Just as the rest of the regular season has gone for the Penguins, last week was full of ups and downs. The week ended with the Penguins clinching their 13th consecutive playoff berth last week against the Red Wings on home ice. It began with a big positive in Pittsburgh, as the Penguins and Hurricanes met in a game that had major playoff implications. The Pens jumped out to an early lead and never let the Hurricanes get close, defeating them 3-1 on Sunday.
The Penguins had the chance to clinch a playoff berth on Tuesday in Detroit, but the Wings would have none of it and won their seventh game in a row by a final of 4-1. The Penguins would clinch in the next game, also against the Red Wings, at home with that same final score of 4-1. It was the eighth-straight game decided by exactly three goals between the two teams, which is a strange coincidence.
The Penguins closed out the regular season at home against the New York Rangers and needed one point to remain in third place, as the Hurricanes defeated the Capitals that night to equal the Penguins 99 points. They got an early third period goal to go ahead 2-1 before the Rangers came charging back to tie it at two (and get the go ahead goal via another back-breaking short-handed goal less than two minutes later). A first round matchup against the Capitals was becoming a haunting reality before Sidney Crosby and Jake Guentzel teamed up for a milestone goal for both players. Guentzel would tie the game with just over two minutes left to record is 40th goal of the year, and Crosby would assist on that goal to bring his point total to an even 100. The game went to overtime, and the Penguins seemed uninterested at that point while they watched the Rangers scored to get the victory. However, that loser point secured third place in the Metro and a matchup against the Islanders in the first round.
The Islanders completed their complete turnaround from last year with back-to-back wins to finish the season only one point out of first place in the Metropolitan. Their goals against went from the league’s worst last year with 296 goals surrendered to first this year with only 196 behind first year coach Barry Trotz. Nobody saw that coming at the beginning of the year, and many people expected them to be much worse after the departure of franchise center John Tavares. However, Trotz’s defensive mind quickly changed things for the Islanders, and they got the best effort of Thomas Greiss and Robin Lehner’s careers to secure the William M. Jennings trophy for the Islanders. Trotz is giving Lightning coach Jon Cooper a run for his money as the Jack Adams award for best coach. Cooper tied the NHL record for wins, but Trotz took the Isles from worst to first in goals against. It’s going to be a toss up between the two of them for the award.
The Islanders will face the Penguins in the first round starting at Nassau Coliseum on Wednesday night. The two teams split the regular season series with both teams winning two games, with one of those victories coming via a shootout for each side. The Penguins have the clear advantage offensively by scoring 45 more goals than the Islanders, but the Islanders have the clear advantage defensively by allowing 46 fewer goals than the Penguins. The matchup will be very close across the board, as both teams finished with a plus-32 goal differential and the season series saw the Penguins outscoring the Islanders by only goal — 13 to 12 — in the four games. Both teams have what it take to advance to the next round, and it’ll be a very interesting matchup. This may be the closest matchup in the first round in the NHL.
The Capitals dropped two out of their three games last week, but managed to secure their fourth consecutive Metro Division Championship. They kicked off last week in Sunrise, Florida and were getting blown out by the Panthers before scoring three-straight third period goals to bring the score to 4-3. Vincent Trocheck would then score to secure a 5-3 victory for the Panthers.
The Caps would secure the Metropolitan crown at home with a 2-1 victory on Thursday night against Montreal, essentially eliminating the Canadiens at the same time. With the Metro Division in-hand and nothing to gain or lose in their final game of the year, the Capitals rested several of the veterans and were playing a conservative game against the Islanders in their final game of the season. The Capitals were shutout 3-0 in that game, but it didn’t mean much to them. The Capitals will face off against the Hurricanes in the first round of the playoffs. Alex Ovechkin was held scoreless in their three games last week but still managed to win his NHL record eighth Rocket Richard Trophy with his 51 goals, one ahead of Leon Draisaitl’s 50 with Edmonton this season.
Carolina would clinch their first playoff berth in 10 years last week. They began with their most important game in years in Pittsburgh. Pittsburgh would jump out to an early 2-0 lead in the first period and never let the Hurricanes get close as Carolina fell 3-1, which dropped the Canes into the second Wild Card.
The Hurricanes moved back into the first Wild Card in Toronto two nights later by defeating the Maple Leafs 4-1 in a strong effort by Carolina and goalie Petr Mrazek. They would clinch the first playoff berth since 2009 at home against the Devils in their home finale on Thursday night. The Devils scored first five minutes into the game, but didn’t have enough fight against a desperate Hurricanes team, as Carolina scored the final three goals to win 3-1 in front of their home fans. Carolina finished their season in Philadelphia, and jumped out to a 3-1 lead before allowing the Flyers to tie the game in the 2nd period. Jordan Staal would answer soon after the Flyers tied the game and the Canes held on for a 4-3 victory to lock up the first Wild Card and will play the Washington Capitals in the first round.
