The more things change, the more they stay the same. So much more for new kings in the Central Division. So far it appears to be a two-horse race for the division crown this year. Let’s take a look at the week that was as we go inside the NHL Central Division for Week 3.
St. Louis not feeling the Blues
Recording five out of six points would make any team smile. However, for the St. Louis Blues, that performance was not good enough. Instead, the Blues would have liked to garner six of six points. Unfortunately, the Blues fell to the Vegas Golden Knights in overtime on Saturday night. St. Louis started off the week with wins over Chicago and Colorado. Jaden Schwartz netted a hattrick against the Blues nemesis the Blackhawks. Schwartz leads the team in points with 13 and is becoming a superstar in the league. Vladimir Tarasenko will get all the attention from the opposing team, this will allow Schwartz to capitalize on his opportunities on the ice. Jake Allen is has become the number one goalie everyone expected him to be. It is the play of Carter Hutton that is surprising those inside the Blues organization. Hutton will need to maintain this high level going forward.
Chicago Settling into Position
The Chicago Blackhawks do not mind sitting in second place in the central division. In fact, most of the time Chicago will be the ones chasing teams that are in front of them. That is just how the Blackhawks like it. Though the Blackhawks had a difficult week in terms of winning. They picked only one win and it was against the Arizona Coyotes. Losing to the Edmonton Oilers in overtime might have been expected after coming off such a hard-fought against the Blues the night before. Cory Crawford is posting one of the goals against averages in the league. There is balanced scoring up and down the Blackhawks lineup. Even with the top six. No player has more than six goals. That is a dangerous formula for any team Chicago faces. Once the Blackhawks getting rolling offensively they are a hard team to stop.
Stars Aligning in Big D
Don’t look now but the Dallas Stars are climbing right back into the thick of things in the Central Division. The Stars sit two points back of the Blackhawks and three points back of the Blues. Dallas won all three games this past week against their opponent compiling six points. The team is led by the trio of Tyler Seguin, Jamie Benn, and John Klingberg. During the winning streak for Dallas, each player has been contributing factor. That trend must continue in order for the Stars to be successful. The reason the Stars got Ben Bishop was so they could make the playoffs. Bishop has been stellar for the Stars. While it is too early to say if they will make the playoffs. Bishop’s play as of late will make sure they have at least a shot to get there.
Music City Rising
While the sluggish start to the season can be attributed to the Stanley Cup hangover. The Nashville Predators are starting to find their game. Nashville was able to win two of three games this week. The Predators probably should have beaten the Rangers, but costly mistakes in that game turned the tide for New York. Picking up a win over a division opponent like Colorado will give them a leg up in the long run. While winning games over Eastern Conference teams do not mean much, the fact they went to Philadelphia and held the Flyers offense to zero goals was impressive. What else is impressive is the play of Filip Forsberg. Not only is he getting his points, he is lifting the play others on the team.
Are the Winnipeg Jets losing faith in Steve Mason? The simple answer is yes. Head coach Paul Maurice has made it clear who the number one goalie in Winnipeg is and his name is Connor Hellebuyck. Hellebuyck is 4-0 with 2.32 goals against average. Mason, on the other hand, is 0-3. We know Mason was paid to be the guy in Winnipeg, but his time might be up as a starting goalie. The Jets must play Hellebuyck going forward if they want any chance of sniffing the playoffs. Every time Mason is in goal, many feel it is an automatic loss for the Jets. The young upstart Jets have a big road trip coming up. With back to back games against the Penguins and Blue Jackets, Winnipeg will need to play Mason one of those games.
Back to Earth
The Colorado Avalanche have come back to Earth. Colorado suffered back to back losses both to divisional opponents. Everyone knew Colorado would not be able to keep up their great start. If anything they are coming back to where they are supposed to be. Near the bottom of the division. Matt Duchene, who has made it clear he wants to be traded, has been playing well. His hot start has probably caused the price for services to climb in the eyes of general manager Joe Sakic. Duchene has stated he will not be a distraction and will play hard for teammates. That is exactly what he has done. Rookie forward Alexander Kerfoot is playing well for the Avalanche. He is one of the handful of standouts for Colorado so far this season.
Wild in Shambles
The Minnesota Wild continue to be a walking M*A*S*H unit. For a team that had hopes of a playoff spot, those aspirations are sure fading away quickly. The way the schedule worked out last week, the Wild only played two games and it was a back to back situation. The Wild split those games. Losing in Winnipeg, and winning in Calgary. Backup goalie Alex Stalock has been rock solid in two appearances thus far this season. He has earned more playing time in the eyes of head coach Bruce Boudreau. With most of the top guys hurt, the Wild need their depth players to generate offense. That is hard for a team that lacks depth. The Wild must survive this stretch of games without their star players. If they can do that, Minnesota will be able to climb out of the cellar.