It’s a funny thing about windows. Sometimes you can’t tell if they’re open or not until you pass through . . . or run smack into them.
That’s usually the way it plays out as teams work to establish themselves as legitimate challengers for the Stanley Cup. Those years spent carefully assembling the pieces require more than vision. They hinge on perfect timing. Because just when everything seems to be place, injuries can deplete the depth or the scoring dries up or the chemistry experiment fizzles. It doesn’t take much to derail the dream.
Every team aspires to contention, but few teams are ever actually in the sweet spot where everything comes together and puts them directly in the hunt. The defending champion Blackhawks are there now. So are the Bruins and the Kings, and perennial contenders like the Red Wings and Penguins, too.
And then there are the teams for which opportunity is either just over the horizon . . . or just slipping from their grasp. For them, the window of opportunity is slowly opening or closing right in front of their eyes.
Here’s a look at three clubs that are rounding into Cup-contending form this season, and three that may have passed their best-by date.