One of the toughest divisions in hockey is living up to is reputation already. Throughout the early part of the season, the Central Division has a seen a dog fight near the top of the standings. The established team in Nashville is showing their dominance. The young and upcoming Avalanche continue to prove they are no fluke. While Winnipeg is just flying under the radar. The top five teams are only separated by two points. Time to go inside the NHL Central Division Notebook.
NHL Central Division Notebook: Colorado is No Fluke
Let’s be honest the Nashville Predators are the best team in hockey. Even with their struggles of late, the Predators are still the best. Not having Pekka Rinne between the pipes definitely hurts, but Nashville is still finding ways to win hockey games. Though this best week, Nashville lost two of three games. The team’s only win came in New Jersey in come from behind fashion. Juuse Saros has not played well considering he is auditioning for the starter’s role. Once Rinne comes back things will settle down for the Predators. After his early season success Filip Forsberg has to be considered one of the best players in the NHL. Forsberg has 10 goals in 11 games this season and leads in the team in points with 14. He can take over games and has the ability to win games by himself.
What’s interesting about the Colorado Avalanche is that the team is basically being carried by one line. This may sound like a broken record, but Colorado’s top line is the best in the NHL. Regardless, who they play against the line of Nathan MacKinnon, Mikko Rantanen, and Gabriel Landeskog always find a way to score when they are on the ice. Usually one line cannot carry a team, but Colorado is bucking the system. With the play of these three, the Colorado Avalanche are getting back to being an elite franchise in the NHL. While the Avalanche still have some holes to fill, Colorado is no fluke this season. Besides the top line, Colorado is getting solid goaltending from Semyon Varlamov and Philipp Grubauer. At some point others on the offensive side of the puck must score.
Even with all the Jets struggles to begin the season, Winnipeg is sitting in third place in a tough Central Division. Winnipeg split their four games during the week. In their first game of the week, the Jets had a nice come from behind victory over the St. Louis Blues. Winnipeg lost both games to Toronto and found a way to win against Detroit. What is concerning has been the starts for the Winnipeg Jets. Starting off games slow especially against St. Louis and Toronto early in the week put them in comeback mode from the start. It appeared that Winnipeg would win three of four games during the week, but could not find a way to hold against the Maple Leafs on Saturday night. The Jets are off to Finland for the NHL Global Series to play a home and home series with the Florida Panthers.
Best of the Rest:
Chicago Blackhawks – Considering the Blackhawks did not have Corey Crawford to begin the season, the team performed admirably. Now that Crawford is back, Chicago is an even better team. Though the Blackhawks lost their last two games, they were able to pick up five of eight points. After picking up back to back victories, Chicago got blown out by divisional rival St. Louis. The next night, the Blackhawks fell to Connor McDavid and the Oilers in overtime. Only one point behind the division leaders is something to be proud of for a team that had no expectations coming into the season. Slowly, but surely Crawford will be back to his old self. But having Crawford between the pipes gives the Blackhawks the best chance to win every night.
Minnesota Wild – Quietly the Minnesota Wild are climbing back up in the standings in the Central Division. After dealing with injuries early on, the Wild are getting back to full strength. The Wild are riding a five-game winning streak as they head up to Western Canada. Every year, the Wild just go unnoticed and just like that Minnesota is in the playoffs. It appears this season will be the same. Devan Dubnyk is playing at a high level once again. Dubnyk is one of the reasons why the Wild are siting where they are in the season. Another reason is the fact that Zach Parise is full healthy and playing like the player he was back when he played for the Devils. When Parise is healthy, he is still an impact player. Minnesota has to hope he stays healthy.
Dallas Stars – Home cooking has been great for the Dallas Stars. Unfortunately the same cannot be said for when the Stars go on the road. Dallas has an amazing home record to begin the season, but the team has yet to win a game on the road. And while the Stars have only played three road games, finding the right formal on the road will be a key to the Stars season. In fact, if the Stars cannot find ways to win on the road, Dallas could be on the outside looking in on the playoffs. Dallas is on a six-game road trip and the team has already lost in Detroit. Over the next five games the Stars are in must win situations on the road. With the Stars potent lineup, you would think Dallas would have a better record in road games.
St. Louis Blues – Head coach Mike Yeo gave an edict to his team after an embarrassing loss during the week. Yeo claimed that his job should be on the line after the way his team performed. The Blues responded with a dominating win over the Chicago Blackhawks. Maybe that is exactly what the Blues players needed to hear and the turning point of the season. While the Blues did pick up three of six points during the week, it should have been more. Holding a lead against the Jets on Monday night, St. Louis let Winnipeg back in the game. Ultimately, the Blues would fall in overtime. With the Blues in the midst of an eight game home stand, St. Louis gain start to gain some ground in the standings. Here is hoping St. Louis can build off the success the team had on Saturday night.