This was probably a week the Sunbelt would like to forget. Maybe it was a Super Bowl hangover, maybe the travel delays from the huge Blizzard that hit the northeast played havoc on the mindset of player, or maybe it was just bad play. But whatever hit the Sunbelt this week it wasn’t a pretty site in the standings.
A week ago what seemed to be a San Jose team that couldn’t be stopped now can’t score. The Sharks have lost 4 in a row scoring a total of 5 goals, three of which came in 1 game. What’s worse is 3 out of the 4 games were at home. To not score and get shutout on home ice isn’t exactly how you want to see a team that was considered the best in hockey playing one week later.
Back east things weren’t much better. The Tampa Lightning looked like a team that was poised to run away with the Southeast Division. They had jumped out to a hot start and the Hurricanes and Panthers were both floundering trying to get traction this season. But like San Jose, the Lightning stumbled this week losing 4 in a row as well. Now both the Jets and Hurricanes are within striking distance and Southeast Division is very much up for grabs. The only good news for the Lightning was that 3 out of the 4 losses came on the road, so they still will get some home ice games to turn things around.
The team that has emerged the most this week has been the Anaheim Ducks. In all fairness they have been pretty solid all year, but with both Tampa and San Jose taking steps backwards this week, Anaheim has stepped into the spotlight and held its own ground. Besides a tough road loss at Dallas, the Ducks have gone 3-1 and boast 3 out of the top 5 performers in the +/- category with: Saku Koivu, Sheldon Souray, and Daniel Winnik. Anaheim has wrestled first place away from San Jose, but the Pacific Division is anyone’s game. When the defending Champions are in last place, you know you are in one tough division.
Besides a road win in Columbus, the defending champions had an awful week. They lost 3 out of 4 including a shootout loss in Nashville and a 3-2 loss in Detroit. At some point, the Kings need to find the magic of last year and get rolling because they are in what might be the best division in hockey, and they might be too far out to make a run again if they don’t get going soon.
Game Of The Week:
Anaheim Ducks 7 Los Angeles Kings 4, Saturday February 2
A lot of last weekend’s action got overshadowed by the Super Bowl, but I wanted to mention this game because it was a statement. Like I said earlier the Ducks have become the front runners in the Sunbelt and when you beat the defending champions, and also your cross-town rival this easily you are sending a statement to the rest of the league. The Ducks did just that and kept the momentum going all week as well. Nick Bonnino had 2 goals in the first 10 minutes of the game, and although the Kings held tough and fought back into this one, Bonnino’s hat trick and the rest of the Duck offense was just too much to handle.