Chicago Blackhawks' Niklas Hjalmarsson is checked by Minnesota Wild's Zach Parise.
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): Colorado Avalanche
The Avalanche continue to be one of the biggest surprises in the NHL this season (along with the Tampa Bay Lightning), going 3-0 last week and picking up a huge victory last Monday over the Pittsburgh Penguins in the Steel City. Their goaltending tandem of Jean Sebastien Giguere and Semyon Varlamov is not only strong on verbiage, but also in their ability to stop shots from everywhere.
2 (Last Week’s Rank: 2): St. Louis Blues
In a bit of a weird scheduling quirk, the Blues haven’t been playing much lately, but when they have hit the ice, the results have been impressive. They did lose in overtime to the Vancouver Canucks last week, but they followed up that defeat by smoking the Nashville Predators by a 6-1 margin the next night. It will be interesting to see whether the Blues can maintain their scoring potency when their schedule becomes less erratic.
3 (Last Week’s Rank: 3): Chicago Blackhawks
A week that started out with a victory over the Florida Panthers ended with a whimper for the Hawks, as they blew a third period lead against the Lightning on Thursday and lost in unimpressive fashion to the Minnesota Wild on Saturday. Add to that the fact the Hawks have given up 11 goals in their past two games, and there might be some issues that the defending champs need to address.
4 (Last Week’s Rank: 5): Minnesota Wild
After a sluggish start to the year, the Wild have really rounded into form in recent weeks. They not only knocked off the Blackhawks this week, but they also beat the Predators too, and when you factor in the incredible goaltending they’ve been getting lately, it’s easy to see what is infusing them with so much confidence.
5 (Last Week’s Rank: 7): Dallas Stars
The Stars have jumped up and fallen down these rankings fairly often, but their plight is symptomatic of the teams fighting for position at the bottom of the Central. They destroyed the Calgary Flames (who are also one of the league’s bigger surprises), but then turned around and lost in a shootout to lowly Winnipeg. Getting Kari Lehtonen back on a consistent basis should help them out a bit in terms of regaining some consistency to their play.
6 (Last Week’s Rank: 4): Nashville Predators
Speaking of teams who are struggling to maintain consistency, the Predators were dealt a big blow this week when they lost goaltender Pekka Rinne to a hip injury that will sideline him for at least a month. It’s unclear whether former Hawks prospect Carter Hutton and young Swede Magnus Hellberg can shoulder the load in Rinne’s absence, but judging by the 6-1 drubbing the Predators got at the hands of the Blues, it may be a long month plus without their star keeper.
7 (Last Week’s Rank: 6): Winnipeg Jets
Bringing up the rear this are the Jets, a team that went 1-1-2 this week, with a shootout win over Dallas standing out as the lone bright spot. The Jets are struggling in their inaugural season in the Central, going 2-4-1 against the division this year, and things won’t get any easier for them this week, as they face the Blues on the road Tuesday and welcome the Hawks to the MTS Centre on Saturday afternoon.