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BSN Central Division Power Rankings: October 28, 2015

Austin Manak Avatar
October 28, 2015

The month of October has flown by, just like the Colorado Avalanche’s playoff hopes this season. Too snarky before November has even hit? Perhaps…

The Central Division is humming along nicely, and not much has changed in regards to my opinion of the strength of this division since our last edition of Central Division power rankings, two weeks ago. Only the Avalanche have disappointed, and while much of the national media predicted they would finish in the cellar, I honestly did not expect the Avs to start the season as shakily as they have.

It is looking like a long season for the Avs metaphorically, and a long season for several other teams in this division literally. We are a long ways off, but six teams from this division all have legitimate claims this could be their season to make a deep run in the playoffs. How do I have them stacking up as of today? Please enjoy.


NSH Predators LOGO

Current Record: 6-1-1 (13 points)

Two-Week MVP: James Neal — 6G, 3A in 5GP. After a scoreless first 3 games, Neal has done the heavy lifting on offense for the Preds over their last 5.

Previous Rank: 1 — Since we last checked in, the Preds are 3-1-1.

What’s the story?

Pekka Rinne continues to shine between the pipes for Nashville, with a sterling 1.84 GAA and 0.932 save percentage. He has even thrown in an assist to help out his offense.  A world class goaltender at the top of his game playing behind one of the stouter defenses in the NHL is an incredible luxury for Nashville.

Nashville currently ranks 5th in the NHL in goals allowed per game at 2.0 and are 9th in the NHL in goals scored per game at 2.9, which has led to them having the best goal differential in the Central so far at +9.

For Nashville to truly be a threat to win the division, they are going to need to continue having forwards step up on the offensive end, like James Neal has recently. Neal has dominated the scoresheet, with nine points in his last five games, including a pair of two-goal games in his last four. Offensive depth is a concern, but if the top guys like Neal and Filip Forsberg deliver this season, Rinne and the d-core should take care of the rest.



Current Record: 7-2-0 (14 points)

Two-Week MVP: Jamie Benn — 6G, 6A in 6GP. Looks like the league MVP so far.

Previous Rank: 7 — Biggest riser in the rankings.

What’s the story?

Perhaps I undersold the Dallas Stars two weeks ago by ranking them last in the power rankings. An underwhelming 6-3 loss to the Avalanche contributed to that decision, as it highlighted the defensive issues and goaltending woes that kept Dallas out of the playoffs last year.

Since I put Dallas in the caboose, they have won six of their past seven, and Jamie Benn is playing incredible hockey. He’s unstoppable right now, and his partner in crime, Tyler Sequin, is just as dangerous.

Dallas boasts the 4th best offense in the NHL thus far, averaging 3.44 goals per game. The underlying numbers are off to a promising start as well. Dallas currently sits top-five in shot attempt Corsi ratio. If you like up-tempo, offensive hockey, find what channel Dallas is playing on — only the New York Islanders average more total Corsi events per game than the Stars. An impressive 4-3 victory over the struggling Ducks, after surrendering the first three goals, cements Dallas at number two in this week’s rankings.



Current Record: 6-2-1 (13 points)

Two-Week MVP: No shining individual efforts. Solid team play has carried St. Louis.

Previous Rank: 3 — Holding steady for now, but can they survive recent injuries?

What’s the story?

The Blues are a team that is locked in with their system, and continue to churn out regular season wins. Vladimir Tarasenko is their early season shining star, but he has been held off the scoresheet for his past three games. Instead of one or two guys carrying the load, the Blues are getting above average goaltending, and contributions from players throughout their lineup.

For example, Scott Gomez scored last night, and Jake Allen shutout the Lightning — both somewhat unexpected occurrences. With Paul Stastny sidelined for at least five weeks with a broken foot, Jaden Schwartz out for three months with a broken ankle, Patrik Berglund recovering from shoulder surgery, and Kevin Shattenkirk battling injuries as well, the Blues will need some unsung heroes to step up this season.

Losing Stastny, Schwartz, and Berglund essentially strips three key contributors from their top-nine forwards. Perhaps this adversity is what St. Louis needs to harden them for a playoff run. With how tough the Central is playing, they will have their hands full ensuring they make the playoffs with injury bug in town. The Blues hang on to their number three rating from two weeks ago, but they are walking on a tightrope.


CHI Blackhawks LOGO

Current Record: 6-3-0 (12 points)

Two-Week MVP: Corey Crawford — 4 straight wins with a 0.75 GAA and 0.970 save percentage.

Previous Rank: 5 — Overtime wizards are 3-0 in extra time.

What’s the story?

