Metropolitan Division Weekly: Canes on four straight

They have been finding ways to win.

The Hurricanes, the Penguins and the Rangers: what do they all have in common? They are three teams from the Metropolitan Division with 60 or more points a little past halfway-through the season. That’s significant because only six teams in the entire NHL can boast 60+ points right now. The others are the Avalanche, Panthers and Lightning.

The Carolina Hurricanes are the most impressive of the three Metro teams, posting 31 wins in 42 games, sitting atop the division with 64 points, and sporting a .762 points percentage. But are they the Florida Panthers of the Metro?

That and more from the rest of division this week.

Carolina Hurricanes (31-9-2)

Okay, maybe they’re not the Panthers: the ‘Canes aren’t leading the NHL in points, they aren’t quite as dominant in scoring, nor do they have the penchant for third-period comebacks. But considering they have four games in-hand on their Conference rival, it’s a fair comparison. Most importantly, they’ve been getting the job done.

Carolina went 4-0 this week, with wins in overtime (OT), shootout (SO) and regulation. They beat the Vegas Golden Knights 4-3 in OT on Tuesday. Sebastian Aho scored two goals, and Andrei Svechnikov added two assists.

On Thursday, they defeated the Ottawa Senators in a 3-2 shootout win, Svechnikov earning the final tally. Frederik Andersen made 37 saves on the night. On Saturday, they held onto an early lead to edge out the New Jersey Devils, 2-1.

The theme of these games seems to be ‘finding ways to win.’ In Vegas, the Canes gave up a 3-1 lead late in the third, before Aho saved the day in extra time. In Ottawa, Nino Niederreiter tied the game for the Hurricanes late in the third. The San Jose Sharks, who typically play close games too, suffered a tight loss at the hands of the ‘Canes yesterday.

Despite the close games, this team has the talent to still straight sizzle-reels, folks:

Columbus Blue Jackets (20-21-1)

The Blue Jackets have been sluggish with two losses earlier this week. With that said, they are possibly on the upswing after a great effort on Thursday led them to a 5-3 victory over the New York Rangers.

The Jackets were able to overcome a two-goal deficit in the first period against the Rangers, scoring four goals in the first two periods. Boone Jenner and Sean Kuraly both had a two-goal night. Zach Werenski added three assists. The team went on to steamroll the Montreal Canadiens (who hasn’t these days?) 6-3 last night.

It was a far cry from their play earlier in the week. They fell 2-1 to the Sens on Sunday. Kuraly had the lone goal. Then, the Jackets were done and dusted by the Calgary Flames Wednesday night with a final score of 6-0.

Alexandre Texier is out for four weeks with a fractured finger. He sustained the injury on Jan. 26 against the Flames.

New Jersey Devils (15-23-5)

The Devils had a chance to lay some points down this week with four games. Then again, they didn’t. Goaltender Mackenzie Blackwood is out again, for an unknown amount of time with a foot injury this week. The Devils also played Carolina and Tampa Bay. It went how you think it would.

Jersey first fell to the Los Angeles Kings on Sunday, 3-2. Winger Jesper Bratt put up a two-goal performance, and defender Damon Severson had two assists, but the Devils could not pull off a victory. Bratt also scored a goal against the Dallas Stars on Tuesday, but it was the team’s only goal in a 5-1 loss.

On Thursday, the Devils visited the Lightning. Severson, who had a three-game point streak on four assists coming into the game, finally found a goal of his own, meanwhile adding an assist in the 3-2 loss. The Devils met a similar fate on Saturday, losing 2-1 to the Hurricanes.

All in all, there have been some noteworthy individual performances, but an overall lack of execution from the team to win any games. With Blackwood regularly out and Jonathan Bernier out for the season, the Devils are either chalking up the remainder of this season or may have some questions to answer approaching the trade deadline.

Michael Mcleod left Tuesday’s game against the Stars after fighting Luke Glendening and has not appeared since. He is assumed injured with an undisclosed nature and time frame.

New York Islanders (15-16-6)

The Islanders could be turning things around, but is it too little, too late? They were looking the worst they have in years to start the 2021-22 season. Now they’re playing decently, going 6-4 in their last 10 games.

They beat the Philadelphia Flyers on Tuesday, 4-3. Brock Nelson tallied two assists, while Mathew Barzal and Zach Parise both netted a goal and an assist. Parise’s goal was the game-winner.

The Isles also lost 3-2 against the Kings on Thursday, thought it was a tight game. Barzal scored again. The other goal-scorer was Casey Cizikias. Austin Czarnik, who has been an occasional call-up for the Islanders, was put on injured reserved retroactive to Jan. 22 with an upper-body injury.

