6 NHL Teams Most in Need of a Winning Streak Before the Playoffs
It's not always necessary to go into the playoffs on a hot streak.
A team that establishes its dominance during the regular season is more concerned about getting or staying healthy in the final games of the regular season.
The Chicago Blackhawks and Pittsburgh Penguins are examples of teams that are most concerned with the health of their players.
However, a team that has some question marks in the lineup or needs to establish its playoff position wants to go into the postseason on a hot streak.
Here are six teams that would best be served by going on a hot streak before the end of the season.
Los Angeles Kings
The Los Angeles Kings showed they could win the Stanley Cup from the eighth seed in the Western Conference last year.
Just because they did it once does not mean they want to do it again this year. The Kings had a slow start this season, but they have risen to the fourth spot in the conference. However, they are only five points ahead of eighth-place Detroit and seven points ahead of ninth-place Dallas.
The Kings had been on a solid roll in late February and March, but are just 5-3-2 in their last 10 games.
There's little doubt that a team with Jonathan Quick, Anze Kopitar, Mike Richards and Dustin Brown should be a tough out for anyone in the postseason. However, head coach Darryl Sutter's Kings would be best served by going into the postseason with the momentum that comes with an end-of-season winning streak.
New York Rangers
The New York Rangers may like to talk about improved team chemistry after they shipped Marian Gaborik to Columbus and brought in Ryane Clowe from San Jose, but they need something that's a lot more vital to staying alive.
They need goals and they need them in clutch situations.
Scoring goals is the key to the New York Rangers winning consistently. Head coach John Tortorella knows that he is going to get adequate shot-blocking from his defense and superior goaltending from Henrik Lundqvist.
What he doesn't know is if his team will get enough goal scoring.
With the season headed down the home stretch, the Rangers are in desperate position. They were favored to win the Eastern Conference at the start of the season, but they are in the eighth spot with nine games left to play.
The Rangers want to climb in the standings—fifth place is not out of reach—but they also need to hold off teams like the Winnipeg Jets and New Jersey Devils to hold on to a playoff spot.
They need to close out the season on a winning streak.
The Minnesota Wild are a much-improved team in 2013. They have been dominant in spurts and had stolen away first place from the Vancouver Canucks in the Northwest Division in March.
The Wild are no longer in first place. As well as they have played this year, the Wild still have not clinched a playoff spot.
They need to go back on a hot streak to clinch a postseason spot and possibly reengage the Canucks. With nine games to go in the regular season for both teams, the Wild trail the Canucks by four points.
The Wild had found their rhythm with Zach Parise and Ryan Suter leading the way. However, Dany Heatley's shoulder injury may have robbed the Wild of much of their offensive balance. Heatley is done for the year and the Wild will have to find a new winning formula.
The Wild are five points ahead of the ninth-place Dallas Stars and Columbus Blue Jackets. They are in good shape, but they have quite a bit of work to do to seal the deal.
Toronto Maple Leafs
The Toronto Maple Leafs are on their way towards making the playoffs for the first time since the 2003-04 season.
The Leafs have had several opportunities to fall apart this season, but they have held it together with much-improved goaltending, a commitment to defense and clutch scoring.
The Leafs are in fifth place in the Eastern Conference, a position they are likely to hold on to if they continue to play consistent hockey. Head coach Randy Carlyle has seen his team run off a 7-1-2 record in its last 10 games.
It needs to maintain that momentum and avoid any slip-ups if it is going to make the playoffs and have success once it gets there.
Detroit Red Wings
This is a serious time for the Detroit Red Wings.
They are on the cusp of missing the playoffs for the first time since the 1989-90 season.
The Red Wings are in eighth place in the Western Conference and just two points ahead of the Columbus Blue Jackets and Dallas Stars.
Head coach Mike Babcock is a proud man and he's got two outstanding players in Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg. While finishing as an eighth-place team would not be a historical moment for the team that has been the best in the NHL over the last 20 years, it's a lot better than being on the outside looking in.
Should the Wings improve their play and clinch a playoff spot, they could be a tough out for a team like the Chicago Blackhawks or Anaheim Ducks. They won't just take a first-round beating and fade away.
The Red Wings have split their last 10 games and need to get hot over their last nine.
The Boston Bruins started the season in dominant fashion.
They looked as if they might challenge the Chicago Blackhawks for league superiority.
However, the Bruins have been troubled by a lack of clutch goals, an inability to hold third-period leads and an abysmal power play.
The latter factor has dogged the Bruins for the last three seasons. They managed to win the Stanley Cup in 2010-11 even with a substandard power play, but the other problems are new ones.
Head coach Claude Julien is not used to having a team that can't protect a late lead. The Bruins have been troubled by giveaways and an inability to move the puck efficiently out of the defensive zone.
The Bruins have not gotten the production they usually get from their forwards. Milan Lucic and Rich Peverley have not produced at their expected levels.
The biggest issue is the absence of Patrice Bergeron, who suffered the fourth concussion of his career on March 2 against the Ottawa Senators. While general manager Peter Chiarelli said that Bergeron is improving (via the team's official website), there is no timetable for his return to the lineup.
The Bruins are not likely to slip below fourth place and they could still make a run at first (unlikely) or second (possible) in the Eastern Conference.
They need to go on a winning streak in the final 10 games of the season to go into the playoffs with a full head of steam.