What a week!
The Lightning won two of three during thelast week of the regular season , finishing the year on a seven of eight run, punctuated with a 6-2 drubbing of the Canes Saturday in Carolina.
Captain Vincent Lecavalier, who I feared may miss some time in this feature last week after his scratched-cornea incident, missed none and spent the week scoring at will. He finished the week with four goals, one assist, and the NHL's second star of the week.
On top of that, he sent a clear message around the locker room that despite the playoffs being clinched, and their seed being determined, there was no time to rest and work to be done. There's pretty much daily conjecture over the amount of money Vinny makes and dismay over his numbers being down. Vinny registered a point in 12 of 14 games to finish the season. If that isn't leading by example, I don't know what is. The guy is worth every penny.
Vinny is heating up at the perfect time, too. Just like the Lightning.
Not all of the week had a positive vibe though, as we received the horrible news of Assistant Coach Wayne Fleming's brain tumor. Once again Wayne, our thoughts are with you. Get well soon, sir.
After the hop, news and views from the wild final week in the Southeast.
Atlanta Thrashers: Not a positive closing week for the Thrash; losing three of four to finish an abysmal second half of the season, and then receiving the news that they're nowhere close to having an ownership solution. Does Jeff Vinik have any deep-pocketed siblings? The Thrash could sure use one.
Unrelated: The Thrashers did everything they could this week to help the Hurricanes make the playoffs, beating the New York Rangers Thursday, and turning right around and losing to the Canes on Friday. I guess the Lightning kind of foiled the scheme you guys had cooked up there, huh? Sorry about that.
Worth a mention: Dustin Byfuglien finished the season with the most goals by a defenseman in the entire NHL with 20, including six game winners. Had all 20 been game winners, it might've been a better season for the Thrash. Never the less, great to see a Southeast representative leading the league.
Carolina Hurricanes: After a frantic, exhausting, impressive run to hang onto to their playoff lives, the season came crashing to an end Saturday. The Canes got knocked down for the count by the Lightning.
Despite the incredible last third of the season, some people want Coach Paul Maurice out. I wouldn't want to be a coach right now. One guy gets handed a 2x4 and some super glue and gets canned when he can't build a house, and another has a team that was as hot as any in the league the last two months of the season and everyone wants him pink-slipped. No thanks.
Unrelated: While it's probably safe to say the Canes won't have a Jack Adams nominee, they do have a fairly deserving candidate for the King Clancy award, Cam Ward.
Florida Panthers: The Panthers ended the season with a 1-0 shutout of the Capitals, ending a 10-game winless streak. It amounted to too little, too late, however as the Cats then fired coach Pete DeBoer after three seasons with the team.
So, Dale Tallon, you trade away basically everyone with NHL experience and arm him with an AHL roster, and he's to blame? I don't buy it. And if it was a matter of wanting "your guy," the move should have been made when you first took the GM position with the club.
More on the firing. Can't say it enough, DeBoer got a raw deal, especially considering he was told at his hiring by the owner that they would do whatever it took to win. Good to see Stephen Weiss stick up for him there, and good to see DeBoer handle it so professionally. He's taking it a lot better than I would, I think.
Dale Tallon has a resume of success, and I'm sure he'll right the ship, but this is an unimpressive moment for the Panthers in my opinion.
Unrelated: Wonder what a Panthers home game is like?
Worth a mention: Tomas Vokoun got that shutout against the Caps in what likely was too, his last game as a Panther.
Washington Capitals: The Caps won two of three on the week, and locked up the number one seed in the Eastern Conference. The lone loss was the aforementioned 1-0 shutout at the hands of the Panthers. Between this and this, you kind of get the idea that the Caps really didn't care too much about that final game. Throw away game or a possible hint at another early playoff exit for the Capitals? I'd be a little nervous if I was a Caps fan.
Unrelated: The Capitals scored three of their seven regulation goals on the power play this week. Perfect timing for them to ramp up the special teams play.
Worth a mention: Last week I joked that Braden Holtby may have to play some defense for the Capitals with all their injuries. Turns out I wasn't terribly far off: Brooks Laich has spent some time on the blueline lately.
Important Matchups this week: Do you have to ask?