Atlantic Watch: 1/26-2/2

Since the All-Star break spanned from Thursday to Monday, this will indeed be a very brief Atlantic Watch. For the Flyers, the lone game of the week was a rather embarrassing one. After allowing a goal nineteen seconds into the game and another one a minute later, the Flyers found themselves on the wrong side of a 4-0 shutout to their newly found nightmare in the Tampa Bay Lightning. The loss dropped the Flyers to 33-13-5 on the season and 0-3-0 against Tampa on the season. Apparently, the recipe to stream a line of victories against Philly is an aging goaltender combined with two real scoring threats. Go figure.

Anyways, the Flyers and their divisional foes had quite an influence on the outcome of the All-Star game. Danny Briere scored two goals for Team Lidstrom (coached by Peter Laviolette) while Claude Giroux had a goal and an assist for Team Staal. I’ll recap how the teams following Philly in the Atlantic did since last Wednesday along with how each team’s All-Stars performed.

Pittsburgh Penguins: 1-0-0. Since they didn’t play last Wednesday, the Penguins only game over the last week was last night’s shootout victory over the New York Rangers. Dustin Jeffrey led the Penguins to victory last night by opening the Pens’ scoring with a goal early in the second to cut their deficit to one. He then scored the lone goal in the seven round shootout. Chris Kunitz had a game-high two points with a goal and an assist.

With the win, and the help of the Flyers’ loss to Tampa, the Pens are now only three points behind Philadelphia trailing 71 points to 68. The win also increased their lead over the third place New York Rangers to six points.

If the ground they had gained in the division wasn’t enough for them, the Pens also had Sidney Crosby cleared for light workouts. Crosby has missed ten games so far due to the concussion symptoms he suffered in early January. In addition to Crosby, it seems as though Evgeni Malkin might be returning to the line up soon as well. Malkin has recently suffered from a sinus infection, but seems to be getting over it as well as not feeling the effects of a nagging knee injury that has bothered him all season.

The Pens had defesne man Kris Letang and goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury attend the All-Star game this year. Letang netted two goals on three shots while Fleury allowed four goals within the opening six minutes. Despite the poor play of Fleury, he ended up on the winning Team Lidstrom while the more deserving Letang suffered a loss on Team Staal.

New York Rangers: 0-0-1. They didn’t get the win, but the New York Rangers did get a point in their only game of the week. After obtaining a two goal lead just before the two minute mark in the second period, the Rangers saw their multi-goal lead become a one goal deficit over a ten minute span during the second period. Without focusing on the mini collapse, the Rangers tied the game up with thirteen seconds left in the period on a Ryan Callahan power play goal. A scoreless third period and overtime led to a shootout. Seven different Rangers failed to get the puck past Marc-Andre Fleury preventing them from gaining the additional point on the evening.

The loss causes the Rangers to trail the second place Penguins by six points, one point more than they were trailing Pittsburgh entering the week. They also find themselves sixth in the Eastern Conference leading the Montreal Canadiens by a point (62 to 61). 

Similar to the Penguins, the Rangers sent both a defense man and a goalie to the All-Star game. Marc Staal and Henrik Lundqvist both played for the losing Team Staal. Marc didn’t serve his brother’s team well going pointless with a -2 rating on the night. Lundqvist suffered the loss allowing three goals on fourteen shots in the third period.

New York Islanders: 1-1-0. The Islanders entered the All-Star break losing to the Carolina Hurricanes 4-2. In their first game after the break, the Isles entered Atlanta to hand the Thrashers a 4-1 loss. Despite the team’s overall outcome, Michael Grabner and Andrew MacDonald can be proud of themselves as both registered a goal and an assist last Wednesday. In their dominance over Atlanta, Kyle Okposo scored two goals and an assist. Okposo’s first goal on the night ended up being the game winning goal.

Michael Grabner and Kyle Okposo led the Islanders in scoring this week with three points. Grabner added an assist on Okposo’s second goal Tuesday night. Okposo’s points were more beneficial as they led the Isles to their lone win on the week.

Just because the Islanders didn’t have a single player take part in the All-Star game on Sunday doesn’t mean an Islander didn’t leave his mark on the weekend. Michael Grabner won the Fastest Skater event on Saturday at the NHL All-Star Skills Competition beating Edmonton’s Taylor Hall in the final.

New Jersey Devils: 1-1-0. The Devils and Islanders took the same approach to the All-Star break; enter it on a bad note and come out strong for the second half of the season. Losing 3-1 in Detroit last Wednesday ended the Devils’ four-game winning streak (a streak that included a win over a Flyers team who looked to be going through the motions). The break allowed the Devils to gather and regain focus after dropping their first game in regulation after going 6-0-1 in their previous seven. What ensued was a tight game against Ottawa that was won late in the third period on a Dainius Zubrus goal finalizing the score at 2-1.

Despite an impressive 7-1-1 stretch over their last nine games, the Devils still find themselves dead last in not only the division but the league. However, the Devils could move past the Oilers this week to move to 29th overall. Not the most exciting news, but it’s better to be the second worst team in the league rather than the worst team in the league.

Patrik Elias represented the league’s worst team at the All-Star game on Sunday. He ended up doing a nice job posting a goal and an assist. Elias only had one shot, but that was all he needed to find the score sheet.