This Week in Southern Hockey

Or TWISH, for short. I think I'll do this every week. That's right, I'm going to do a weekly hockey post from Korea. Should be fun!

Atlanta - 2-0-1, 1st in the Southeast Lost a shootout to the Lightning at home and beat them 1-0 at Tampa, shutting out Florida in the middle. As predicted, Lehtonen has been outstanding. He was challenged only mildly in the game against the Panthers, but was flat-out outstanding against Tampa on Monday night, especially during a full two-minute five-on-three advantage for the Bolts in the second period. The defense is showing marked improvement early and overall team defense is significantly better -- both of these things are predominantly a case of additon-by-subtraction. Both Kari and the D led to the Thrashers posting the league's best goals against early. The tight-checking Tampa game is one that they'd never have won last year and is a good marker of where the team could be. Kovalchuk's lack of a goal so far is troubling, but not overly so. He's showing responsibility in all three zones, is on the ice in the last minute of a game and is leading the team in shots. He just needs a center. The Thrashers are also tops in the league in penalty kill and 5-on-5 scoring ratio. On deck: Atlanta's up against the Swiss cheese defense of Boston and then have the hapless Canes at home, so their perch atop the Southeast could easily continue. They'll also take on the Caps in Washington, and Kovalchuk-Ovechkin games are always fun. Plus, of course, Alexander Semin's leading the league in goals.

Carolina - 0-2-1, 5th in the Southeast Losses to New Jersey and Buffalo with the lone point gained in an opening-night shootout loss to Buffalo. It seems the summer was a bit short for the holders of the Cup. They've started slooowly and things came to a head at practice Monday with Kevyn Adams and Bret Hedican getting into a fight. They haven't played since, so we'll see if they're able to get back together as a team and back on track. Scoring is a problem: they're in the basement of the league in goals per game as well goals against, which naturally isn't going to get you very far. Actually, the only statistic in which they're at the top of the league is faceoff wins. On deck: The Canes are in the midst of a long road trip, and they'll be playing four games in six days against Pittsburgh and three division rivals: Atlanta, Florida and Tampa. If they can't turn it around here they'll be making up a lot of ground.

Nashville - 0-2-0, 5th in the Central The Preds only had two games in the opening week, but they weren't pretty. Despite being second in the NHL in goals per game, Nashville has exactly 0 points to show for it. Opening night was a shootout at home against the Blackhawks, but Vokoun looked shaky and gave up 7 goals on 32 shots as they fell 8-6. The prolific scoring continued against the Wild, but the Predators seemed disjointed and a number of odd-man rushes hung a stronger Vokoun out to dry. All but the GWG came on special teams, and I'm not sure how far the Preds are going to last at 30th in the NHL in PK... On deck: Nashville's up three times this week, a rematch in Chicago against the 'Hawks, at home against Phoenix and a showdown against the league's other pointless (that's "without points" rather than "irrelevant") team on the Island. Taking less penalties should be a good goal for the week.

Florida - 1-1-1, 2nd in the Southeast Florida opened with an impressive offensive outpouring in an 8-3 victory over Boston, then turned around to be shutout by Atlanta 6-0 the next night. They finished off the week in Toronto with a 2-1 shootout loss. Alex Auld played extremely well against the Leafs, something that he'll have to continue to do if they're going to play with any sort of consistency at all. It could be a wild year for the Cats, but I'm not overly impressed with the offense since Boston has no defense to speak of and that score is unlikely to translate to the rest of the league. On deck: All-southeast this week. They host the frustrated and potentially dangerous Hurricanes Wednesday night and play a home-and-home with Tampa on the weekend. Auld is going to have an awfully long season if he's forced to relieve Crazy Eddie Belfour in the second game of every back-to-back this year.

Tampa Bay - 1-2-0, 4th in the Southeast Marc Denis has had an excellent start in Tampa, but unfortunately for him, the offense hasn't seemed to come to life. After a shootout victory over Atlanta on opening night, they couldn't overcome the Bruins (at 5 goals against a game) for a 3-2 loss and then were shutout by the Thrashers. The 1-0 game was a pretty good hockey game, but as a friend of mine put it, "They kinda look like shit." So there you are. On deck: Three games this week, the home and home with Florida and then Carolina comes to town. Could be a chance to gain some ground in the division and start their offense.

Korea: No hockey in Korea this week, as it was Thanksgiving.


Mr. R said...

The Canes look decent against the Panthers right now, tied 1-1.

Mr. R said...

... and just as I type that, they give up a goal. Oh well.