The Islanders are in the midst of a seven-game homestand head of the All-Star break. Home ice hasn’t exactly been the secret sauce, though, as the Minnesota Wild came to visit on Sunday, leaving with a frustrating 4-3 victory.

New York Rangers (29-13-4)

The Rangers don’t look quite as scary as they did a week ago when they had wins against the ‘Canes and the Toronto Maple Leafs. This week, they picked up a shootout win at home against the Kings on Monday. They started to skid later in the week, losing to the Blue Jackets and Wild. Then the Seattle Kraken came to visit and despite a comeback effort that came down to the final minute of play, the Rangers pulled out a 3-2 win.

They also have some key players out. Kaapo Kakko did not play this week, and is week-to-week with an upper-body injury. Filip Chytil has also been out as of last week. Then, star defenseman Adam Fox left Thursday’s game against Columbus with an injury (upper body). He will be out for at least three games, and will likely miss the All-Star Game.

But first, the Rangers went six rounds into the shootout to beat the Kings on Monday. Fox finally scored on Jonathan Quick on the 12th shot of the shootout to get the win. Chris Kreider scored his 30th goal of the season, the first player in the league to reach that mark. He now has 31 goals and 44 total points.

Forward Barclay Goodrow had a goal in three of the four games this week, and Artemi Panarin had 12 points in six games before his point-streak was snapped against the Wild.

Philadelphia Flyers (14-22-8)

Speaking of snapped streaks, the Flyers bit off the big one, stopping a 13-game skid against the Kings on Saturday in a 4-3 victory. The losing streak was their longest in franchise history.

It wasn’t easy. The game went all the way to overtime, and Cam Atkinson played a huge role, posting two goals and an assist. And thankfully, Scott Laughton punched the Flyers’ ticket on the road to redemption. It was worth the wait — though the wait was long, the moment was a beauty.

The Flyers went 1-2 overall in the week, dropping back-to-back games against the Stars on Monday, and the Islanders on Tuesday. Justin Braun netted a goal and an assist this week, forward Isaac Ratcliffe made his NHL debut on Saturday, and Keith Yandle set a NHL record, playing in his 965th consecutive game on Tuesday against the Islanders.

Pittsburgh Penguins (27-10-7)

The Penguins played many tight games this week. They started off the week on a high, winning two to ride out a six-game winning streak. That streak was broken when they narrowly dropped two games on a pair of back-to-backs, one in overtime and another in a shootout.

They came back on the Winnipeg Jets on Sunday, erasing a 2-0 deficit and scoring two goals in the third, which came from Kasperi Kapanen and Jeff Carter. The game could not be solved in the extra frame, and Sidney Crosby scored the lone shootout goal for a 3-2 win.

The Penguins found themselves down again early in the third period against the Arizona Coyotes on Tuesday. Then, they scored four straight to take the game 6-3. Defender Kris Letang netted two goals.

And Brian Boyle had a nugget:

Evgeni Malkin scored for the Pens, and Tristan Jarry made 27 saves, but the Seattle Kraken succeeded on Thursday night in a 2-1 overtime loss. Then, another close game on Friday night saw the Penguins lose to the Detroit Red Wings in a shootout. Jake Guentzel scored two goals in the 3-2 loss.

The six-game homestand will close out next week, but the penultimate game saw the Penguins host the Kings on Sunday. LA nearly blew a 3-1 lead in the third period, but eventually won 4-3.

Forward Teddy Blueger is out for two months with an injury to the jaw, and forward Jason Zucker is out again week-to-week with an upper-body injury.

Washington Capitals (24-12-9)

The Caps could not find any success against the Pacific Division visitors this week ... no home cooking benefit. But the team went back to their winning ways on the road, cleanly disposing of the Stars 5-0 on Friday night.

It must not have been that long ago that Nicklas Backstrom, John Carlson and Tom Wilson were teammates with Braden Holtby, because they all found ways to score on the Cap-turned-Star netminder. What’s surprising is the way Connor McMichael and Trevor van Riemsdyk found the net on him, who both joined the team after Holtby’s departure.

Capitals netminder Vitek Vanecek, on the other hand, was stone-cold with all 29 shots stopped to earn a shutout win.

The Caps had to suffer losses to both the Sharks and the Golden Knights before their road-show. Vegas came out on top in a 1-0 loss on Monday night. Then San Jose were the victors on Wednesday, with a 4-1 victory. Unfortunately for the Capitals, most of the highlights favored Pacific Division teams. It was probably fuel for Vanecek’s Friday performance.

Michal Kempny is the only player out for the team right now, as he is in COVID-19 Protocol.