The Southeast division in the NHL has been anything but spectacular this lockout-shortened season, however, with less than 15 games remaining in the shortened season, the winner of the division is coming down to the wire.
As the Winnipeg Jets dropped their fourth game in a row Tuesday night to the New York Islanders, the Washington Capitals closed to within two points with a 5-3 victory the same night over fellow division rival, Carolina Hurricanes.
Goaltender Ondrej Pavelec has contributed three of the four loses during the slump, the other loss coming by way of Al Montoya, who dropped a 4-0 decision to Pittsburgh on March 28th.
With both Carolina and Washington having three and two games in hand, respectably, to the Jets, Winnipeg’s once comfortable division lead is quite the opposite.
Failure to Capitalize
With a six point lead over Carolina heading into their game on March 30th, Winnipeg had an opportunity to take the Southeast by the throat.
But despite out shooting their opponents 35-28 throughout the night, the Jets dropped the game 3-1 to let Carolina within four points of the Southeast, heading into a week where the Jets would play four games, with three of which against teams fighting for their playoff lives.
The New York Rangers and Islanders were the next two games on tap for the Jets after dropping the Carolina game in Winnipeg. With the team clinging onto a four point lead in the division,the New York games really were a test of will for the Jets. Both New York teams have their backs against the walls this season and the Jets failed again to compete at a playoff caliber level. Losing to the Rangers and Islanders 4-2 and 5-2 respectively.
Carolina and Washington benefiting
Despite Winnipeg playing 38 games this season,the most played by one team so far, the Carolina Hurricanes and Washington Capitals have stayed right with them in the standings.
The Hurricanes and Capitals went head to head Tuesday night, while the Jets dropped their fourth straight to the Islanders. With both teams tied at 34 points heading into the game, they each had a chance to close in on Winnipeg by two points.
And Washington did exactly that.
With two games in hand, Washington now finds themselves just two points back in the Southeast.
What’s Ahead for Winnipeg
Winnipeg dropped first two games of the week to both New York teams and things don’t get easier from here.
Thursday they take on the Northeast leaders the Montreal Canadians and then hike back to Winnipeg to take on the Atlantic bottom feeders, Philadelphia Flyers, who are still, despite in last place of the Atlantic, are in the playoff hunt.
If the Winnipeg Jets want to keep their slim lead on the Southeast, they have to starting getting points. they have not registered a point in the standings since March 26, also their last win, against the Carolina Hurricanes.
Now with 10 games to go on their season, the Jets have Carolina and Washington hot on their heals, unless something turns this team around, they’ll be looking a low seed come tournament time.
Billy Kornfeld is a senior at Penn State, obtaining a major in broadcast journalism. He is a producer at the student run radio station, ComRadio. He produced the Penn State Women’s Ice Hockey team, while also doing play-by-play and beat writing for both the men’s and women’s team. In the spring he is producing both the Men and Women’s lacrosse teams at Penn State. He is on twitter @b_kornfeld.