Monday, February 10, 2014

At the break: 30 teams, 30 questions

The NHL’s Olympic break has arrived, with no further action until February 25 to allow for the league’s top players to compete in the Sochi Games. That means no games, no trades, and even no practices (until February 19) for the players who stayed behind. Essentially, the whole league goes on vacation.

But that doesn’t mean we don’t have plenty to talk about. After all, we’re already just 15 days from the season resuming with a mad rush to the playoffs. And while the pre-Olympic transaction freeze arrived Friday without any major moves, the rumor mill will undoubtedly keep churning as we approach the March 5 deadline.

So instead of the regular Monday weekend wrap, let’s take a run through the entire NHL. Here’s a look at all 30 teams, how they head into the break, and what one big question they’ll be looking to answer over the next few weeks.

Anaheim Ducks

At the break: They beat the Predators, 5-2, on Saturday to snap a three-game losing streak. Anaheim is three points up on the Blues and Hawks for first place overall.

One question: Has the great Anaheim Ducks Regression Reckoning finally arrived? Every team loses a few in a row sometimes (and Anaheim already lost five straight in November). But the Ducks have benefited from some awfully high percentages this year, leading some to expect that they’re due to revert from truly elite to merely very good.

Boston Bruins

At the break: They pumped the Senators, 7-2, on Saturday, and have points in 10 of their last 11.

One question: With a seven-point lead on top of the Atlantic, the Bruins seem to be cruising to an easy division title, and their fans may already be looking ahead to a conference final rematch with the Pens. But could fatigue become a possible stumbling block? After last year’s compressed schedule followed by a run to the Cup final, wearing down could become an issue, especially for the five key players who’ll be in Sochi.

Buffalo Sabres

At the break: They’ve lost four straight, cementing their spot in last place overall.

One question: Where does Ryan Miller wind up? It now seems all but inevitable that the team will trade its star goalie. And if he gets a chance to shine for Team USA, his price tag could go up.

>> Read the full post on Grantland

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