They’re playing with desperation, as the pundits like to say.
The Dallas Stars have vaulted to the top of the Pacific Division with a stellar 13-5-3 record since the All Star break.
The Phoenix Coyotes, a confirmed also-ran just a few weeks ago, are also back in the playoff mix thanks to a similar surge.
Other teams picking up their game lately include Buffalo, Colorado, and Tampa Bay, all of which looked mediocre or worse around Christmas time.
Players on the comeback teams would surely insist that their early-season struggles were an aberration, and now they’re finally rounding into true form.
But maybe it’s the other way around.
Maybe the current hot streak is the aberration, and the true Coyotes or Sabres are the bums who staggered through the first three months.
If that’s the case, the big surge will prove useless.
It might even by counterproductive.
If the Buffalo or Phoenix can’t make the playoffs and do some damage when they get there, the current hot streak does little more than rob the team of a high draft pick.
The Calgary Flames have been stuck in this cycle for a few years now.
The late-season joyride is practically an annual event in Calgary (the team has clawed its way to eighth place in recent weeks).
This is the time of year when the Flames always look better than they are, and it’s surely one reason why management is reluctant to launch the inevitable rebuild.
As a rule, a hot streak in February or March is rarely sustainable through April and May.
Even the mighty Red Wings have been unable to buck that trend.
Two years ago, a strong sprint to the finish had Detroit looking like a Stanley Cup favorite when the playoffs began.
But after the Coyotes took them to seven games in Round One, the Red Wings bowed out in Round Two.
Desperation can give a team an edge in the dog days of winter. But the edge disappears when everyone gets desperate.
See also: How to Read the NHL Standings
Photo: A Dallas Stars fan show his support (Brandon Wade/Getty Images).