Game 1 between the Hurricanes and Capitals will take place on Thursday night at Capital One Center. The Capitals swept the Hurricanes in four games this season outscoring the Canes 16-9 in the process. That doesn’t mean much once the games begin, but it’ll take everything Carolina can muster up to knock out the defending Stanley Cup champs starting on the road.
Columbus was playing desperate hockey to stay in the playoff race last week. It began last week on the back end of a road back-to-back in Buffalo, and Sergei Bobrovsky would stop all 38 shots he faced. The Blue Jackets were up 4-0 before the end of the second period and finished the game with that score. That win was the Jackets’ fifth in a row, which moved them into the first Wild Card.
Their win streak was snapped two days later by the Boston Bruins in dominant fashion. The Bruins scored the first five goals of the game before the Jackets scored their first goal five minutes into the third period. Columbus would add another one before the Bruins scored one more goal to drop the Jackets 6-2 in Columbus’s home finale. The Jackets finished their season with a back-to-back against some weak competition in NYC and Ottawa. The Jackets needed a shootout against the Rangers after allowing them to tie in with only seven seconds left, but came up big in the skills competition to clinch a playoff berth. They then finished their season against the Senators, who gladly accepted defeat in a 6-2 beat down.
Columbus would finish as the second Wild Card after entering the final week in a battle with Carolina and Montreal. That gives them the privilege of playing against the Tampa Bay Lightning, who tied the 1996 Red Wings with the most regular season victories in NHL history with 62 wins. The Jackets were putrid against the Lightning in the regular season, losing all three games by a combined 17-3 score. Bobrovsky was also suspended by the team after getting pulled in a game in Tampa in January and headed to the showers before the game was concluded. All of that doesn’t mean anything now that the second season begins, but the Jackets will need to play their best hockey if they want to defeat the Lightning in the first round.
The Flyers season essentially ended at the end of March as they dropped their final five games and six out of their last seven games. The Flyers lost their four games last week by getting outscored 20-8. The were shutout at home by the Rangers last Sunday to begin last week, and then had a two game road swing through Dallas and St. Louis and dropped those two games 6-2 and 7-3, respectively. They had a chance to end on a positive note for their home fans on Saturday, but found themselves down 3-1 at the end of the first period. However, they put up a fight and tied the game at three. That was until Jordan Staal scored 1:23 after the Flyers tied it to secure the victory and playoff berth for Carolina. This was another roller coaster season for the Flyers, and it ended on a sour note. At least they have Gritty to keep them distracted for the disaster on the ice.
The Flyers will have an off-season of change and will be looking to rebuild on the fly. Their defense was supposed to be the future of their team but did not take the step forward that management was hoping for. Their management was then overthrown this season with the firing of their general manager and head coach, and the head coaching position remains open. The Flyers finished 22nd overall and have a 3.5 percent chance of landing the number one pick.
The New York Rangers played five games in seven days to close out their season and weren’t going down without a fight. The began last week with a back-to-back on the road starting in Philadelphia. Alexandar Georgiev made 29 saves, and the Rangers got two first period goals and shutout the Flyers 3-0 in their last meeting this season. The Rags played in New Jersey the following night and allowed two third period goals after being tied at the end of the second period to fall to the Devils by a 4-2 final. Henrik Lundqvist would attempt to achieve win number 450 for the sixth time on home ice against Ottawa on Wednesday night, but for the sixth-straight time was denied. The Senators jumped out to a 3-0 lead early in the second period and held on for the 4-1 victory.
NYR played in the home finale on Friday night against the Blue Jackets and had control for most of the game, until the Blue Jackets scored two goals in the third period to go ahead 2-1. Pavel Buchnevich would score his 21st goal of the season with seven seconds remaining in the third period to force overtime, however. Artemi Panarin would score in the second round of the shootout before Bobrovsky denied Tony DeAngelo to clinch a playoff spot for the Blue Jackets with their 3-2 shootout victory. The Rangers finished their season in Pittsburgh and scored two quick goals in the third period, the second of which came short-handed, to stun the PPG Paints Arena crowd and give the Penguins a scare of dropping into the first Wild Card spot. However, Jake Guentzel would tie the game late to force overtime. The Rangers would score two minutes into overtime to win their 32nd game and finish the season with a victory.
The Rangers are in the middle of a rebuild and this season went very much like they expected. This season ended with Glen Sather stepping down as president, but he will remain with the Rangers in an adviser’s role. They had some positives with Mika Zibanejad becoming a number one center in the league and got a chance to see what some of their up-and-coming talent can do in the NHL. The Rangers finished in 26th place and have a 7.5% chance of winning the Jack Hughes sweepstakes.
The Devils had a winning final week, but still remained in the basement of the Metropolitan Division. They began last week with their home finale against the New York Rangers and sent their fans home happy with two third period goals to hand the Rangers the 4-2 loss. The Devils traveled to Carolina two days later and scored the first goal of the game before allowing the game’s final three to Carolina to drop that game 3-1. The Hurricanes clinched a playoff spot with that victory in front of their home fans. The Devils closed out their disappointing season on a positive note in Sunrise, but it didn’t come easy. They were leading 3-1 after two periods before the Panthers scored two goals late in the third period to force overtime. Travis Zajac would score on the powerplay 56 seconds into overtime to end the season with a win.
