The Blackhawks haven’t had a lot of success lately, dropping four of their last five games, sinking them to the bottom of the Central Division. Monday’s lopsided 8-1 loss to the Arizona Coyotes swung the goal differential violently, but until then, the Blackhawks had played pretty tight hockey with their opponents.
Saturday saw the Blackhawks notch five and close the differential a bit.
After ten games, a look at where things stand.
Central Division Top Two: Dallas Stars, Colorado Avalanche
Far and away, the Stars and Avalanche are the better of division and likeliest to find a deeper run into the playoffs. Should the Avalanche stay healthy, they’re a legitimate Stanley Cup contender.
They saw what they’re capable of when they kept the Blackhawks at bay in the 4-0 contest back in October. Chicago kept up for the first ten minutes before the speedy and skilled Avs took over. If Nathan MacKinnon, Cale Makar, and Miko Rantanen can all stay healthy, the Avalanche are likely winning the division.
The Dallas Stars currently lead the division by a point and depth wise pose the biggest threat to the Avalanche. The X factor for the Stars is Jake Oettinger, who already is putting up Vezina like numbers with a save percentage above .930 amongst his 5-1-1 mark.
It’s tough to bet against the Avalanche, but the Stars may very well be the team to beat if Oettinger continues to be difficult to solve.
The Muddled Middle of the Division Includes the Blackhawks
10 games is still pretty early enough that it’s a crapshoot with everyone who hasn’t either declared themselves one of the top teams in the division or somewhere near the bottom. The Arizona Coyotes have been a pleasant surprise, trying to escape a rebuild and sitting with a .500 record. The Coyotes are even with the Blues at 11 points while the Jets sit third in the division with 12. The Wild and Predators? 10 points each.
Minnesota has scored more goals than anyone else in the division with 40. They’ve also fished the puck out of the net more than anyone else in the division to the tune of 47 times.
So credit is due to a Blackhawks team that until the anomaly of Monday’s game, have still given up 13 goals less than the Wild. The win Saturday against the Panthers gave them five more to the good.
It also brought them closer to not having the least amount of goals scored in the division.
It’s just ten games and 20 will likely start to divide things a bit more. But the Central right now is rather competitive and the Blackhawks, for some of their struggles, are holding their own.
We’ll see what 20 games brings.