As the calendar flips to November, the tough Central Division still sees the Nashville Predators in first place. However, the rest of the teams in the division continue to leap frog in the standings. Except for Winnipeg, who remains in third place, the standings are completely different. Now it is the Minnesota Wild who are making noise as they climb up the division. Let’s go inside the NHL Central Division Notebook to see how the Wild are quietly rising up the standings.
NHL Central Division Notebook: Minnesota Quietly Rising
Before we get to the Wild, we first must talk about one of the best teams in the NHL, the Nashville Predators. Through 14 games, the Predators have 11 wins and are only getting better. Prior to the game against Tampa Bay, the Predators activated Pekka Rinne from the IR. Rinne looked comfortable in his return to the lineup. Then on Saturday his hard work paid off as Nashville rewarded Rinne with a new two-year contract worth $10 million. The AAV will be $5 million as Rinne will make $6 million next season and $4 million the following season. The Predators have a solid duo in Juuse Saros and Pekka Rinne. As Rinne gets older he will need time off and Saros will provide him with that. While Nashville is playing good, the Predators want to play even better.
Now on to the Minnesota Wild, who quietly are making waves in the Central Division. Each of the past six seasons, the Wild have made the playoffs. While Minnesota would have liked to make a deep run in one of those six years, that is a great accomplishment. In fact the Wild are the only team in the Central Division to make the playoffs in six straight seasons. Though the Wild had their five game winning streak stopped, Minnesota were able to win two straight games following that loss. Not going into tailspins after a long winning streak has allowed the Wild to climb up the rankings. Getting contributions outside of Zach Parise has also helped the Wild’s surge. Mikael Granlund and Eric Staal are finding their scoring touches again. Not only that but the Wild are also getting goals from their depth players.
To say it has been an up and down start to begin the season for the Jets is an understatement. Winnipeg was in Finland for the NHL’s Global Series as they took on the Florida Panthers. Returning home to Finland was just what the doctor ordered for Patrik Laine. Laine was struggling to find his scoring touch early in the season. He only recorded three goals. In two games in Finland, Laine scored four goals between the two games to become the goal scoring leader on the Jets. Throughout the season head coach Paul Maurice has shifted Laine throughout the lines trying to help him score some goals. Maybe the Jets need to play more games in Finland. Even though Winnipeg sits in a good position, the Jets know they have to play better as the season progresses.
Best of the Rest:
Colorado Avalanche – It was a tough week if you were a member of the Colorado Avalanche. Only playing two games and getting one point out of it is disappointing. Especially for a team that had been playing so well. And while both of the games the Avalanche played were excited, Colorado was on the losing end of two high scoring affairs. The top line of Mikko Rantanen, Nathan McKinnon, and Gabriel Landeskog are amongst the leaders in scoring in the NHL. Those three continue to impress as each game passes by. Eventually the Avalanche are going to need more out of the rest of their forwards. While Colorado is relying on one line to win games, eventually the top line will stop scoring and others must step up.
Dallas Stars – As written in last week’s post, the Dallas Stars needed to find ways to win games on the road. And that is exactly what the Stars have done. After the Stars lost their first game of six on the road, Dallas knew eventually their fortunes would change on the road. In fact, Dallas was able to win their next three games on the road. One of their victories came against the defending Stanley Cup Champions the Washington Capitals. While the Stars have not been winning by a wide margin, they are finding ways to close out games. These are valuable wins and points for a team that wants to make the playoffs this season.
Chicago Blackhawks – After such a great start the Chicago Blackhawks have come back to Earth. Losers of four straight games, it wasn’t the perfect trip through Western Canada for Chicago. Most expected the Blackhawks to struggle this season, so the surprising start made people wondered could Chicago go to the playoffs this season? Even with Corey Crawford back between the pipes, he does not look comfortable. While Crawford gives Chicago the best chance to win hockey games, he will need some time before he returns to his All-Star level of play. Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews are playing like All-Stars, but it is Alex DeBrincat who is carrying the offense as of late. DeBrincat is one the key pieces going forward for the Blackhawks.
St. Louis Blues – For every two steps forwards, there is one step back for the St. Louis Blues. It appeared St. Louis had turned things around after winning back to back games. However, after a lackluster effort against Minnesota on Saturday night, things need to change drastically. There has already one been one coaching casualty to begin the season will there be another in St. Louis? There were so many expectations on this team heading in this season. Currently it has been nothing but a disappointment. There have been a few bright spots including Ryan O’Reilly and Vladimir Tarasenko up amongst the team leaders in points. However, players like Brayden Schenn and Jaden Schwartz are having down years. There is time to turn things around, but it has to happen quickly.