home against Buffalo on January 29.
The Hurricanes were coming into last week on a hot streak, winning five out of their six games in January. That streak would continue on Sunday as the Hurricanes hosted the Predators. Sebastian Aho recorded a hat trick and the Canes were leading 5-1 midway through that game and the Canes held on for a 6-3 victory on home ice. That hot streak came to screeching halt two nights later at Madison Square Garden. The Rangers won their 16th straight home game against the Hurricanes in convincing fashion by a final of 6-2. The Hurricanes returned home on Friday night, but were picked apart by the Ottawa Senators and the Canes would lose that game by a 4-1 final to wrap up last week for the Canes.
The Hurricanes will be heading to western Canada this week before the All Star Weekend and bye next week. They begin in Edmonton tonight before playing in Calgary on Tuesday and Vancouver on Wednesday before their extended break. Their next game will be February 1 at home against Vegas.
With how close the top four of the Metro is, nobody has noticed the Rangers winning three in a row. The Rangers playoff dreams are all but over, but the Rangers still have plenty to play for and their young team should be getting better with each game. The Rangers began last week with that ugly 7-5 loss against the Jackets in Columbus. They would go on to win their next three against the Hurricanes, Blackhawks and Bruins to kick off their bye week and All Star break. They return to action on January 29 at home against the Flyers.
Speaking of the Flyers, they are on their own three game win streak. The Flyers have also won four out of five games since losing eight straight. They began last week with a strong offensive outburst at home against Minnesota winning 7-4 behind the strength of a James van Riemsdyk hat trick - his first with Philadelphia since March 2011. The Bruins were next in line and the Flyers took care of them, again at home, by a final of 4-3 on Wednesday night despite only recording 19 shots on goal. Claude Giroux would record his 500th assist in that game and Sean Couturier would record is first regular season hat trick while Carter Hart made 39 saves for his fifth career win. Carter Hart would record his sixth career victory and the Flyers continued their win streak on Saturday night in Montreal as the Flyers won 5-2 in that contest.
The Flyers return home in seventh place in the Metro, but feeling somewhat better about themselves after losing eight straight games. Seventh place in the Metro is not something to be proud of, and they are only one point ahead of the Devils for last place in the Eastern Conference. They begin their bye this week and resume play at home against Winnipeg on January 28. Management in Philly will get their first real break to evaluate their team and make plans for their future. It likely won’t get much better for the Flyers this season.
The Devils had another forgettable week and are still playing without Taylor Hall. There’s not a lot to be excited about this year for New Jersey, but Nico Hischier is having a solid second year in the NHL. He is third on the Devils in points behind Kyle Palmieri and Hall with 13 goals and 32 points in 44 games.
The Devils started last week with a bang at home against the Blackhawks. The Devils would score five second period goals, and both teams would combine for eight goals in the middle frame, and the Devils would hold on for an 8-5 victory that may be the most memorable win for the Devils this season.
Things didn’t get much better after that, however. The Devils would go on to lose their next three against the Blue Jackets, Islanders, and Ducks by a combined 11-4 score. The Devils limp into their bye week and All Star break in last place in the Metro and tied for the worst record in the Eastern Conference. This season has been a lost cause for the Devils and they are clearly looking towards the future. The fire sale will likely begin soon after the All Star break and the Devils will likely have an eventful offseason this summer.
Not a whole lot going on in the Metro Division this week, but be sure to check back next week as I’m planning on giving a trade deadline preview for each team! Thanks for reading and don’t forget to vote for your game of the week!
What will you be doing to fill the hockey void during the Penguins’ eight day break?
26-16-6; 58 pts; 169 Goals For (4th in the NHL; 4th last week); 146 Goals Against (T-17th; T-14th)
1-2 record last week
Penguins overwhelmed by Sharks, lose 5-2
PIT: 3 OT
Penguins Survive in the Desert, Win 3-2 in OT
Pens stumble into bye week with 7-3 loss in Vegas
Bye week; Next game 1/28 vs NJD, 7 p.m. ET
- 10/13/18, D Justin Schultz - IR; fractured leg
- 1/8/19, LW Zach Aston-Reese - IR; Upper-body injury
28-15-4 60 pts; 142 GF (T-17th; 20th); 119 GA (1st; T-1st)
4-0 record last week
Greiss, fourth line dominate in important win
NYI: 2 OT
Sneaking away with a win
Methodical domination, plus Dal Colle’s 1st NHL goal
First Place? First Place
Sunday, January 20 - vs ANA; Nassau Coliseum, 3 p.m.
Tuesday, January 22 - @ CHI, 8:30 p.m.
- 11/13/18, LW Andrew Ladd - IR; Right leg
- 12/16/18, D Thomas Hickey - IR; Upper-body injury
- 1/17/19, LW Tom Kuhnhackl - Day-to-day; Illness
27-15-5, 59 pts; 157 GF (8th; 6th); 141 GA (12th; T-11th)
0-3 record last week
Nashville Preys On Washington’s Sluggish Play For 7-2 Victory
Trotz Trips Caps, Islanders Win 2-0
Sunday, January 20 - @ CHI, 12:30 p.m.
Tuesday, January 22 - vs SJS, 7 p.m.
Wednesday, January 23 - @ TOR, 7:30 p.m.
- 12/11/18, D Christian Djoos - IR; Thigh surgery
28-17-3, 59 pts; 154 GF (T-10th; 12th); 146 GA (T-17th; T-16th)
2-2 record last week
Blue Jackets and Rangers honor Rick Nash with 12 goal game
Blue Jackets Start Fast, Roll Past Devils, 4-1
Jackets fall to Canadiens, 4-1
Columbus Blue Jackets at Minnnesota Wild
Bye week; Next game 1/29 vs BUF, 7 p.m.
- 1/7/19, LW Markus Hannikainen - IR; Upper-body injury
22-20-5, 49 pts; 126 GF (T-27th; 28th); 140 GA (T-10th; T-9th)
1-2 record last week
Aho’s hat trick leads Canes to Sunday matinee win over Predators
Canes fall flat, get blown out by Rangers at MSG
Hurricanes mail in poor effort, lose to league-worst Senators
Sunday, January 20 - @ EDM, 9:30 p.m.
Tuesday, January 22 - @ CGY, 9 p.m.
Wednesday, January 23 - @ VAN, 10:30 p.m.
- 12/22/18, C Jordan Staal - IR; Upper-body injury
- 1/16/19, G Curtis McElhinney - Day-to-day; Knee
21-20-7, 49 pts; 139 GF (T-25th); 164 GA (T-25th; 26th)
3-1 record last week
Rangers Fight Back But Fall to Blue Jackets 7-5
Zibanejad Has Four-Point Night as Rangers Put Six Past Hurricanes
ZZ Top Line Shines in 4-3 Victory
Zibanejad Scores Twice as Rangers Top Bruins 3-2
Bye week; Next game 1/29 vs PHI, 7:30 p.m.
- 1/3/19, C Kevin Hayes - Day-to-day; Upper-body injury
- 1/11/19, D Neal Pionk - Day-to-day; Lower-body injury
- 1/11/19, D Fredrik Claesson - IR; Arm
19-23-6, 44 pts; 139 GF (T-22nd; 24th); 169 GA (29th; T-28th)
3-0 record last week
Who are you and what have you done with my boys?
Couturier’s hat trick, Hart’s stellar night leads Flyers past Bruins
Carter “The Hitman” Hart
Bye week; Next game 1/28 vs WPG, 7 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
- 1/3/19, G Michal Neuvirth - IR; Lower-body injury
18-23-7, 43 pts; 140 GF (T-19th; 21st); 164 GA (T-25th; 25th)
1-3 record last week
Devils Explode for 8 Goals and Cruise to Victory Over Chicago Blackhawks
Devils Take Tough 4-1 to Blue Jackets
Burn the Tape: Dismal New Jersey Devils Downed by New York Islanders 1-4
New Jersey Devils Disappoint Again in 2-3 Loss to Anaheim Ducks
Bye week; Next game 1/28 @ PIT, 7 p.m.
- 11/22/18, RW Joey Anderson - IR; Fractured ankle
- 12/26/18, LW Taylor Hall - IR; Lower-body injury
- 1/13/19, RW Stefan Noesen - IR; Lower-body injury
- 1/14/19, LW Miles Wood - IR; Lower-body injury
- 1/16/19, D Ben Lovejoy - Day-to-day; Upper-body injury
Which Metropolitan game is the most intriguing?
This poll is closed
1.20.19 - WSH @ CHI, 12:30 p.m. ET
1.20.19 - ANA @ NYI, 3 p.m.
1.22.19 - SJS @ WSH, 7 p.m.
1.22.19 - NYI @ CHI, 8:30 p.m.
1.23.19 - WSH @ TOR, 7:30 p.m.