Southeast Division Report 11/22-11/28

I’m going to start a new segment where I look at how each team in the Southeast fared for the week and talk about whether they are in the right direction or not. The Southeast has always been known as the “SouthLeast” to NHL fans and with good reason seeing how the Caps ran away with it in recent years. This year, it appears to be a tad bit more competitive and we could see two or possibly three teams make the playoffs out of it. Being a Caps fan, keep a close eye on almost every team in this division so I think this will help others get a closer view on it. It’s also a way for me to branch out instead of just writing previews and recaps, haha.

Right now, the division looks like this.

Here are the numbers for the past week:

So, a great week for the Caps and Thrashers with the Lightning right behind them. Thrashers are the hottest team in the division right now and are getting amazing goaltending from Ondrej Pavelec along with a lot of scoring by committee. Capitals are on a 3 game win streak after that meltdown against the Devils to start the week. The Lightning are scoring enough to win games but also giving up a ton of goals. Cam Ward is doing all he can to keep the Canes in games but it’s not enough.Panthers can’t score enough to win anything.

Let’s take a closer look at what’s been going on with each team this week.

Capitals (3-0-1)

After being shutout and embarrassed against the Devils on Monday night, head coach Bruce Boudreau bag skated his team on Tuesday’s practice hoping to wake them up a little bit. It seemed to have worked since they have gone 3-0-0 since then with all three wins coming against divisional opponents. Their shutout against Tampa Bay on Friday night was arguably the best game they have played all season. Alexander Semin’s also been scorching hot this week recording a hat trick on Friday and another goal on Sunday against Carolina.

The returning Semyon Varlamov has also been solid since returning from injury in stopping 73 of 77 shots in 3 games. Also of note is Alex Ovechkin recording 6 assists but no goals this week. He is still energizing the team by coming out and throwing a lot of hits in his first few shifts and he’s on track for a new Capitals record in assists if he keeps it up. The goals will come eventually. Until then, the “other Alex” seems to have that part under control. Rookie Marcus Johansson has also continued to look better and he’s had a wonderful handful of games this week. I still don’t know if he’s ready to center the second line yet but he’s playing well above what I expected him to, especially for his age.

Also of note is they were without Mike Green for two games and in those two games, their powerplay was 3-8 during that time. That’s largely part to John Carlson quarterbacking the powerplay very well while Green was out. The Capitals still need to work on playing for a full 60 minutes (the game against Tampa is a rare occurrence this season…) if they want to get further in the playoffs, though.

Thrashers (3-0-0)

Thrashers took a huge step forward this week with winning all three of their games, and against tough opponents. They started things off by dominating the Detroit Red Wings (best team in the West), then shut out the Montreal Canadiens and closed things up with a solid win over the Boston Bruins. They have been receiving stellar goaltending from Ondrej Pavelec ever since he returned from his concussion as he stopped 97 out of 99 shots faced. The offense is doing their part, as well by doing a nice job of scoring by committee. The main contributors this week were Rich Peverley (2 goal game against Montreal) and Dustin Byfuglien who had a 4-point game against Boston on Sunday. He finished the week with 2 goals and 4 assists.

Solid special teams play is also contributing to the Thrashers recent success. Their penalty kill only surrendered one goal this week and their powerplay connected 4 out of 12 times. What’s still alarming is they are giving up an average of 30+ shots per game despite blocking 41 of them through 3 games. Head coach Craig Ramsay has placed a huge emphasis on their defense blocking shots and guys like Brent Sopel are doing that well. What’s good is their goaltenders are continuing to stand on their heads despite the team surrendering a lot of shots, Pavelec especially.

It’s no doubt that the Thrashers are on a roll and there’s a lot claiming this is the best team they’ve iced in franchise history. There’s no real “stars” on the team yet but Atlanta has looked better than I’ve seen in awhile the past couple of weeks. I will say that Washington, Detroit, Montreal and Boston all played some incredibly lazy hockey when they played Atlanta but the Thrashers were playing smart enough to take advantage of that and beat them handily. Other teams are going to start to prepare for them better so we’ll see if Atlanta can hang around long enough for a playoff spot then.

