With the NHL All-Star Break closing in, the NHL Central Division has seen two teams continue dominate. The Winnipeg Jets and Nashville Predators continue to battle for the top seed in a tough Central Division. With Dallas so far behind, one of either Winnipeg or Nashville will win the division. Let’s go inside this week’s NHL Central Division Notebook.
NHL Central Division Notebook: Two Dominating Teams
Winnipeg Jets – The Winnipeg Jets continue to lead the Central Division. Winnipeg continues to survive without big names in the lineup. The only set back for the Jets this week was a loss to the Dallas Stars on the road. Winnipeg’s two wins came against Vegas and their divisional rival Nashville. Both of those wins were in dominating fashion. Mark Scheifele and Patrik Laine each have 25 goals. Connor Hellebuyck is back to last year’s form. A week off will be good for this team as it will allow players like Dustin Byfuglien and Nikolaj Ehlers to recover from injuries. Winnipeg will be in a fight with Nashville right until the end.
Nashville Predators – The Nashville Predators sit just two points behind the Jets for the top spot in the Central. If Nashville can get a win over Vegas Wednesday night, the Predators will be tied for the top spot heading into the bye week. Nashville ended a two game losing streak with a win over Colorado on Monday. Throughout the years, the Predators have never had a true goal scorer to dominate games. Nothing has changed this season, as 11 players have eight or more goals. Five of those players have 10 or more goals. That is balanced scoring right there. Hopefully for the Predators that continues going forward.
Dallas Stars – For all the Dallas Stars have gone through, it is amazing they are sitting in third place in the Central Division. Granted the Stars are tied with Colorado with 52 points, and Minnesota only sits at 51 points. There is no lock the Stars make the playoffs. If the Stars go on a losing streak, they could find themselves on the outside looking in. Tyler Seguin and Jamie Benn each have 18 goals with Radulov sitting at 14 goals. If the Stars want to go anywhere this year, they need Ben Bishop to step up. Bishop is having a good year, but in order for the Stars to get in, he must be great. Considering the Stars only have one line scoring.
Best of the Rest:
Colorado Avalanche – Here is another trying to end a losing streak. The Colorado Avalanche were one of the hottest teams in the league two months. Now, the Avalanche are a .500 hockey club. One of the reasons why the Avalanche have slowed is because of the rest of the league has figured out how to beat this team. For a long time, the top line of Landeskog, Rantanen, and MacKinnon were the best, and they still might be the best, but a team can’t win with one line. Lately, though Colorado is getting the some secondary scoring thanks in large part to Carl Soderberg. Going forward Colorado has a shot to make the playoffs, but the play from everyone must pick up.
Minnesota Wild – Considering the week the Minnesota Wild had, it is surprising to see them just one point out of the playoff spot. Or should we be surprised anymore by what this team does? On the other hand, the Wild did have trouble against the Flyers and Ducks. Apparently, the Wild can play above average hockey against better teams, and down their competition against teams near the bottom of the division. Going forward, the Wild need to take it to their opponents each and every game. Minnesota has experience playing the underdog role, must continue to execute that plan to perfection.
St. Louis Blues – All of sudden, the St. Louis Blues are a team climbing up the standings. With the Western Conference playoff picture wide open, the Blues still have a chance at the playoffs. Though it is still a slim one at best. Lately, though the Blues have been playing some good hockey. Even though the Blues have a shot at the playoffs, losing to the likes of Los Angeles is a step back. Even as the Blues make their push up the standings, management believes instead of being sellers at the deadline, the team should be buyers. Unless the Blues are in a wild card position, St. Louis should think towards next season.
Chicago Blackhawks – As Chicago inches closer to the trade deadline, the Blackhawks continue to improve. While it may not show game in and game out, Chicago is looking towards the future. Over the weekend, the Blackhawks turned back the clock as Jonathan Toews recorded a hat trick and Patrick Kane added two more goals against Washington. Clearly Kane has been the Blackhawks MVP, Toews is having a great year. The future is bright as Alex DeBrincat is having a stellar year. This may sound like a broken record, but having Dylan Strome on his line is developing helping. Both players are gaining confidence each and every game they play on the same line.