Dallas Stars Central Division Intelligence: Near Panic in Minnesota and Stanley Cup Parades in Nashville

Welcome to Central Intelligence, where, unlike the Agency, we tell you <em>exactly</em> what&#39;s going on. Curiously, in this case that means talking about how great the Predators are...

Two weeks in the books and our sample size has doubled, meaning I feel quite confident now in proclaiming the Colorado Avalanche to be truly awful, and the Nashville Predators to be the darlings of the Western Conference.

However, because a word count of 38 wouldn't be allowed by the editors, let's take a slightly closer look at all our beloved Central Division roommates. We start today, and probably all future posts, in reverse standings order, because otherwise all you lazy readers out there wouldn't get to read about the Peg.

Colorado Avalanche

This week: 0-2-2

Ha! It's not Winnipeg! Patrick Roy's Avalanche are instead bringing up the rear, and thus coming in front in this article. Two weeks into the season and the Avs have just the one win, that being the buzzer beater against Boston a week ago. Following that emotional win that put them "back on track", they proceeded to lose the next four games, three during an Eastern Canada road swing, and the last one to the Panthers. At home.

Best way to sum up this season for the Avs? I'm looking at the recap from Mile High Hockey for the loss to Montreal (following the losses to Toronto and Ottawa) and the lead quote states: "A disastrous second period, no power play goals, and a pair of near short-handed goals against send the Avalanche spiraling to their 3rd straight loss."

One game later after the Avs lose to the Panthers? "Avs show life in the 2nd period and pull ahead of Florida only to lose the lead with a couple minutes left."

Outrage and despair to resignation in one game flat.

Upcoming: Canucks at home, Jets away.

Winnipeg Jets

This week: 1-2-0

Ah phew... Here's Winnipeg, clocking in at second from the bottom this week. But hey, maybe this just means it'll be a two-horse race for last place in the Central this season. Wouldn't that be fun?

The Jets are in the midst of a five game home stand that's not going wonderfully so far. It's not going terribly, seeing as they managed a 3-1 win over the Hurricanes last night, and losing 2-0 to the powerhouse Predators is excusable, but a 4-1 loss at the hands of the Flames? They're probably gonna want that one back. Or not. It is only Winnipeg after all. No game can be taken for granted.

Of course, it's Canada, so fans demand wins, whether a team is capable of them or not. Which is why, in what you'll soon see is an early-season theme, the fans are being asked to not panic... yet. Now, that article was written before the loss to the Flames, so who knows how they feel now?

On another note, the Yahoo fantasy robot auto-drafted me Ondrej Pavelec as my starting goaltender and I'm still pissed off about it.

Upcoming: Lightning and Avalanche at home. Conference III showdown time! All the 7th place marbles on the line for that one...

Minnesota Wild

It must be tough to be a blogger for the Minnesota Wild. After a 2-1 loss in Anaheim which saw Darcy Kuemper's record shutout streak end at 163 minutes and 46 seconds, Hockey Wilderness released the 'Don't Panic Edition.' Presumably because Wild fans were on the verge of panicking. Two days later the Wild outshot the Kings, in LA no less, to a tune of 41-16. The thoughts from Hockey Wilderness the morning after? "Quick stole the game for LA. There's not much else to be said; no need to panic!"

What's with all this fear of panic?! Tough crowd, eh?

Let's talk about that game against the Kings though. It wasn't that long ago we were talking about the Wild absolutely dominating the Colorado Avalanche in the shots on goal department, with a +32 differential. And then this past week they again hold an opposing team to a measly 16 shots, whilst firing 41 on goal themselves. Who are these guys? Shot suppression, sure. That's a Fightin' Adjective thing. But where did this whole "leading the league in shots per game" thing come from? And possession stats? A year ago the Wild finished 22nd in the league in Corsi For. This season? Only the Chicago Blackhawks outpace them.

Small sample size, yada yada, whatever. I'm still scared, ya know?

Upcoming: Coyotes, Lightning at home, Rangers on the road as the Wild try to catch up with the rest of the division in games played.

