For teams in the Central Division the mandatory bye week has come at a perfect time. It has been battle in the standings to say the least between the teams in the Central Division. Let’s go inside the NHL Central Division Notebook to recap the week that was and look ahead at what teams need to improve on coming out of their bye week.
NHL Central Division Notebook Break Time
The Winnipeg Jets are still in a good position despite losing two straight divisional games prior to their bye week. The Jets sit in first place in the division three points ahead of Nashville and four points ahead of St. Louis. Winnipeg also received some good news this week as Blake Wheeler and Connor Hellebuyck were named to the Central Division All-Star team. Wheeler is having an amazing season as he leads the team with 53 points. Even with Mark Scheifele out of the lineup, Wheeler continues to produce offensively. Connor Hellebuyck is the reason the Jets are in the position they are in. Without Hellebuyck’s stellar play in net the Jets may not even be in this position this year. Penalties have been a problem for the Jets the last two games. The team will need to take less penalties and get to playing smart hockey.
The Nashville Predators got some much needed time off after their win against the Edmonton Oilers. During that game, Viktor Arvidsson got off the scoring slump. Maybe Arvidsson the break came at the wrong time, but for the rest of the team the break is what they needed. While Filip Forsberg recovers from injury, players like Ryan Johansen and Kyle Turris get to think about how they need to improve as the second half of the season gets underway. With P.K. Subban and Pekka Rinne being named All-Stars, the Predators will be well represented down in Tampa at the end of the month. The Predators have a chance to regain the top spot as the Jets are on their bye week.
Feeling the Blues
If there is such thing as perfect timing, the St. Louis Blues are thanking the NHL schedule makers as the Blues went into their bye week on a losing streak. It was the perfect time for a team that needs to rest and recover. Another loss prior to the break has allowed the Blues to think about how to improve their game on the ice. Many thought the Blues were the team to beat in the West, but once the injury to Jaden Schwartz happened, the Blues have been a different team. While Brayden Schenn and Vladimir Tarasenko have picked up the scoring, the play of the Blues goalies has been awful. Speaking of Schenn, he was named to the All-Star team because of the season he is having. St. Louis knows they can make up ground if they can win games.
Best of the Rest:
-The Dallas Stars find themselves in a great position as the second half of the season beings. As a matter of fact, the Stars have equalled the Blues in points with 55. With such a poor start to the season, many felt if Dallas missed the playoffs it would a disappointing season. What is most impressive is the play of Ben Bishop. Bishop is living up to his hype and has done everything the Stars have asked. Coming out of the break, the Stars have won two games in a row thanks in part to their All-Star Tyler Seguin. Seguin has been a stud all season for Dallas. So it was strange to see his line-mate Jamie Benn not selected for the team. All Benn is doing is having another stellar season. With those pieces rolling the Stars can even get higher in the standings.
-What a great week it was for the Minnesota Wild. Picking up six of eight points has elevated the Wild in the standings. Minnesota currently holds the final wild card spot as they enter their bye week. Eric Staal’s fantastic season continues. Not only does he lead the team in scoring with 38 points, but Staal was selected to the All-Star game. Minnesota has done wonders for his career. With all the injuries the Wild have faced this season, the one constant has been Eric Staal. Even though the Wild are getting their players back, the rest will help those just coming back from injuries. Going forward the Wild know they must continue win divisional games if they want any chance of climbing in the standings.
-The Colorado Avalanche find themselves in the midst of a eight game winning streak. All season long the Avalanche have been a tough team to play against. Now the Avalanche find themselves tied for the final wild card spot in the West. This is the great thing about hockey. No one can predict which teams will be good and which teams will be bad. Ever since Matt Duchene was traded Colorado has been rolling. As a result players like Gabriel Landeskog, and Mikko Rantanen are playing with much more confidence. One player in particular that has been playing exceptionally well is Nathan MacKinnon. As a matter of fact McKinnon was named to the All-Star game and has chance to be a nominee for the Hart Trophy.
-One of the more interesting teams in the NHL this season has been the Chicago Blackhawks. Most notably the Blackhawks have endured so much adversity this season. Usually the Blackhawks are the hunted, now they are the hunters. Chicago traded for Anthony Duclair in hopes are bolstering their offense. One of the more quieter team in the league, the fact that Brent Seabrook voiced his displeasure over being a healthy scratch says something. Though Seabrook was back in the lineup the following game, a message was sent to the team that they must play better. Patrick Kane continues to have a stellar season. As a result he will be going to Tampa at the end of the month for the All-Star game. In order for the Blackhawks to make the playoffs they must get consistent goal scoring and stop playing streaky hockey.