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Metropolitan Division Weekly: Tough times in the Metro

And Alex Ovechkin nets goal number 750!

Dec 4, 2021; Washington, District of Columbia, USA; Columbus Blue Jackets defenseman Vladislav Gavrikov (44) checks Washington Capitals left wing Beck Malenstyn (47) during the first period at Capital One Arena. Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

The Metropolitan teams aren’t having a great week. Their collective record is 8-15-4 — that’s including the records of the Washington Capitals, New York Rangers and Carolina Hurricanes, the latter of which would rather forget the past few weeks ever happened.

On the bright side, Alex Ovechkin continues to drink from the Fountain of Youth. The Capitals’ captain has another 20-plus goal season under his belt and we haven’t even hit the halfway point yet.

Carolina Hurricanes (16-6-1)

Once considered the team to beat in the NHL, the Hurricanes are starting to look vulnerable. The Canes have lost five of the team’s last seven games.

Goaltender Frederick Andersen, who has looked stellar up until this point, lost 4-2 to the Capitals on Sunday and then 4-1 to the Dallas Stars on Tuesday. On Thursday, Antti Raanta took over in net, but the results for the Hurricanes were much the same. They fell to the Ottawa Senators (yes, we’re talking about the league’s bottom feeders) by a score of 3-2.

Raanta was also in net when the Canes turned things around on Saturday with a 6-2 win over the Buffalo Sabres. Teuvo Teravainen had two goals in the win.

Carolina has a couple of Hurricanes currently on injury watch. Ethan Bear is day-to-day and so is Jordan Martinook. In the case of Martinook, the North State Journal reports that he’s dealing with an ankle injury.

Columbus Blue Jackets (12-10-0)

The Blue Jackets are another team that had a tough week. Columbus lost all four games this week and was outscored 18-6 in the process.

It started with a 6-3 loss to the St. Louis Blues on Saturday, then the team was shut out by the Nashville Predators 6-0 on Tuesday. On Thursday, Columbus ran into one of the hottest teams currently playing, the Dallas Stars, and fell 3-2. Then the Capitals notched a win of their own, winning 3-1.

The Blue Jackets could use some scoring help and it could be on the way. Patrick Laine has started skating on his own and could return to the line-up soon. Backup goaltender Joonas Korpisalo was placed on injured reserve on Friday due to illness.

One of the few highlights for the Blue Jackets this week was this goal from Eric Robinson:

New Jersey Devils (9-9-4)

The good news for the Devils is that forward Jack Hughes is back from injury and he’s planning to stick around New Jersey for a while. More on that in a second. The bad news? The Devils haven’t won a game since Hughes returned to the line-up.

New Jersey beat the Philadelphia Flyers 5-2 on Sunday, then welcomed back Hughes for Tuesday’s game against the San Jose Sharks. Hughes did not register a point in the 5-2 loss to the Sharks. The Devils followed it up with a 5-2 loss to the Minnesota Wild on Thursday and an 8-4 loss to the Winnipeg Jets on Friday. Hughes scored a goal in the loss to Winnipeg, his first point since returning from his injury.

However, the big story in the Garden State is the new contract Hughes just signed. The Devils signed the young center to an eight-year, $8 million average annual value contract. Hughes is just 20 years old and still on his entry-level deal. His new contract will kick in during the 2022-2023 season.

Some people think the deal is too much to pay for a player with only 21 goals and 35 assists in 122 games. Devils General Manager Tom Fitzgerald is adamant that he’s not overpaying at all.

New York Islanders (5-10-4)

The brief break for the Islanders because of a COVID-19 outbreak lasted all of two games. Sunday’s game against the Rangers and Tuesday’s game against the Flyers were postponed.

On Thursday, the Islanders were back in action, only to lose to the Sharks, 2-1 in overtime. Saturday didn’t go any better for the Islanders either; the team lost to the Detroit Red Wings 4-3, again in overtime.

