We have crossed into a chilly and breezy November and every team seems to be hitting their stride, looking as vibrant as the autumn leaves outside. Well, every team except the one who fired their best coach in franchise history. I’m not bitter. Here are your Central Division Rankings:
1) Nashville Predators: (11-3-0)
Any time you can shut out the Boston Bruins and their “God Line”, you know you’re cooking with gas. Look, I’m honestly kind of bored with how consistently good this team is. I know their fans don't get bored though. Nashville outscoring their past three opponents 9-3 is both impressive and exciting.
Upcoming Games: @COL @DAL @ANA @SJ
What’s Gonna Happen: Nashville starts a five-game road trip having not yet lost on the road. Two tough games against Central foes and a back to back in California will break that streak. They go 2-2 on the road.
2) Minnesota Wild (8-4-2)
Don’t look now but Minnesota’s doing stuff! The Wild’s defense has been very good as of late and although the Wild are consistently outshot, night in and night out, those shots are coming from low scoring areas and many don’t make to the net. The once stagnant offence is also showing signs of life, scoring eleven goals in their last four games. Eric Stall has three goals in the past four games.
Upcoming Games: @LAK, @ANA, @STL, WSH
What’s Gonna Happen: I haven’t forgotten about you, Niederreiter!! I’m lifting the curse I placed on you at the start of this season. You’ll net your first goal in the next week.
3) Colorado Avalanche: (7-4-3)
This team is currently sitting at 3rd in the NHL in scoring with 3.71 goals per game. That’s good news for this team because on the other side of the coin, they are giving up more than 33 shots per game. The Avs are also having trouble staying out of the box and pushing their luck on a strained penalty kill. Oh, by the way, Mikko Rantanen and Nathan MacKinnon have 45 combined points so far this season. Those guys are must watch.
Upcoming Games: NSH, @WPG, @EDM BOS
What’s Gonna Happen: We are going to find out just where the Colorado Avalanche stand in the Central. The West must go through Nashville & Winnipeg. The Avs will find a way to take at least a point from each of those teams. They take a small step forward and figure out how to win without Tyson Jost & J.T. Compher on the ice.
4) Winnipeg Jets: (8-5-1)
Look, this team only played two games last week. I understand that they are very good, but I’m not moving them anywhere until I see them put another streak on the calendar. Patrik Laine went off in Finland, scoring a hattie in his first game back on home ice. This team needed that performance, and although they lost the next game to Florida, the bye week the following travel will pay dividends. The Jets have had some struggles scoring during five-on-five play so don’t be surprised if Paul Maurice tweaks the lines a bit looking for a jump out of the gate.
Upcoming Games: COL, NJ, WSH
What's Gonna Happen: This team better play like they were shot out of a cannon after all this rest. The game to watch for me is the one against the Avs. Expect fireworks as both teams look to take advantage of some recently dodgy netminding.
5) Dallas Stars (8-6-1)
Dallas pulled out five points in their last four games, making me look like a real idiot. The wins over Toronto, holding the Leafs to only a goal, and over Washington, their first OT win of the season, really stand out. Anton Khudobin was stellar (har har) against Toronto and Boston, sporting a combined save percentage of .957. Ben Bishop should be on notice.
Upcoming Games: SJ, NSH, CBJ
What’s Gonna Happen: The Stars are looking at three very tough home games. If they can manage to win two, that’ll be an achievement. Look for some big two-way performances by John Klingberg.
6) St. Louis Blues: (5-5-3)
Robbi Fabbri scored his first goal in 23 months. Ryan O’Reilly is on an eight-game scoring streak, including a hat trick against not-Hartford. The Blues are batting .500 after their past four games. And now there’s a certain former Blues HC who might be looking for a job. Things are looking up for the team currently sitting at 7th in the standings.
Upcoming Games: SJ, MIN, @CHI
What’s Gonna Happen: I’m calling it. Mike Yeo will be out. Joel Quenneville will be in. Circle November 14th. The Blues might bring a special guest to Chicago.
7) Chicago Blackhawks: (6-6-3)
Joel Quenneville is gone and so is the era of Blackhawks dominance. Fired after a five-game losing streak, the leader of three Stanley Cup-winning teams will leave a massive hole in the franchise. As of right now, this team is bad, and the front office continues to make it harder for them to succeed. That alone is enough to land them in the cellar of the Central for the first time in these power rankings.
Upcoming Games: CAR, @PHI, @CAR, STL
What’s Gonna Happen: The Hawks are still a proud squad and they will win Jeremy Colliton’s first game as Head Coach. Then they will fold and boy, will it be ugly. #FireBowman
That’s it for this week’s OTH. Enjoy the fall weather while it lasts, everyone.