With all eyes on Winnipeg and Nashville, and rightfully so. The St. Louis Blues are quietly marching up the standings. Though the Blues have some work to do, realistically the playoffs are not out of the question. Even Chicago is playing some really good hockey at this moment. But the focus will always remain at the top two teams. Let’s go inside the NHL Central Division Notebook to see how the Blues are making their run.
NHL Central Division Notebook: Blues Marching Up the Standings
Winnipeg Jets – The Winnipeg Jets are playing some really good hockey at the moment, despite not having some of their best players in the lineup. It still amazes me that Dustin Byfuglien was able to return the night he got the concussion. Along with Byfuglien, Nikolaj Ehlers remains on IR. There is still no time table on their returns. One thing that is concerning is the play of Patrik Laine. After a good stretch where Laine was scoring, he has gone cold once again. Over the past several games, his minutes have been limited. The Jets need Laine to be a scoring machine. How much longer can the Jets rely on Jack Roslovic to score goals?
Nashville Predators – Coming out of the break, the Nashville Predators look to keep pace with the Winnipeg Jets. Through two games, the Predators were able to pick up two points. However, the Predators sit four points behind the Jets in the standings. Nashville wished they were able to win a divisional matchup against Dallas, but fell on home ice. With Nashville being such a good home team, the Predators can gain some ground on the Jets in the standings. With Auston Watson suspended the rest of the season, look for Nashville to make an addition or two to help in the push towards the playoffs.
Dallas Stars – Dallas remains one of those teams that could guarantee themselves a playoff spot or will be fighting for wild card position. The Stars certainly help their cause of making the playoffs with no problems, by winning two games out of the break. Especially since those two wins came against divisional opponents. With most of their games on the road this month, Dallas needs to get points on home ice. The Stars are a really good home, not so much on the road. However, a win in Nashville this past weekend gives them confidence. If Tyler Seguin and Jamie Benn continue to play at this level, look for the Stars to buyers at the deadline.
Best of the Rest:
Minnesota Wild – Not the ideal start the Wild wanted out of the break. Like most teams, the Wild played back to back games. Unfortunately the Wild were only able to pick up one point. That point came in an overtime loss to Chicago. The only loss was to Dallas. One team they are chasing in the standings, the other is near the bottom. Throughout the years, however, the Wild always had trouble with the Blackhawks. For whatever reason, the Wild could never seal the deal. That is something the Wild will need to work on going forward if they want to make the playoffs.
Colorado Avalanche – After relying on one line to carry the team for so long, the Avalanche have started to tinker with the line combinations. Granted the top line for the Avalanche have been good. It has not translated into wins over the past month of so. At the beginning of the season, it was almost a given the Avalanche would make the playoffs. Now it will be a dog fight down the stretch for Colorado. The Avalanche not only need depth scoring, but better goaltending. Let’s see if the Avalanche can start turning things around.
St. Louis Blues – Seemingly written off for dead, the Blues only sit three points out of the final wild card spot. It is amazing to see such a great turnaround for a team with so many expectations. Things coming out of the break started well with a win over a good Columbus Blue Jackets. Jordan Binnington has really settled this team down ever since being called up. To go along with that Binnington has allowed the players to play with more confidence. Over the past month, you can see the star players step up and score timely goals. The real question will be are the Blues buyers or sellers at the deadline?
Chicago Blackhawks – Another team facing a similar question is the Chicago Blackhawks. Chicago still has a long way to go, but winning four games in a row is certainly helping their cause. Over the past two games, Patrick Kane was able to record his 900th career NHL point in his 900th career NHL game. Kane continues to rewrite the record books for the Blackhawks. In fact, you could argue Kane is deserving of the Hart Trophy this season for his play. It will be interesting to see with the players on the roster, if Chicago asks them to waive their no trade clauses.