Crushed. Like most of the division's playoff hopes. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
As has been the case most season, this week was one step forward, two steps back for the Tampa Bay Lightning.
After eking out a win they probably didn't deserve against the Philadelphia Flyers on Monday, the Bolts gave up 11 goals the rest of the week while losing to the Boston Bruins and New Jersey Devils. Though the losses didn't mean mathematical elimination for the Lightning, it's pretty much over.
But let's be honest, the playoff push has basically been grasping for straws for weeks now.
There were two good things to happen this week in Lightning land, though. Captain Vincent Lecavalier returned to action last night, and on Tuesday, Steven Stamkos upped his league-leading goal total to 55. Not getting a goal last night hurt, but with five games left and his never ending potential for explosion, Stamkos still could eclipse the 60 goal plateau this season.
And for my money, his second goal Tuesday was one of the best of his career. It was an absolute bomb that looked to even get a chuckle out of Tim Thomas. Studly.
After the jump: TV for the Canes; Panthers playoff drought; Caps loss overreaction; and lots of airplane puns. The week that was in the Southeast.
Here's some good news for Carolina fans: all their games will now be televised. Hard to imagine that in 2012 that wasn't the case already, but evidently it was.
Not so great news: The Canes are tightening up their autograph policy.
Like the Lightning, the Canes are not officially out of playoff contention. That could end tonight, however. If the Canes make the playoffs, I'll wear a banana suit to work.
Florida Panthers: The Cats picked up three of four points this week, but gave away the fourth point by allowing the Minnesota Wild to tie the game with 31 seconds left, and then win the game just 15 seconds in overtime. I wonder what the NHL record is for quickest goals across a third period into OT like that is?
Can you believe it's been over a decade since the Panthers were in the playoffs? I can.
Bill Lindsay looks at the top wins of the season so far for the Panthers. He left number one blank for when the Panthers clinch. What a jinx.
As it stands, the Panthers need five points to clinch the division. They should get a start on that tonight, as they play the Columbus Blue Jackets.
Washington Capitals: After their season ended Tuesday night against the Buffalo Sabres, and they were officially removed from the playoff conversation, the Caps turned around and beat a pretty good Boston Bruins team to make the first part of this sentence completely ridiculous.
Speaking of Ovie, he's "back." Pretty good timing for him to show up.
As has been the case most of the season, and part of the reason they don't have a playoff spot locked up, the Caps players are all over the place.
The Caps and the NHL are teaming up with the World Wildlife Fund for Earth Hour. Excellent work.
Washington is tied with the Sabres for the final spot, but Buffalo has a game in hand.
Winnipeg Jets: The Airplanes have pretty much skidded off the runway and completely disintegrated. They've lost three in a row and are toiling in never-never land with the Bolts and Canes. Not that that should really surprise anyone.
Just like everyone else in the Eastern Conference, the Jets will be mathematically departed from the playoff picture if the Sabres win tonight.
Earlier in the week, the Jets signed college defenseman Will O'Neill. I'm sure he's flying high.
For a lot of players, the time has arrived to prove their worth for next season.
It could all be over for Winnipeg after tonight.
Important matchups: Once again, all or none.