With the new alignments in the NHL this past season, some teams moved divisions while others stayed put. The Chicago Blackhawks remained in the Central Division in the Western Conference, but they have some new company. The Blackhawks are built like a championship team and could very well repeat this season. However, there are some tough teams in their division. With the Blackhawks currently sitting at second in the division with a record of 5-1-2 they have got off to a strong start, but what can we expect the remainder of the season?
Let's take a look at each team in the Central Division and see who poses the biggest threat to the Blackhawks.
The Avalanche are currently 7-1-0 through eight games and lead the Central Division. The Avalanche have a good young core of players and have a new Head Coach in Patrick Roy who seems to have made a difference early on. Colorado could definitely be a threat to the Blackhawks throughout the regular season and could possibly place higher in the standings. However, when it comes time for the playoffs, that's a different story. Although talented, the Avalanche don't seem ready to make that next leap just yet. The Blackhawks are filled with so much experience, with postseason play being second nature now. Don't look for the Avalanche to knock off the Blackhawks this year.
The Blues are sitting at 5-1-1 through seven games and are currently third in the Central Division. They have already defeated the Blackhawks twice this season, both in one-goal games. The Blues have a complete team this season, finally being able to find the back of the net. With Jaroslav Halak in net, they have an opportunity to win each game. In a shortened 2012-2013 season, the Blues finished fourth in the Western Conference. They were second in the West in 2010-2011. Having made the playoffs the last two seasons, the Blues are ready to continue their recent success and use their experience to win their first Stanley Cup in franchise history.
The Nashville Predators are 5-3-1 through nine games and sit fourth in the Central Division. They have one of the better goalies in the NHL in Pekka Rinne and excel on the defensive side of the puck. The one problem for the Predators is their ability to consistently score. This problem looks like it will be with the Predators throughout the whole season and will probably stop them from making the postseason.
The Minnesota Wild are 3-3-3 through nine games, which is good for fifth in the Central Division. The Wild definitely have some firepower with the likes of Zach Parise, Dany Heatley and Mikko Koivu. The Wild made the playoffs for the first time in five years last season, but the Blackhawks took care of them, winning the series 4-1. If the Wild do manage to squeeze their way into the playoffs again, they won't pose a strong threat to the Blackhawks as the Blackhawks have them outmatched in almost every aspect of the game.
The Jets are 4-5-0 through nine games and sit sixth in the Central Division. The Jets are a relocation franchise, formerly known as the Atlanta Thrashers. The team moved to Winnipeg in 2011, where they played two seasons in the Eastern Conference. Now in the Central Division of the Western Conference, the Jets will look to start fresh. The Jets have a decent roster of players, three of which are former Blackhawks (Dustin Byfuglien, Michael Frolik and Andrew Ladd). Although they won't make any noise in the playoffs or dethrone the Blackhawks for that matter, the Jets at least look to be headed in an upward direction.
The Stars are currently 3-5-0 through eight games and sit last in the Central Division. The Stars have a combination of young and old talent with the likes of Tyler Seguin, Jamie Benn, Shawn Horcoff and Rich Peverley. Goaltender Kari Lehtonen is solid, but it's unknown if he can take the Stars to the next level. Similar to the Wild, if the Stars sneak their way into the playoffs, they won't be expected to do much damage.
After looking at each team within the Blackhawks division it can be seen that the St. Louis Blues pose the biggest threat. The Blues have had strong regular season success the last two seasons and have already beat the Blackhawks twice this year. The Avalanche have a chance of beating the Blackhawks in the regular season standings, but won't match up to the experience of the Blackhawks veterans when it comes time for the playoffs. The rest of the teams in the division aren't quite ready to take that next step and don't seem to have what it takes to dethrone the current Stanley Cup champions.
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