B/R's All-NHL Teams at the 2015 All-Star Break

Jonathan Willis@jonathanwillisNHL National ColumnistJanuary 22, 2015

B/R's All-NHL Teams at the 2015 All-Star Break

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    With the NHL heading into its All-Star break, this is the perfect opportunity to take stock of the league's most impressive performances through the first half (and a little bit) of the 2014-15 season.

    To that end, we've assembled our expert panel and asked them to name the best players at every position in the NHL. Dave LozoSteve MacfarlaneAllan MitchellLyle RichardsonCarol Schram and I have all submitted our votes, and we've organized the results into first and second All-NHL teams.

    Read on to see which players made the grade.

    News and statistics are courtesy of NHL.com and behindthenet.ca, and are current through the All-Star break. 

Second-Team Left Wing: Alex Ovechkin

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    Glenn James/Getty Images

    By the numbers: Ovechkin's offensive numbers are as brilliant as ever; he has 27 goals in 46 games and is just a touch below the point-per-game mark. He's also managed to reverse a pretty ugly plus/minus trend; after finishing minus-35 in 2013-14, he's up to plus-12 this year. 

    Why he's the winner: That plus/minus number exaggerates the situation a little, but the shift in Ovechkin's underlying numbers is almost as impressive. A year ago, in an average hour with him on the ice, the Caps were outshot 34-31; this year they have a 32-25 edge at five-on-five. He's scoring the way he always does, and his line is dominating puck possession. 

    Other candidates: Nick Foligno in Columbus has had a stellar season; already he is only five points back of his career high with nearly half of 2014-15 still on the horizon. The other candidate who got significant consideration at this position was Montreal's oft-underrated Max Pacioretty.  

Second-Team Centre: Evgeni Malkin

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    By the numbers: Malkin is comfortably north of the point-per-game mark once again, posting 51 through 45 contests while averaging nearly 20 minutes per game as the Penguins' No. 2 centre. Interestingly, his quality of competition rating is higher than Sidney Crosby's, while his quality of teammates rating is lower, suggesting he's playing the toughest minutes. 

    Why he's the winner: Malkin edged out some other extremely good candidates by only a hair. He's had an exceptional season, but there are five or six top centres in the league at the moment, and there's precious little daylight between any of them. 

    Other candidates: This is going to be a brutally competitive slot when the NHL announces its year-end All-Star teams, and no matter how it goes down, some qualified candidate will be overlooked. Our panel's decision to go with Crosby and Malkin was by no means unanimous, as Claude Giroux, Tyler Seguin and Ryan Getzlaf all had substantial support, with the former two both getting first-team votes. 

Second-Team Right Wing: Patrick Kane

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    By the numbers: Kane's offensive numbers are typically excellent, though he's cashing in even more goals than he normally does. He's already scored 22 goals despite playing 47 games, which is approaching his career high of 30. 

    Why he's the winner: Among right wings, only league scoring leader Jakub Voracek has more points; Kane's slight offensive edge on Vladimir Tarasenko evidently won over our panel. 

    Other candidates: This position was a three-horse race for our panel, with Kane needing a tiebreaker (more first-place votes) to slot in ahead of the Blues' remarkable Tarasenko. Tarasenko is presently on pace for better than 40 goals and 82 points, and he sports a team-leading plus-23 rating. 

Second-Team Defence: Shea Weber

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    John Russell/Getty Images

    By the numbers: Weber's doing what he always does. One of the most feared shooters in the league, he's already scored 10 times (two off the NHL lead for defencemen) and added 20 assists. Always a physical presence, he's thrown 30 hits more than the next-closest Nashville defenceman. 

    Why he's the winner: With Weber, the offence is almost gravy; he's valued because he consistently takes on incredibly tough minutes in the defensive zone. He's one of the most highly regarded defencemen in the league. 

    Other candidates: We mentioned a number of extremely strong alternate candidates in the last slide, but many other players also received votes. T.J. Brodie, Dustin Byfuglien, Oliver Ekman-Larsson, Kris Letang and Nick Leddy all landed at least one vote from our panel. 

Second-Team Defence: Drew Doughty

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    Harry How/Getty Images

    By the numbers: Doughty's superficial numbers are never all that impressive. He scores, but not at the rate that wins Norris Trophies. However, his underlying numbers are impressive. The Kings outshoot their opposition 33-26 in an average hour when he's on the ice, and he's had a lot of playing time in recent games. With Slava Voynov gone indefinitely, Doughty's been logging more than 29 minutes per game.   

