Coming out of the holiday, the NHL Central Division is getting interesting with each game. With the Blues still leading the way, the rest of teams are battling for each and every night. It is now time to go inside the Central Division notebook by recapping the week that was.
A Class Above the Rest
Heading into the season, the St. Louis Blues were projected to miss the playoffs by some experts. Now, they sit atop of the Central Division as one of the best teams in the NHL. The Blues are steamrolling teams in and out of their division. Despite having their winning streak come to an end by a good Nashville team, the Blues were able to rebound to win the next night against another divisional opponent. Who would have thought Brayden Schenn would fit so perfectly into this Blues lineup? Mike Yeo is giving Schenn a chance to shine at his natural position of center. Trailing Jaden Schwartz by two points for the club’s scoring race, Schenn has been a great addition to a Blues team needing more offense. Of course, Vladimir Tarasenko will get his points, but the play of Paul Statsny of late has helped the Blues continue their dominance.
Circling Near the Top
The Winnipeg Jets are coming into their own. Winnipeg had a successful road trip going 2-2 with two wins coming in California, a place where teams lose ground not gain ground. Though the Jets lost a game to a divisional opponent in Nashville, Winnipeg was able to rebound nicely. Winnipeg and Nashville will be battling for the second and third spots in the division for the remainder of the season. While Connor Hellebuyck was the story early on, it has been the offense soaring to new heights. Marl Scheifele and Patrik Laine are tied for the team lead in goals with 11. After a rough start, Laine is back to playing like he was last season. With the Jets staying out of the penalty box, the team has found a way to play with more consistency night in and night out.
Music City Vibes
The Nashville Predators are tied for second in the division with the Winnipeg Jets with 31 points. After a slow start, Nashville has found a rhythm in their game again. Over the past five games, Nashville won four games in a row and picked a point in the fifth game as they fell in the shootout to Carolina. With Ryan Johansen getting off the scoring slide, the offense for the Predators has been able to take off. With each game that passes by the Predators are finding more consistency from players like Viktor Arvidsson and Roman Josi. These players were vital to the Predators in their run to the Stanley Cup Final. All these role players must keep lifting their game to new heights if Nashville would like to hang on to their current position in the Central Division.
Best of the Rest
– The Chicago Blackhawks find themselves in an unfamiliar role. The Blackhawks sit seven points behind Nashville and Winnipeg for the third spot in the division. Chicago has only themselves to blame for their sluggish play this season. Recently, the Blackhawks have been able to turn things around, but it may be too little too late if they want any chance of competing for the division title. Patrick and Kane and Artem Anisimov have reunited in hopes to get they bolster a struggling Blackhawks lineup. That is the one thing Chicago must fix if they want any chance of getting into the playoffs.
– It has been an up and down season for the Dallas Stars. Over the past four games, the Stars have won three of them, but it has not been enough to gain ground on the elite teams in the division. In order for the Stars to really gain any ground, the team must play with more urgency and compete. Tyler Seguin has found a new role on the team as he is playing more as a two-way forward. This has allowed the Stars offense to take offense. Along with Seguin, Alexander Radulov and Jamie Benn have been producing at a higher rate. Now if only the Stars could get more consistent play from their other players. Once that happens the Stars will find themselves right back in the mix.
– Colorado was a nice story to begin the season, but the Avalanche are on their way back down the mountain. Though the trade of Matt Duchene has allowed Nathan MacKinnon to retool his game to be back to the player that won the Calder Trophy back in 2014. He leads the Avalanche in points with 26 and has taken more of a leadership role this season. Colorado would like to get back to being dominant, the Avalanche must trust the process and develop their talent, they can be that team again, but it will take time.
– Injuries plague every team in the NHL and the Minnesota Wild are no different. From the start, the Wild never got off on the right foot because of all their injuries. As players slowly return from injury, the Wild are able to assemble a team that had hopes of making the playoffs. Now Minnesota hopes they can salvage their season and not finish dead last.