Super 16: Canada could miss Stanley Cup Playoffs

Friday, 01.22.2016 / 3:00 AM
Dan Rosen  - NHL.com Senior Writer
The rapid decline of the Montreal Canadiens has put Canada in jeopardy of being shut out of the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the first time since the NHL-WHA merger in 1979 gave the NHL six Canadian teams.
 
Of the seven Canadian teams, only the Vancouver Canucks are in a playoff spot entering Friday, and they just moved into it Thursday with a 4-2 win against the Boston Bruins. The Canucks have 16 regulation/overtime wins, which makes them prone to losing in a potential tiebreaker scenario.
 
It all means that it's entirely possible all seven Canadian teams will miss the playoffs for the first time since 1970, when it was just the Canadiens and Toronto Maple Leafs.
 
This doomsday scenario was unimaginable in early December, when the Canadiens looked like Canada's best shot to break what is approaching a 23-year Stanley Cup championship drought. They were first in the Atlantic Division with an 11-point cushion. It was going so well.
 
The Canadiens are 4-16-1 since Dec. 3 and are now three points out of the second wild card into the playoffs from the Eastern Conference.
 
In addition, Canadiens general manager Marc Bergevin said Thursday that Hart Trophy-winning goalie Carey Price is expected to miss another 3-4 weeks because his rehabilitation from a lower-body injury is going slower than anticipated.
 
The Canadiens' plight is part of a larger picture of the struggles of the Canadian teams.
 
The Ottawa Senators haven't gotten any traction because they allow the most shots of any team in the League, 33.3 per game. They limited the New Jersey Devils to 20 shots on Thursday but still lost 6-3.
 
The Maple Leafs ended a five-game losing streak Tuesday against the Philadelphia Flyers; they scored five goals in five games during the skid. Toronto lost again Thursday despite not allowing a goal in regulation. Of course, it didn't score one either.
 
The bottom three teams in the Western Conference standings are Canadian teams.
 
The Winnipeg Jets and Calgary Flames each have 45 points, six points shy of the second wild card. The Flames are six points behind the Canucks for third place in the Pacific Division. The Edmonton Oilers are last in the Western Conference with 43 points.
 
It doesn't necessarily get any easier from here for any of the Canadian teams. Take a glance at what they're up against between now and the 2016 NHL Trade Deadline on Feb. 29: 

CANADIENS
Games before Feb. 29: 15 (8 home/7 road)
Games vs. teams currently in playoff position: 4
Toughest stretch: Five games against the Arizona Coyotes, Colorado Avalanche, Philadelphia Flyers, Nashville Predators and Washington Capitals from Feb. 15-24.
Key: Figure out a way to score more than the 1.81 goals per game they've been averaging since Dec. 3.

SENATORS
Games before Feb. 29: 16 (10 home/6 road)
Games vs. teams currently in playoff position: 6
Toughest stretch: Three games in four nights against the Tampa Bay Lightning, Detroit Red Wings and Avalanche from Feb. 8-11.
Key: Limit opponents' shots in order to possess the puck more.

MAPLE LEAFS
Games before Feb. 29: 15 (6 home/9 road)
Games vs. teams currently in playoff position: 6
Toughest stretch: Five-game road trip from Feb. 6-15 at the Senators, Flames, Oilers, Canucks and Chicago Blackhawks.
Key: Maximize the return on some players before the trade deadline to help the ongoing rebuild. A playoff berth seems unrealistic at this point.

CANUCKS
Games before Feb. 29: 13 (9 home/4 road)
Games vs. teams currently in playoff position: 5
Toughest stretch: Back-to-back road games against the Avalanche and Coyotes on Feb. 9 and 10.
Key: Like Ottawa, reduce the amount of shots-against in order to possess the puck. It's hard to gain any traction if you're constantly allowing 40 or more shots per game.

JETS
Games before Feb. 29: 14 (6 home/8 road)
Games vs. teams in playoff position: 9
Toughest stretch: Eight of 10 games on the road from Feb. 6-27, including the back half of a home-and-home against the Dallas Stars (Feb. 23 and 25).
Key: Have better discipline in order to stay out of the penalty box to take pressure off of a penalty kill that hasn't been good and has been taxed.

FLAMES
Games before Feb. 29: 16 (9 home/7 road)
Games vs. teams currently in playoff position: 6
Toughest stretch: A three-in-four set before the Jan. 28-Feb. 1 All-Star break starting Sunday at the Carolina Hurricanes and continuing Monday at Dallas and Wednesday at home against the Predators.
Key: Keep showing signs of life on the power play, which is last in the League but has been better recently.

OILERS
Games before Feb. 29: 15 (9 home/6 road)
Games vs. teams currently in playoff position: 5
Toughest stretch: Seven games in 12 days, including four in a row on the road, from Feb. 2-13.
Key: Get rookie center Connor McDavid back in the lineup and prove to general manager Peter Chiarelli that it would be worth his time to make a trade to help the Oilers before the deadline.

