NHL Central Division Notebook: Crowded at the Top

NHL Trade Deadline

One of the more competitive divisions entering the All-Star break has been the Central Division. Teams are battling for position game in and game out. The competition has even led to some off-ice rivalries. There is no more room amongst the top teams in the Central Division. Time to go inside the NHL Central Division Notebook to recapping the week.

NHL Central Division Notebook

Still Flying High

The Winnipeg Jets are still flying despite losing their final game heading into the All-Star break. Picking up three points during the week has allowed the Jets to stay on top of the division. Winnipeg has been playing great this whole season as they have been the best Canadian team thus far. However, the Jets were given some bad news over the weekend. Star defenseman Jacob Trouba will be sidelined 6 to 8 weeks with a lower-body injury. Trouba has been playing well for the Jets this season. This could a blow for a team that is already missing Mark Scheifele in the lineup. It will be interesting to see how the team responds as the Jets will play most of their games at home.

In the Mix

The Nashville Predators are still right in the mix for the division lead. Nashville had a solid week picking up three points. As a matter of fact, the Predators went toe-to-toe with the Tampa Bay Lightning, one of the best teams in the league. Though they failed in winning the game, it showed the Predators they belong with the league’s best. Speaking of being one of the league’s best, that is what P.K. Subban is. Subban is one of the best defensemen in the NHL and is having the time of his life in Nashville. The fan base and team have embraced what Subban is all about. This is allowed Subban and the team to flourish. Going forward Subban will be a vital to the Predators success come the second half of the season.

Finding their Game

It took some time but the St. Louis Blues are finding their game once again. After going through a period of a rough patch, the Blues are playing the kind of hockey their coach Mike Yeo wants them to. With back-to-back wins heading into the All-Star break, the Blues find themselves within striking distance of the top spot. Early on in the season, the Blues were one of the best teams in the league. Now, no one is talking about them as a Stanley Cup contender. That is a good thing for the Blues. As a matter of fact, St. Louis should ride the underdog label as long as they can. That way the team does not crumble under high expectations.

Best of the Rest:

-While the Dallas Stars are a few points away from the top three in the division, the team knows it will be an uphill climb. Sitting in fourth place is good for a team like the Dallas Stars. With five teams making the playoffs from the Central Division, the Stars are in a good position. All the pieces are in place for Dallas to have a successful second half of the season. The one thing the Stars have to clean up is their inconsistent play. In order to take the next step in the league, the Stars have to play a full 60-minute game. The team cannot take periods or games off. With points at a premium, the Stars know going forward every game is important.

-Despite Colorado’s 11-game winning streak coming to an end, the Avalanche are playing some good hockey. Even last year, Colorado was a tough out. Now without any distraction, the Avalanche are playing even better hockey. Losing two in a row prior to the break is never good. However, Colorado’s compete level is excellent, so they will be in every game they play. The Avalanche are playing complete games. While there is a dip in their play, which is expected from a young team, Colorado tries to finish every game strong. Don’t be surprised if Colorado makes a strong push in the second half of the year.

-Minnesota is knocking on the door of the final playoff spot along with several other teams. The Wild picked up points this week, the team desperately needed. Minnesota is getting production from one of their young players in Mikael Granlund. After missing some time with an injury, Granlund is back in the lineup. His presence was felt right away picking up two points in the win over the Ottawa Senators. Another player who has picked up his game has been Ryan Suter. Suter, who struggled in recent years, is finally back to his form he had three years ago. Fourth in the team in scoring, Suter is a reason, the Wild are where they are in the standings. Suter can elevate his game even further in order for the Wild to have a chance at the playoffs.

-The curious case of the Chicago Blackhawks continues. The entire team, the Blackhawks have been a team of streaks. Chicago would win some then lose some. Despite being last in the Central, the Blackhawks are four points away from the playoffs. It will be a tall order for the Blackhawks to make the playoffs. There are too many flaws with this team. Chicago will need to play flawless hockey down the stretch, which is a tough ask. In fact, the teams in front of them will have to falter so much, for Chicago to even have a chance. Do not be surprised to see some changes at the deadline if the Blackhawks are out of the playoff picture.

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Photo Credit: By Lisa Gansky (Flickr: IMG_3214) [CC BY-SA 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

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