We continue around to look around the Eastern Conference. Today we’ll examine the Southeast 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. Check back Thursday for a look at the Atlantic.

Standings
Washington │ 45-23-6 │ 96pts │ 8GR │ 3rd overall
Carolina │ 40-28-7 │ 87pts │ 7GR │ 5th overall
Florida │ 35-27-11 │ 81pts │ 10GR │ 9th overall
Atlanta │ 30-37-6 │ 66pts │ 9GR │13th overall
Tampa Bay │ 23-33-16 │ 62pts │ 10GR │ 14th overall

Playoff Picture
Washington has all but wrapped up the division. Statistically it’s still possible for Carolina do catch Washington, but unless we see an EPIC meltdown it’s all Washington. The good news for the rest of the conference is that it doesn’t seem like Washington is playing very good hockey right now. Jose Theodore is, well, Jose Theodore. The rest of the team seems to rely on Ovechkin to take all of the shots (and he’s very willing). I honestly do not believe this is a playoff team that can make a deep run.
Carolina is playing some of the best hockey in the conference right now. Cam Ward looks like the Stanley Cup goaltender of years past (and remember, he’s only 25). Carolina, much like Pittsburgh, is a team that nobody wants to meet in the first round.
Florida has had some injury problems as of late but are beginning to get healthy. They are struggling to find consistency at a time when it matters most. 3-4-3 in their last 10, Florida has now dropped into a tie for 8th in the conference but has played one more game than Montreal. Look for them to make a late push and overtake Montreal for the 8th spot.
Atlanta is not playing for a playoff spot, but they’re still playing great hockey right now. Kari Lehtonen is finally playing to his potential, and Bryan Little has quietly become a good goal scorer. If GM Don Waddell can have a good offseason, this young team could make a good push next year.
Tampa Bay is… ugh. If he wasn’t making so much money, you’d have to feel bad for Ryan Malone. No end is in sight.

Southeast Predictions
Washington
1st in Southeast
3rd in Eastern Conference

Carolina
2nd in Southeast
6th in Eastern Conference

Florida
3rd in Southeast
9th in Eastern Conference

News and Notes

  • The Panthers Nathan Horton returned to the lineup, out for the last 7 games with a finger injury. Horton played almost 20 minutes and had an assist. His return helps boost a lineup that hasn’t had the right answers lately.
  • Former Penguin and current Lightning defensemen Noah Welch (sent to Florida in the Gary Roberts trade) has been a healthy scratch for Tampa Bay since his arrival. If he can’t crack the Lightning lineup right now, perhaps a career as a petting zoo owner might serve him better.
  • Outrage over the Ovechkin “Hot Stick” has been flooding the internet over the past week. It seems Ovie isn’t immune to a little criticism, although I wonder what the backlash would be if Crosby did something similar when he scores his 100th point of the season.
  • Caps winger Tomas Fleischmann has gone 11 games without registering a point and has scored only two goals in the past 29 games. Without secondary scoring, the Capitals look like a team destined for an early playoff exit.
  • Tampa Bay appears to be ready to shut down goaltender Mike Smith for the remainder of the season. Smith, out since January 31 with concussion symptoms, doesn’t appear as though he’ll be ready to practice anytime soon.

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