They have amassed a record of 8-3 in the first 11, it's their best run since winning 8 of 9 in mid-December. So is this finishing kick who they really are? (I think so) Or is this the urgency of every night being "Game 7" coupled with the anvil of expectation being lifted from their collective chest? Things to ponder, indeed. Of course the bigger inquiry is, if this continues will it be enough to get them into the playoffs??
At any rate, it does beg the question: How important to the grand scheme of things is a dazzling finish to the regular season?
For some insight let's look at last year's final 20 games:
The Boston Bruins owned the best record at 14-2-4 helping them capture the President’s Trophy only to get ousted with a Game 7 loss to MTL at home in round two.
Tampa was next at 12-4-4 but Big Ben Bishop got hurt and that hurt their playoff success. They lost 4 straight to the Habs.
The Sharks were 12-5-3...They were also up 3-0 on the Kings in the opening round...then, uh, gulp.
That same 12-5-3 finish helped the Avalanche take the Central Division crown, but they couldn't topple the Wild in Game 7 of the opening round
New York's Hockey Rangers finished at 12-5-3 as well and then rode King Henrik to a Stanley Cup Final berth
The team that defeated the Rangers in the Final, the LA Kings, were 12-6-2 in the final quarter Now, we start to get into some non-playoff teams.
Nashville finished 12-6-2 but that didn't stop GM David Poile from gassing the only coach the Preds ever had, Barry Trotz. Hard to say that finishing success impacted their hot start this season seeing as there were so many changes over the summer.
The Islanders had the 5th lowest point total last season when it was all said and done, but they did go 11-6-3 at the end, and with a healthy Tavares this year they have been one of the top teams in the East.
Montreal might have done better in the post season had Carey Price not been injured in the Rangers series. They finished the regular season 12-7-1.
The Ducks went 11-6-3 then got a scare from the Stars in the opening round before bowing out to the eventual Cup Champ Kings in 7.
Detroit was 11-7-2 helping them lock down 8th in the East but they were no contest for the Bruins.
The Bluejackets were also 11-7-2 and finished with the same 93 points as the Red Wings then fell in 6 to the Penguins.
In Philly the Flyers finished 6th and were 10-6-2 down the stretch before pushing the NYR to 7 in the opening round.
Ottawa was a non-playoff squad and were a very pedestrian 10-7-3 to finish. In the summer they traded Spezza to Dallas and early this season they axed head coach Paul McLean.
The Penguins stumbled late (10-7-2) but still ranked 2nd behind Boston in the East. They won 51 games but were bounced by the Rangers in 7 in round 2 of the playoffs prompting a regime change in the hockey department.
New Jersey was a very unstable 9-6-5 as their Shootout woes continued to the bitter end. They finished 10th, signed Jagr, fired their coach, traded Jagr.
As you may remember, the Stars worked an 11-8-1 final 20, edging out a spiraling Coyotes club for 8th in the West, then scared the dickens out of the Ducks in the first round.
The Wild were 9-6-5 then won Game 7 in Denver before bowing to Chicago in 6.
Calgary finished 11-9 then changed GMs in the summer. They have been the leagues biggest surprise this season.
The Capitals fired everyone after their 90 point, non-playoff campaign that culminated in a record of 9-7-4 in the last 20 games
Those afore mentioned Coyotes went 9-7-4 and blamed goalie Mike Smith for most of it, then fired Mike Ribeiro in the summer. This season has been abysmal.
The Blackhawks were a flaccid 10-9-1 but kicked it back into gear and eventually fell the Kings in an epic 7 game Conference Final.
An injury-riddled Blues squad spun their tires at that same 10-9-1 and drew the arch-nemesis Hawks in the first round because of it. Poof. Bye bye.
The Hurricanes regime changed the front office after going 9-9-2 to finish, and an 83 point season.
The Oilers Oilered at 9-10-1 which was actually decent for them. Same old staggering commenced again this season and hero-bangs head coach Dallas Eakins was piped.
The Jets finished 7-9-4 and shut their captain Andrew Ladd down for the year during it. This year they fired a coach and are scrapping to get in.
The Canucks were a disaster under John Tortorella and closed with an 8-11-1 mark. In the summer a hockey dept. regime change came as no surprise and this year under former Stars assistant coach and AHL Champion, Willie Desjardins, Vancouver has been a surprise and looks like they'll be a playoff team in the West.
In Florida the Panthers hired a new coach and fixed their goaltending after allowing the 2nd most goals last season. They are currently in a similar predicament to what the Stars find themselves in.
If you thought the Leafs sucked at the end of last season (6-14) you had to reevaluate your definition of sucking this year. Wow! An organizational tire fire inside of a smoldering dumpster fire. They are in the process of getting rid of EVERYBODY.
And finally, Buffalo. The Sabres are continuing a tank that began last season when they fired a coach and concluded the regular season on a 2-16-2 'run'. The prize for them is Connor McDavid at this summer’s Entry Draft, and everybody knows it. That's goal setting.
So what's the conclusion? There really isn't one other than there is a lot of parity in today's NHL and it's really hard to get into the post season 16 team dance - and it won't get easier anytime soon either.