A look at the seven Canadian teams at the quarter point

TSN.ca Staff
11/24/2011 8:58:56 PM
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With all 30 teams off for American Thanksgiving, and a quarter of the league's schedule in the rearview mirror, it's the first chance to evaluate early season performances.

For the most part, any early season surprises have either started to fizzle out, or begun proving their legitimacy.

A look at the seven Canadian teams in the NHL at the quarter point of 2011-12:

Toronto Maple Leafs

The Maple Leafs started hot before losing momentum, but have still very much looked like a team that can compete for a playoff spot all season. Through 22 games, Toronto is 12-8-2, good for fifth in the Eastern Conference.

Leading the way for the Leafs is Phil Kessel; his 16 goals and 30 points are both league highs. Always a contentious player among Leaf fans because of the high price GM Brian Burke paid to acquire the forward two years ago, Kessel's early season play is winning over some detractors of the trade.

The Leafs have also seemed to have found a winger to pair with Kessel: Joffrey Lupul. Lupul has bounced around the league throughout his career but may have found a home in Toronto where he has put up 26 points so far this season playing opposite Kessel.

Moving forward, Leaf fans hope James Reimer can return from injury sooner rather than later. In Reimer's absence, the Leafs have gone with the duo of Jonas Gustavsson and Ben Scrivens, but the pair haven't been able to provide the team with the same type of solid goaltending that Toronto enjoyed with a healthy Reimer.

That's Hockey Report Card: Darren Dreger (A-)
Jamie McLennan (A-), Mark Masters (B+)

Edmonton Oilers

With the influx of the young talent the Oilers have compiled through the past number of drafts, brighter days for the struggling franchise seemed inevitable. But while it looked like Edmonton was still a few years away, this year's squad has looked like a team already prepared to challenge for a playoff spot, through the first quarter of the season.

As expected, it is the young guns leading the way so far in Edmonton. Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Jordan Eberle, and Taylor Hall make up three of the top four scorers on the team with a combined 21 goals and 59 points.

And re-acquired fan favourite Ryan Smyth is doing more than just providing veteran leadership for the Oilers' young core of players. Smyth has contributed 11 goals and 22 points - tied for first in team scoring - through 21 games for the surprising Oilers.

Another pleasant surprise in Edmonton has been the play of Nikolai Khabibulin. The Russian veteran entered the year expecting to split time with Devan Dubnyk, but has since been given the majority of starts, posting a .936 save percentage and two shutouts.

That's Hockey Report Card: Darren Dreger (A-)
Jamie McLennan (B+), Ryan Rishaug (A-)

Vancouver Canucks

Vancouver's success in the 2011-12 season will be based solely on how far they get in the playoffs, which may be a good thing, because their first quarter didn't live up to expectations of a Presidents' Trophy-winning team. The Canucks are 11-9-1 through 21 games and currently on the outside of the playoff picture, looking in.

As expected, Daniel and Henrik Sedin are atop the Canucks scoring list - and near the top of the league scoring list - with 24 and 22 points respectively. Vancouver will look for Ryan Kesler to produce more moving forward, however. The 27-year-old forward missed the start of the year following hip surgery and has only played in 16 games so far this year, tallying nine points.

Goalie questions continue to persist in Vancouver as well. Roberto Luongo hasn't gotten off to the start he had hoped for and backup Cory Schneider (eight starts) has better numbers through the first quarter of the season.

That's Hockey Report Card: Darren Dreger (C+)
Jamie McLennan (C), Lalji (C)

Montreal Canadiens

The Canadiens are another team hovering around .500 and in the mix for a playoff spot. Through 22 games, Montreal is 10-9-3, good for 10th in the Eastern Conference.

Goaltending has once again been an area of strength for the Habs; Carey Price has started the year putting up excellent numbers: 2.14 GAA, .917 save percentage, and two shutouts.

Offensively, players like Tomas Plekanec and Max Pacioretty have put up good numbers through the first quarter, but if Montreal is to stake claim to a playoff position moving forward, they'll need more production across the board. Mike Cammalleri has battled through some injuries early on, but if he can stay healthy, he should see his production increase as the season progresses.

That's Hockey Report Card: Darren Dreger (C)
Jamie McLennan (C), John Lu (B-)

Ottawa Senators

A year after residing in the Eastern Conference basement, the Senators have done their work to climb up the standings. Through 21 games the Sens are 10-9-2 and just one point out of the playoff picture.

Despite only average numbers, Craig Anderson has given Ottawa a steady presence between the pipes, and is tied for eighth in the league with nine wins.

Up front, Jason Spezza is enjoying a strong start to the year and is nearly a point-per-game performer. Spezza is on pace to score the most points since his 2007-08 season when he had 92.

Young Erik Karlsson continues to make a good impression on the blue line as well. The offensive defenceman is on pace to smash his previous career high in points and his 17 assists are tied for the league lead.

That's Hockey Report Card: Darren Dreger (B+)
Jamie McLennan (B), Brent Wallace (B-)

Winnipeg Jets

It's been an exciting atmosphere in Winnipeg all season, and the Jets are doing their part, staying in the Eastern Conference playoff race through the first quarter. Winnipeg is 8-9-4 through 21 games, three points out of eighth place.

Kyle Wellwood is the surprise team leader in points with 17. Now on his fourth team in seven years in the league - and third in the last three - the 28-year-old may have finally found a home.

And to little surprise, fan favourite Dustin Byfuglien is leading the way on the Jets' back-end. The big 26-year-old has 14 points, tied for fourth in league-wide scoring among defencemen.

That's Hockey Report Card: Darren Dreger (B)
Jamie McLennan (C+), Gary Lawless (F)

Calgary Flames

The Flames didn't get off to the start they were hoping for, and will need to work their way out of the small hole they've dug themselves if they're to challenge for a playoff spot moving forward. Calgary is 8-11-1 through 20 games, six points out of eighth.

Captain Jarome Iginla has had a slow start to the year, recording just 10 points through 20 games. The former Rocket Richard Trophy winner will have to break out of his slump as he is currently on pace to record his lowest point total since 1997-98, which was just his second year in the league.

Goaltending remains solid for Calgary, with Miikka Kiprusoff picking up all eight of the team's wins while sporting a .917 save percentage.

That's Hockey Report Card: Darren Dreger (C)
Jamie McLennan (D), Jermain Franklin (D)

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