NHL Central Division roundup: Blues display consistency in November


NHL Central Division roundup: Blues display consistency in November

The standings are beginning to take shape through the first two months of the season. Let's review how November played out for each team in the Central Division.

Chicago: The Blackhawks finished October with a 6-5-0 record, and started a bit slow in November too, going 2-2-1 in their first five games. But in the final eight games of the month, Joel Quenneville's club turned it on, picking up at least a point in seven of those games, including a 3-1-2 record during their annual Circus Trip. Patrick Kane extended his point streak to 19 games, setting a new record for longest by an American-born player, and was named the NHL's No. 1 star for November.

[MORE: Blackhawks: Patrick Kane named NHL's No. 1 star for November]

Colorado: It was a roller coaster November for the Avalanche, whose 3-6-1 record in October was by far the worst start out of any team in the Central. Colorado went on a three-game winning streak and outscored its opponents by 10 in those three games, but followed it up with a three-game losing streak and were outscored by 9. If a rapid turnaround doesn't occur in December, the Avalanche may look to make not only roster changes, but personnel changes.

Dallas: The Stars are still just as hot as they were in October, if not hotter in November. They're 5-0-0 in games following a loss, and have followed up each of those losses with winning streaks of 5, 3, 3, 5, 2 (and counting). Dallas played four Central Division opponents the first two months of the season. They'll play six in December, three against the Blues, who aren't far behind in the standings.

Minnesota: The Wild went 3-1-0 in their first four games of November, and appeared to be showing no signs of slowing down. But then they suffered a big blow to their roster when Zach Parise was sidelined for several weeks with a knee injury as the team spiraled to a 1-4-2 record in their final seven games of the month. Minnesota saw its goals per game average slip from 3.18 at the end of October to 2.86 in November, and although it still ranks ninth-best in the league, the Wild aren't getting enough consistency on offense. Their defense isn't helping, either, allowing 2.77 goals per game, which ranks in the bottom 10.

[NBC SHOP: Gear up, Blackhawks fans!]

Nashville: Not getting enough secondary scoring has been a long-time problem for the Predators, and it was evident their inconsistency on offense hasn't been solved. After finishing October with a 7-1-2 record, Nashville went 5-6-2 in November, and got only one goal from Filip Forsberg, the team's leading scorer last season. The Predators are ready to take the next step, but it won't happen without additions on offense.

St. Louis: The Blues got off to a fantastic start in October (8-2-1) and, considering the circumstances, their November (7-4-2) was just as good. Jake Allen has emerged as the No. 1 goaltender for a team that has been searching for one, and Paul Stastny returned to the lineup after missing more than a month with a broken foot. Eight of their 16 games in December will be against divisional opponents, which will be a good test to close out the calendar year.

Winnipeg: No team in the Central had a more lopsided first two months of the season. The Jets were 7-3-1 with a plus-6 goal differential in October, but finished November with a 4-9-1 record and a minus-19 goal differential, slipping to sixth place in the division. December will be a month the Jets decide whether to become buyers or sellers, and, by the end of the month, will have a better grasp on whether to trade Dustin Byfuglien, who's an unrestricted free agent this offseason, before the trade deadline or sign him to a long-term extension.

Previous roundups: October

Blackhawks edge out Senators in shootout: 'It was really nice to get a win'

Blackhawks edge out Senators in shootout: 'It was really nice to get a win'

It was a rare sight to see the Blackhawks in a shootout on Wednesday night.

It was just the second time this season — and first time at the United Center — that the Blackhawks made it past 3-on-3 overtime. 

The last came on Dec. 2, 2017, a 3-2 shootout loss to the Stars in Dallas. On Wednesday night, the Blackhawks were on the other end, beating the Ottawa Senators 3-2 in a seven-round shootout. Nick Schmaltz netted the game-winner.

"We'll take it," coach Joel Quenneville said. "I thought we had a decent game tonight. Overtime not so good, I liked the shootout victory, Fors made some big saves for us particularly as the game got deeper. Our third was OK, I thought our first two were way better, and overtime we gave up some high quality, some bells were rings for a bit there. But it was nice to see the shootout win."

Patrick Kane had a goal and an assist, recording another multi-point game, his 16th of the season.

"I mean we need every point we can get at this point," Kane said. "There's still belief in this locker room. Obviously we need to go on quite a run and have a big record here down the stretch. But take it a game at a time and nice to get two points."

Anton Forsberg was a big reason the Blackhawks even recorded those two points. The 25-year-old netminder stopped 34 of 36 shots and made a handful of big saves down the stretch.

"It was really nice to get a win for sure," Forsberg said. "I would love to have a lot more wins, but right now just gotta look forward and get as many wins as possible."

Added Quenneville: "I think it was good for him to win a game the way he did. Lot of shots were on the line, as we progressed, got deeper, hitting the point first was big for him and for us and then finding a way to get the extra one was a good win."

Three Things to Watch: Blackhawks collide with Senators

NBC Sports Chicago

Three Things to Watch: Blackhawks collide with Senators

Here are Three Things to Watch when the Blackhawks take on the Ottawa Senators tonight on NBC Sports Chicago and streaming live on the NBC Sports app. Coverage begins at 6:30 p.m. with Blackhawks Pregame Live.

1. Trade chips.

The Blackhawks have reached the point in their season where they have no choice but to become sellers before the Feb. 26 deadline, and we saw that when they traded Michal Kempny to the Washington Capitals on Monday for a conditional third-round pick in 2018. Tommy Wingels could also be an attractive piece for a team looking to fill out their depth.

The Senators will definitely be sellers, and wow do they have some names potentially on the market that can fetch large returns: Derrick Brassard and Mike Hoffman are two players who log top-six minutes on a nightly basis and also have term left on their contract, which is great for teams looking to load up for this year and beyond.

The biggest name to watch, probably in the league altogether, is Erik Karlsson, who could be on the move if a team offers a big enough package for the Senators to pull the trigger now as opposed to in the offseason if they feel him re-signing is a long shot. He was the best defenseman last season, and if a team steps up to get him, they're getting two possible postseason runs out of him.

2. Artem Anisimov's experiment at left wing not working.

Joel Quenneville has tried rekindling the magic between Anisimov, Nick Schmaltz and Patrick Kane as of late, only this time Anisimov is playing the wing and it just hasn't been very effective. The trio was on the ice for each of the two 5-on-5 goals the Kings scored on Monday, and Anisimov completely lost his man on the first one.

It's important to establish a consistent left winger for Schmaltz and Kane, and maybe putting Alex DeBrincat up there is something you consider going forward as part of a long-term solution. Move Anisimov back down as the third-line center to play in more of a defensive role and continue using his big body on power plays for his offensive abilities might be the best bet.

3. Win the special teams battle.

In their last meeting against Ottawa on Jan. 9, the Blackhawks went 4-for-6 on the power play and 4-on-4 on the penalty kill in an 8-2 win. And those are two areas to look out for again.

The Senators own the 28th-ranked power play with a 16.1 percent success rate and 29th-ranked penalty kill with a 74.5 percent success rate. Get ready for another offensive outburst?