Central Intelligence - Dallas Stars Division Briefing as the MDK Rolls On
Let's take a look at the Central Division. How have the Stars' rivals done the last couple of weeks?
The Murder Death Kill (MDK) Division is a bloodbath. Right now, the Dallas Stars are Mel Gibson in Braveheart. They are standing, covered in blood, as the king of the hill. For now.
The nature of the Central Division is unforgiving. The Stars stood tall against the Winnipeg Jets and Minnesota Wild last week, but a week can feel like a long time ago.
Today, we will take a tour of the Central Division and see how the Stars' rivals have looked the last couple of weeks.
Record: 7-10-1 15 Points
Playoff Position: No
The Colorado Avalanche have played 0.500 hockey the last two weeks, which sort of feels like an improvement? Star goaltender Semyon Varlamov was sent to injured reserve on November 11th, and Gabriel Landeskog returned from a two-game suspension last night.
Patrick Roy is a trend setter, or something like that, by refusing to believe in the almighty Corsi. Repeatedly he has stated that the games the Avs "win" the "Corsi", they lose the game. And when they get slaughtered in possession, they win. It bears pointing out that the "Corsi's" aren't meant to determine night to night battles, but it's fine. No big deal.
Joe Sakic is in a weird position having to seriously consider the fate of his old teammate. The Avalanche are not a good hockey team, but they will still probably beat the Stars three times this year. Oh well. Nothing to see here.
Record: 9-9-2 20 Points
Playoff Position: No
The Stars beat the Jets last week in a game that wasn't as thorough a victory as the 6-3 score would indicate. The loss to Dallas was one of six losses in a row for Winnipeg. Mercifully (depending on who you ask), the losing streak ended at six on Wednesday against the Vancouver Canucks.
Winnipeg was outscored 27-10 in their losing streak, managing to lose 7-0 to the Predators. Last year, the Jets' calling card was a physical and defensive game. Unfortunately for them, no one told the goaltending and defensive game that the season began October 8th.
The goalies have a combined save percentage of 0.909, and the Jets have allowed 62 goals in 2015-16. The goals allowed are good for 28th of 30 NHL teams.
The Jets will probably find their way, but it doesn't look good early. Just ask the Stars, the Central Division doesn't like six-game losing streaks in November.
Record: 11-7-1 23 Points
Playoff Position: Second Wildcard
If the season ended today, the Dallas Stars would face the Chicago Blackhawks in the first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs. Chicago has Duncan Keith back from injury, and Patrick Kane is a monster.
Kane is the league leading scorer with 30 points (13 g, 17 a). The Hawks are 4-2-0 in the last two weeks. While the team isn't blowing people away, Chicago will surely figure into the playoffs in the Western Conference.
Former Stars players Trevor Daley and Ryan Garbutt are taking a lot of heat form the Hawks' fan base, though most of it is undeserved. Daley has played the game he is being asked to play, rocking a CF% of 56.4, good for fifth best on the team. Garbutt has improved his possession play as well, sporting the sixth best CF% on the team at 56.1. Keep in mind, two of the players ahead of Daley and Garbutt in Chicago possession stats have played a combined 10 games.
Record: 10-5-3 23 Points
Playoff Position: First Wildcard
Minnesota lost to Dallas last week on Jamie Benn bobblehead night. The game against the Wild was encouraging for the Stars because it felt like the Stars beat the Wild at their own game.
Zach Parise has been missed dearly. In the last two weeks, the Wild have wobbled playing 0.500 hockey. Devan Dubnyk has looked average, but it isn't all his fault. Team defense has been an issue for stretches of time. While I wouldn't expect the defensive issues to become a rule, the exceptions have hurt the team.
Minnesota is a solid hockey team and will be around for the long term. Ryan Suter is eating minutes like me and chicken fried steak at Golden Corral. Their style of play may be boring to some, but it is a formula that leads to winning.
Record: 11-3-3 25 Points
Playoff Position: Third in the Central
Nashville still has three games in hand over both the Stars and Blues - they are the only team in the league yet to play their 18th game.
Talk about balance, the Preds are top 10 in the league in both goals for and against. Steady has defined the play of Nashville this year. Their longest win streak is three games, and they have lost back to back games only once.
Pekka Rinne is carrying the load in net, starting 15 of 17 games with a save percentage of 0.921. James Neal has found his groove, scoring nine goals and tallying six assists.
Nashville has multiple full on Norris candidates with Shea Weber, Roman Josi, and Seth Jones. How all of those guys play on the same team is totally beyond me. What a defensive roster. As long as the forwards do their fair share scoring just enough, the Preds will be difficult to score against.
St. Louis Blues
Record: 13-6-1 27 Points
Playoff Position: Second in the Central
Paul Statsny, Jaden Schwartz, and Patrik Berglund are out for an extended period of time. The Blues' depth has been tested in the early season.
The Blues score (12th in GF) and prevent opponents from scoring (10th in GA). Even with extended time missed by the above listed players, the Blues play a style that should lead to success. St. Louis wins games through a balanced offensive attack and a disciplined defensive hockey.
Vladimir Tarasenko has scored 11 goals and generally looks incredible. It looks like this is the best team St. Louis has iced in several years, but the season doesn't begin for them until April.
Dallas has not played the two teams closest to them in the divisional standings. Building a lead during a soft part of the schedule is key to the the outcome of the Stars season. All of these points are important as the Stars approach a more difficult set of games.