The Southeast Division is tightening up. The Carolina Hurricanes and the Tampa Bay Lightning are tied atop the conference with 19 points with Winnipeg breathing down their necks with 17 points. Even the division cellar dwellers have reason to hope. The Panthers with 14 points and the Capitals with 13 points are five and six points out of the top spot respectively. No other division in the NHL is this close top to bottom. This is mainly because of the mediocrity of the division, the Lightning and Hurricanes’ 19 points are good for an eighth place tie in the Eastern Conference, but nonetheless, it should make for an exciting rest of the season. Here is how the Southeast teams fared this week:
Carolina Hurricanes: (19 points)
T-1st Southeast, 3rd Eastern Conference
Weekly Record: 1-3-0 (2 points)
Mon 2/18 at MTL: L 3-0
Thurs 2/21 vs WPG: L 4-3
Sat 2/23 vs TB: L 5-2
Sun 2/24 at NYI: W 4-2
The Canes cooled off this week losing three of four but still managed to hold onto the Southeast division lead. Carolina held onto the top spot despite being tied with Tampa Bay at 19 points due to their having played one less game than Tampa. The team suffered from the loss of star Jeff Skinner to a concussion sustained in the teams Feb 14th loss to Toronto. Skinner skated with the team Saturday and should be back soon. In the meantime the Canes are going to have to rely on the Staal brothers and Alexander Semin to bear the scoring load. That is just what happened in Sunday’s 4-2 win over the Islanders. After going down 2-0 after the first period, Eric and Jordan scored second period goals, both assisted by Semin, to even the score. Jordan Staal assisted on the game winner in the third and Semin put away an empty netter to ice the game.
The Hurricanes will face the Caps and the Penguins this week before partaking in a home and home back to back with the Panthers on Saturday and Sunday.
Tampa Bay Lightning: (19 points)
T-1st Southeast, T-8th Eastern Conference
Weekly Record: 2-2-0 (4 points)
Tues 2/19 vs TOR: W 4-2
Thurs 2/21 vs BOS: L 4-2
Sat 2/23 at CAR: W 5-2
Sun 2/24 at PIT: L 5-3
The Lightning had a tough week schedule wise but managed to go 2-2. Tampa beat good Toronto and Carolina teams but fell to extremely good Boston and Pittsburgh teams. It was no surprise that Steven Stamkos led the way for the Lightning. In four games, Stamkos tallied four goals and four assists and was named the NHL’s 2nd star of the week. His eight points bring his season total to an NHL leading 29. In a losing effort against the NHL’s second leading scorer Sidney Crosby (28 points) and the Penguins, Stamkos scored a goal and had two assists. Crosby showed up for the game as well scoring two goals and adding an assist in the Penguins win.
Rookie Cory Conacher had two goals and two assists this week, extending his NHL rookie leading point total to 17. He is four points ahead of Panther’s rookie Jonathan Huberdeau.
This week, the Lightning will face off against the Buffalo Sabres, the New York Rangers and the Boston Bruins.
Winnipeg Jets: (17 points)
3rd Southeast, 11th Eastern Conference
Weekly Record: 3-1-0 (6 points)
Tues 2/19 at BUF: W 2-1
Thurs 2/21 at CAR: W 4-3
Sat 2/23 at PHI: L 5-3
Sun 2/24 at NJ: W 4-2
The Jets made a push up the standings this week with an impressive stretch of four road games. Wins in Buffalo, Carolina and New Jersey were enough for Winnipeg to pass Florida in the standings. The Jets now occupy the third spot in the Southeast and are two points off the pace. Goaltender Ondrej Pavelec picked up three wins this week, playing in every game. Pavelec’s best start of the week came in his 200th NHL game, a winning effort in which he stopped 29 of 30 shots. Evander Kane is heating up having scored a goal in three straight for the Jets, brining his total for the season up to seven.
The Jets will be finishing up a five game road trip Tuesday when they play the Rangers. Winnipeg will return home Thursday to face the Devils followed by the Capitals Saturday night.
Washington Capitals: (13 points)
5th Southeast, 14th Eastern Conference
Weekly Record: 1-1-0 (2 points)
Thurs 2/21 vs NJ: L 3-2
Sat 2/23 vs NJ: W 5-1
The Capitals had a relatively quiet week playing only two games, both home games against the New Jersey Devils. After a 3-2 loss Thursday, Alex Ovechkin erupted leading the Caps to a 5-1 win and scoring his first hat trick since Jan. 22 2011. Ovechkin also added an assist and brought his season point total to 14 (8 goals, 6 assists).
Braden Holtby started both games for Washington. The Capitals organization displayed their faith in their young keeper re-signing him to a two year extension worth $3.6 million. ($1.6 million in 2013-14 and $2.0 million in 2014-15) Source
The Capitals play a home game against Carolina Tuesday followed by a game in Philadelphia the next night. The Caps will wrap up their week Saturday afternoon at Winnipeg.