New Jersey remained in last place for most of the season and lost its MVP Taylor Hall the day after Christmas. He never returned. It’s going to be a long off-season for the Devils who may be big players in free agency with plenty of money available. The Devils also have and 11.5 percent chance of landing the No. 1 pick in this year’s draft.
That wraps up another successful season in the Metro, in which five out of the eight teams advanced to the playoffs. Thank you everyone for reading and voting for the game of the week each week. It’s been a wild ride, and the big dance will begin on Wednesday night. Playoff hockey — does it get any better?
There will be plenty of Metropolitan news in the coming weeks with front office moves and player movement. Be sure to check back from time to time with the off-season installments of KUWTM! Again, thank you everyone for reading each week!
44-26-12; 100 pts; 273 Goals For (6th in the NHL; 6th last week); 241 Goals Against (14th; T-14th)
2-1-1 record last week
Fourth line and depth comes through for Pittsburgh in crucial win
Phil’s pair powers Pittsburgh; playoff pass punched
- 2/25/19, D Chad Ruhwedel - Day-to-day; Upper-body injury
- 3/9/19, LW Zach Aston-Reee - Day-to-day; Lower-body injury
- 4/1/19, D Brian Dumoulin - Day-to-day; Lower-body injury
48-26-8, 104 pts; 278 GF (5th); 249 GA (17th; 18th)
1-2 record last week
Fourth Line Flies, Caps Clinch Metropolitan Division
Washington Thinking Playoffs, New York Wins 3-0
- 3/19/19, D Michal Kempny - Day-to-day; Torn hamstring
(2)X-New York Islanders
48-27-7, 103 pts; 228 GF (21st); 196 GA (1st)
2-1 record last week
Leafs strike back
NYI: 2 SO
Down to the wire in Florida
Filppula goals, Lehner shutout clinch home ice and Jennings Trophy
- 3/25/19, LW Andrew Ladd - Day-to-day; Torn ACL
- 3/27/19, C Tanner Fritz - IR; Hand
46-29-7, 99 pts; 245 GF (16th); 223 GA (T-6th; T-7th)
3-1 record last week
A loss on multiple fronts
The Leaders Lead
- 3/30/19, D Calvin de Haan - Day-to-day; Upper-body injury
47-31-4, 98 pts; 258 GF (12th; T-12th); 232 GA (11th)
3-1 record last week
Blue Jackets Win Fifth Straight, Blank Sabres 4-0
Blue Jackets no-show again under the national spotlight
CBJ: 3 SO
Blue Jackets win; clinch playoff spot!
- 2/17/19, D Ryan Murray - IR; Upper-body injury
- 3/28/19, D Adam McQuaid - Day-to-day; Upper-body injury
37-37-8, 82 pts; 244 GF (17th; 15th); 281 GA (29th; T-24th)
0-4 record last week
Mathematical elimination is a state of mind
This game definitely happened
Blues steamroll Flyers in 7-3 blowout
So long and goodnight
- 1/3/19, G Michal Neuvirth - IR; Lower-body injury
- 4/3/19, C Nolan Patrick - Day-to-day; Upper-body injury
32-36-14, 78 pts; 227 GF (T-22nd; T-23rd); 272 GA (24th; 23rd)
2-2-1 record last week
Georgiev, Rangers Shut Out Flyers in Philadelphia
Late Third Period Goal Dooms Rangers in Jersey
Rangers Fall to Senators 4-1 at Madison Square Garden
CBJ: 3 SO
Rangers Tie Game Late But Fall in the Shootout
NYR: 4 OT
Rangers Close Out Season with Overtime Win in Pittsburgh
- 3/9/19, D Libor Hajek - Day-to-day; Separated shoulder
- 3/18/19, RW Jesper Fast - Day-to-day; Shoulder
- 4/2/19, RW Filip Chytil - Day-to-day; Undisclosed injury
- 4/5/19, D Tony DeAngelo - Day-to-day; Lower-body injury
31-41-10, 72 pts; 222 GF (26th; 25th); 275 GA (26th; 28th)
2-1 record last week
New Jersey Devils Beaten 1-3 by Playoff-Bound Carolina Hurricanes
NJD: 4 OT
Devils Send Off the Season With an OT Win
- 12/26/18, LW Taylor Hall - IR; Lower-body injury
- 3/4/19, RW Jesper Bratt - Day-to-day; Lower-body injury
- 3/24/19, D Sami Vatanen - Day-to-day; Illness
- 3/31/19, RW Kurtis Gabriel - Day-to-day; Upper-body injury
- 3/31/19, RW Kyle Palmieri - Day-to-day; Lower-body injury
Which Metropolitan team will advance the farthest in the Stanley Cup Playoffs?
This poll is closed
New York Islanders
Columbus Blue Jackets