After nearly a month of NHL hockey, the Central Division race has turned into a race for second place between a slew of teams chasing the St. Louis Blues.
The Blues, with the most points in the Western Conference, have scored 50 goals this season and have already raced out to a six point lead in the Central after just 15 games. They have also won seven of their last 10 games, and have showcased elite defending and strong scoring in the early going.
With that in mind, we’re going to take our first big picture look at the Central Division, as we bring you up to speed on the best teams in the division.
1 St. Louis Blues
There’s zero question that the Blues are the best team in the division so far, but the real question is whether or not they can keep it up. After all, the team does have a strong defense and a solid scoring attack, but they are in the bottom 10 in the league in penalty killing and have just the 20th best power play in the NHL, converting on 16.3 percent of their chances.
The Blues will have a quick road trip to New Jersey this week before heading home to take on the lowly Arizona Coyotes on Thursday.
2 Winnipeg Jets
The Jets used to make their living as a physical, defensive team, but they’ve upped their offensive production big time this season, scoring four or more goals on five times already this season. That includes a 5-2 win over the Dallas Stars on Thursday night, which propelled them into second place in the division.
A three game road trip will help show what Winnipeg is made of this week, as they travel to Dallas before taking a trip out west to battle the Vegas Golden Knights and the Coyotes on back-to-back nights.
3 Nashville Predators
The Predators have gotten off to a bit of a sluggish start as they defend their Western Conference crown, but they made a big splash on Sunday by acquiring center Kyle Turris in a three team trade that also sent Matt Duchene to the Ottawa Senators.
The Predators now have ridiculous center depth to go along with their tremendous defensive depth, and it wouldn’t be shocking at all to see them reel off some victories.
4 Chicago Blackhawks
To be frank, the Blackhawks are a middle of the road team right now. Their offense has shown signs of life, generating a ton of shots, and their goaltending is strong thanks to the incredible Corey Crawford, but their defense is shaky, and until they start scoring goals, their offense remains a concern too.
The Blackhawks will have three days off before they play again on Thursday against Philadelphia, but they’ll once again be stuck playing three games in four nights, as they’ll battle Carolina and New Jersey in back-to-back games next weekend.
5 Dallas Stars
The maddening inconsistency of the Stars has likely been torture for their fans, as they’ve allowed five or more goals in three of their last six games and only one goal in the other three.
A quiet schedule over the next week should help settle things down for the team as they look to get all cylinders clicking on their offense, which has not managed 30 shots in a game for their last four contests. They’ll take on Winnipeg Monday and then the New York Islanders on Friday night in the Lone Star State.
6 Minnesota Wild
The Wild have just one divisional win this season, and they’ve scored two or fewer goals in three of their last four games. That includes a shutout loss to the Chicago Blackhawks on Saturday, and although Minnesota managed 35 shots, they couldn’t beat Crawford thanks to a lack of sustained pressure.
The schedule doesn’t get any easier this week, as they play four road games in six nights. Stops in Boston and Toronto start the trip, and a home-and-home against the Flyers looms at the end of next week.
7 Colorado Avalanche
The Avalanche are a fascinating team, as they have a top-10 power play and the third-best record in the Central, but they also just traded away Matt Duchene in a move that is more likely to help them in the long term than in the short term.
Add in the fact that their next two games are going to be played in Sweden against Duchene and the Ottawa Senators, and things are about to get crazy for the Avs in the coming days.