In case you haven't noticed, the Washington Capitals are back atop the Southeast Division. The Capitals have regained first place -- the spot they occupied until mid-December and have owned for the last three seasons -- within the last week, or to put it another way, since the trade deadline passed.
|Kris Versteeg has four goals in 10 games in Philadelphia. (Getty Images)|
Thing is Arnott's goal was a game-winner, and his assist set up one that tied a game Washington eventually won. And Wideman, who has been eating up more than 25 minutes a night as a plus player, picked up his lone assist on a tape-to-tape pass that sent Alexander Semin on his way to scoring the equalizer late in Tampa Bay. The Caps won that crucial game Monday night in overtime to maintain their slim division lead over the Lightning.
Overall, Washington has won five games in a row, all one-goal decisions. And four of them have come since the deadline, giving the Capitals the biggest immediate return on deadline trade efforts. This season's frenzy was actually spaced out over three weeks, resulting in several deals that have already paid dividends.
A look at how some of the other significant trades made leading up to the deadline have panned out so far:
The Boston Bruins did all their shopping early and filled some needs with forwards Chris Kelly and Rich Peverley while landing one of the bigger rental prizes in defenseman Tomas Kaberle. Boston made its deal just before the team headed out on a long bonding opportunity road trip to the West Coast and back, and ended up sweeping the six games that included stops in Vancouver and Calgary.
Boston has yet to be defeated in regulation since making its deals and has opened up some breathing room in the Northeast Division.
Carolina is struggling to stay above the playoff cutoff line, but former Hurricanes forward Cory Stillman has contributed with two goals and four points to three wins in five games since coming back Feb. 24. And the Dallas Stars are 5-1-1 since they made their big deal to add young puck-moving defenseman Alex Goligoski on Feb. 21, 3-0-1 since they decided not to trade expensive pending free agent Brad Richards at the deadline.
The run has gotten Dallas back in the conversation about a playoff spot and maybe even a division title. And Richards is close to returning from a concussion, which might mean the Stars made the best deal of all by not making one involving their best player.
The Pittsburgh Penguins are without Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, but still have a shot at the Atlantic Division title. That's more the result of a swoon by the Philadelphia Flyers than their own play or the deals they made, however. Pittsburgh hoped power forward James Neal would provide an offensive boost when he came along with defenseman Matt Niskanen in the Goligoski deal, but Neal hasn't picked up a point in six games. Meanwhile Alexei Kovalev only has one goal and is a minus-3.
|Back with Carolina, Cory Stillman has two goals and two assists in five games. (Getty Images)|
Kris Versteeg has scored four times in 10 games for the Flyers, which would be nice if Philadelphia hadn't lost six of those games and its stranglehold on the conference lead. Meanwhile, the Columbus Blue Jackets have dropped four in a row to put a severe crimp in their playoff hopes despite goals by Scottie Upshall in his first two games after coming at the deadline, and the Los Angeles Kings are 1-2-1 since trading for Dustin Penner.
But the Toronto Maple Leafs have played some of their best hockey since moving Versteeg and Francois Beauchemin to open up spots for younger players, and the Buffalo Sabres moved over the playoff line for the first time this season a few days after they made a statement by picking up Brad Boyes and his $4 million contract for next season from the Blues.
The irony about this trading season, though, is that the most interesting deal will have no real bearing on the races. The St. Louis Blues and Colorado Avalanche weren't going anywhere before they swapped very talented, and very young players, and that hasn't changed since their Feb. 19 deal -- other than to improve both teams' chances of winning the lottery.
Still Chris Stewart has scored seven times and added three assists for the Blues, while defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk has picked up four assists and played 20 minutes a night. Defenseman Erik Johnson has a couple of goals and two assists for the Avs, but Colorado has gone 1-6.
St. Louis hasn't fared much better though, losing eight of 10 games since the deal.