It was a wild and crazy weekend in the NHL’s Central Division. Every week it appears the top three teams always change positions. While at the bottom of the division, it is battle of the winning streaks. For more information, let’s go inside the NHL Central Division notebook by recapping the week that was.
NHL Central Division Notebook
Predators are Rolling
The Nashville Predators are the best team in the National Hockey League. That is what happens when a team wins six of the last seven games including a sweep of Western Canada. During the Predators current stretch, Nashville has outscored their opponents 13-1. For a team that was offensively challenged at the beginning of the year, Nashville has found their groove. Not only are the Predators playing great defense, but their offense has been exploding. While Filip Forsberg and Viktor Arvidsson lead the team in scoring, players like Kevin Fiala and Craig Smith are producing like they were in the playoffs last season for the Predators. With Predators jelling on all cylinders they are a mission to finish what they started last season.
Injuries Piling Up
While the St. Louis Blues are tied with the Nashville Predators in points with 46, the injuries are starting to add up to this Cup contender. With the likes of Jaden Schwartz and Alex Pietrangelo sidelined because of injuries, the offense for the Blues has struggled. Having lost three of their last four games have dropped the Blues in the standings. Vladimir Tarasenko has gone quiet with only two goals in his last six games. Brayden Schenn has picked up the slack for a missing Schwartz, the rest of the offense has not. St. Louis still sits in a good position, but they will need to grind games out now until the missing players come back.
For the Winnipeg Jets, the week was filled with mixed results. After starting the week with a nice win over Vancouver, the Jets lost two of the next three games. What makes those loses so much more painful for the Jets is the fact they lost two divisional games. With such a tight race in the Central Division, the Jets know every win matters. Kyle Connor is starting to come into his own for the Jets. Connor if fifth in the team in points with 19. Connor has found a nack playing with Mathieu Perreault. Perreault is also putting together a nice season for the Jets. These players along with the top stars must continue to up their level for the Jets to have continued success in such a tough division.
Best of the Rest:
-Watch out for the Chicago Blackhawks, who have found new life. In a matter of a week, the Blackhawks have gone from being on the outside of the playoff picture to the first wild-card position. As a matter of fact, Chicago is being powered by their superstar Patrick Kane. Kane has literally put the Blackhawks on his back during their current five-game winning streak. Not to say it is all Kane, but getting Corey Crawford back from injury does not hurt either. Prior to his injury, Crawford was the best player for Chicago. Nothing has changed since Crawford’s return from injury. Chicago will want to continue their momentum as they embark on a massive road trip.
-For the Dallas Stars, who now sit in the second wild-card position in the Western Conference, the week was filled with ups and downs. As a matter of fact, the Stars sat All-Star goalie Ben Bishop in favor of Kari Lehtonen during their recent road trip out east. Lehtonen is playing great for the Stars as head coach Ken Hitchcock called his number multiple times. Once Bishop gets back to finding his form, the Stars will have one of the best goalie combinations in the league. Leading the way for the Stars are Tyler Seguin and Jamie Benn. Both players lead the team in points with 29. For the Stars to stay competitive they will rely on Seguin and Benn to carry the load.
-It was a rough week for the Minnesota Wild. After starting the week strong with two wins, the Wild lost their next two games. Worst of all one of their losses came at the hands of a divisional rival in the Chicago Blackhawks. Eric Staal is continuing to have a stellar season for the Wild with Zach Parise out of the lineup. No one in the organization knows exactly when Parise will be back in the lineup. For now, the Wild will have to rely on what they have. One player as of late that is playing well is Ryan Suter. Suter is getting back to the form he had when he signed his long-term deal with Minnesota. Being the backbone of defense means Suter will be playing more minutes than any other player.
-For the Colorado Avalanche, who now sit six points out of the final playoff spot, it is now or never. Nobody expects Colorado to make the playoffs, but just do not tell the players that. Leading the way for the Avalanche is Nathan MacKinnon, who leads the team in points with 38 points. MacKinnon is on a mission to prove his doubters wrong. Another player wanting to prove people wrong is Gabriel Landeskog. Since recording his second career hattrick over the weekend, Landeskog had brought new life to the Avalanche. As each week progresses, the Avalanche are getting better. However, the team is still not ready to take the next step towards the playoffs. Once more the Avalanche have a big hill to climb in a tough Central Division.