Chicago Blackhawks left wing Brandon Bollig (52) and Colorado Avalanche center Ryan O'Reilly (90) skate during the second period of an NHL hockey game, Monday, March 18, 2013, in Denver. (AP Photo/Jack Dempsey)
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 lead the pack in the Central Division, and despite playing two fewer games than the Chicago Blackhawks, they still have a two point lead. They have only allowed 19 goals in 13 games, an incredible mark that makes it easy to see why they have reeled off six consecutive victories.
In addition to that defensive effort (which is a big reason why they are the top dog in the league in penalty killing percentage at 90.9%), the Avalanche are scoring a bunch too, ranking sixth in the league in goals per game with 3.2. Matt Duchene already has nine goals and five assists in 14 games, but it’s the scoring depth (they have nine players scoring a half point per game) that is really doing wonders for their attack.
2 (Last Week’s Rank: 3): Chicago Blackhawks
The Blackhawks really racked up the goals this week, scoring 18 in four games as they had a 3-0-1 record in those tilts. The best part of that performance was that it was a different line each night that provided the biggest punch, with all 12 forwards really pulling their weight on the offensive side of things.
The only question that really should be of concern to Hawks fans is whether or not Corey Crawford can sustain his high level of play with the extra workload he’s been enduring because of the lackluster play of backup goaltender Nikolai Khabibulin recently. When that’s a team’s biggest problem though, things really are going well.
3 (Last Week’s Rank: 2): St. Louis Blues
The Blues only played twice last week, picking up a shutout win over the Florida Panthers on Friday and then dropping a 4-2 decision to the Tampa Bay Lightning despite only allowing 25 shots in the contest.
Alex Steen continues to dazzle as he is averaging a goal per game for the Blues, and their goaltending has been great once again with Jaroslav Halak and Brian Elliott working their magic between the pipes. A couple of tough home tilts against the Calgary Flames and Pittsburgh Penguins will test them in a big way later this week.
4 (Last Week’s Rank: 4): Minnesota Wild
After the Wild had an anvil dropped on their heads against the Blackhawks on Monday, they bounced back nicely, knocking off the Montreal Canadiens and New Jersey Devils in back to back games. Josh Harding continues to shine for the Wild, only allowing three goals in the two games, and Jason Pominville also continued his strong play, scoring twice and adding an assist to beat the Habs.
5 (Last Week’s Rank: 6): Nashville Predators
The Predators kicked off a seven game road trip this week with a shootout loss to the Phoenix Coyotes, but they bounced back with a nice 4-3 victory over the Los Angeles Kings on Saturday night. Patric Hornqvist shone brightly in that game, with three assists to help his team to victory despite being outshot by a 38-17 margin.
Two road games against Central Division foes loom on the horizon, as the Predators will take on the Avalanche and Jets this week, before wrapping the week up against the Devils on Sunday.
6 (Last Week’s Rank: 5): Dallas Stars
It was an up and down week for the Stars, as they won two road games against the Buffalo Sabres and Ottawa Senators, but dropped a tough 3-2 decision to the Avalanche in overtime on Friday. Tyler Seguin had a big hand in the Monday win, with a goal and an assist, and Kari Lehtonen looked strong against the Senators despite having to face 36 shots.
Looming on the Stars’ schedule are three big tests, as they will travel to play the Boston Bruins and Detroit Red Wings, then return home for a date with the Blackhawks on Saturday.
7 (Last Week’s Rank: 7): Winnipeg Jets
The Jets only played twice this week, but both of their efforts were futile ones as they were outscored 8-3 by the Blues and Blackhawks in two regulation losses. Their second period against the Hawks was especially bad, as Ondrej Pavelec had to be pulled after giving up three goals in six minutes.
They will have four chances to redeem themselves this week, as they have home games against the Red Wings, Predators, and Sharks, and a road game with the Blackhawks on Wednesday.