The days of the Blackhawks perennially competing for the Stanley Cup seem to be over. The firing of former head coach, Joel Quenneville has not immediately improved their record. We could talk about their league worst power play and third worst penalty kill, but one glaring thing for fans to be unthankful for is being in the Central Division, arguably the most competitive in the league. Even if their record improves, they will be fighting tooth and nail for the final wildcard spot. It has the feeling of being asked to climb Mount Everest immediately after having an appendectomy.
With 86 goals, they are tied with Tampa Bay for the league lead. Their top line of Mikko Rantanen, Nathan MacKinnon and Gabriel Landeskog have combined for 39 goals. Los Angeles Kings have scored 45 as a team. When you consider their league best power play, things look pretty swell in Colorado. One minor concern would be the lack of scoring outside of the top line. Tyson Jost, for example, has a mere 8 points this season. It may be seen as picky, but fans could ask for more from the former top prospect.
Looking over this Dallas roster, one word came to mind. Celery. Outside of the top line of Alexander Radulov, Tyler Seguin and Jamie Benn, there’s a lot of mediocrity. It’s not terrible, but it’s not exciting either. Celery. I’m sure Stars fans would have been expecting more secondary scoring from Radek Faksa, Mattias Janmark and Valeri Nichushkin, but I’m sure they’ll be happy sitting in a playoff spot regardless.
Currently sitting second in the division, there are a lot of positives for the Wild. However they should be ungrateful for the production of Charlie Coyle (11 points), Joel Eriksson Ek (4 points) and Jordan Greenway (8 points). And no, I’m not bitter because I have them on my fantasy team. I’m bitter for so many other reasons. Minnesota has had excellent production from their top forwards and defensemen, but that won’t always be the case. Like a secondary parachute, you want to be confident it will work if the primary chute fails. If the top line scoring dries up, Minnesota could disappear down the division standings faster than a toupee in a hurricane.
The leaders of the division, Nashville are definitely one of the favourites to win the Stanley Cup this season. Goaltender Pekka Rinne looks like a Vezina candidate once again, as a team Nashville has allowed only 55 goals all season, tied with Boston for least in the league. However, their power play has been disappointing, converting only 13.8% of the time with the man advantage. Only Los Angeles and Chicago have a worse conversion rate.
St. Louis Blues
Less than two months into the season the Blues have a new coach, but the same problems. Against the Jets, their defense was shredded more than my previous accountants’ paperwork prior to an audit. It’s probably an oversimplification to place all the blame on the goaltending, but it’s the easy choice here. Jake Allen and Chad Johnson both own save percentages under .900, which is tolerable in the short term if you are able to outscore your problems. St Louis hasn’t been able to, which is why they are last in the Central Division, and second last in the entire league.
Although they are currently sitting in a wildcard spot, the Winnipeg Jets should challenge for the division title. However, like Minnesota, Winnipeg could use some secondary scoring from their bottom lines. Also, their league leading power play masks their failure to dominate at even strength, something you would expect a team hoping to compete for the Stanley Cup to be doing with consistency. They have scored 52 even strength goals, and conceded 46, a positive difference of only 6.
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stats from NHL.com