3 NHL Teams Slumping at the Wrong Time

Ryan O'Leary@BR0LearyFeatured Columnist IApril 2, 2012

3 NHL Teams Slumping at the Wrong Time

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    It's not how you start, it's how you finish.

    Case in point: the 2010 Chicago Blackhawks.

    The eventual Stanley Cup champions won six of their final seven regular season games, gaining a sturdy gait just as the playoffs started and riding that momentum all the way to the Finals.

    Peaking early and the ensuing letdown can be a real problem for an NHL team with true Stanley Cup aspirations.

    Find out which four NHL teams are in jeopardy of slumping at the worst time possible.

Buffalo Sabres

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    A five-game winning streak, culminating in a 5-1 victory over Washington on March 27, brought an underachieving Sabres team back to life and put them in good position to make the playoffs. The sentiment around the league was that Buffalo would overtake Washington and hold onto the No. 8 seed for a berth in the playoffs.

    Now, back-to-back losses to Pittsburgh and Toronto have reverted Buffalo back into the ninth seed with just three games left on the docket and two points needed to catch Washington.

    Two of those games are on the road against tough opponents, Philadelphia and Boston.

Dallas Stars

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    "White hot" was the only way to describe the Dallas Stars from Feb 21-March 13, as the team won 10 of 11 games. During that remarkable stretch, the Stars not only seemed a lock for the playoffs, but also the likely champions of the Pacific Division.

    But in a division where first and fourth place are separated by a minuscule two points, the Dallas Stars chose a horrendous time to lose back-to-back tilts.

    With 89 points, the Stars sit in the back of a log jam with Pacific Division foes Los Angeles, Phoenix and San Jose, with 91, 91 and 90 points respectively.

    What does it all mean? Well, despite a unbelievable run just three weeks ago, the Dallas Stars would not make the playoffs if they began today. Luckily for them, they have three games to accumulate some points while hoping teams ahead of them take a step back.

Pittsburgh Penguins

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    The most perplexing slump comes courtesy of the Pittsburgh Penguins.

    When Sidney Crosby returned to the lineup for good on March 15, the boys from the Steel City seemed nothing short of invincible. 

    As of late, the same can't be said. The Penguins have taken their lumps, losing four of the last six games, including a 6-4 thumping at the hands of the in-state rival Philadelphia Flyers on Sunday.

    At the moment, the Penguins are just one critical point ahead of those same Flyers for the No. 4 seed in the Eastern Conference. Finishing ahead of Philadelphia is essential for Pittsburgh—not only to keep home-ice advantage in what is sure to be a long playoff battle, but also to keep its mental edge heading into the playoffs.

3 NHL Teams Slumping at the Wrong Time

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    If you're Buffalo, Dallas or Pittsburgh, you know the task before you. The objective is clear: Start winning before the playoffs start in a week. 

    What teams do you think need to get hot now? What teams are in danger of peaking too early? Comment below, and I'll be sure to respond back.