Well, it's been more than a week now. We all weren't sure what to expect from a psyche-injured Tampa Bay Lightning team that had just lost its cornerstone, Martin St. Louis.
Turns out, we were in for pretty much more of the same.
The Bolts won an emotional game against the New York Rangers the night Marty went down with a broken face, then gave up five goals two games in a row to the Philadelphia Flyers and the New Jersey Devils, and then ramped up the nostalgia to defeat the Calgary Flames in the 2004 Stanley Cup rematch last night. That game also happened to be Jay Feaster's return to Tampa after being shuffled out the door by those who shall not be named.
Until this team quits trading a win for a loss, or a win for two losses, I'm not going to get my hopes up too high, but, as has been alluded to by pretty much everyone, last night's formula usually ends up in a loss for the Bolts.
Did someone finally step up and say something in the dressing room? Did Guy Boucher trade his usual think-this-through approach for some good ole fashioned bag skating? Did they just get lucky?
Hard to tell with such a small sample size, but the collective sigh of relief and "finally" we all released last night was quite a welcome sight.
Coming up after the pause, Southeast inconsistency; blame Cam Ward; it's fun to play for the Panthers; and it's time to blow up the Capitals. The week that was in the Southeast.
Carolina Hurricanes: While the Canes did manage an impressive win over the recently ‘we-figured-it-out' Vancouver Canucks last night, the real story is that both Jeff Skinner and Joni Pitkanen are out with concussions. I am 100000% behind the new standards for concussions in all of sports, but man it's tough to see so many players out with them this season. I wonder how long before we see a coach on IR with concussion-like symptoms.
To add, well, injury to injury, before that, they place Brian Boucher on IR also. But, Cam Ward starts like 86 games a season anyway, so no biggie.
As a result, the Hurricanes are recalling strange history-maker Mike Murphy.
Speaking of Cam Ward, is this season his fault? I mean, isn't firing the coach a sign that it was all the coach's fault? How many scapegoats can one team have?
Last week's trade of Tomas Kaberle may have just been the beginning. The Canes are a strange team, really. I'm not sure they have a whole lot to market that they're actually willing to part with. They're not going to give up Eric Staal, Skinner, or Ward. Maybe Jussi Jokinen? But how much will he really bring in return?
Like the Lightning, until the Hurricanes can put together some big win streaks, the playoff picture isn't really worth talking about at this point.
Florida Panthers: Uh oh. Are the Panthers coming back down to Earth? Nah, I think it's just a streak that all teams run into. And let's be honest here, the Buffalo Sabres, Rangers, and New Jersey Devils are no slouches either. "Don't sell yourself short, judge, you're a tremendous slouch." They did still manage two charity points. Could be worse.
The rats are back, but in a different capacity. I absolutely love this. This was always one of my favorite traditions.
But, how long will it be before someone ruins it? Don't be that guy.
Here's a look at how the Cats players are used. I certainly understand and enjoy the science of the game, but..... I'll just stick to making fun of it.
Last weekend, before getting the smithereens knocked out of them by the Rangers, the Panthers had pretty much the coolest practice ever. How fun is it to play for Florida right now?
Speaking of having fun, Panthers management is having fun with that deal they made for Krys Barch.
The other talents in Miami are still enjoying a pretty comfy division lead and are well within a playoff spot.
Washington Capitals: It's not often the Caps only score two goals in a week. So far, that's the case though, turning in one in a drubbing at the hands of the Flyers, and one in a shutout win over the Jets. That one goal against the Jets was scored by Alex Ovechkin. But what does that mean? He continues to be an enigma this season. I guess you could say that about the whole team though. I maintain, when this team piddles out at the end of the season, it's time to blow it up and start over.
Probably not a good sign of how things are going when the coach you fired drops a bomb like this.
Another sign this isn't going to end well: no effort regardless of coach.
Caps fans just need a hug. Welcome to our world, guys.
With the win over the Jets, the Caps snuck back into the playoff picture, clinging onto the 7th spot in the Conference. But then again there's like 85 teams tied in points, or just one back of them.
Also, the Airplanes swooped in and stole Antti Miettinen off waivers from the Lightning. Thanks guys.
Here's some buzzword bingo for you, apparently in the loss to the Capitals, coach Claude Noel thought the Jets were not only "too cute," but also "played not to lose" instead of playing to win. Look, I know most coaches don't enjoy talking to the media, but that's weak.
In a story about someone with the Jets actually giving an effort, Tobias Enstrom may be back as soon as tomorrow. That's good news.
And, just in case you were in a cave all week, tomorrow marks a pretty big return of another sort. I'm a big fan of Teemu, I hope tomorrow is great.
The Jets are one of those aforementioned 85 teams involved in the log jam for the last few playoff spots in the East. With Ron Hainsey back, Enstrom returning, and only one road game left in the month of December, things aren't looking too bad for Winnipeg to hop into the playoff picture.
Important matchups this weekend: All of them for the Hurricanes and Lightning, and that's really about it.
Did I miss your favorite story from the Southeast Division this week? Feel free to shoot me links on Twitter to @MattAmos31 or @DontTradeVinny. Want to laugh at the Lightning and the NHL? Check out my "normal" work over at Don't Trade Vinny.