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Central Division Roundup: Week Seventeen

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A lot of teams had some time off.

NHL: Dallas Stars at Nashville Predators Steve Roberts-USA TODAY Sports

With the bye week/All-Star Weekend, a lot of teams haven’t played much this week. Pushing this to Sunday meant that every team played at once last week, but we’re really rocking the small sample sizes today.

Standings:

NHL.com

Who’s Hot:

Don’t look now, but with last night’s win the Dallas Stars are not only on a four-game winning streak, they’re in a divisional playoff position. Several other teams have stayed warm despite the weather, too, but the Stars’ hot streak has meant the most to them.

Who’s Not:

The Colorado Avalanche continue their skid. 1980 called; it wants its goaltending back.

A Closer Look:

Chicago Blackhawks (20-24-9):

The Blackhawks are on a four-game winning streak of their own, which still hasn’t done much to worsen their lottery odds and has involved Patrick Kane (31-45–76) overtaking everyone except—so far, fingers crossed—Nikita Kucherov (22-58–80) in the points race. Ugh.

Kane had five points in this week’s two games, while Alex DeBrincat (26-21–47) had four and several players had three: Jonathan Toews (23-28–51); the team’s most productive defender, Erik Gustafsson (10-23–33); and recent Oilers escapee Drake Caggiula. Collin Delia had a meh game, with a sv% of .903, and Cam Ward had another very good one, with a sv% of .930. I’m not sure what anyone expected of Ward in 2019, but this can’t have been it.

The bigger news for the Blackhawks has been on the blueline. For whatever reason, rookie defender Henri Jokiharju—who’s been making a very positive impact at the NHL level despite his youth—has been reassigned to the AHL. On the one hand, Gustav Forsling was activated off of IR; on the other hand, I’d take Jokiharju over Forsling any day of the week and twice on Sundays. Meanwhile, Duncan Keith is noncommittal about the possibility of being traded, and Brent Seabrook has refused to waive his no-movement clause.

Conclusion: Remember when they gave Brent Seabrook that contract with that no-movement clause? It was 2015.

Colorado Avalanche (22-21-8):

In the Avalanche’s one game this week, an undignified loss to the Vancouver Canucks where the winner got temporary claim to the second wildcard spot in the West, Semyon Varlamov allowed five goals on 26 shots. That’s an .808 sv%, and that’s not going to get you very far, especially when your team only scores one goal. It was scored by Matt Calvert, with assists from Matt Nieto and Nikita Zadorov. Tyson Barrie led the team in a lot of offensive measures despite not getting any points for his pains.

Mark Barberio was injured on Friday, severity unknown, and Tyson Jost was injured in the AHL and is expected to miss a long period of time.

Conclusion: The Avalanche’s mess in goal is sinking their season. Goalie analyst and part-time Mile High Hockey contributor Cat Silverman is planning on digging into it, and I really look forward to reading what she writes.

Dallas Stars (27-21-4):

Tyler Seguin (21-27–48) had three goals in the Stars’ three games this week. Esa Lindell and Mattias Janmark both also averaged a point per game over that stretch. John Klingberg (6-19–25) easily took back the team lead in defense scoring after his return from injury, but he was held off the scoreboard this week and Lindell is just two points back of him now. The two defenders are fourth and fifth in team scoring, with Alexander Radulov (14-28–42) and Jamie Benn (19-16–35) ahead of them.

Depth scoring continues to be an issue for the Stars, but they’ve had stellar goaltending this season, so they’re getting by. This week Anton Khudobin allowed just one goal in his one start, for a sv% of .974, while Ben Bishop allowed just one goal in his two starts, getting a narrow shutout win over the Sabres and then almost blanking Minnesota as well.

The weirdest part of the week for the Stars had to have been the decision to undo the trade that sent Jamie Oleksiak to the Penguins. Marc Methot is out for the rest of the season, but...Oleksiak? Really? Okay. Meanwhile, Jason Dickinson has missed this week due to injury.

Conclusions: This would be a very different team with worse goaltending.

