After spending most of the season seemingly spinning their wheels, the Blackhawks are starting to look like a team that is serious about defending its Stanley Cup title. The Blackhawks have won eight straight games and have gotten at least one point in 12 of their last 13.
"We're doing a lot of good things to get the wins," defenseman Duncan Keith said.
Having four productive lines was one of the Blackhawks' strengths last season. While the first line of Patrick Sharp, Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane has been very dangerous, the Blackhawks are finally getting that kind of depth of production again in the latter stages of this season.
"We're sustaining the momentum of the game," coach Joel Quenneville said. "[All lines have] been doing some good things offensively and defensively. I like the balance of our group."
That balance was evident last Saturday as five different players scored and 12 different players had a point in a road victory over the Maple Leafs. The first line of Patrick Sharp, Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane has been very dangerous, but it's the Hawks' ability to get production from all 12 skaters that has been decisive.
The Devils continue their mad charge toward a playoff berth as they have gone 20-2-2 in their last 24 games. That has lifted the Devils to within eight points of the eighth-place Sabres in the Eastern Conference.
It's a mighty impressive run for a team that was once 27 points off the playoff pace. However, the Devils insist they are not caught up in looking at the standings.
"That's something [the media] will write about a lot and that's important, but we're not looking at that," left wing Brian Rolston said. "We're not even .500 right now. We have a long way to go. We can't let up. That's the bottom line. We can't let up because we have to win every game. This is our mindset going into every game, and we've had some heroic wins here in the last few games."
The Devils have won four straight games and 12 of their last 13. Like Rolston, coach Jacques Lemaire is keeping his focus on the present.
"It doesn't change," Lemaire said of the playoff picture. "You've got teams that were four points out of the playoffs, and you know what? They're still four points [out]. They can't move up and they're playing well. So just look at the next game and go from there."
Avalanche coach Joe Sacco recently received a vote of confidence from general manager Greg Sherman. Sacco thinks his team could use a shot of confidence as it is 1-13-2 in its last 16 games.
"We're going through a stretch where we have to try to remain poised, try to remain positive and just keep working," Sacco said. "We don't feel good about ourselves and we have to find a way to feel better."
Not helping matters is that the Avalanche has been playing sloppily. They gave up two power-play goals and a short-handed goal last Saturday in a 5-1 loss to the lowly Oilers.
"We're taking a lot of penalties and lately our special teams haven't been the best," Avalanche center Paul Stastny said. "We want to keep it five-on-five."
However, Stastny bristles at the idea that the Avalanche is playing tentatively because it is fearful of making mistakes.
"Absolutely not," he said. "It's been a tough stretch. I don't know if any guys have gone through something like this, but this is where a lot of character comes through. You just have to keep fighting and fighting and never quit."
Center Steven Stamkos has been the biggest reason why the Lightning have had a surprisingly strong season. He is the centerpiece of an organization on the rise as he leads the NHL with 41 goals.
However, in his first time in a playoff race, Stamkos is struggling. He has scored just one goal in his last 12 games. He is having a tough time even getting shots as he put just two on net Monday night in a 2-1 shootout loss at home to the Capitals.
"Psychologically, sometimes you don't realize it because of the way things are going that you do lack that confidence you had before knowing that you could shoot and score," Stamkos said. "A little bit has to do with, when things are going well you have that little bit of swagger and when things aren't you tend to doubt yourself a little and maybe that's what is going on right now."
The Lightning are now two points behind the first-place Capitals in the Southeast Division after leading for almost the entire season. Monday's loss was their fourth in a row.
"You battle a lot of adversity throughout the year and right now we're in the middle of it," winger Martin St. Louis said. "We just have to stick together and get ready for our next game. That's all we can do. We've been facing adversity all year. We knew it wasn't going to be easy. We've been grinding it out all year."