The NHL season is heading towards the most exciting part of the season—the playoffs.
While most of the talk at the start of the season was about how important it would be to get off to a sterling start because of the 48-game schedule, having a strong finish may be even more important.
Hard-charging teams can make up for a less-than-impressive start with a big finish. There were a number of impressive performances in Week 12 and quite a few poor showings as well.
Here are this week's winners and losers.
Alex Ovechkin looked like a lost soul in the beginning of the season. However, he has been surging in the second half of the year.
For a while it looked as if he couldn't hit the back of the net at all. Now, he's leading the league with 27 goals.
Ovechkin played four games this week and scored four goals. That's the kind of production that has helped lift the Washington Capitals to first place in the Southeast Division.
Just as important as the goal scoring is the effort and energy that Ovechkin is bringing every night. His teammates are feeding off him, and the Capitals are starting to look like a dangerous team in large part because of Ovechkin's production.
It was not a good week for Montreal Canadiens goalie Carey Price.
The Canadiens are still in first place in the Northeast Division, but they lost two out of three games.
Price was in goal for a 3-2 loss to the Washington Capitals, and then he was driven from the net in a 5-1 loss to the Toronto Maple Leafs.
The Canadiens also dominated Buffalo 5-1. However, Price was not in goal for that game. Backup goalie Peter Budaj backstopped the Canadiens to that victory.
Price has solid numbers for the year. He has a 19-9-4 record along with a 2.36 goals-against average and a .912 save percentage.
However, he has had a number of shaky games. Canadiens head coach Michel Therrien has to be concerned with his inconsistent performances.
The Dallas Stars basically signed off on their season by the trade deadline. General manager Joe Nieuwendyk traded Brenden Morrow to the Pittsburgh Penguins, Jaromir Jagr to the Boston Bruins and Derek Roy to the Buffalo Sabres.
With those three key players off the Dallas roster, the Stars have just gone through the motions, right?
The Stars are surging and have put themselves back in playoff contention. They won four straight games this week.
After beating the San Jose Sharks 5-4 in a shootout, the Stars scored a decisive 5-1 win over the defending Stanley Cup champion Los Angeles Kings. They also defeated the Nashville Predators and then beat the Sharks in a return match.
Much of the credit must go to goalie Richard Bachman, who was 3-0 for the Stars. He gave up just four goals in the three games.
The Oilers were peaking as recently as April 3. They overpowered the Calgary Flames that night, 8-2, and had risen to eighth place in the Western Conference following their fifth straight win.
They appeared to have a very good shot at winning a playoff spot. The young and explosive Oilers were harnessing their offensive talent and on the way to fulfilling their enormous potential.
Appearances can be deceiving.
The Oilers have fallen apart since dominating the Flames. They have lost five games in a row. For the week, they were 0-3. They were outscored 9-1 in those three games, and it seems like the Oilers have forgotten how to score.
The final game of the week saw the lowly Flames return to Edmonton and lay a 4-1 beating on the Oilers.
Edmonton can now forget about a playoff berth this season.
The Pittsburgh Penguins had a bit of a hiccup. When Sidney Crosby went down with a broken jaw, they saw their 15-game winning streak come to an end. They lost two games in a row. It looked like they might start to unravel without the best player in the league.
However, Dan Bylsma's team took a deep breath, got back to work and has won four games in a row.
The Penguins were 3-0 this week. While the wins came against non-playoff teams like the Carolina Hurricanes, Tampa Bay Lightning and Florida Panthers, they were significant because they allowed the Penguins to open up a seven-point lead over the Montreal Canadiens in the Eastern Conference.
The Penguins have not locked it up yet, but they appear to be in a solid position to become the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference.
The Boston Bruins had a chance to move into first place in the Northeast Division and second place in the Eastern Conference when the Canadiens lost two of three games.
The Bruins were not able to take advantage of it. They lost twice last week, falling to the New York Islanders and the lowly Carolina Hurricanes.
The Bruins appears to be out of sync since Patrice Bergeron went out with a concussion. They received additional bad news when high-scoring winger Brad Marchand suffered a concussion in the Bruins' 5-4 victory over the New Jersey Devils on April 10.
Bergeron has returned to practice and could return to the lineup shortly. They need him desperately.
The Chicago Blackhawks continue to play stellar hockey.
There really has been no letup since playing their first 24 games without a regulation defeat. They are in first place in the Western Conference.
The Blackhawks have gotten stellar play from goaltenders Ray Emery and Corey Crawford all season. This week has been typical of their sensational season. Both goaltenders were 2-0 on the week, and both goaltenders registered shutouts.
Emery blanked the Minnesota Wild, while Crawford whitewashed the St. Louis Blues. Both shutouts came away from home. Emery also led Chicago to a win over the Nashville Predators, while Crawford earned a shootout win over the Detroit Red Wings.
The Nashville Predators have earned a reputation as one of the hardest-working and toughest teams in the NHL. They have made the postseason in seven of the last eight seasons.
That streak is just about to turn into history. The Predators are 15-20-8 and have lost their last six games. They are mired in 13th place in the Western Conference.
As usual, goalie Pekka Rinne continues to play his heart out and make spectacular saves on a regular basis. Rinne has a 2.29 goals-against average, a .916 save percentage and five shutouts.
The problem is the Preds' popgun offense. They were shut out twice last week and have been blanked in three of their last five games.
You can't win if you can't score.