CHICAGO, IL - MARCH 1: (EDITORIAL USE ONLY) Jonathan Toews #19 of the Chicago Blackhawks in the third period against the Pittsburgh Penguins at the 2014 Coors Light NHL Stadium Series game at Soldier Field on March 1, 2014 in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Tasos Katopodis /Getty Images)
Every week, Madhouse Enforcer will take a look around the Central Division and let you know who’s hot and who’s not in our little corner of the hockey world.
1 (Last Week’s Rank: 1): St. Louis Blues
If there is one answer to the question of “who’s hot” in the Central, it would be the Blues, winners of five straight games. If there’s a second answer permitted to the query, then goaltender Ryan Miller would qualify, as he’s won his first four starts with the Blues and has only allowed six goals total in those contests.
The Blues show little sign of slowing down either, as they head into a relatively tame part of their schedule. They will welcome the Dallas Stars to Scottrade Center on Tuesday, then will play the Oilers, Predators, and Jets to wrap up the week.
2 (Last Week’s Rank: 3): Chicago Blackhawks
Despite losing Marian Hossa to an injury, the Hawks’ offense has come through in recent games when necessarily, largely headlined by the efforts of guys like Jonathan Toews, who has scored six goals in five games since the Olympic break concluded. He was joined on the scoresheet by Patrick Kane in a Sunday win over the Sabres, and Christopher Kamka of CSN Chicago dug up an interesting statistic on the accomplishment:
#Blackhawks now 41-6-4 (including playoffs) when Toews & Kane score in same game.
— Christopher Kamka (@ckamka) March 10, 2014
The Hawks will have a chance to gain some ground in their division this week, as they will tangle with the Avalanche and Predators. On Sunday, they also will welcome the Red Wings back to the United Center for the first time since their epic 2013 playoff series.
3 (Last Week’s Rank: 2): Colorado Avalanche
It’s a tough world when losing a one goal game to the top team in your division gets you demoted a spot in the divisional power rankings, but that’s where the Avalanche find themselves despite a 3-1-0 week last week. The team’s power play was a bit on the anemic side, only going 1-for-14 in those contests, and they also surrendered three power play goals, but the fact that they were able to put points up on the board softens the blow a little bit.
The Avalanche will have an opportunity get back on the right track this week, as they welcome both the Blackhawks and the Anaheim Ducks to the Pepsi Center. A trip to Ottawa rounds out the week, and it will be interesting to see whether or not the group can rebound a bit from a tough week on special teams.
4 (Last Week’s Rank: 4): Minnesota Wild
If we were assigning television characters that best represented each team in the division, the Minnesota Wild would be Homer Simpson: they have created a perfect groove in the couch as they’ve held down the fourth spot in these rankings for nearly the entire season, and despite losing two games in a row last week to the Stars and Blues, they remain in that spot yet again.
Next week should provide some interesting tests for the team. A game against the lowly Oilers starts out the slate, but then home matchups against possible playoff noisemakers in the Rangers and Blue Jackets follow. Finally, the Wild will head to the Northeast to battle the defending Eastern Conference champion Boston Bruins on Monday.
5 (Last Week’s Rank: 5): Dallas Stars
If you’re a fan of the Dallas Stars, or a member of the team, then you surely wouldn’t be blamed for having your thoughts elsewhere this morning, as Rich Peverley continues to recover from his medical scare on Monday night that caused the Stars’ game against the Blue Jackets to be postponed. Obviously we here at NBC Chicago all wish Peverley all the best, and our huge gratitude goes out to the medical staff that in all likelihood saved his life on Monday night with their quick and decisive action.
Somehow, the Stars will have to overcome that traumatizing experience as they battle the Blues on Tuesday night, with games against the Flames and Jets to follow as the week wraps up. Hockey is likely the furthest thing from their minds this morning, but let’s all hope that it provides them a measure of escape as they hit the ice on Tuesday night.
6 (Last Week’s Rank: 7): Nashville Predators
The Predators may have gotten Pekka Rinne back last Tuesday, but it still wasn’t all that great a week for the Music City denizens as they dropped three out of four games, getting outscored by a margin of 6-2 in those defeats.
Fortunately for the Predators, the schedule eases up a bit this week, with road trips to Buffalo and Edmonton on the agenda. On the downside, they also have to take a trip to Chicago on Friday night to face-off against the Blackhawks, then follow that up the very next night with a home skate against the red hot St. Louis Blues. Talk about a sucker punch.
7 (Last Week’s Rank: 6): Winnipeg Jets
The bad news: the Jets have allowed 33 power plays in their last six games. The good news? They have only conceded four goals on the man-advantage, but in spite of that success, they still have dropped four games in a row, and uninspiring losses to the Islanders and Senators helped to knock the Jets to the bottom of this list.
Unfortunately for Winnipeg, things aren’t going to get any easier. They are facing down a stretch of four games in six nights, with the desperate Canucks and Rangers heading into Manitoba. They also have to play a tough back-to-back on Sunday and Monday, hosting the Stars at MTS Centre and then heading down to St. Louis to battle the Blues.