The NHL season is rolling along full steam ahead; teams have now played past the season’s quarter mark. Some teams had played just as expected when the puck dropped for the new season. However, other teams have been surprising by either overachieving or underachieving through the league’s first quarter. Today we look at the performance and storylines of the teams in the NHL Central division.
NHL First Quarter Analysis: Central Division
7th Place with 18 Points 7-11-4
The Arizona Coyotes have played much to expectations at this point in the season. Destined for yet another finish near the bottom of the NHL Central Division standings, Arizona looks to be another team involved in the Connor Bedard sweepstakes. The Coyotes have posted a 7-11-4 through 22 games this season. Arizona has been led offensively by Clayton Keller, who has seven goals, and 14 assists for 21 points in 22 games. In addition, rookie forward Matias Macceli has been a welcomed surprise for Arizona, as his 16 points rank second among all rookie skaters this season.
Lack of Star Power
Arizona lacks star power; besides Clayton Keller, their roster has no names that jump out as superstars in the NHL. Keller would arguably produce much better numbers playing alongside a more talented roster. The Coyotes’ never-ending rebuild and consistently selling off any veteran with value has yet to benefit the team on the ice. The lack of depth on Arizona’s roster has them ranking near the bottom of the league averaging just 2.68 goals-for-per-game. Arizona has a hard time mustering up scoring chances as they average a league-low 24.1 shot on goal per game.
Arizona’s season, without question, will see them continue to sit in the basement of the Central. They may have some competition there, as the Chicago Blackhawks are performing terrifically terribly this season as well. Arizona fans can hope for the potential of landing Connor Bedard in the draft next summer as being the bright spot of their season.
8th Place with 18 Points 7-13-4
The Chicago Blackhawks entered a full-scale rebuild during the offseason. The Blackhawks shipped out forwards Alex Debrincat and Kirby Dach during the summer months, and they don’t seem to be done there. Long-time franchise cornerstones Patrick Kane and Jonathon Toews’ names have been swirling in the rumour mills all season. But, if Chicago planned to draft high at the upcoming draft, they are performing just as expected. Chicago currently sits beneath even the Arizona Coyotes in the Central division.
Struggles Across the Entire Roster
Chicago is struggling in every aspect of their game through the NHL first quarter. Their 2.54 goals per game rank 30th, and their 3.58 goals-against per game rank 25th. The Hawks don’t produce many shots on goal (25.8) and adversely allow too many. Giving up 35 shots on the weak goaltending tandem of Petr Mrazek and Arvid Soderblom isn’t a way to pick up many wins. In addition, Patrick Kane is feeling the effects of playing on a less talented roster, as he has posted 20 points in 24 games.
The outlook for the rest of the season is bleak for the Blackhawks. The most interesting topic of the season for Chicago is where Kane and Toews end up if they are indeed dealt ahead of the trade deadline. In addition, Chicago will be yet another team looking to secure the services of the next big thing in Connor Bedard. The race for Bedard will become nearly as entertaining as the race for the playoffs as the season progresses.
4th Place with 27 Points 13-8-1
The defending Stanley Cup Champions Colorado Avalanche have endured some difficulty from injuries in the NHL first quarter. However, Colorado has still been competitive in the Central standings despite injuries to Gabriel Landeskog, Darren Helm, Valeri Nichuskin, Evan Rodrigues, Bowen Byram, and Josh Manson. In addition, Colorado has been named as a potential landing spot for either Vancouver Canucks center Bo Horvat or Chicago’s Jonathon Toews. Landing either of the two veteran centers would be much welcomed with the injuries the Avs have front.
Lethal Powerplay Paves the Way
Colorado’s powerplay clicks at a 32.5% success ranking first in the league and often is the difference maker in deciding the outcome of a game. Mikko Rantanen leads Colorado with 15 powerplay points. They were followed by last year’s Conn Smythe and Norris winner Cale Makar, who has 14 powerplay points. Overall, Mackinnon leads the Avalanche with 33 points in 22 games.
Mixed Results From Goaltenders
Alexandar Georgiev was signed in the off-season to replace departed starter Darcy Kuemper. Through the NHL first quarter, Georgiev has looked intense as the Av’s new number one. He has an 11-3-1 record with a 2.58 GAA and a .922 SV%. Backup Pavel Francouz has not played nearly as strong, however. Francouz has a 2-5-0 record to go along with a 3.03 GAA and a.907 SV%
Make no mistake about it the defending champs will be in the playoffs again and will only get stronger as they begin to get players back from injury. Expect Colorado to surge up the standings when healthy; a division title is still not out of the question as the Avs stay close to the Central-leading Dallas Stars.
1st Place with 33 Points 14-6-5
The Dallas Stars have been enjoying a surprisingly strong NHL first quarter. The Stars currently are first in the NHL Central division. The Stars entered with questions about which direction the franchise would head this season. After lengthy negotiations, key RFA’s Jason Robertson and Jake Oettinger were re-signed. The signings have been a blessing for the Stars, as Robertson has scored a league-leading 23 goals, and Oettinger has put up solid numbers with a 2.51 GAA and a .917 SV%.
High Flying Offense
The Stars’ first-quarter success is mainly due to the offensive play. Dallas is second in the league averaging 3.92 goals per game. In addition, Dallas averages a high number of shots on goal and holds the league’s second-best shooting percentage at 12.3%. Clicking at a 28.4% success rate Dallas’ powerplay has also been impressive. Jason Robertson has reached new heights this season, already sitting at 23 goals scored and adding 18 assists for 41 points.
Elite Defensive Play and Goaltending
While the Stars’ offence has been front and center, don’t sleep on their defensive play. The Stars boast the fourth-best penalty kill in the league, killing 83.5% of the opponent’s powerplays. Oettinger leads the Stars’ back end, ranking 9th while allowing 2.8 goals per game.
The Dallas Stars are not to be underestimated. Dallas has the elite goaltending many teams need to excel for a lengthy playoff run. They also have been getting the offence to supplement their elite netminder, which is an excellent recipe for success in the NHL. Expect the Stars to continue their strong play and battle for a Central division title until the end of the season.