NHL all-star break finds Canadian teams floundering

A year ago, five of Canada's seven NHL teams carried a winning record into the all-star break. But it's a dramatically different scene this season with none of them in playoff position.

All 7 out of playoff position

From left, the Flames' Johnny Gaudreau, Canadiens' Carey Price and Jets' Andrew Ladd probably will be key figures should their teams climb back in the NHL playoff race over the next two-plus months. None of Canada's seven clubs boast a winning record after five of them carried a winning mark into last year's all-star break. (Getty Images/CBCSports.ca)

A year ago, hockey fans in Montreal were celebrating Carey Price's career season while the surprising Calgary Flames had the game's top line of Johnny Gaudreau, Jiri Hudler and Sean Monahan.

But it's a dramatically different scene at this year's NHL all-star break. Price has missed much of the season due to injury and all seven of Canada's teams are out of playoff position.

Below, we examine each of the clubs and offer a couple of keys to post-all-star break success.


2015-16 record: 21-24-3 (45 points)

Western Conference standing: 13th

2014-15 pre-break record: 25-18-3 (53 points)

First game post-break: Feb. 3 vs. Carolina

Keys to second-half success:

1) Goals against: The Flames allowed 4.2 goals in the season's first month, but surrendered only 23 goals in its first 10 games of January, which is more in line with last season's mark when Jonas Hiller and Karri Ramo posted goals-against averages of 2.36 and 2.60, respectively.

2) Road performance: Only provincial rival Edmonton (6-16-4) has fewer road victories than the Flames, who went 1-3-1 on their most recent trip and are 7-14-3 overall. In the past nine seasons, only 15 of the 144 teams to gain a playoff berth have had a sub-par mark in enemy territory.


2015-16 record: 19-26-5 (43 points)

Western Conference standing: 14th

2014-15 pre-break record: 12-26-9 (33 points)

First game post-break: Feb. 2 vs. Columbus

Keys to second-half success:

1) A healthy Connor McDavid: The 19-year-old centre was settling in nicely with the Oilers, posting five goals and 12 points in his first 13 games when he broke his left collarbone in a Nov. 3 game against Philadelphia. He is scheduled to return to the lineup on Feb. 2.

2) Jordan Eberle and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins: Both forwards are on track for lower point totals than each of the two previous seasons. The 25-year-old Eberle has 22 points in 37 games after seasons of 65 and 63 points the last two years. Nugent-Hopkins, 22, has 30 points in 46 games after identical 56-point campaigns in 2013-14 and 2014-15.


2015-16 record: 24-22-4 (52 points)

Eastern Conference standing: 11th

2014-15 pre-break record: 29-13-3 (61 points)

First game post-break: Feb. 2 at Philadelphia

Keys to second-half success:

1) Healthy Carey Price: Problem is, the playoffs might be out of reach for the Habs even if the reigning NHL MVP returns. Price may need time to regain his form from earlier this season (2.06 GAA, .934 save percentage).

2) Scoring: The Canadiens are averaging 2.66 goals per game, marginally higher than last year's 2.61 when Price won several low-scoring contests. No Montreal player is on track for 62 points and only one, Max Pacioretty, is scoring at a 25-plus goal pace.


2015-16 record: 23-21-6 (52 points)

Eastern Conference standing: 12th

2014-15 pre-break record: 18-18-9 (45 points)

First game post-break: Feb. 2 at Pittsburgh

Keys to second-half success:

1) Andrew Hammond: Ottawa could use hockey's "Hamburglar" of early 2015, who as a rookie went 20-1-2 over two months after being recalled from the AHL late in the season. He is 3-5-2 in an injury marred 2015-16 season with a 2.96 goals-against average.

2) More offence from defence: Erik Karlsson is doing his part and more as the NHL's top-scoring blue-liner with 52 points, but no other Senators defenceman has reached five goals or 15 points in the team's first 50 games. Third-year rearguard Cody Ceci has four goals in 43 games after recording five in 81 contests last season.


2015-16 record: 17-22-9 (43 points)

Eastern Conference standing: 15th

2014-15 pre-break record: 22-22-3 (47 points)

First game post-break: Feb. 2 at Boston

Keys to second-half success:

1) James Reimer: The sixth-year NHL goalie is in line for a career season. But how realistic is it to expect him to maintain a 2.10 goals-against average and .932 save percentage, which rank among the top 10 and top 3, respectively, among netminders with at least 20 appearances?

2) Power play: The Leafs' offensive challenges aren't limited to 5-on-5 play. They are 2-for-49 with the man-advantage over their last 15 games and sit 29th in the league overall with a 15.5 per cent success rate.


2015-16 record: 20-19-11 (51 points)

Western Conference standing: 11th

2014-15 pre-break record: 26-16-3 (55 points)

First game post-break: Feb. 4 vs. Columbus

Keys to second-half success:

1) Secondary scoring: The Canucks can only lean on leading scorer Daniel Sedin (21 goals, 44 points) and linemate Jannik Hansen (15 goals) for so long. They need more from Radim Vrbata (11 goals, 31 last season), Sven Baertschi (nine) and Alex Burrows (seven, 18 last season).

2) The little things: Sloppy play has hurt Vancouver in the first four months of the season, whether it's been turnovers in the defensive zone or bad line chages that cost the Canucks in a 2-1 loss to Nashville in their final game before the break.


2015-16 record: 22-24-3 (47 points)

Western Conference standing: 12th

2014-15 pre-break record: 25-14-8 (58 points)

First game post-break: Feb. 2 vs. Dallas

Keys to second-half success:

1) Special teams: The NHL's 28th-ranked power play showed some life in the last two games before the break, going a combined 2-for-5. But the Jets have only notched two power-play goals in a game three times this season. The penalty-kill is 27th.

2) Avoid lengthy losing skid/produce extended win streak: The Jets lost three of four entering the break but it's a six-game losing streak in November that still stings. Winnipeg has also won two straight seven times but has yet to win three in a row. 


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