Tampa Bay Lightning fans got an early Christmas present on Wednesday, when Martin St. Louis not only surprised everyone by practicing, but then suited up for that night's game (if you want to call it that) against the San Jose Sharks. Then, just to delight us even further (and because he's Marty freaking St. Louis), he scored a goal.
It didn't help, as the Bolts gave up five goals in the first period, and seven for the contest in arguably their worst game of the entire season. The porous defense and goaltending - the theme for the season, and really the history of the team - has once again inspired a lot of Lightning fans to call for trades, signings, and all-out panic. Including many's favorite target: Vincent Lecavalier and his long-term contract.
I'm a big fan of Vinny, and depending on your view of the guy, you might call me a Lecavalier apologist. I've never tried to hide that, and I'm certainly not afraid to admit it. So, let me provide you with basically the only stat you need to know about him: The Lightning are 16-27-1-5 all-time in games Vinny has missed because of injury. That's twice as many losses as wins.
Last season, the Lightning won 46 games during the regular season. They then went on to win another 11 out of 18 in the playoffs. In those 18 games, Vinny had 19 points. Five more than Steven Stamkos, and only one point behind Marty.
I think we can all agree that last season was one of the most magical seasons in Lightning history. That season, and that playoff run especially, does not happen without Vincent Lecavalier. Period, end of story.
It's been a rather light week in the division, but coming up after the fold: The Canes save Christmas; Dineen owns Montreal; Mike Knuble rocks; and Pavelec on the wrong end of a call-out. The week that was in the Southeast Division.
Carolina Hurricanes: The Hurricanes continue to struggle and have only won two games all month. Cam Ward and Eric Staal are on pace for the worst seasons of their careers. Their best young player, Jeff Skinner, has a concussion, and their new coach can't buy a win. As a Canes fan, what possible good is there to think about right now?
This. There's just not enough that can be said about that. Good on everyone involved.
At this point, the Hurricanes can only hope to land the first overall pick. They'll likely have some stiff competition from the Lightning.
Florida Panthers: Not a great week for the Panthers. Losses to the Coyotes and Ottawa Senators, and Jack Skille and Sean Bergenheim landing on the IR. Mikael Samuelsson and Marco Sturm are also on the mend as a result of injuries this week. That's nothing to laugh about.
What is there to laugh about? This gem from head coach Kevin Dineen:
"Yes, I've taken up Spanish lessons; I think that's important in the South Florida market."
He's obviously referring to the disaster going on with the Montreal Canadiens right now. Hilarious.
The Cats are still evolving. It still impresses me what this team is doing with that many new faces. If Dineen isn't the lead candidate for the Jack Adam's right now, then that's a crime.
The Panthers have seven players playing in the World Junior Championships this year. Seven! This team could be really good for a long time.
Despite the two losses, Florida isn't much worse for the wear. They sit six points up on the Jets, eight points up on the Capitals, and just three points back of the Philadelphia Flyers for the Eastern Conference's top seed.
Washington Capitals: Not much going on this week for the Caps, but they did all they could, easily handling the Nashville Predators Tuesday, 4-1. It was the first time Alex Ovechkin, Alexander Semin, and Nicklas Backstrom scored in the same game since October 30th, 2010. It's been a minute.
Is that because Ovechkin and Backstrom were finally split up?
Mike Knuble played in his 1,000th game Tuesday. Craziest stat you'll hear all season: Mike Knuble has scored more in his 30's than Wayne Gretzky and Steve Yzerman did. Mike Knuble. He's a class guy though. Great for him.
The ultra-light schedule hurt the Caps this week more than anything. They still sit two points, and two seeds out of the playoffs.
Ironically, Pavelec was the one calling out guys after the game. Two goals in regulation is far from great support, but you got lit up in the shootout, man.
The Jets are tied with the New Jersey Devils for the final playoff spot, but have played one more game. Which, if the season ended today, would leave them out of the fun.
Important Matchups this weekend: With four of the five teams in the division outside of the playoff picture, they are all important right now.
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.