Breaking Down the NHL Teams That Are Getting Hot at the Right Time
The Stanley Cup Playoffs are an amazing spectacle. The saying “anything can happen” is the perfect motto to describe the exhausting four-round postseason.
In 2012, we witnessed an eighth-seeded Los Angeles Kings team hoist the Cup after turning on the afterburners late in the season. The final six weeks saw the squad playing postseason hockey before the playoffs even started. This is an example of getting hot at the right time.
As the 2014 postseason nears, let’s take a look at clubs who are looking for that extra bit of confidence that will propel them towards a league championship.
Claude Julien’s Boston Bruins are sitting happily on top of the Eastern Conference standings. After breezing through the month of March, they can take a little breather before April 16 rolls around.
The Bruins won 15 of their 17 matchups last month against opponents like the Chicago Blackhawks, Colorado Avalanche and Montreal Canadiens, which proves they are still among the NHL’s elite.
The team will be in their seventh straight postseason and are looking for their second Stanley Cup in three years.
They are 7-1-2 in their last 10 games, so expect the Black and Yellow to rest some key players in these last few games. However, don’t expect them to take their foot off of the gas pedal. The St. Louis Blues (111 points) are the Bruins (113 points) only competition in the race for the Presidents’ Trophy.
The Bruins are a hard-hitting, in-your-face-team that is made for playoff hockey. It will be tough for any club to cool them off come playoff time.
The Colorado Avalanche have been one of the most surprising teams this season after finishing in the basement of the league standings the past two years. A head coaching change and the acquisition of promising young talent now have the squad sitting in second place in the Central Division with 106 points.
Thanks to terrific goaltending by Semyon Varlamov, who leads the league in wins with 40, and the wisdom of coach Patrick Roy, this team has won its last six straight over clubs like the San Jose Sharks, New York Rangers and Blues.
An inevitable showdown with the Chicago Blackhawks awaits them in the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. If they are able to keep the ball rolling like they have this entire season, there is no reason why the Avalanche shouldn’t make a deep run for the Cup.
New York Rangers
The Blueshirts haven’t been the most consistent team this year, but they have a solid depth chart worthy of making a playoff push.
The Rangers went 9-6-1 in March but still haven’t clinched a playoff spot. Like the Kings a couple of years ago, they were fighting for their life to make it into the tournament. Now they aren’t desperate, but they aren’t sitting comfortably like the Bruins and Penguins are.
Unlike the other teams on this list, the Rangers aren’t stepping on the gas pedal. They are about to, though. Past playoff disappointments are sure to add fuel to the fire.
They are going to miss grinder Ryan Callahan this postseason, but hopefully Martin St. Louis will finally get out of his funk and fill the void.
As the end of the season nears, look for players like Ryan McDonagh and Mats Zuccarello to lead the charge against their current postseason opponent, the Philadelphia Flyers.
The Habs are predicted to be Boston’s biggest challenge this postseason, thanks to how much each club hates each other.
Montreal is looking to not only dethrone the defending Eastern Conference champion, but also finally bring the glory of a league championship back to their city. Newly acquired Canadien Thomas Vanek is there to help.
Vanek, who was acquired at the trade deadline, has 10 points in his last seven games. Having hot streaks from players like him certainly boosts the morale of the team.
The Canadiens have won 10 of their last 12, which should scare their first round opponent, the Tampa Bay Lightning, who have won three of the four meetings between the two.
Los Angeles Kings
The Kings aren’t battling for their lives this season like they were two years ago, but they are showing the same amount of energy.
Despite losing their last two matchups, the Kings have been cruising through the home stretch of the 2013-14 season. Since the Olympics, they have gone 14-6-0 with a couple of nice winning streaks.
The Kings have strengths in every façade. In net, Jonathan Quick has a chance to lead his team to the franchise’s second Stanley Cup. He is second in the league in shutouts with six and is fourth in the goals against category with 2.03.
The Kings are going to need to be as hot as possible heading into the postseason, as they are expected to take on either the Anaheim Ducks or the Sharks. These are two of the top teams in the entire league, so they are going to need as much confidence as they can get.