 
The results from the seven Canadian teams between now and Feb. 29 will go a long way toward determining if Canada will be shut out of the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the first time in 46 years. If they can't gain traction, all seven might be sellers by the deadline.

And now, for this week's Super 16…

DISCLAIMER: Though the Super 16 is NHL.com's weekly power rankings, the focus will be more on the "power" than the "rankings" when determining the order. It's not always going to look like the League standings. If two teams are close the tiebreaker almost always is this: If the two teams started a seven-game series right now, who would prevail?

All rankings, records and statistics are through the games played Wednesday:

1. Washington Capitals (35-8-3)

Last week: No. 1

Good: Their first line has 13 goals, second line has 11 and the third has 10 in the past nine games (7-1-1).

Not so Good: ---------

2. Chicago Blackhawks (32-13-4)

Last week: No. 2

Good: Corey Crawford entered the game Thursday against the Tampa Bay Lightning with a 1.88 goals-against average and .946 save percentage during his nine-game winning streak.

Not so Good: ---------

3. Los Angeles Kings (29-13-3)

Last week: No. 3

Good: Vincent Lecavalier had power-play goals in three consecutive games entering Thursday against the Minnesota Wild.

Not so Good: Marian Gaborik had no goals in eight straight games and no points in five in a row. 

4. St. Louis Blues (28-15-7)

Last week: No. 7

Good: Ty Rattie has three goals in four games since getting recalled from the American Hockey League.

Not so Good: Their power play is scoreless on its past 15 chances. 

5. Tampa Bay Lightning (25-17-4)

Last week: No. 10

Good: They were averaging 4.0 goals per game during the six-game winning streak they carried into their game against the Blackhawks on Thursday. 

Not so Good: Andrei Vasilevskiy has allowed four goals in each of his past two starts.

6. Dallas Stars (29-13-5)

Last week: No. 4

Good: Ales Hemsky scored in two straight games entering play Thursday. He had three goals in his first 38 games.

Not so Good: The Stars have lost eight games in a row (0-5-3) on the road. They're on the road for seven of their first nine games in February. 

7. Florida Panthers (26-15-5)

Last week: No. 5

Good: They haven't played since Monday, a much-needed respite for a team that had lost three straight in regulation by a combined score of 13-3.

Not so Good: The top line of center Aleksander Barkov, right wing Jaromir Jagr and left wing Jonathan Huberdeau has no points in three straight games.

8. New York Islanders (24-15-6)

Last week: No. 12

Good: Injured defenseman Travis Hamonic, who has missed four straight games because of a lower-body injury, is practicing and could play at the Ottawa Senators on Friday. 

Not so Good: Rookie defenseman Adam Pelech, who was starting to find some traction in his game, is out indefinitely because of an upper-body injury. 

9. New York Rangers (25-16-5)

Last week: No. 6

Good: Henrik Lundqvist has allowed seven goals in going 3-1-0 in his past four starts.

Not so Good: They have been outscored 10-1 in special teams in the past 10 games.

10. Detroit Red Wings (23-15-8)

Last week: No. 8

Good: They've allowed two or fewer goals in six of their past seven games.

Not so Good: They haven't scored more than two goals in regulation in any of their past seven games.

11. San Jose Sharks (23-18-3)

Last week: No. 15

Good: They're 3-0-1 in their past four home games; they were 5-12-0 in their first 17 home games.

Not so Good: Patrick Marleau entered the game against the Coyotes on Thursday with no goals in his previous nine games.

12. Boston Bruins (24-16-5)

Last week: NR

Good: The Bruins entered their game against the Canucks on Thursday having gone 53-for-55 on the penalty kill (96.4 percent) in their previous 19 games.

Not so Good: Their top-ranked power play had cooled, going 3-for-20 (15.0 percent) in the first nine games of January. 

13. Minnesota Wild (22-16-8)

Last week: No. 9

Good: They entered their game Thursday against the Kings having gone 25-for-29 on the penalty kill in their previous 14 games. 

Not so Good: They were 1-for-31 on the power play in those 14 games, including 0-for-24 in the previous 11. 

14. Arizona Coyotes (22-18-5)

Last week: No. 11

Good: Their defensemen ranked second in the League in goals (29) behind the Predators (34) entering their game Thursday against the Sharks.

Not so Good: They had given up at least one power-play goal in 26 of 45 games. 

15. Colorado Avalanche (24-21-3)

Last week: NR

Good: They've allowed four goals in their past four games after allowing 10 in their previous two.

Not so Good: Mikhail Grigorenko played 11 shifts totaling 6:46 Wednesday, his first game back after he was scratched for three in a row. It's the ninth time in 41 games this season he's played less than 6:46.

16. New Jersey Devils (23-19-5)

Last week: NR

Good: Defenseman Adam Larsson had six points in six games before playing the Senators on Thursday. He had eight points in his first 41 games. 

Not so Good: The Devils had been outshot in a League-high 35 games despite allowing the eighth-fewest shots per game (28.5) entering play Thursday.

Out from last week: Pittsburgh Penguins, Montreal Canadiens, Philadelphia Flyers

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