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. Chicago Blackhawks (Last Week’s Rank: 1)
Despite dropping an overtime decision to the Calgary Flames on Wednesday, the Blackhawks retain their top spot in the rankings based on their dominance of possession in their two Week 2 games. They outshot their opponents 87-38 in those games, but that advantage in shots was at least in part due to the fact they got 12 power plays in the two games.
Nonetheless, the Hawks will be looking to improve on their power play and on their finishing around the net as they head into a tough stretch of games. Home tilts against Philadelphia and Ottawa sandwich road tests against the Predators and Blues.
2. Dallas Stars (Last Week’s Rank: 5)
The Stars got off to a rough start to the season, but they rebounded nicely in the second week, grabbing five of the six available points. They scored three times on the power play in wins over the Blue Jackets and Penguins, and they got a hat trick from Tyler Seguin and a four point night from Jason Spezza in the process.
Next week things remain on the easy side for the Stars schedule wise, with tilts against the Canucks, Islanders, and Devils on the docket.
3. St. Louis Blues (Last Week’s Rank: 4)
The Blues are a team that was all over the map last week, with a blowout victory over the lowly Arizona Coyotes and then two resounding defeats at the hands of the Kings and Ducks. St. Louis did outshoot Los Angeles 43-18 in a losing effort, but the fact they couldn’t get the job done was a bit disconcerting.
Unfortunately for St. Louis, things aren’t getting any easier. They only play two games in Week 3, with home tilts against the Canucks and Blackhawks looming, but they will likely be without offseason acquisition Paul Stastny, who is week-to-week with an upper body injury.
4. Minnesota Wild (Last Week’s Rank: 2)
After winning back-to-back games against the Colorado Avalanche to begin the year, Minnesota crashed back to earth with losses to the Ducks and Kings. Overall on the season, they are 0-for-16 on the power play, and they suffered a huge scare when Mikael Granlund was drilled on a late hit by Anaheim’s Ryan Kesler. Fortunately for them, he seemed to be okay, but it reminded them of what life could look like without him.
Minnesota will look to get back on the winning track with a couple of home games this week, playing the Coyotes and Lightning at Xcel Energy Center.
5. Nashville Predators (Last Week’s Rank: 3)
Despite being outshot in three straight games and racking up an 1-0-2 record, the Predators are still one of the more intriguing teams in the NHL. Goaltender Pekka Rinne has a record of 3-0-1 on the season with a 1.23 GAA, but his replacement has been solid as well, as Carter Hutton nearly backstopped the Preds to a win over the Blackhawks.
Three home games loom on the schedule for the Predators this coming week, with the Coyotes, Blackhawks, and Penguins all visiting the Music City.
6. Colorado Avalanche (Last Week: 7)
The Avs grabbed their first win of the season against the Boston Bruins last week, but they also picked up three more losses in a series of games against Canadian opponents. They are 1-for-22 so far on the power play this season, and to make matters worse, goaltender Semyon Varlamov was placed on injured reserve with a groin injury.
The schedule does offer a bit of a reprieve to the Avalanche in the coming week, with a couple of home games against Florida and Vancouver on the docket. A road game against Winnipeg on Sunday will give them their first taste of divisional hockey since back-to-back shutout losses against Minnesota to open the season.
7. Winnipeg Jets (Last Week: 6)
Speaking of the Jets, they drop to the bottom of the rankings this week, and while it’s surely comfortable territory for them (they spent a good chunk of last season down there), they at least have one thing going for them: they are 20-of-21 on the penalty kill so far.
Another good thing for the Jets is that goaltender Ondrej Pavelec hasn’t been bad at all, giving up 2.22 goals per game and racking up a .919 save percentage. They do need to improve on their anemic power play however (they are 0-for-14 so far this season), and a game against the Hurricanes to open the week could do the trick.