In last week’s edition of the NHL Central Division Notebook, we looked at the three team race for third place. And while those three teams are still fighting for third place, one team is starting to make a charge up the standings. That team is the Colorado Avalanche. With Nashville dealing with injuries, and Minnesota trying to keep pace, the Avalanche are on a roll right now up the standings. Time to go inside this week’s version of the NHL Central Division Notebook to see how Colorado is making this charge.
NHL Central Division Notebook: Colorado Making a Charge
Of course we have to start off with one of the better teams in the division, the Nashville Predators. Recently, the Predators have been hit with the injury bug. PK Subban, Viktor Arvidsson, and now Kyle Turris are all out of the lineup with injuries. Head coach Peter Laviolette is shaking up the lines constantly. As some players come out of the lineup, other players go into the lineup. One of those players is Austin Watson. Watson came back into the lineup after serving an 18 game suspension for domestic abuse. Watson was pivotal in the Predators win against Anaheim as he recorded a hat trick. Despite all these injuries the Predators have won six straight games on home ice. The Bridgestone Arena feels and sounds like it did during the Predators run to the Stanley Cup Final in 2017.
The Minnesota Wild continue to keep pace with the Nashville Predators in a tough Central Division. In fact, the Wild are only five points behind the Predators for the top spot. Despite a few loses recently, the Wild were able to rebound nicely with back to back wins. One of those wins was against the red hot Winnipeg Jets. Minnesota is playing a well rounded game under Bruce Boudreau. However, the Wild will ultimately be judged on what the team does in the playoffs. We know Boudreau’s teams are great in the regular season, but fail to do anything in the playoffs. He is hoping to change that this season. It will be a tough task for the Wild . While the playoffs are still far away, the Wild are focusing on making sure they are in by continuously to win games.
The Colorado Avalanche are red hot right now. Colorado is playing like one of the best teams in the league. The Avalanche are on a four game winning streak. The top line of Mikko Rantanen, Gabriel Lankesdog, and Nathan MacKinnon continue to light it up for the team, Colorado is getting more and more depth scoring. Early in the season, the top line got all the attention and rightfully so. Those three players make up the best line in the NHL. Recently, though Colorado is getting goals from players like Carl Soderberg, Colin Wilson, and Alexander Kerfoot. These players are making the Avalanche a more balanced team. Instead of relying on one line, for goal scoring, the Avalanche can get production from their entire lineup.
Best of the Rest:
Winnipeg Jets – Despite losing two games during the week, the Winnipeg Jets are still in a good position in the Western Conference. Sitting in the first wild card position, the Jets only sit two points behind the Avalanche and Wild in the Central Division. One of the hottest players in hockey is Patrik Laine. Since returning to Finland, Laine is on fire when it comes to goal scoring. Laine was named the NHL’s first star of the week as he recored 11 goals in four games this week. Against Vancouver Laine recorded his sixth career hat trick. To close the week, Laine scored a career high and franchise record five goals against the Blues. Laine is just the 57th player to record five goals in one game.
Dallas Stars – Despite coming off an impressive win against the Islanders, the Stars continue to have problems winning on the road. Dallas is the Western Conference equivalent to the New Jersey Devils in the Eastern Conference. Both teams play great on home ice, but struggle on the road. That is a stat, Dallas must fix in hopes of maintaining a playoff spot in the Western Conference. Three of four losses during the week, allowed other teams in the division and conference to catch up with them. What Dallas needs is get on a role winning on the road. Home ice has been great to the Stars, but for some reason the team can translate that to the road. If the Stars can figure it out, they will be a deadly team.
Chicago Blackhawks – The Chicago Blackhawks continue to struggle after the coaching change. Even though the Blackhawks appear to be playing better, they are a rebuilding team. Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane are playing up to their respective contracts this season. However, General Manager Stan Bowman felt more changes needed to be made. Chicago traded Alex DeBrincat to Arizona for Dylan Strome and Brendan Perlini. All three players are off to slow starts especially DeBrincat who had a career year last season. Bowman is trying to add depth to Chicago’s roster. That is the price a team pays for winning in the salary cap era. Bowman is also trying to salvage his job.
St. Louis Blues – The coaching carousel finally made it to the St. Louis Blues. After writing last week’s Central Division Notebook, the Blues fired head coach Mike Yeo the next morning. The Blues replaced him with Craig Berube on an interim basis. Also joining the staff will be Larry Robinson. Robinson will only be with the team for a little while. The move came after any shutout loss, this time to the Los Angeles Kings. Even with the coaching change, the Blues continued to struggle losing two of three games. Right now, the Blues are one of the more disappointing teams in the NHL. Despite all the moves in the off-season, St. Louis is slow and old. Are more moves on the way for the Blues? Only time will tell.