Minnesota Wild (26-22-4):

The Wild played two games this week, and lost both. Devan Dubnyk was strong overall in net in a loss to Dallas, allowing just two goals and managing a .935 sv%, but you have to get the goal support, and the Wild did not. Alex Stalock, facing the Blackhawks, made two fewer saves on the exact same number of shots as Dubnyk saw and finished with a .871, but the Hawks’ shakier goaltending got that game to overtime and the Wild escaped with a point.

Mikael Granlund (12-31–43) was the only player on the Wild to manage more than one point this week, with an assist in each game. Ten players, including local meme Brad Hunt, had one point.

Among the players who managed to make it to the scoreboard this week were team points leader Zach Parise (20-25–45), Eric Staal (17-20–37), and Ryan Suter (6-28–34), keeping the draft class of 2003 well-represented.

Paul Fenton is still shuffling cards, sending Ryan Murphy to the Devils for Michael Kapla. This one looks like an AHL trade. Other recent acquisition Pontus Åberg, who has three points in five games with the Wild, missed last night’s game due to injury.

Conclusion: I got tired of harping on how old everyone who reliably produces points for the Wild is, but as we enter the stretch run it might be something to keep an eye on again. Or it might not.

Nashville Predators (31-19-4):

Filip Forsberg (18-14–32 in 37 games) had three points in the Predators’ two games this week, all assists. Viktor Arvidsson (21-7–28 in 30 games) had two goals, and Roman Josi (9-29–38) added a goal and an assist to join the exclusive more-than-one-point club.

Josi and Mattias Ekholm (6-31–37) have been alternating at being second on the team in points for a while, and with Ekholm held scoreless this week—not through any fault of his own, since he took more shots at goal than anyone except P.K. Subban and Forsberg this week—they flipped again. Ryan Johansen still holds the team lead in points, with 44 (9G/35A).

Juuse Saros dazzled again in net, allowing just one goal in an excellent rebound performance against the Panthers (.964 this week, compared to .867 in his game against them prior to the All-Star break), while Pekka Rinne had another concerning week. He’s had two games in the last month with a sv% at or above league average—a shutout of the Maple Leafs on January 7th and a great performance against the (admittedly PDO-cursed) Avalanche on the 21st. Other than that, his January has been brutal and his February isn’t off to a better start.

Conclusion: There are a few things I could conclude, but I’m going to let Katherine T take this one for now:

St. Louis Blues (23-22-5):

The Blues played one game this week. Goalie Hope Of The Future Jordan Binnington had an adequate but forgettable performance in net in a victory against the Blue Jackets, putting up a .900 sv%. Vladimir Tarasenko (18-17–35) had a goal and two assists, and Brayden Schenn (9-21–30) had three assists. Ryan O’Reilly (19-33–52) had two points.

Conclusion: According to our colleagues at St. Louis Game Time, “Teams are actually scouting Jay Bouwmeester.” What a world.

Winnipeg Jets (34-16-2):

The Jets actually played four games this week, and, inconveniently for the Preds’ hopes of catching up to them in the standings, won most of them.

Jack Roslovic had six points, Jacob Trouba and Bryan Little had five each, Kyle Connor (22-20–42) had four, and a number of other people including Blake Wheeler (10-54–64) and Mark Scheifele (26-36–62) had three each. Patrik Laine (25-10–35)’s statline continues to get less ridiculous, as he added one assist and no goals this week, and Scheifele moved into the sole team lead for goalscoring.

Fun fact: Roslovic’s hat trick and an assist against the Anaheim Ducks last night make up a full quarter of his total season production (7-9–16). I guess it’s not the Jets if somebody isn’t putting up absurd numbers, even if that somebody is entirely unexpected.

It was a forgettable week for both the goalies as well, with Laurent Brossoit and Connor Hellebuyck both scraping in around the point-nine-hundreds—Brossoit in one start, Hellebuyck in three. Each of them allowed exactly three goals per game.

Conclusion: The Jets have the offense to cover for their goaltending right now, but this is looking like a bad year for last year’s Vezina fi—

Andrei Vasilevskiy has a .925 on the season, good for roughly third-best among starters (depending on how you define “starter”) in the league, huh.


Statistics courtesy of naturalstattrick.com. Big-picture analysis assisted by the dataviz work of Micah Blake McCurdy and Sean Tierney.