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Which NHL Teams Needed the All-Star Break the Most?

The NHL All Star Game break is upon us, and for some teams, it could not have come at a better time.
Tom Wilson

The NHL All-Star Game break is upon us, and for some league teams, it could not have come at a better time. 

Before the current regular season began, teams expected a longer break in February, but without NHL participation at the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics, and with the damage the COVID-19 virus has done to the December portion of the schedule. the revised post-All-Star Game schedule promises to be punishing. So these next handful of days are going to be precious to more than a few franchises.

The break is going to give the Washington Capitals coaching staff time to figure out how to turn around their recent slump. The Caps started the year 16-4-6, but since then, they have meandered their way to a 9-9-3 mark (including a 5-5-0 record in their past 10 games) and they now sit fourth in the Metropolitan Division. Washington also just had to put superstar winger Alex Ovechkin into league COVID protocols, and if Ovechkin had to be out for any sustained stretch, now is probably the best time.

It is true Washington is only four points behind first-place Carolina in the Metro, but the Capitals also have played five more games than the Canes, and third-place Pittsburgh (62 points) has a game on the Caps as well. Washington is unlikely to face a challenge for a playoff spot by the fifth-through-eighth-place Metro teams, but they still have a shot at locking up a home-ice advantage spot in the post-season. The second half of the year presents a major challenge for the Capitals, but it is the same story for all teams.

The All-Star break also gives the Dallas Stars one final span to collect themselves and make an immediate, sustained push at earning a playoff berth. The Stars have underwhelmed thus far this season, putting up a pedestrian .558 win percentage (23-18-2 record) and climbing only as high as fifth-place in the Central Division. They currently trail fourth-place St. Louis by nine points, and though the Stars have a game in hand on the Blues, a .558 winning percentage is not going to cut it when it comes to making the playoffs. Dallas needs to improve its game, and soon, or else GM Jim Nill is likely to be a seller come the March 21 NHL trade deadline.

Also looking like they could use a break: the Los Angeles Kings, who are only 5-3-2 in their past 10 games. The Kings presently sit second in the Pacific Division, three standings points ahead of fourth-place Calgary, and six points ahead of fifth-place Edmonton. However, both the Oilers and Flames have five games in hand on L.A., and both Alberta teams have the talent to challenge the Kings for a home-ice-advantage playoff berth. Los Angeles desperately needs to show improvement this season, and finishing even as high as fifth in the Pacific would be a painful letdown for GM Rob Blake and his Kings management team. Regrouping after the All-Star break, and showing they are a playoff team, is hugely important for them.

Not only struggling teams need this break. Stanley Cup frontrunners like Colorado, Toronto and Vegas also can use downtime for their benefit. Simply the easing up, if only momentarily, of the mental health pressures that come with being a legit championship contender, is just what the doctor ordered. Getting away from the game for a brief spell can do wonders for teams. Of course, the best players on all teams will not be so lucky, as they will have to be in Las Vegas for All-Star Game festivities. But that is nowhere near the same as in-game action.

Right now, some NHL players are probably on a beach for a few precious hours, or with their families, or both. We forget how important that is when we demand them to be at peak performance. It may only be a handful of days, but any short stretch of inaction should give them few excuses when battling for glory from now through June.

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