While most believe the NHL Metro Division is the toughest division, the Central Division has to be right up there too. As Winnipeg starts to come back down to the Earth, it is the Blues who have regained the top spot. It is now time to go inside the NHL Central Division notebook by recapping the week that was.
NHL Central Division Notebook
Blues Finding Their Rhythm
Coming off a disappointing week, the St. Louis Blues rebounded nicely winning all four of their games. In fact, the efforts of two of their players landed them NHL weekly honors. Jake Allen and Brayden Schenn were named the NHL’s first and second stars of the week. During the four-game stretch, Allen went 4-0 with a 1.50 goals-against average and.944 save percentage. Meanwhile, Schenn recorded six goals and one assist over that same time frame. Like always victory comes with a price. Leading scorer Jaden Schwartz was placed on injured reserve for up to six weeks with a broken foot. Schenn blocked a shot with his right foot and hobbled off the ice. Schenn was having an MVP type season doing everything the Blues had asked of him. It will be difficult for the Blues to replace such an offensive juggernaut.
For the Nashville Predators remaining a consistent hockey club is just what the doctor ordered. Picking up five of six points during the week helped them keep pace with a surging Blues team. Nashville is turning into the team everyone expected them to be coming into the season. Playing smart defensive hockey in front of Pekka Rinne has led the Predators to find an offensive output. Players like Filip Forsberg and Viktor Arvidsson are leading the way on offense for the Predators. It does not hurt the Predators cause, they continue to win their divisional games. In a tight division such as the Central, divisional games are so important. Better defense has led to better overall play. Things don’t get easier for the Predators as the season progresses.
Jets Running Out of Gas
As the Jets sat in first place, things could not get any better for the Winnipeg Jets. For Head Coach Paul Maurice his team was playing as well as they could. Unfortunately for his Jets, they decided to lay an egg on the road trip. Not only did the Jets not win a game on the road trip, the team only picked up one “loser” against Tampa Bay on Saturday night. Goaltending which has been strong as of late, was not that strong during this recent road trip. Like most teams, Winnipeg has some flaws they need to fix as the season rolls on. One player who handles public criticism well is Patrik Laine. Laine is the hardest person on himself. If Laine does not play well, he is not afraid to publicly say so. This shows great maturity.
Best of the Rest:
– Don’t look now but the Minnesota Wild are in the playoffs. Right now, the Wild occupy the final Wild Card spot in the Western Conference. This was inconceivable after the poor start the team had. Facing a ton of injuries, the Wild players knew all they had to do was get through that tough stretch and would be better off for it. Going through California road trip winning two games was a nice effort for the Wild. Eric Staal is playing like a Hart Trophy candidate for the Wild. Staal has put the team on his back and carried them this far. With more players returning from injury, the Wild can compete at full strength for a playoff spot.
– One team of that is hard to get a read on is the Dallas Stars. The Stars are such an up and down. One week the Stars look like one of the best teams in the league and the following week, they look like a bottom feeder. During the week, the Stars lost three games. Two of those games were divisional games. Anytime a team loses divisional games, it puts a team behind the eight ball. Dallas still has time to recover, but playing more consistent hockey will help their cause.
-Another disappointing team in the Central is the Chicago Blackhawks. With Corey Crawford out of the lineup, the Blackhawks goaltending situation was a mess. Since Crawford’s return, Chicago has won two games in a row. Crawford has been by far the best player for Chicago this season. Crawford’s numbers are worth consideration for the Vezina Trophy. If Crawford has been the best player for the Blackhawks, then Jonathan Toews has not been himself this season. While his numbers may show he is on pace for another good season, Toews looks like an old 29-year old player. It does not help that his contract is not good and could hurt the Blackhawks long term.
– What can you say about the Colorado Avalanche? There is not much to say about a team that competes at a high level but continues to struggle to pick up the wins. While the team is on pace to be better than they were last season, Colorado sits at the bottom of the division and right near the bottom of the conference as well. The only bright spot has been Nathan MacKinnon. MacKinnon has 33 points through 28 games. Things do not get any easier for the Avalanche as the schedule only gets tougher.