    Why he's the winner: Doughty's status as one of the NHL's best defencemen (if not its very best overall) is not in doubt. Very few players at any position impact the game the way he does. 

    Other candidates: This was another tight race, with players like Duncan Keith, Kevin Shattenkirk and John Carlson all having significant support to make the team. Keith is, of course, a perennial Norris candidate, while the other two are having truly remarkable offensive seasons. 

Second-Team Goalie: Carey Price

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    Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

    By the numbers: Price is having a pretty incredible season, even by his lofty standards. His 0.929 save percentage will represent a career high if he can hold it through the end of the year; among goalies with at least 25 games played, only Pekka Rinne ranks ahead of him. 

    Why he's the winner: Price isn't having quite as much impact on Montreal as Rinne is on Nashville, but he's still the single-biggest reason that a Canadiens team with some possession problems is ranked in the top 10 in the NHL. 

    Other candidates: Braden Holtby has really emerged as a workhorse No. 1 for the Washington Capitals, while Marc-Andre Fleury is having a wonderful season in Pittsburgh. In addition, Craig Anderson is probably the most important player in Ottawa this season. 

First-Team Left Wing: Rick Nash

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    Marko Ditkun/Getty Images

    By the numbers: There isn't a player in the NHL who has scored more goals than Rick Nash has through the All-Star break. With 28 markers through 44 games, Nash has already eclipsed his total from last season and is tied with Tyler Seguin of Dallas for the scoring lead. If he can score six more the rest of the way, it will be his best goal-scoring year in more than half a decade. 

    Why he's the winner: There have been some outstanding performances at left wing this year, but a revitalized Nash has played a pivotal role as the Rangers attempt to overcome the loss of some significant depth pieces last season. 

First-Team Centre: Sidney Crosby

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    By the numbers: In terms of points per game, there isn't a single player in the NHL ahead of Crosby, including scoring leader Jakub Voracek. Crosby's 51 points in 43 games works out to 1.19 points per game, a touch ahead of Voracek and well clear of everyone else in the game. 

    Why he's the winner: Basically, he's healthy and playing the way he can play. There isn't a better player in the NHL than Crosby, so he needs to either play below his abilities or get hurt to miss this sort of distinction. Neither has happened this year. 

First-Team Right Wing: Jakub Voracek

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    Len Redkoles/Getty Images

    By the numbers: The surprise NHL scoring leader, Voracek has 56 points in 48 games. He has found incredible chemistry next to Flyers pivot Claude Giroux and been a critical piece of the team's extremely effective power play. His 39 assists on the season already have matched his career high.  

    Why he's the winner: It's pretty tough to overlook the league scoring leader when putting together a list of All-Stars. The vote wasn't unanimous, but it came pretty close with five of six panelists giving the nod to the 25-year-old Czech. 

First-Team Defence: Mark Giordano

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    By the numbers: Giordano's having himself a season. He leads all defencemen with 40 points, while his plus/minus (plus-19) is second only to regular partner TJ Brodie. The incredible thing is that his underlying numbers might be even more impressive. Calgary's per-hour shot-attempt differential goes up by 13 when he steps on the ice, even though he faces top-end competition and starts shift after shift in the defensive zone.

    Why he's the winner: He was a legitimate Norris candidate last season and didn't get nearly enough love from voters. Now he's doing all the things he did right when he got overlooked. He was a unanimous choice by our panel for the first team and should be considered the heavy favourite to win the Norris this summer. 

First-Team Defence: P.K. Subban

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    By the numbers: Subban's running up his traditionally strong offensive numbers, having scored 31 points in his first 45 games, but his underlying numbers are even more impressive. Montreal scores better than three goals per hour at even strength when Subban is out there and soundly outshoots the opposition—something that rarely happens when he's on the bench. 

    Why he's the winner: Often dismissed as a one-dimensional offensive defender, Subban is in fact an elite rearguard who dramatically improves his team's performance at both ends of the ice. 

First-Team Goalie: Pekka Rinne

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    By the numbers: No matter which numbers one uses, Rinne ranks right at the top of NHL goaltenders. He leads the league with 29 wins, has a goals-against average under 2.00 (not that GAA should even be considered) and has a ridiculous 0.931 save percentage. 

    Why he's the winner: Rinne was our unanimous choice as the best goaltender in the league, and it's pretty difficult to argue the decision. Of particular note is Nashville's win-loss record when Rinne starts as opposed to when he doesn't. The Predators are 29-8 in Rinne's starts but only 1-7 when he isn't in net for the opening faceoff.  

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