We continue around to look around the ‘hood the Pens spend most of their time… the Eastern Conference. Today we’ll examine the Northeast Division standings, the team’s playoff potential, and general news and notes from the week that was. Comments, conjecture, or just plain nonsense are always welcome.

Standings
Washington, 33-16-4, 70pts, 29GR, 2nd overall
Florida, 25-18-8, 58pts, 31GR, 8th overall
Carolina, 26-22-5, 57pts, 30GR, 9th overall
Tampa Bay, 17-24-11, 45pts, 30GR, 13th overall
Atlanta, 18-29-5, 41pts, 30GR, 14th overall

Playoff Picture
Washington is absolutely running away with this division. It’s not a matter of if they win it, it’s a matter of finishing 2nd or 3rd in the Eastern Conference.
Florida is one of those teams you just have to be rooting against. Nobody saw them in sitting in 8th position in the East, pushing Buffalo for 7th, at the beginning of this season. They’re currently sitting where the Pens want to be, but I just don’t see them holding it. The Panthers are playing above their talent level right now, but 3 games against the Pens and a couple more against the Hurricanes could make or break their chances.
Carolina is another team that’s standing between the Penguins and their playoff dreams. Currently sitting in the 9th position in the East, Carolina just can’t seem to get consistent play from their team and, despite the re-emergence of Cam Ward in net, seem unable to string together enough wins to make a strong playoff push. I foresee Carolina finishing in 10th in the East, just outside the window.
Tampa Bay, a team that looked to be in shambles at the beginning of the season, is playing some decent hockey as of late. Rick Tocchet has started to shape this team in his image and making them a more difficult team to play against. The Lightning aren’t making the playoffs this year, and depending on who their crazy ownership decides to keep/trade, this could be a team to watchout for next year.
Atlanta is… well… Atlanta. Ilya Kovalchuk continues to be one of the best players in the league, and he plays on one of the worst teams. GM Waddell doesn’t seem to have a clue what he’s doing at any given point, and has this team spiraling once again. Atlanta is a team you’d like to see on your schedule.

News and Notes

  • Tampa Bay defenseman Andrej Mezaros suffered a left arm injury on a hit from Evgeni Malkin on Wednesday night. As of now, it’s unclear the extent of the injury but it could be a huge loss for a fragile team if he’s out for any length of time.
  • In other TB news, Pens fans finally got an answer to the WWGRD question… Gary Roberts would make a fool out of himself by calling Matt Cooke a player without “honor”. This on the night he punched Cooke in the head, putting his team shorthanded and essentially costing them the game.
  • Red hot Washington got cooled off a bit last night by a Los Angeles team that is still struggling to find its identity. Washington scored 15 seconds in and got yet another one from Ovie, but Washington dropped the game 5-4.
  • Ovechkin’s goal last night gave him 200 on his career (37 goals on the season, 6 in his last four games). He currently sits behind Gretzky, Mike Bossy, and Les Magnifique in goals scored in the first 4 years of a career. He’s only 15 goals from tying Lemieux at 215.
  • The Southeast continues to prove a pest for the Penguins, as both Carolina and Florida got wins last night. Carolina topped NHL leading San Jose in a shootout, and Florida got a 3-2 win over the Isles. Jay Bouwmeester, Florida defenseman, continues to light the lamp despite continuing rumors that he’ll be moved at the deadline.
  • In news from Atlanta…. nobody really cares. Unless it involves Colby Armstrong or Ilya Kovalchuk coming to Pittsburgh, I doubt you’ll even read it.

Public Service Announcement
Always remember: Friends don’t let friends yell “Shoot!” at hockey games.