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BSN Central Division Power Rankings: November 11, 2015

Austin Manak Avatar
November 11, 2015

 

The first month of any hockey season figures to see most teams establishing an identity, evaluating new personnel, and allowing players to settle into their roles. Believe it or not, we are nearly 20% of the way through the regular season schedule for 2015-16, and most teams have a pretty firm handle on the type of hockey club they are going to be for the next few months.

The identity of the Central Division is imposing, with four teams in the NHL’s top-seven in the standings at the moment. Here are few other quick hitting stats to give you an idea of how impressive this division has been:

  • The Central Division houses the league’s leading scorers – Patrick Kane (Blackhawks) and Tyler Sequin (Stars), both with 23 points.
  • In fact, the top four scorers in the NHL play for Central teams – Patrick Kane, Tyler Seguin, Jamie Benn (Stars), and Blake Wheeler (Jets).
  • Two Central players are tied for the league lead in goals – Patrick Kane and Jamie Benn
  • The top qualified goaltender in save percentage (0.953) and goals against average (1.50) is the Central’s Reto Berra (Avalanche).
  • Goaltender Devan Dubnyk (Wild) leads the NHL with 9 wins.
  • Two of the top three teams in shot attempt ratios (Dallas and St. Louis) play in the Central.

And oh, by the way… the Central is currently 4-1-2 against last season’s Eastern Conference champions, the Tampa Bay Lightning.

Clearly, this division is powerful. A peanut butter and jelly sandwich to a picnic lunch — just too good. How exactly does the power line up? Glad you asked. You’re in the right place. Edition three of BSN’s Central Division power rankings are clear for takeoff.

1. DALLAS STARSDAL Stars LOGO

Current Record: 12-4-0 (24 points)

Two-Week MVP: John Klingberg — 7 assists in past 7 games.

Previous Rank: 2 — A new top dog in the rankings.

What’s the story?

Dallas looks fantastic thus far, and I’m not just talking about their slick spearmint uniforms. Tyler Sequin and Jamie Benn are easily the best one-two punch in the NHL right now, and their ability to keep the scoresheet like I like my fountain beverage to remain when eating at a restaurant — full — has been impressive.

Beyond the superstars, lies a player who hasn’t garnered a lot of ink (or type in today’s times), and that player is John Klingberg. The Swedish Klingberg was drafted by the Stars in the 5th round of the 2010 NHL Draft, and has since developed into one of the better offensive defenseman in the NHL.

Klingberg has racked up two goals and 15 points in 16 games played, and is second on the Stars in ice-time per game, playing nearly 23-and-a-half minutes per night.

The Stars look legit. Superstars playing at an elite level, secondary scoring, and a defensive core that is holding its own and chipping in on the offensive end make them a tough team to beat. Only the Toronto Maple Leafs have seemed to figure out how to stump the Stars, with two wins over Dallas this season. Aside from their struggles against Toronto, Dallas has won 12 of their past 13 games.


2. ST. LOUIS BLUESSTL Blues LOGO

Current Record: 11-3-1 (23 points)

Two-Week MVP: Jake Allen — 5-1-0 record, 0.967 save percentage, 1.03 GAA.

Previous Rank: 3 — Injuries Schminjuries.

What’s the story?

When Paul Stastny, Jaden Schwartz, Kevin Shattenkirk, and Patrik Berglund all decided to simultaneously get themselves reservations for the injury report, it was easy to think that the Blues would perhaps lose their table amongst the top three teams in the Central.

Jake Allen had other ideas.

25-year old Jake Allen has taken a firm grasp on the starting goaltender position in St. Louis, and is looking like he has developed into the goaltender the Blues hoped he could become. If his strong play between the pipes continues, it will be a revelation for the Blues, who haven’t had that sturdy, dependable backstop to rely on, despite being the most impressive regular season team in this division over the past couple of seasons.

Back-to-back shutouts from Allen, and wins in six of his past seven starts have helped the Blues weather their storm of injuries, and it doesn’t hurt to have the prolifically talented Vladimir Tarasenko wearing the blue note either. His efforts, combined with goal scoring from Alexander Steen have the Blues near the top of the division, right where they are used to being.


3. NASHVILLE PREDATORSNSH Predators LOGO

Current Record: 9-3-2 (20 points)

Two-Week MVP: Roman Josi — 2 goals, 6 points in 6 games. Emerging as go-to d-man in Nashville.

Previous Rank: 1 — Their goalie isn’t Im-Pekka-ble, after all.

What’s the story?

The Predators have endured a bit of a rough patch, losing four of their past seven games, including a 4-0 defeat on home ice this past Saturday, courtesy of the St. Louis Blues.

Fortunately, they did manage to secure a loser point in two of those losses. A 3-2-2 record over a seven-game stretch isn’t reason to panic by any means, but it is enough to drop them from the head of the class in the power rankings for the first time this season.

Pekka Rinne has been a factor in the Predators recent lack of form, and I would know since I keep tabs on him for my fantasy team this season. Yeah, he hasn’t done me any favors these past two weeks. Rinne gave up 4 goals on 28 shots to St. Louis on Saturday (his counterpart Jake Allen stopped all 45 shots he saw), and Rinne gave up another 5 goals on 26 shots in a 7-5 Preds victory over the Senators last night.

