Hurricanes clinch Metropolitan Division title; Injury headaches for Rangers, too

Hurricanes clinch Metropolitan Division title; Injury headaches for Rangers, too
Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

With the East’s top eight set for weeks, it’s all been about seeding. That means, sometimes, teams will need to weigh rest vs. rust, and positioning vs. staying healthy. For the Rangers, they encountered the worst of both worlds on Tuesday: the Hurricanes beat them to clinch the Metropolitan Division, while Artemi Panarin and Andrew Copp left with injuries.

Hurricanes clinch Metropolitan Division by beating Rangers

While the Hurricanes were likely relieved to see Antti Raanta at least healthy enough to dress as a backup, the Rangers received a potential advantage (on paper) in facing relative unknown goalie Pyotr Kochetkov. (Granted, Kochetkov posted promising KHL and AHL numbers as a 22-year-old.)

Kochetkov ended up winning his third game in a row, in part on the strength of keeping the Rangers scoreless through the first two periods. The Hurricanes clinched that division title with a 4-3 win over the Rangers that was a bit more decisive than that final score implies.

This marks consecutive division titles for the Hurricanes, although thanks to the COVID-era restructuring, it’s not their second consecutive Metro title. It’s clearly one of the most prosperous times for the Hurricanes’ franchise, even if you include the Whalers era.

Copp, Panarin injuries add to insult of Rangers losing out on Metro title

Again, for the Rangers, it was bad enough that the Hurricanes beat them and clinched that division title. Now there’s concern about injuries to Andrew Copp (lower-body) and Artemi Panarin (upper).

Ideally, the Rangers were merely avoiding taking extra chances with Copp and Panarin. Even so, there’s concern that a rising Rangers team may end up limping into the playoffs. Even if Panarin and/or Copp play for the Rangers, there’s no guarantee they’ll be at full-strength.

This circles back to me admittedly being a scold to NHL teams. If you know you’re playoff-bound, rest players as much as you can. Copp may have benefited from taking a breath after the whirlwind experience of being traded. You should always try to keep 30-year-old players like Artemi Panarin freshest for when the games matter the most.

Smaller clinches beyond the Hurricanes locking up the Metro

As results trickle in on Tuesday, we keep getting a clearer view of the 2022 Stanley Cup Playoffs.

We now know that the Oilers will gain at least a round of home-ice advantage by securing the Pacific Division’s second seed.

Similarly, the Maple Leafs can celebrate as a team while applauding Auston Matthews reaching 60 goals, as they locked the Atlantic Division’s second seed down.

Stay tuned at PHT for more NHL playoff scenario updates, with additional clinching possibilities as Tuesday winds down.

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

Scroll Down For: