|The NHL's Divisional Disaster||Tweet|
|Written by Russ Miller|
|Tuesday, 12 February 2013 11:04|
Russ Miller takes a look at the Southeast Division.
After only a dozen or so games, it is clear to this author that there are only two teams that are going to compete for the title of division winner in what has perennially been the worst division in the NHL. The Tampa Bay Lightning and Carolina Hurricanes, aka the Natural Disasters, will battle it out all season to see who will snag that third seed in the East. The rest of the teams in this division are simply disasters.
Tampa Bay has lost four in a row and are a single point behind Carolina for first in the division. The Lightning struck early and often in winning six of their first seven games, recording 37 goals for (5.28 per game) and only 15 goals against (2.14 per game).
Unfortunately, in their last four games, Tampa has scored only six goals (1.5 per game) while allowing 14 goals against (3.50 per game). Anders Lindback and Mathieu Garon have combined for a 0.876 save percentage in the last four contests. Clearly, that's not good enough, but it doesn't all fall on the goaltenders. If you can only muster a mere 1.5 goals per contest, you aren't going to win very many games, unless you play airtight defensively.
Below is an updated table of the SouthLeast Division:
One of the things that stands out is Tampa's five-on-five goals for versus against. The Lightning rank seventh in the league, while Florida sits dead last. Obviously special teams are crucial, but if you can't outscore the opposition at even-strength, then you are going to have trouble winning games.
Carolina will be in the battle for the title all season. A big part of why that is can be placed squarely on Cam Ward's bony shoulders, although the 'Canes top two lines have some serious offensive talent. Let's compare Tampa and Carolina's top six (based on this year's overall A/TOI):
In Tampa, things were rocking the first seven games and then the wheels fell off, mostly on the offensive side of the house. No doubt that is just a blip because there is too much talent there to slide for too long.
Matt Carle stands out as persevering through the scoring drought and obviously you expect to see Stamkos and St. Louis at the top of the pile. Conacher's production may drop off a bit and look for Purcell to continue to reap the benefits of playing on that power play. If you are even looking at Salo, give your head a shake, the man is made of glass. Ryan Malone was a candidate to start producing based on power play time and overall ice time, but his lower body injury forced the team put him on the Injured Reserve Monday night.
The 'Canes were 2-3-0 in January, but they couldn't wait to turn the page to February, going 4-1-1 so far this month.
Jiri Tlusty really stands out with no points in the opening stanza and seven so far in February. Of course, the four from last night really helps boost the bottom line. Joe Corvo isn't getting very much ice time and that is a concern. Corvo's three points in February are a mirage as he is no longer a viable option; Justin Faulk sits fifth in power play time on ice for the Hurricanes. Alex Semin can score in spurts, so watch for him to string together some big games. Jussi Jokinen finished second in team scoring last season with 46 points, but with only one point in 10 games this season, he is a risk. If you are still stubbornly hanging on to him, do yourself a favour and drop him for the flavour of the week.
Many people, including yours truly, picked Washington to finish on top of this sorry division. With all the talent they have on their roster, they shouldn't be ruled out, but the odds are not good. The season is a quarter over. Crazy.
Also from Miller:
|Last Updated on Wednesday, 13 February 2013 11:11|