Atlantic Watch: 2/9-2/16

The Flyers found a way to extend their lead in the division to five points this week by going 2-1-0. A 2-1 win over the Hurricanes on Thursday, being shutout 1-0 by Jonathan Quick and the Kings on Sunday, and beating the Lightning 4-3 via shootout last night kept the Flyers atop the Eastern Conference standings.

James van Riemsdyk had the most note worthy performance of the week recording a Gordie Howe hat trick last night in Tampa Bay. After fighting Randy Jones, JVR scored the first goal of the game and assisted on Hartnell’s goal in the second.

The biggest news off the ice for the orange and black was the acquisition of Kris Versteeg in exchange for a 1st and 3rd round pick in this year’s draft. Versteeg played in Tuesday’s game against Tampa Bay, but was unable to register a point.

The Flyers look to extend their lead in the conference this week by attempting to beat the Hurricanes, the Rangers, and the Coyotes. As for what else is going on in the division, here’s the division watch.

The biggest news of the week relating to the Atlantic division was the penalty-filled game that took place between the Penguins and Islanders on Friday. In a lop-sided 9-3 victory for the Isles, a total of 346 penalty minutes were handed out between the teams. Fifteen fighting majors (most notably Brent Johnson’s second one on the season) occurred within the game. The next time the two teams meet is April 8th.

Pittsburgh Penguins: 1-2-0. After edging out a win in overtime against the Los Angeles Kings on Thursday, the Penguins lost to both the Islanders and Rangers over the past week. However, the Penguins weak play didn’t drop them far in the standings as the Flyers had only a decent week.

Marc-Andre Fleury had the goaltending performance of the week for the Pens as he saved 32 of 33 shots he saw on Thursday keeping the score 1-1 as regulation ended. Thanks to a Jordan Staal goal with with nineteen seconds left in overtime, Pittsburgh enjoyed their lone win of the week.

The joy of Thursday’s win quickly dissipated as the Pens ended up losing their next two games by a combined score of 14-6. A 9-3 drubbing to the Isles on Friday and a 5-3 defeat on Sunday to the Rangers were the next two outcomes for Pittsburgh. Out of the six periods in those two games, the Penguins were outscored in three of the periods and only outscored the opposition in one period. That period was the 3rd period against the Rangers on Sunday (entered the third period down 5-2 and outscored  the Rangers 1-0).

In addition to their recent rough three game span, Pittsburgh has to deal with several injuries. In addition to the Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin injuries, day-to-day injuries to Arron Asham (upper-body), Chris Kunitz (lower-body), Dustin Jeffrey, Mark Letestu, and Eric Tangradi limit the Pens’ lineup greatly. Dependence on rookies Ryan Craig, Brett Sterling, Joe Vitale, and Tim Wallace won’t be too harsh considering their only game from now until Sunday is a visit to Colorado to play an embarrassing Avalanche team.

New York Rangers: 1-1-0. They may have only won one game this week, but it was a big win for the Rangers. After losing to the Thrashers 3-2 on Friday, the Rangers losing streak reached six games before a visit from the suddenly inept Penguins changed the direction of the team.

The Rangers saw a tie to Atlanta slip away after Evander Kane scored a powerplay goal with two minutes and twenty seconds left in regulation on Friday. The unfortunate news for the Rangers was this ended up being their sixth straight loss. The good news was this is where their losing streak ended.

Ryan Callahan led the way scoring two goals and assisting on another as the Rangers beat the Pens 5-3 on Sunday. A three-goal second period essentially put the game, along with the losing streak, away for the Blueshirts.

Unable to gain ground on the Penguins in the standings, the Rangers look to be heading in the right direction while the Pens look to be heading towards a losing streak of their own. Don’t be surprised if the Rangers make up some ground on the Penguins over the next week.

New York Islanders: 4-0-0. Posting the best record of any team in the division, the Islanders went undefeated while playing the most games of the five teams within the Atlantic. In addition to the widely noticed 9-3 thumping they gave Pittsburgh on Friday, the Islanders were able to gain shootout victories against the Canadiens 4-3 on Thursday and the Senators 4-3 on Tuesday along with a 7-6 overtime win against the Sabres on Sunday.

Michael Grabner was hands down the best Islander of the week notching 8 goals and 2 assists over the 4 game span. He had three multi-goal games in the week netting a hat trick against the Sabres on Sunday (final goal was overtime winner) along with two-goal games against the Canadiens and Penguins.

The Islanders’ goaltending wasn’t the greatest this week, but they did what they needed to do to help their team win. Rookie netminder Mikko Koskinen recorded wins against the Canadiens and Penguins this week while newly acquired Al Montoya stepped in and won the game against Buffalo.

New Jersey Devils: 2-0-0. A pair of one-goal victories on back-to-back nights gives the Devils yet another successful week of hockey. A 2-1 overtime win in Toronto on Thursday paired with a 2-1 win at home against the Sharks on Friday gives the Devils a record of 6-0-1 in February and a record of 12-1-2 in their last 15 games.

Ilya Kovalchuk had a big week for New Jersey scoring both of the game winning goals. After netting the overtime winner in Toronto, Kovalchuk scored with four minutes left in the third period Friday to give the Devils a one-goal lead. He also assisted on Brian Rolston’s third period goal on Friday that tied the game at one. Kovalchuk now has 19 goals and 19 assists on the season.

The only negative news of the week for the Devils was veteran goalie Martin Brodeur had to be placed on injured reserve with a non-operable right knee sprain. In the midst of their recent 15-game hot streak, Brodeur has posted a record of 8-1-1 in the ten games he started. Johan Hedberg started both games this week saving 62 out of a possible 64 shots, but the news of Brodeur being placed on IR is still bad news for the surging Devils.