Nashville Predators: State of the Central Division After Two Weeks

NASHVILLE, TN - FEBRUARY 23: Pekka Rinne #35 of the Nashville Predators makes the save against the Colorado Avalanche at Bridgestone Arena on February 23, 2019 in Nashville, Tennessee. (Photo by John Russell/NHLI via Getty Images)
NASHVILLE, TN - FEBRUARY 23: Pekka Rinne #35 of the Nashville Predators makes the save against the Colorado Avalanche at Bridgestone Arena on February 23, 2019 in Nashville, Tennessee. (Photo by John Russell/NHLI via Getty Images) /

We’re already two weeks through the regular season, and the Nashville Predators are going to be in the midst of a stacked division race.

It’s still very early in regular season, and you can’t make crazy conclusions after just two weeks worth of games. However, there are some Central Division teams that have stumbled out of the gate. They obviously have time to turn it around, but can’t dig themselves too deep. There’s also some usual suspects we expected to be there.

So the Central Division is widely considered the most competitive division in the NHL. You have the defending Stanley Cup champion St.Louis Blues, a red-hot Colorado Avalanche team and a couple other teams who are gradually rebuilding into playoff contenders. Then you have the Nashville Predators, who are in their own right trying to reverse their bad fortunes from the past two seasons.

The Predators look outstanding offensively through their first six games. However, their defense has some concerns. Can their offensive prowess be enough to offset their defensive questions marks and get them to a third-straight division title? Let’s look at where the Central Division in trending at this early point in the season.

Who’s trending up?

You have to start with the Avalanche, who are off to a perfect 5-0 start. These five wins have come against quality opponents like Boston, Washington and Calgary. They’re also doing it rather convincingly, with all but one of their wins by multiple goals. They were an easy pick to win the division heading into the season, and they’re holding serve so far.

Next up you have the Stanley Cup champions. The Blues aren’t suffering a Stanley Cup hangover just yet. They’re not blazing through the early potion of their schedule, either. They’ve already got three losses, two of them in overtime. Jordan Binnington, as a rookie last season, caught fire and was a big reason they rose from the dead to win it all. He hasn’t started off quite as hot this season, so let’s see if he can back up his extraordinary rookie season.

Another team to keep a close eye on is the Chicago Blackhawks. They’ve only played four games so far, while other teams are already up to eight games played. So we don’t know a whole lot about them based off just four games. However, they have a nice, young nucleus of players to go with their solid veterans like Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews. I have them pegged to win a wildcard spot this season.

The Blackhawks have a big upcoming week next week against four quality opponents in Philadelphia, Washington, Carolina and Vegas so we’ll get a better idea if this team is ready to turn a corner. I believe they are, unfortunately.

Then you have the Predators, who have the top offense in the NHL averaging 4.67 goals per game. That’s well over the league average of 3.1 goals per game. That average may come back down to Earth as the season rolls along, but this isn’t a fluke. The Predators’ offense is legit. To put it into persepctive, Tampa Bay lead the league in this category last season averaging 3.89 goals per game.

The Predators already have very impressive wins over Washington and Vegas to their credit. They’re going to be an exciting and sometimes risky team to watch. They take a lot of chances that leave them vulnerable to counter attacks. I fully expect them to be in the top-three of the division when it’s all over thanks to an offensive attack that’s going to pile on goals every night.

Time to panic for these teams?

Have to start with the Dallas Stars. They’ve stumbled badly out of the gate, to put it mildly. They’re 1-5-1 and struggling to score as they’re dead last in the NHL in goals per game, averaging less than two goals. It makes no sense with how many offensive weapons they have. I don’t expect this trend to continue. Expect them to turn things around and at least battle for a top-three spot in the division.

The Stars are also struggling in net with Ben Bishop and Anton Khudobin. Both goaltenders have sub-90 save percentages. Then you have the big guns of the Stars off to slow starts. Tyler Seguin has just three points through the first seven games, while Jamie Benn has two points and Joe Pavelski has just one point. There’s no way this trend continues. The law of averages will balance out, and the Stars will start winning some games.

Another struggling team that’s not a surprise is the Minnesota Wild. They’re sitting at 1-5, with five of those six games coming on the road. They need to get back home and try to tread water before this season gets away from them too soon. All of their losses have come by two or more goals, and this team lack a clear-cut leader. Probably going to be rough year for these guys.

We’ll wrap this up with the Winnipeg Jets. Possibly the hardest team in the division to figure out. They’re 4-4 and don’t really have a quality win to their credit yet. They had a turbulent offseason trying to hold onto Patrik Laine and Kyle Connor. They have both of them playing, and this duo has a combined 16 points to start. Winnipeg will be there battling for a wildcard spot, but that’s probably their ceiling.

dark. Next. Predators Get Impressive Statement Win Over Vegas

Here’s my current Central Division power rankings with two weeks completed in the regular season:

  1. Colorado Avalanche (5-0-0, 10 points)
  2. Nashville Predators (4-2-0, 8 points)
  3. St. Louis Blues (3-1-2, 8 points)
  4. Chicago Blackhawks (1-2-1, 3 points)
  5. Dallas Stars (1-5-1, 3 points)
  6. Winnipeg Jets (4-4, 8 points)
  7. Minnesota Wild (1-5-0, 2 points)