By: Josh Chodor
The Slugging Central
The Central Division is (still) the strongest division in the National Hockey League, with both Western Wild Cards being held by Central teams. However, the biggest surprise within the division remains Dallas. The Stars have dominated opponents with a stellar offensive attack led by Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin. Young defenseman John Klingberg has burst on the scene with 27 points, leading all blue-liners. Behind Dallas, St. Louis, Nashville, Chicago, and Minnesota sit in playoff positions. However, the Stars have widened their lead to six points within the division, and lead the Western Conference with 39 points. Look for more of the same over the next few weeks, with the same five teams duking it out for playoff positioning.
While the Central division has surged, the Pacific division has struggled. The Los Angeles Kings have jumped out of the gate, leading the division with 31 points. While the Kings have been led by well known names such as Anze Kopitar and Drew Doughty, the real surprise of the Pacific are the third place Coyotes. Arizona, picked by many to finish dead last, sits in a playoff position with 27 points. Veteran captain Shane Doan and Swedish defenseman Oliver Ekman-Larsson have helped lead a young ‘Yotes squad thus far. The Anaheim Ducks, the best team in the West for the last two years, still sit outside a playoff position with 23 points. Look for the Ducks to push for a playoff spot in what looks like the weakest division in the NHL.
The Canadiens lead the entire league with 41 points, but are now without MVP Carey Price for the foreseeable future due to a lower body injury. However, the Habs hold an eleven-point lead in the division, which allows them to have a little wiggle room. The Atlantic sees its second through sixth place teams separated by only five points. Defending conference champion Tampa Bay sits at sixth, with 25 points. In the metro, the Rangers have fallen back to earth, losing three of their last four games but still holding a division lead. Pittsburgh, Washington, and the Islanders, all playoff competitors from a year ago, sit in playoff positions. Look to see these teams battle each other for the remainder of the season.