Don’t look now, but the defending Stanley Cup champions have won four straight games. Is the formula for their recent success sustainable? Maybe not. But, it’s hard for me to discount Chicago, because they always seem to find a way to get the job done.

Recently, the formula has been Corey Crawford playing out of his mind. Crawford has posted shutouts in his last two games, allowing the Hawks to earn consecutive 1-0 overtime victories over the Ducks and Lightning. He’s turned away 98 of the 101 shots he has faced over the past 4 games he has started, all Blackhawks victories.

Chicago’s offense has yet to really take off, ranking 25th in the NHL (last in the Central) at 2.11 goals per game. It is going to have to pick up in a hurry to justify a ranking earned mostly out of respect for past success and a hot goaltender — especially considering defenseman Duncan Keith is out 4-6 weeks after undergoing knee surgery. The recent “power surge” in Chicago earns them props, because it’s Chicago, but there hasn’t been much substance behind their winning streak.



Current Record: 6-2-1 (13 points)

Two-Week MVP: Mikko Koivu — seven-game point streak (3G, 4A).

Previous Rank: 4 — Poised to make a move.

What’s the story?

After winning their first two games, the Wild have continued to play solid hockey, but weren’t quite impressive enough to make a move in the rankings. Four wins in their past seven games is nothing to cry about, but nothing to write home about either.

Devan Dubnyk has yet to really showcase the form from last year that earned him his big contract extension. His 0.905 save percentage will need to improve for Minnesota to have a chance at taking the division banner.

Offensively, the Wild have Zach Parise playing at a high level, and Mikko Koivu has given them incredible consistency with points in eight of nine games. The Wild are also 4-0 on home ice, which bodes well for their future. Avalanche fans are fully aware of how difficult it has been to come away with a win in St. Paul recently. I like the makeup of the Wild’s roster, and think they are certainly a dangerous team. Look for them to make a move in the standings as we head into the holidays.


winnipeg jets logo

Current Record: 5-3-1 (11 points)

Two-Week MVP: Blake Wheeler — 2G, 4A in 5GP. Saw eight-game point streak come to an end last night against LA.

Previous Rank: 2 — Goalie controversy in Winnipeg?

What’s the story?

Offense hasn’t been a problem for the Jets, who are 7th in the NHL at 3.22 goals per game. Blake Wheeler opened up the season with an eight-game point streak, and has really emerged as one of the better wingers in the Western Conference. The Jets have depth and skill throughout their top nine, and only the Stars have scored more goals within the division.

The problem has been Ondrej Pavelec getting the majority of the starts, despite having far inferior statistics to youngster Michael Hutchinson. Hutchinson is currently 3-0 with a 2.00 GAA and 0.935 save percentage. Pavelec is 2-3-1 with a 2.69 GAA and 0.918 save percentage.

Pavelec number’s haven’t been bad, but it seems as if the team has a bit of a goaltender controversy. Hutchinson is a talented young player, and so far, has been giving the Jets a better chance to win. Keep on eye on the goaltender battle in Winnipeg, especially if the Jets continue to lose altitude in the standings with Pavelec in net.


COL Avalanche LOGO

Current Record: 2-5-1 (5 points)

Two-Week MVP: Reto Berra. 1.79 GAA and 0.944 save percentage. Shutout victory over the Ducks in Anaheim.

Previous Rank: 6 — Early frustration in the Mile High City.

What’s the story?

The Avalanche haven’t had the start they envisioned for themselves this season. Far from it, in fact. With the other six teams in the Central Division all within three points of the division lead, the Avalanche are the ugly duckling at the moment, sitting nine points back already.

The Avs are 17th in goals scored per game at 2.50 and 25th in goals allowed at 3.13. Also concerning, they are easily the worst team at generating and preventing shots in the NHL.

Starting goaltender, Semyon Varlamov, has struggled early on. His 3.93 GAA and 0.869 save percentage are not even close to what we have come to expect from the Russian netminder since he was acquired by Colorado. Reno Berra performed admirably in his three starts thus far. He earned a big shutout victory over the Ducks, and gave the Avs a chance to win against LA and Florida. With a bit of goal support (plus throw out the bevy of d-zone breakdowns that left him out to dry in the third against the Panthers), and Berra could easily be 3-0 this season.

Time for everyone in Colorado to look in the mirror and figure this thing out. Patrick Roy, the players, the leaders in the locker room. Including last night, the Avalanche are in a stretch where they will play 18 out of 25 on the road. This stretch will define this team either way. Will they respond to adversity, and find a way to play some better hockey? Or is this another season heading toward finger crossing in the draft lottery?

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