Many experts thought the Central Division would be a race to dethrone the Chicago Blackhawks. Through two weeks of the season. That is not the case. Here are the hot takes and reactions from Week 2 in the NHL Central Division.
No Panic in Chi-Town
With so much turnover in Chicago, nobody expected the Blackhawks to be 4-1 through five games. Chicago continue to defy the odds as they sit atop the division. Trading Anteri Panarian for Brandon Saad has been a pleasant surprise. Saad regained his scoring touch playing alongside Jonathan Toews. Words cannot describe the play of Patrick Kane. Kane raises the level of his line mates regardless of who his plays with. Scoring is not an issue for the Blackhawks as they have balanced attack. Chicago is playing with an edge this year. The embarrassment of losing in four straight games to Nashville in the playoffs is motivating the Blackhawks this season. Look for this trend to continue.
A Pleasant Surprise in Denver
After finishing dead last in the NHL last season, the Colorado Avalanche have started off the season on the right foot with a 402 record. Star player Matt Duchene, who would like to be traded, is off to dominant start. If players were stocks, his stock would be on the rise. If general manager were to trade Duchene, his value would be higher now then it was in the off season. Former number one pick Nail Yakupov has found a nice role with the Avalanche. After several years in the season, Yakupov is finally living up to the hype. Another surprise has been the play of Sven Andrighetto. He is tied for team lead with six points with Duchene. While it is a nice surprise that Colorado is off to a good start, the real question will be can they maintain it.
Same Old Story
New season, same old tune for the St. Louis Blues. St. Louis continues to be the model of consistency in the NHL. The Blues are 4-2 through six games. Tied for second with the Avalanche in the division. Players like Alex Pientrangelo, Jayden Schwartz, and Vladimir Tarasenko are off to good starts. Goaltending has always been a weak spot for the Blues in their recent runs. Not anymore. Jake Allen has solidified the position for the Blues. A strong defensive structure is what this Blues team was founded on. Nothing has changed since Mike Yeo took over coaching duties. Transitioning from defense to offense is what making the Blues so successful to start the season.
Fly Jets Fly
Slows starts are nothing new for the Winnipeg Jets. This time the Jets were able to right the ship quickly. Head coach Paul Maurice was not happy with his team’s play through the first two games. He let his team know it through media and during practice. Winnipeg’s star players of Nikolaj Ehlers, Mark Scheifele, and Patrick Laine responded like true professionals. Not to mention a change in net did not hurt. Connor Hellenbuyck took over the starting role from Steve Mason. Mason was brought in to sure up the goaltending, but his struggles forced the hand of Maurice to replace him with Hellenbuyck. Winnipeg opened the season playing five Canadian teams. Through those five games, the Jets have a record of 3-2. Winnipeg’s schedule does not get any easier with several matchups inside the division along with a home and home series against the Penguins.
Music City Hangover
Is there a chance the Nashville Predators are falling victim to a Stanley Cup hangover from not winning it all last season? Potentially, but those inside the locker room believe they can right the ship. Nashville had a tough start to the season going 2-2-1 through five games. During this five game stretch the Predators faced the likes of Pittsburgh, Chicago, and Dallas. Filip Forsberg is on a tear to begin the season as he tied for the team lead in points with P.K. Subban with seven. Speaking of Subban, he is continuing his stellar play on the blueline. The charismatic defenseman is having fun every time he steps out on the ice. Scott Hartnell has been a nice addition to the Predators lineup. Hartnell was a former Predator and brings grit the Predators will need to get back to the postseason.
M*A*S*H Unit in Minnesota
To say the Minnesota Wild were banged up would be not be accurate. Minnesota is a walking M*A*S*H unit. In total man games lost to injury, the Wild are at 10 so far this season. Zach Parise, Charlie Coyle, Mikael Granlund, Marcus Foligno, and Nino Niederreiter are all out with injuries. Four of these players have been crucial to the offensive success of the Wild. Depth will be key for the Wild moving forward if the Wild want to be successful. Through four games, Minnesota has one win. Of course it was against their rival the Chicago Blackhawks. If the Wild can survive without these key players during this period of time, Minnesota will be better off.
Texas Size Disappointment
To begin the season, the Dallas Stars have underachieved. Through five games, the Stars have two wins. In reality, Dallas should be sitting a top of the division, but they are not. It is still early for the Stars to find their way back to the top. Most expect the Stars to make the playoffs this season. And why not. The team brought in Ben Bishop to give stability to the goaltending position. After a taking a puck to the face in the first game of the season, Bishop is back between the pipes for the Stars. If he can give them above average goaltending, Dallas will be just fine. Tyler Seguin and Jamie Benn are living up to expectations, while free agent signing Alexander Radulov has been relatively quiet. Once Radulov finds his game, look for the offense to explode.
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