Three Islanders players are still on COVID Protocol: Kieffer Bellows, Zdeno Chara and Casey Cizikas. Anders Lee returned to the line-up on Thursday after several games on COVID Protocol. Lee had just one shot on goal and 15:43 of ice time.

Last month, the Islanders unveiled the new UBS Arena and the team still hasn’t won at home. I’m not going to take credit for this joke — I heard it on a podcast — but if you want to make an Islanders fan mad, tell them that John Taveras has more wins at UBS Arena than the Islanders.

New York Rangers (16-4-3)

While many teams in the Metropolitan Division are floundering, the Rangers are rolling. The game against the Islanders was postponed, but the Rangers got right back to the winning ways on Wednesday with a 4-1 win over the Flyers. On Friday, New York followed up with a 1-0 shutout of the Sharks.

While the Rangers won the game against the Sharks, starting netminder Igor Shesterkin was injured. He’s on injured reserve with a lower-body injury. The Rangers are hopeful that Shesterkin will recover quickly, especially because the team has a demanding schedule coming up. It’s getting ready to play eight games in 13 days.

The injury itself didn’t look like much. Here’s to hoping Shesterkin is better soon.

Until his injury, Shesterkin was putting in a Vezina caliber season. He is 13-3-2 with a 2.05 goals against average and a .937 save percentage.

So far, Alexander Georgiev has performed well in relief. After entering the game on Friday, he kept the Sharks off the scoreboard and followed it up with a .926 save percentage in the team’s 3-2 win over the Chicago Blackhawks on Saturday.

Philadelphia Flyers (8-9-4)

It was another tough week for the Flyers, who lost 5-2 to the Devils on Sunday. On Tuesday, Philadelphia’s game against the Islanders was postponed, but the extra time didn’t help the Flyers prepare for the Rangers. Philly lost 4-1 on Wednesday.

The team lost another player during that game. Winger Joel Farabee is week-to-week. Add his name to the growing list of injuries, including Derick Brassard, Nate Thompson, Ryan Ellis, Patrick Brown and Ryan Fitzgerald.

Flyers Head Coach Alain Vigneault is now on the hot seat despite the list of injuries, and even Vigneault knows it.

Pittsburgh Penguins (11-8-5)

The Penguins are also on the losing side of things this week. Pittsburgh lost to the Montreal Canadiens 6-3 on Saturday and followed that with a 2-1 shootout loss to the Calgary Flames on Monday. Wednesday saw a showdown between Sidney Crosby and Connor McDavid. McDavid and the Edmonton Oilers came out on top with a 5-2 score.

The good news is that Crosby is starting to make some noise on the score sheet. He has 8 points (2 goals, 6 assists) in his last four games. On Saturday night, he registered a goal and two assists against the Vancouver Canucks. The Penguins won 4-1, snapping the team’s losing streak.

Evgeni Malkin is still out, but he’s closer to returning. At this point, the team could use his scoring prowess. Brian Boyle and Bryan Rust are also injured.

Washington Capitals (15-4-6)

The Capitals started the week out on a high note with a 4-2 win over the Hurricanes. Alex Ovechkin scored to add to his impressive goal total, and things seemed to be going well.

But then on Tuesday, the wheels came off. Washington was cruising with a 4-1 lead over the Florida Panthers headed into the third period. It all seemed fine, until the Panthers reeled off four unanswered goals to win the game 5-4 in regulation.

On Thursday, the team didn’t fare any better, losing 4-3 to the Blackhawks in a shootout.

A tilt with the Blue Jackets on Saturday righted the ship. T.J. Oshie and Conor Sheary returned to the line-up that night, and Ovechkin scored his 750th career goal in the 3-1 victory.

Here’s another stat that will make your jaw drop: Ovechkin’s goal was his 20th of the season. That’s right, 20 goals and they’re only at game 25 of the 82 game season. This marks Ovechkin’s 17th season with 20-plus goals.