Atlanta 4-1-1, 1st in the Southeast
Atlanta played three games in three days this week and didn't show signs of slowing. They beat Boston at home 4-1 and lost a tough 4-3 game to Carolina on Saturday night, but bounced right back to defeat the Caps in Washington in OT. Lehtonen continues to be outstanding. I'm a bit concerned that this early in the season Hartley has him playing back-to-back, but perhaps it was a confidence booster for the last-second goal against the Canes. Yes, Carolina scored with a second on the clock to send the Thrash to their only regulation defeat so far, but the bright spot in this game was that Atlanta battled back from 3-0 down. Last year, they'd have lost 5-1. Even more importantly, they went into Washington and came away with a tough victory on the road and Kovalchuk finally put one in the net. He's been playing outstanding hockey to start the season and it's about time one went in for him: and no better time than overtime! On deck: More SE. Home against the Caps Thursday night and then home-and-home with the Panthers Saturday and Monday nights. They have to be looking for 6 points this week.
Carolina 3-3-1, T-2nd in the Southeast
The defending champs look to be back on track with three straight wins this week. The Thrashers proved to be their only test, requiring a last-second goal by Ray Whitney of "Where's Whitney" fame (a million points if you get this reference) after blowing a 3-0 lead in the last two periods, but two straight 5-1 wins over Pittsburgh and Tampa were just what the doctor ordered. The Pittsburgh game had its price: for the second straight match against the Pens, a Cane left the game on a stretcher. Trevor Letowski was knocked out cold by a seemingly clean, if fluky, open-ice hit from Colby Armstrong. I'm sure he'll miss some significant time, but luckily it wasn't a broken neck. Cam Ward's looking strong, with 25 saves against the Caps and 34 on the Pens. They seem to be spreading out the scoring, too, the league lead in goals is 7; the team lead is 3 and shared by Scott Walker, Eric Staal and Justin Williams (who tallied all three in the Pittsburgh game). But that's par for the course for the Canes. On deck: The final two games of this long road trip, at Buffalo and on the Island, back to back on Friday and Saturday nights.
Florida 3-2-1, T-2nd in the Southeast
It was a good week for the supposed worst in the southeast. The Cats ran their home record to 4-0 by doubling up Carolina 6-3 and then beating the Bolts 3-2. They lost the second game of the back-to-back with Tampa by a 4-1 score, but four out of six points is certainly a good week for this team. It's probably not a coincidence that the loss was with Belfour in net. It took approximately no time at all for Auld to solidify himself as the starter. He's playing good hockey. Captain Olli Jokinen and young Stephen Weiss currently lead the team with 3 goals apiece and Weiss is also a +3 on the year. On deck: Four games this week: at Washington and home against Philly before the home and home with the Thrash.
Nashville 2-3-0, 5th in the Central
The rematch with the Blackhawks didn't go so well for Nashville, as Chicago handed them a third straight loss, but the Preds did pick up a couple of wins against Phoenix and the Islanders. Tomas Vokoun has continued to play well and seems to be the key to their team, not that that's news. Perhaps I was overenthuastic in my preview, but I'm not quite admitting it yet. Yes, they're in last place in the division, but it's only five games in, and they've won the last two. Scoring might be an issue: Steve Sullivan leads the team with 3 goals and Paul Kariya only has one. But again. It's early. On deck: We're off to face the East...Rangers and Devils on the road, then home against the Canucks.
Tampa Bay 2-4-0, T-4th in the Southeast
Another 1-and-2 week for the Bolts sinks them into a tie with Washington for last in the division. They split a home-and-home with the Panthers -- though the second game was against Belfour, which should be an automatic win for everyone -- and then were blown out by Carolina. Ryan Craig leads the team with 4 goals and 5 points, though he won't be the only one scoring for long. A great deal of the problem is that neither the power play nor the penalty kill have been effective: the Bolts are in the bottom third of the league in both. On deck: A light week in volume and opponents. Home against the Flyers on Thursday, at Washington Saturday.
(South) Korea: No inline this week on account of low numbers. No ice for me on account of my damn alarm didn't go off.
Atlanta 4-1-1, 1st in the Southeast