St. Louis Blues

Alright. I know this is a piece about the Central Division. But seriously, what is up with the Los Angeles Kings? They're now 4-0 to start a 6-game homestand, but I'm not talking about how good they're playing. No. Their first two wins came at the expense of Edmonton and the Peg, while the last two were against the above mentioned Minnesota Wild, and the here mentioned St. Louis Blues. Remember how the Wild outshot them by a ridiculous margin but lost by a score of 2-1? Of course you remember. I wrote about it like two paragraphs ago.

Well. The Blues had outshot them 43-18 three days prior, and yet still contrived to lose 1-0 in a shootout. To save you having to do the math, that's 84 shots against in two games, and only 34 for. 84 shots against... one goal allowed. It's like the entire team is suffering from the dreaded Stanley Cup hangover, except Jonathan Quick. Outrageous PDO much, LA?

The Blues. Right. Yes. They started their week with that blank slate skills competition loss to the Kings, and followed it up with a 6-1 blowout of the Coyotes, proving either that shot percentage fluctuations can be wild, or that Jonathan Quick is infinitely greater than Mike Smith. Take your pick.

You know the Blues went 1-8 against California teams last season? Early response would suggest that trend will continue, as St. Louis was blanked by the Ducks on Sunday evening. Two games thus far against the Battle of Cali, zero goals scored. Not that Jonathan Quick will maintain his two-game rolling 98.8 save percentage, so maybe the Blues can sneak a win against the Kings at some point.

One final note, rather-somewhat-notable-offseason-acquisition Paul Stastny was injured early in the game against Phoenix and is currently week-to-week, a rather ambiguous timeline for recovery...

Upcoming: Relief to be at home and not playing teams from California. Canucks and Blackhawks at home.

Chicago Blackhawks

This week: 2-0-1

Remember last week when a Flyers blogger described Dallas as the weakest team on their upcoming roadtrip and I scoffed at that, as the Stars had recently played both the Hawks and Pens and fared quite well against them? Maybe you don't remember that, but I do. Namely because I feel I'm eating my words on that one in a bad way. The Stars lost a sloppy affair to the Flyers, allowing six goals, while the Blackhawks blanked the Flyers 4-0 last night.

Live and learn, David. Live and learn.

In a spirit of Conference III egality and brotherhood though, Chicago reached out to the Winnipeg Jets by also losing to the Flames at home. Wait a minute... the Flames also beat the Predators, in Nashville. What is going on here?! Calgary waltzes through the Central Division and takes a full complement of points home? I don't understand anything anymore.

Whatever. The Blackhawks are pretty good. Stay used to it.

Upcoming: Conference III Title Match up ahead, as the Blackhawks travel to Nashville tomorrow. They then follow that up with the Blues away and the Senators at home.

Nashville Predators

This week: 2-0-2

Raise your hand if you saw this coming. Now put your hand back down if you're lying to me. Nobody? Nobody?

Seriously though, not even Nashville people predicted them to start quite so well. Here's friend of the blog J.R. Lind's take on the Predators. And keep in mind this was written before their win last night over the Coyotes:

"What's not been, predictable, perhaps is Nashville's stellar start. Sure, a .964 save percentage is probably not sustainable, but James Neal and Craig Smith have yet to get going and the Preds aren't going to shoot 7 percent all year either. For now, they are driving the play for the most part and are one of two teams in the West without a regulation loss." [III Communication]

And that statement by the way holds true. The Preds are 4-0-2 on the young season, just sneaking in ahead of the 4-0-1 Blackhawks. How long can it last? I don't know. I still have nightmare's about the Stars' impotent attack in Game 2 of the season. And over the first six games (excluding overtime and shootouts) the Predators have allowed 2, 1, 2, 0, 1, and 3 goals. You know, I could be quite happy with a defensive scoresheet that looked like that... (Dallas' for the record would read 2, 4, 2, 2, 5, 3. That's twice as many goals in the same number of games. Yeesh...)

My sister used to live in Nashville, and I've been to a game in Bridgestone Arena, which totally gives me the right to jump on the Nashville bandwagon. So make some room Preds fans...

Upcoming: Heavyweight bout with the Blackhawks, followed by the Penguins at home.