With the Winter Olympics now starting, it will give some struggling teams a well-deserved break.
Here are the last power rankings, before the Winter Olympic break, as of Feb. 15, 2010.
Well, the streak of 14 straight had to end sometime, right? Sure, they lost three in a row—two of which were in overtime (OT)—but their win streak was something to behold. Hopefully the Olympic break will allow goaltender Semyon Varlamov some extra recovery time before the playoffs.
2. San Jose
After stumbling a bit before the Olympic break—losing two out of their last three games— the Sharks will be the beneficiaries of five straight home games after the Olympic break. It’s now all about ending the postseason struggles once and for all.
Another team in a bit of a lull, the ‘Hawks will also have a five-game home stand after the Winter Olympics. Every team goes through these spells, but with the arsenal they’ve assembled, they’re also primed for a Stanley Cup playoff run.
4. Los Angeles
Jonathan Quick has been the story in LA. Quick is tied with Martin Brodeur for most starts and leads the NHL in victories. We could be witnessing the rise of a new power in the NHL.
The "Desert Dogs" have also been up and down—but once again, they'll benefit from a home stand post-Olympic break. They've been doing it with defense, timely scoring, and the goaltending of Ilya Bryzgalov.
The 11-game winning streak came to an end, but the Sens have won three of their last four games. So long as Brian Elliot continues to shine, the Sens have positioned themselves nicely for the playoffs.
Easy, Canadian myopians—I’m just getting to the 'Nucks. They have responded a lot better to their 14-game death march than most anticipated. So long as they are within striking distance when they return to GM Place, their quest for home ice in the early rounds of the playoffs is possible.
8. New Jersey
Frankly, the Ilya Kovalchuk effect should have been more positive. It may take a while for Kovalchuk to adjust to the NJ system, or it could just be an asymmetrical match. Time will tell if this trade was as one-sided as some thought.
They ended a four-game winning streak with a loss against the Kings, but the Avs have righted their ways. This pleasant surprise should also serve as a blueprint of how to successfully transition from going retro to building for the future, and pronto.
Name the last time the Pens have won more than two games in a row. The answer? Dec. 19. This is not how the defending Stanley Cup champions should play. I’d be concerned if I were a Pens fan.
Posted an impressive win over the Sharks, but after an 0-4-2 stretch, this team might need the Olympic break as much as any team.
Winners of two of their last three games, the Preds appear to have rebounded. With the majority of their remaining games in the friendly confines of the Sommet Center, it appears the Preds could possibly return to the playoffs.
The Flyers have thundered through their games before the break, winning their last four games. Should the Flyers return to the Stanley Cup playoffs, it will be the waiver acquisition of Michael Leighton that could have been the key reason.
Good for the Bruins, having won their last four games in a row. Even better for the Bruins: being in the Eastern Conference. Otherwise their swoon might have cost them a return to the playoffs.
Stop the presses! Did the Stars just go 2-0-1 on the road? Maybe this team will make a serious playoff run.
The Ducks are making a push towards the playoffs, having gone 14-6 over their last 20 games. They also breathed a sigh of relief with the return of Ryan Getzlaf.
The Flames have recovered—that is, if you consider going 3-2-1 over your last six games a recovery. This team’s just as questionable even after trading away two of their better players.
To the Wild’s credit, they did win their share of games without both starting goalies Niklas Backstrom and Josh Harding, but winning on the road will determine if they can return to the playoffs.
OK, most of your roster is healthy again. It’s time to start "flipping the switch." It’s beginning to look a lot like being "on the outside looking in" may apply to the defending Western Conference champions.
20. St. Louis
The Blues have won their last three games in a row, and all at home to boot. They are going to have to come out of the break "guns a-blazing"—and with eight of those nine games on the road, a return to the postseason might not be in the offing.
21. Tampa Bay
Seriously, you’re two games above .500, and you’re in the playoff hunt? Such is life in the Eastern Conference. The Bolts have continued their schizophrenic pattern of winning with solid defense and little goal-scoring support, then losing with goal-scoring support and shoddy goaltending.
As impossible as it once seemed, no one hopes that this team makes it as much as I do. Many teams would have positioned themselves for the draft lottery, but not these guys. Go ‘Canes!
Another beneficiary of life in the Eastern Conference. With nine of 11 games at home after the Olympic break, if there is any time for the Thrashers to make a final run at the playoffs, this is it.
This ranking is by default: They’re in the Eastern Conference, and they’re not as clueless as the Rangers. Even if they make the playoffs, losing Mike Cammalleri and being weak up front should spell an early exit.
Quirky Claude Noel has awakened a sputtering team. While making the playoffs appears near impossible, their recent success appears to be something to build on for next season.
26. New York Rangers
Five different coaches and four playoff appearances in their last 10 seasons, yet Glen Sather’s job security is not in jeopardy.
Tomas Vokoun can only do so much. This team just cannot score goals, so a playoff bid, even in the Eastern Conference, appears to be in doubt.
It is nice to see JS Giguere begin to return to form. With the tandem of he and Jonas Gustavsson, as well as the other acquisitions, the Leafs are slowly positioning themselves for a recovery in the near term.
29. New York Islanders
The Isles have recovered a bit, winning two of their last four games. But after losing seven games in a row, this feel good story won’t have a happy playoff appearance ending.
Losers of five of their last six games, the Oilers are no longer teasing us with such aberrations as winning two games in a row.