Tomas Vokoun, Tomas Fleischmann, Marcus Johansson

Southeast Division: As wide-open as it is pathetic

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In the bigger picture, the Southeast Division-leading Florida Panthers are one of the most pleasant surprises of the season.

Yet after the Anaheim Ducks shut them down 2-0 to give them their third consecutive loss, the Panthers helped to paint a larger picture of a group so weak that they might make the sixth seed worth fighting for.

Portrait of putridity

If division titles didn’t guarantee a team one of the top three seeds, the Panthers would be the only playoff representative at seventh place, with the Washington Capitals, Winnipeg Jets and Tampa Bay Lightning taking spots 9-11.

Anyway you break them down, these teams are underwhelming. No squad has a positive goal differential. The two teams that seemed like potential contenders have been somewhere between depressing (Capitals) and a disaster (the Lightning).

There’s one saving grace for the Southeast, though: the race to find a winner could be downright fascinating.

Handicapping the Southeast

The Carolina Hurricanes (55 points in 59 games played) have been hot lately, but for the sake of simplicity, I’ll rule out the East’s bottom team. Here’s a real quick look at the rest of the division, as the streaking Lightning have a semi-reasonable chance now:

source: AP1. Florida: 27 wins, 65 points (24 regulation-OT wins) in 58 games played; 12 home and 12 road games left
2. Washington: 29 wins, 63 points (28 regulation-OT wins) in 58 GP; 12 home and 12 road games left
3. Winnipeg: 28 wins, 62 points (24 regulation-OT wins) in 60 GP; 13 home and 9 road games left
4. Tampa Bay: 26 wins, 58 points (24 regulation-OT wins) in 58 GP; 13 home and 11 road games left

Honestly, all four teams have interesting prospects.

  • The Panthers have the division lead and for all their flaws, they’ve fought through some tough injuries.
  • With Mike Green seemingly circling a return, tiebreaker advantages in the “wins” categories and all that talent, the Capitals are still my best guess for the division champs.
  • Winnipeg’s Games Played gap worries me a bit, but they started a lengthy homestand that could very well catapult them into serious contention. The Jets aren’t going to be as insignificant as many assume.
  • Speaking of dark horse candidates, the Lightning could be in a remarkably similar situation to the one the Jets face – especially if they get the four points necessary to tie them up via shootouts on the road. Tampa Bay’s been dreadful, but that could be a blessing in disguise; if the Bolts get better in their own end, they might have that “everything’s coming together” feeling.

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Kind of a fascinating situation, right? With a surprisingly intriguing race in mind, I cannot resist asking what you think. Who’s your choice for the division-winner? And could any of these teams actually do damage in the playoffs?

Note: despite the fact that they have basically zero chance, I included Carolina in the poll to be nice – and so people won’t yell at me.

Here are highlights of the Ducks’ blanking the Panthers:

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Video: Marchand scores fastest goal in Bruins’ history

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It makes sense that a swift bit of history happened in a game in which three goals were scored scored on three shots in about three minutes.

Brad Marchand found the net eight seconds in after an icing call, setting a new record for the Boston Bruins.

(You can see that goal in the video above.)

Again, there were three fast goals overall, with Boston getting two of them. Here’s the Red Wings goal, which narrowly survived a review:

Things didn’t really slow down that much after that, as Loui Eriksson made it 3-1 for the Bruins.

Maybe the best moment wasn’t a goal: Torey Krug was seemingly hurt by a Pavel Datsyuk hit, yet he returned without missing much time.

Kinkaid blanks Kings, Devils move into playoff position

New Jersey Devils goalie Keith Kinkaid (1) watches a shot on goal during the second period of an NHL hockey game against the Los Angeles Kings, Sunday, Feb. 14, 2016, in Newark N.J. (AP Photo/Mel Evans)
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When the New Jersey Devils shut down a team 1-0, it’s usually with Cory Schneider in net.

Their workhorse got the afternoon off against the Los Angeles Kings on Sunday, yet Keith Kinkaid did his Schneider impression, grabbing his first NHL shutout in the process.

It was a low-event game with just 46 combined shots on goal, but Kinkaid had to work, stopping all 28 shots. To give you an idea of how tight this game was, the only tally was credited to David Schlemko on the power play.

This gives the Devils three straight wins. They managed to climb into third place in the Metropolitan Division, although New Jersey’s edge is a little misleading; the Islanders trail them by one standings point while holding three games in hand.

That leaves the Islanders in the bottom wild card spot, while the Penguins aren’t so far behind either.

Third in Metro: Devils – 65 points with 57 games played
Second wildcard: Islanders – 64 points, 54 GP
First spot outside the East playoffs: Penguins – 63 points, 54 GP

So, the Devils’ hold of a playoff spot is a bit tenuous, yet the bottom line is that they’re staying in the mix.

The Kings, meanwhile, remain comfortably in first in the Pacific.

WATCH LIVE: Boston Bruins at Detroit Red Wings on NBC

Boston Bruins left wing Brad Marchand (63) and Detroit Red Wings defenseman Mike Green (25) battle for the puck in the first period of an NHL hockey game Wednesday, Nov. 25, 2015, in Detroit. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)
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The Boston Bruins (without Patrice Bergeron) take on the Detroit Red Wings (missing Jonathan Ericsson) on Sunday afternoon.

It’s a matchup between the second-ranked and third-ranked teams in the Atlantic Division, with little separating the two in the standings.

You can watch the game on NBC and also stream it online via the link below.

CLICK HERE TO WATCH LIVE

Fighting it: No Patrice Bergeron for Bruins once again

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As cool as it was at the time for many, Patrice Bergeron‘s fight against Blake Wheeler is … honestly, a good reminder why players like Bergeron rarely drop the gloves.

Multiple outlets including CSNNE.com’s Joe Haggerty report that Bergeron will miss Sunday afternoon’s game against the Detroit Red Wings (which you can watch on NBC).

We don’t know a ton about the injury aside from the fact that the multiple Selke-winner is considered day-to-day.

People don’t seem overly concerned about this issue, but you have to wonder if Bergeron made a bad choice, especially considering his history of concussion issues.

You can watch the bout that may or may not have left him injured in the video above.