Over the past two weeks, Rinne has seen his GAA climb from 1.84 to 2.39 and his save percentage drop from 0.932 to 0.910. Not a reason to fret too much for such a small sample size early in the season. The Predators are still playing solid hockey in front of Rinne, but there is no doubt Nashville needs their star goaltender to be much better if they are keen on challenging for a division title.


4. MINNESOTA WILDMIN Wild LOGO

Current Record: 9-3-2 (20 points)

Two-Week MVP: Ryan Suter — 2 goals, 6 points, 27:49 avg. ice-time in past 6 games.

Previous Rank: 5 — Finding ways to win.

What’s the story?

The Wild are on pace for a 109 point season, and their goaltenders have a combined save percentage of 0.903 so far. The million dollar debate right now when it comes to Minnesota: Are they are good hockey team limited by goaltending? Or will Devan Dubnyk heat up as the season progresses, and turn the Wild into a serious contender to put their grubby hands all over Lord Stanley’s chalice next June?

The State of Hockey has been one of the toughest places for opponents to play, with the Wild suffering their first loss on home ice this past Thursday to Nashville, a hard-fought 3-2 defeat. The 7-1-0 home record has carried the Wild, who only have two wins in six games on road ice.

After a hat-trick on opening night, plus five goals and seven points through his first four games, Zach Parise has cooled considerably. The American winger has a measly pair of assists in his past eight games, and has been held scoreless for four straight.

Ryan Suter really mirrors the Wild’s current personality — solid play, nothing flashing, but getting the job done.


5. CHICAGO BLACKHAWKSCHI Blackhawks LOGO

Current Record: 8-6-1 (17 points)

Two-Week MVP: Patrick Kane — 5 goals, 11 points in past 6 games.

Previous Rank: 4 — Who are all these other good teams ahead of us?

What’s the story?

The Chicago Blackhawks are off to a respectable pace, which would net them 93 standings points if it continues, yet they find themselves sixth in the division. No easy return path to the playoffs for the defending Stanley Cup champs.

Chicago lost several big names this offseason, but the biggest name in the headlines, Patrick Kane, remains in the Windy City. The troubling allegations against Kane have blown over, and he leads the NHL in scoring with 23 points in 15 games. The dynamic winger currently sports a 10-game point streak, and Kane is responsible for 59% of the Blackhawks goals this season, the highest percentage for any player in the NHL.

It’s clear who is carrying the team, but what remains cloudy is who will step up and fill in the secondary and tertiary roles to get this team back into the playoffs. The return of Duncan Keith to the lineup will certainly help, and Artemi Panarin has been a pleasant surprise, but Jonathan Toews has been so-so and the rest of the offense is drier than the state of California.

Chicago has their hands full, but if there’s one thing we’ve learned over the past half-decade, it’s to never count out Joel Quenneville‘s bunch.


6. WINNIPEG JETSwinnipeg jets logo

Current Record: 8-6-2 (18 points)

Two-Week MVP: Bryan Little — 4 multi-point games in last 7 (4 goals, 9 points).

Previous Rank: 6 — Good team, but not great, yet.

What’s the story?

November has brought the pain to the Jets thus far. Winnipeg has managed only one win through five games this month, and have played 0.500 hockey since their 3-1-1 start to the season.

Treading water before Christmas isn’t the worst position to be in, and I still really like a lot of elements within the Jets roster, but they aren’t living up to my expectations. Consistency and goaltending should be the main focus when we break down the Jets.

Bryan Little is a prime example. He has four multi-point games in his past seven contests, but was held off the scoresheet in the other three. Little has been held scoreless eight times this season, and has seven multi-point games. His up-and-down play is a microcosm of the Jets.

The goaltending theme from the power rankings two weeks ago remains true. Ondrej Pavelec is still getting a majority of the playing time, despite only winning four of his 11 starts and his 0.908 save percentage. I don’t trust Pavelec to get the job done. Youngster Michael Hutchinson is unproven, but he has four wins in seven games with a 0.928 save percentage. He’s the guy I would roll with.


7. COLORADO AVALANCHECOL Avalanche LOGO

Current Record: 5-9-1 (11 points)

Two-Week MVP: Matt Duchene — 5 goals, 7 points in last 5 games.

Previous Rank: 7 — Looking for an identity.

What’s the story?

The Colorado Avalanche are a team looking for an identity. A strong performance in a 4-0 defeat of the Flyers on stop numero uno of this seven-game road trip was a good start toward establishing some momentum this season.

Uniting the young trio of Nathan MacKinnon, Matt Duchene, and Gabriel Landeskog on the top line is a great way to showcase what the identity of this team should be — high flying offense. That’s what has been advertised, and what this core of players are capable of. Now that the three best forwards and future of the team are playing together, no excuses that old dogs or checking line calibre players are slowing them down.

Matt Duchene looks to be the early beneficiary of the latest lineup shakeup, with his first two-goal performance of the season and an assist last night.

Trade rumors are beginning to percolate in Colorado, and Patrick Roy‘s capability to coach this team has been getting questioned with his Avalanche struggling to play entertaining and productive hockey through the first month of the season. Even if the Avs are chasing an Everest-like uphill battle to reach the playoffs, this is an important road trip toward creating an identity to build upon this season and beyond.

The real surprise so far has been the play of Reto Berra, who went from scrub to a-dub-dub-in-the-tub with his play so far this season. Berra has a perra shutouts to his name already, and leads the NHL with a 1.50 GAA and 0.953 save percentage. Swisstacular!


See you in two weeks.

 

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