Southeast Division Weekend Update: Lightning Soar, Jets Crash

Peter Mueller was one of 6 goal scorers for the Panthers when they got back in the win column this week, over the visiting Winnipeg Jets. Jets will try to return the favor Tuesday at the MTS Centre. - Joel Auerbach

Only the Lightning have found their top form in the early going, as they set a high standard for success in the Southeast this week.

Tampa Bay Lightning

The Lightning may have seen their winning streak snapped when a desperate and talented New York Rangers squad came to play last night, but the Bolts remain the only team in the Southeast firing on all cylinders as this unusual "post-lockout" season evolves.

That re-tooled defense Steve Yzerman assembled over the summer has allowed the offense to focus on getting the puck in the net, which they continue to do. Often. It's hard to know which numbers I should put out there to demonstrate how totally this Tampa Bay club dominated their opponents during the five-game homestand that concluded last night, but for a great look at the Fancy Stats, Clare Austin has you covered here:

2013 Tampa Bay Lightning statistics: Games 1-5 - Clare Austin, Raw Charge While the Lightning are off to a great start, underlying numbers point towards a correction in the future.

For those who like plain-old-fashioned counting, Steven Stamkos leads the league for points, Martin St Louis has earned the most assists, while Cory Conacher is quickly becoming a household name, leading among rookies in both the goals and assists columns.

As the Bolts head out on a four-game road trip, facing the toughest competition they've seen (the schedule is below), we'll see if the old regression to the mean finally arrives and when it does, how Guy Boucher manages to stay the course.

The picture was not nearly so rosy for the other four clubs in the Southeast this week.


Winnipeg Jets

It all seemed to be coming together for the Winnipeg Jets as they concluded a home stand and 3-game win streak last weekend. But once they hit the road, losing a close match in Montreal before arriving in Florida this week, the mild temperatures proved to be an inhospitable environment.

The Jets ended up losing to the Panthers and Lightning by a combined score of 14 to 6 in the back-to-back games. Early last week, Ondrej Pavelec was performing so well his stats ( .936 Save%) were among the top in the league. He has crashed back to mediocrity, now showing a .888 Save% and a 3.56 GAA. He was lit up repeatedly when the team in front of him dissolved without the presence of Dustin Byfuglien, who sat out the last 2 games with an undisclosed lower body injury.

Offensively, Evander Kane's 5-game point streak was finally snapped in Tampa on Friday night. Eight games into their season, no one on the Jets roster has notched more than 3 goals.

The Jets return home this coming week, hosting the Panthers in the depth of the Manitoba winter, and then the Maple Leafs. They'll then head to Ottawa Saturday night. Despite the three losses this past week, the Jets still remain second in the division as the Hurricanes, Capitals and Panthers failed to gain any ground.

Carolina Hurricanes

Eric Staal and Alexander Semin found all kinds of chemistry this week, which Raleigh fans have been thrilled to see after years of waiting for a winger to compliment their superstar center. The two have combined for some timely goals in every game including this beauty of a set up by Semin in the lone goal Thursday night.


Beyond that, the problem of consistency was the theme of the week for the Canes. Following a losing and physical battle with the visiting Boston Bruins, they were solid in front of back-up goaltender Dan Ellis in the 1-0 win over Craig Anderson, Erik Karlsson and the Ottawa Senators. Then came a sloppy outing in Philadelphia last night, surrendering 3 power play goals to the struggling Flyers in the 5-3 loss. It's been a Jekyll and Hyde season so far, with everything from special teams, scoring depth and goaltending worthy of some blame when they lose.

One stat to know about Carolina? Their league best average of over 38 shots-on-goal per game is nearly 5 more than the next best, Calgary Flames. Maybe it's just bounces and the wins will come. That Semin's shot percentage sits at only 3.2% goes to show just how tough it's been thus far.

Like the Lightning and the Panthers, the Hurricanes are on the road (the "Ringling Bros" trip) all next week. In fact, including last night, this trip lasts 6 games and 11 days before they return to the PNC Arena on February 14th. The season will be 25% done by then, and it's not hyperbole to suggest that the season rests on whether they can bring home a winning record.

Six-game road trip could determine this season's direction for Hurricanes - Luke DeCock, NewsObserver.com Alex Semin skated through four different Ottawa Senators to set up Eric Staal’s game-winning goal Friday night. As challenging as that was, it was nothing compared to the obstacle course his team now faces.

Florida Panthers

The Panthers won this week! They scored five goals in the third period over the visiting Jets to break what had been one horrific losing streak in convincing fashion - final score: 6-3. Rookie Jonathan Huberdeau picked up a goal in the rout, his first point since he turned heads with a 3-point debut versus the Hurricanes opening night. Six players scored, and Tomas Fleischmann tallied 3 assists.

The Cats began a four-game roadie this afternoon in Buffalo (which was a 4-3 victory), then on to Winnipeg, Philadelphia and Washington. We'll find out soon enough if the mojo they found in the final 20 minutes vs the Jets was packed up along with the gear for this trek.

The real theme so far in Sunrise is the revolving door to their infirmary. Kris Versteeg and Marcel Goc have rejoined the line up, and Stephen Weiss returned today. But now Scottie Upshall is on the IR with an ankle issue which could sideline him for a month . Ed Jovanovski is out through at least today's game with wonky knee.

The Panthers remain at the bottom of the Division, pushing the Capitals for the title of most-disappointing starts in the Southeast.

Washington Capitals

The Capitals did get the two wins they needed this week to prevent a total implosion in the District. Both wins came at home by a score of 3-2, over a couple clubs with their own troubles, Buffalo and the Flyers. However the 6-3 drubbing they suffered at the hands of the Pittsburgh Penguins earlier today makes it hard to say they have made real progress.

Neither Michal Neuvirth nor Braden Holtby have shown they are ready to be Adam Oates' number one in goal, but when the offensive talents that have defined the club for years have yet to put up more than 3 goals in a single game, the problem is not only between the pipes. The team appears to be prone to slow reactions and lack of direction; it would seem the Caps are by far the club most severely impacted by the compressed schedule, working with their 3rd coach in 14 months.

Joel Ward continues to lead the club with four goals (on only 14 shots), with Troy Brouwer next with three. Newcomer Mike Ribeiro leads the team for points (9). The story will continue to focus on the struggling Alex Ovechkin with 2 goals, and 3 points in 8 games. Footnote: Nicklas Backstrom has a single goal and 6 points.

The news came last night that John Erskine would receive a three-game suspension for elbowing Wayne Simmonds Friday night in what was just the Capitals second win of the season. And so it goes.

This Week's Standings and Schedule

(Updated 8am Monday)

Stdgs Team Record Points

S

Feb 3

M

Feb 4

T

Feb 5

W

Feb 6

T

Feb 7

F

Feb 8

S

Feb 9

Games

played

(season)

1 Tampa Bay 6-2-0 12

at

Flyers

at

Devils

at

Bruins

11
2 Winnipeg 3-4-1 7

vs

Panthers

vs

Maple Leafs

at

Senators

11
3 Carolina 3-4-0 6

at

Maple Leafs

at

Senators

at

Flyers

10
4 Florida 3-5-0 6

at

Sabres

(W, 4-3)

at

Jets

at

Flyers

at

Capitals

12
5 Washington 2-5-1 5

vs

Penguins

(L, 6-3)

vs

Toronto

at

Penguins

vs

Florida

11

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