Lightning (2-1-1)

Good start to the week for the Lightning with a rough finish. Wins against the Bruins and Rangers but they took a beating from the Caps on Friday and then fell to the Panthers in a shootout the following night. It wasn’t the best week for their goalies as Dan Ellis or Mike Smith had save percentages below .900 and them having a negative goal differential despite scoring 11 times shows that.

Steven Stamkos still remains the league’s top goal scorer as he tallied his 20th and 21st goals this week with the latter coming on this nice sliding attempt into the net. He had 2 goals and 3 assists this week and is still scoring at a steady pace despite being held goalless in his last two games. The loss of captain Vinny Lecavalier is having somewhat of an effect in terms of leadership but not in terms of production since Ryan Malone, Steve Downie and even Teddy Purcell had very productive weeks. Malone and Purcell scoring a pair of goals and Downie recording 4 assists.Victor Hedman also scored a goal this week and finished with a +2 rating.

One thing I did notice is that a majority of their top scorers ratings were in the minuses or even and they gave up A LOT of goals this week. It’s a combination of poor goaltending, backchecking and Tampa not doing enough to close out games.  They let the Rangers score 3 unanswered goals and blew a lead in the Florida game. Granted, they did rally to come back and force OT in the latter. Head coach Guy Boucher stated that he hasn’t been happy with he way the team played the past few games and it’s not hard to see why. The Lightning need to work harder at playing a full 60 minutes if they want to start winning some more division games, mainly ones against Washington. The good news is they still have four games left against the Caps and three of them are at home.

Hurricanes (1-1-1)

The Canes have not won a single game this year where they trailed after two periods and they were trailing 2-0 in both of their games against Washington this week. They had two valiant comeback efforts in both games and despite the great play of Eric Staal (scored both game tying goals) and Cam Ward, they could only get away with one point in both games. Ward did earn himself a shutout against Boston, though where he stopped all 37 shots despite his team being grossly outplayed by the B’s.

One thing I watched this week with the Canes was how much of an impact trade acquisition Ian White would have on the team. He had 2 assists and 8 blocked shots this week, which is pretty darn good buuut a bad pinch from him resulted in one of the Caps goals. Him and Tim Gleason should be a solid pairing in the future but there’s still some kinks being worked out.

One thing I can say is that that criticisms of Eric Staal being on the downside of his career might go away after this season with the pace he’s on. He didn’t set the world on fire with his numbers (2 goals, 3 assists) but he is providing a huge sense of leadership for this Canes team. He played a huge factor in the first goal of the game at Washington and scored the game tying marker. He’s also 6th in the NHL in points right now with 28. However, Staal can’t do it all by himself and sooner or later, someone else is going to have to step up. Paul Marice has shaken up the lines a little bit in the last couple of games so maybe that will have an effect later in terms of getting more people involved. Seemed to work for Erik Cole.

Panthers (1-3-0)

Pretty rough week for the Cats as they could only pick up one win and were outscored 6-12 in four games. You had to figure they would struggle to win games going into the season given their roster and lack of offensive talent. It’s even worse now that Stephen Weiss and David Booth aren’t scoring. They are trying, though. They were averaging over 30 shots a game for this week and had 40 in the Rangers game and all were shut down by Henrik Lundqvist.

Awful play on the special teams also contributes to Florida’s struggles. Their powerplay is worst in the league at 6.4% and didn’t improve at all this week and their PK gave up a goal in each game. It also wasn’t the best week for goalie Tomas Vokoun, who usually keeps them in every game. He still had a save percentage around .900 despite that. I feel that the goals will come to Frolik, Booth and Weiss seeing how they create so many chances but the three of them are almost the extent of their offensive talent so when they aren’t scoring, the team runs through a dry spell.

Brutal week for defenseman Dennis Wideman who was on ice for a lot of goals and finished the week with a -4. The assist he recorded wont make up for that. Stephen Weiss was completely held off the score sheet and was a -3, same goes for Chris Higgins. Getting Steve Reinprecht has given a small burst of life to this offense since he recorded a goal and Dimitry Kulikov recorded his first goal of the season this week.

What’s weird is despite all of these problems, Florida is barely a bottom-five team. I think that will change soon, though unless there’s some real shockers coming out of Sunrise.

Three Stars of the Week

1. Ondrej Pavelec

2. Eric Staal

3. Alex Semin


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