Who Came Out Ahead?
San Jose Sharks - The Sharks have been dogged by their inability to get to the Cup for years, but they always find a way to stay competitive. This year, they have the advantage of giving aging veterans Joe Thornton and Dan Boyle a break just before things start to get interesting. It also helps that starting goalie Antti Niemi didn't see all of Finland's games so he was able to get a bit of a rest as well. Patrick Marleau and Marc-Edouard Vlasic return with Gold Medals to show off as inspiration.
Montreal Canadiens - Despite the news that Carey Price will miss a couple of games with a lower-body injury, is there any team that may have benefited more from the Olympics than the Habs? And it's all for one simple reason: Carey Price won on the big stage. I'm not talking World Juniors - this is about Price winning out against other NHL / world talent. Sure, the defense for Team Canada is preferable to that of Montreal, but you can say that for any team. When called upon, Carey Price came through and winning in the spotlight was something a lot of people feared he couldn't do. On a side note, a winter vacation for reigning Norris Trophy winner P.K. Subban won't hurt either.
Vancouver Canucks - Losing seven straight before the Olympics is not what John Tortorella and company had in mind. The break couldn't have come at a better time for Vancouver. It allowed Henrik Sedin to rest up without hurrying back, Roberto Luongo saw spot duty and was able to give his body some time to relax and Alex Edler seemed to find some of his confidence. The only down side here is that Ryan Kesler may miss some time with a hand injury from blocking a shot. More to come on that front. But overall, the break was a win for Vancouver as they battle for a Wild Card spot. * Random side note: Would Torts love to add Steve Ott, or what?
Tampa Bay Lightning - There were several positives to this break for Tampa, but I like one in particular: Lightning fans, you have the repeating Gold Medal GM of Team Canada as your very own. Steve Yzerman knows hockey and he's going to continue to build you a winner down in the Bay.
Colorado Avalanche - Matt Duchene comes home with a Gold. Gabriel Landeskog comes home with a Silver. Victory and defeat are two of the greatest motivating factors going. They'll push each other.
Buffalo Sabres - Odd choice, I know, but they should be happy Ryan Miller wasn't in net for more than one game. He stayed healthy which is all they could ask for. A rested and ready Miller is set to be shopped leading up to deadline. Sabres fans should also be proud of Zemgus Girgensons and Ted Nolan for their showing with Latvia.
Who Lost Out?
Washington Capitals - Did Alex Ovechkin travel home for the break? He was largely invisible for a good portion of the tournament. To me, it said a lot when the game was on the line in the shootout versus the U.S. and his name wasn't called once. Then Nik Backstrom missed the Gold Medal game due to too much cold medication. The two best players on the Caps came home with a very bad taste in their mouths.
Detroit Red Wings - Datsyuk and Zetterberg got healthy just in time to head to Sochi to help their respective countries. Datsyuk just didn't quite look right and Zetterberg aggravated a back injury that has resulted in him likely missing the rest of the season - including the playoffs (if they make it).
The Entire NYC/New Jersey Area - All of these teams had setbacks since they last played. The Rangers are going to be missing Mats Zuccarello for up to a month with a broken hand. The Devils, pushing for a playoff spot, sent Jaromir Jagr and Patrik Elias to Sochi - as if more games are what those two needed. The Islanders lost their franchise player in John Tavares for the season and their most coveted bargaining chip Thomas Vanek looked awful "representing" his country. He would even try his hand as an author when he penned a newspaper article apologizing to Austria for excessive partying. Priorities, Thomas, priorities.
Pittsburgh Penguins - While it's tough to say this team ever really loses out, the defense will be without Paul Martin until the playoffs and maybe longer. Simon Despres was recalled in his place, but with them already being down Kris Letang (stroke), losing Martin could be a bigger blow than they anticipate. Expect them to be in the market for defensive help at the deadline.