The Central Division has flown under the radar with the actively rebuilding (ahem, tanking) Arizona Coyotes, Chicago Blackhawks and Dallas Stars. But the Minnesota Wild maintained their hold on the top of the division this week, plus some landmark moments for players like Loui Eriksson and Marc-Andre Fleury.
Arizona Coyotes (28-5-21)
The Coyotes may or may not be paying their Gila River Arena rent on time, but at least the team is beginning to win games. Well, they’ve been winning some games, but none this week. The rebuilding Coyotes began the week with a 3-1 loss to the Florida Panthers on Friday, in 36-year-old forward Loui Eriksson’s 1,000th career NHL game. The Coyotes lost again the next night, 5-3 to the Philadelphia Flyers.
Arizona had a string of days without games and then returned on Wednesday for a 3-2 loss to the New York Rangers. J.J. Moser made his NHL debut as the Coyotes closed out a three-game homestand.
Chicago Blackhawks (28-11-15)
The Blackhawks have been slowly crawling up the standings. Chicago’s 2-0 shutout win over the Montreal Canadiens on Thursday marked Marc-Andre Fleury’s 500th NHL career win. Fleury is the third goaltender in NHL history to ever tally 500 career wins.
On Saturday, they lost 5-4 to the Toronto Maple Leafs before heading back to Chicago, with Monday’s game against the Calgary Flames being postponed. Reese Johnson was placed on Injured Reserve, leaving the game due to a fractured left clavicle. The Blackhawks hit the ice again on Wednesday, for a 5-4 overtime win over the Washington Capitals.
Let’s watch all three goals in 34 seconds because we can and IT’S FUN pic.twitter.com/sZ4VoRI7yb— Chicago Blackhawks (@NHLBlackhawks) December 16, 2021
Colorado Avalanche (26-17-7)
The Avalanche are at the top of a lot of fans’ Stanley Cup predictions, and with three wins this week, it’s clear why. On Friday, the Avalanche shut down the Detroit Red Wings in a 7-3 victory. On Sunday, the Avalanche won 3-2 over the Florida Panthers, and defenseman Devon Toews was named the NHL’s third star of the week, for his 7 assists in four games. Pavel Francouz was also called up from his conditioning stint with the Avalanche’s AHL team, the Colorado Eagles.
The team wrapped up a homestand by besting the New York Rangers, 4-2, while defenseman Justin Barron made his NHL debut. They traveled to Nashville to take on the Predators and fell 5-2 last night.
Dallas Stars (26-13-11)
Goaltender Ben Bishop retired this week in an emotional send-off after recurring knee injuries stymied his comeback. Over the course of his career, 35-year-old Bishop played 412 NHL games, posting 222 career NHL wins, 10,457 total NHL saves and a .912 career save percentage.
The heartbreak of Bishop retiring might have led to the Stars dropping all three of their games this past week. The Stars were shut out by the Los Angeles Kings on Thursday, falling 4-0. On Saturday, the Stars lost 2-1 to the San Jose Sharks at the Shark Tank.
On Tuesday, Anton Khudobin, a mainstay in the Stars’ net cleared waivers and was re-assigned to the Stars’ AHL affiliate, the Texas Stars, having struggled this season. That same day, the Stars began a home and home series against the St. Louis Blues with a 4-1 loss at home.
Defender Andreas Borgman was waived for the purposes of contract termination on Wednesday.
Big Ben was feeling the love last night pic.twitter.com/ysVm8317ib— Dallas Stars (@DallasStars) December 15, 2021
Minnesota Wild (28-19-8)
With 39 points under the belt, Kirill Kaprizov and the Minnesota Wild have been leading their division for weeks now. The Wild opened the week with a 5-2 win over the San Jose Sharks on Thursday. Part of the reason the Wild have been at the top of the standings is their speed and transition game, and the Sharks fell victim to their creative offense.
Minnesota then lost back-to-back Pacific Division games, first 2-1 on Saturday to the Los Angeles Kings, and 6-4 on Sunday against the Vegas Golden Knights, wrapping up a four-game road trip. Tuesday’s game versus the Carolina Hurricanes was postponed due to COVID-19 Protocol within the Hurricanes organization.
Wild general manager, Bill Guerin, has also been named the general manager of the 2022 USA men’s Olympic team.
Nashville Predators (28-17-10)
The Predators were on a roll this week, winning all four of the games they played, extending their win streak to six games. Nashville started the week off right with a 4-3 close-cut win over the New York Islanders on Thursday. The winning theme continued the next night with a 3-2 win over the New Jersey Devils. They wrapped up the New York City area part of the road trip on Sunday with a sweep and a 4-2 win over the Rangers.
The Calgary Flames were set to visit Nashville on Tuesday, but the game was postponed due to COVID-19 Protocol within the Flames’ organization.
Saros Unreal in the crease! pic.twitter.com/jatP6YbZ8Q— Bally Sports: Preds (@PredsOnBally) December 13, 2021
St. Louis Blues (29-16-8)
The Blues started the season on the down-low, but after hitting the quarter-way mark in the season, St. Louis is on the rise. Sitting under the Wild in the division standings, the Blues won three out of four games this week.
On Thursday, the Blues crushed the Detroit Red Wings, 6-2, thanks in part to a hat trick from Nathan Walker. The Montreal Canadiens came to visit next and were handed a 4-1 loss on Saturday. The Blues were handed their first loss of the week on Sunday, but earned a point in a 3-2 overtime loss to the Anaheim Ducks. In that same game, Brayden Schenn left early with an upper-body injury and was placed on injured reserve.
Defender Alexei Toropchenko made his NHL debut on Tuesday in a 4-1 win over Dallas.
Winnipeg Jets (28-13-10)
The Jets had a slow week and a slow season. The team opened the week on a high note, with a 3-0 shutout win over the newcomers, the Seattle Kraken on Thursday. Then, the Vancouver Canucks turned their week around with a 4-3 shootout loss the next night, but at least they got a loser point.
There wasn’t a silver lining when Winnipeg returned after three days off and lost 4-2 to the Buffalo Sabres.
Then this morning, head coach Paul Maurice resigned from his position with the team, stating that they need a new voice to lead them. Assistant coach Dave Lowry will take over in the interim. Lowry emphasized that this decision was Maurice leaving on his own terms.