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The Southeast This Week

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All the rage last week was about the Lightning-Capitals showdown for first place.  The game didn't disappoint, with the Lightning battling to a 1-0 overtime win.  Both goaltenders were tremendous, with Dwayne Roloson making 34 saves, and Semyon Varlamov saving 37 of 38. The Lightning took over sole possession of first place in the Southeast with the win, and have not relinquished it since. 

Lucky for us, we get all the hype again this week! Wednesday, we'll get to see a rematch with the stakes basically just as high.  If by chance the Panthers can take the Capitals to OT/shootout and win it, we'll once again have the teams tied for points.  This time, however, in the same amount of games.  If that situation doesn't present itself (a Capitals victory, Panthers regulation win), someone (either the Bolts or the Caps) will be trying to play leap frog.  Regardless, we'll have another showcase of the top two teams in the division. 

What's that? There's three other teams in the Southeast? Yes, you're right.  More on them after the fold.

Atlanta Thrashers: The Thrash got completely blown to smithereens Friday night by the Maple Leafs, 9-3.  The Leafs scored all nine goals in a row, prompting three separate goalie changes.  Evidently, they saw the Lightning at the top of the standings and wanted to emulate them.  Unfortunately for them, the Lightning had just been bamboozled by the Penguins two days earlier.  Tough luck.

Carolina Hurricanes:  The streaking Hurricanes have recorded a point in seven straight games (five wins, two OTL).  They now sit just three points back of Montreal for the final playoff spot in the East.  Their upcoming schedule: Calgary, at Buffalo, Tampa Bay.  Two not good teams and a team who just gave up six goals to the New Jersey Devils.  Chances are the streak continues.

Florida PanthersThe Panthers are considering a possible contract extension for Tomas Vokoun.  Many people think that's crazy.  I'm not one of them.  He's only 34, and if the contract is right, would give GM Dale Tallon comfort and confidence while continuing to build a Panthers team that really isn't that bad. Or, they might ship him away at the trade deadline.  Either way. 

Unrelated: Here's a gem from Coach Pete DeBoer regarding the Capitals scoring slump woe-is-me-ing:

"That's like the rich kid complaining he only got five presents at Christmas."

How great is that?

Washington Capitals:  Since the Armageddon losing streak finally ended, the Capitals have not lost in regulation.  That's eight straight games, and goes to show just how good this team can be.  They finish up a home and home with Florida tomorrow, but then face the Lightning in said rematch on Wednesday and the NHL-best Vancouver Canucks on Friday.  Just as the matchups against the Capitals may prove how for-real the Lightning are, this week can prove the Capitals true worth.

Semi-related: The Capitals went four periods and a few minutes without scoring a goal.  Then they rattled off three in a row against the Panthers.  All of this while Coach Bruce Boudreau wondered if they would ever score again.  It sounds to me like he's figured out a new keystone for his pregame pep talks. 

Key matchups this week: Capitals at the Panthers (Tuesday), Capitals at the Lightning (Wednesday), Canucks at the Capitals (Friday), and the Lightning at the Hurricanes (Saturday).

Until next time.