Central Division Weekly: Dallas destroyed in St. Paul

The Blues are (mostly) back-sliding and the Avalanche are racking up the wins.

Ryan Suter returned to Minnesota last night and it wasn’t all sunshine and rainbows as the struggling Dallas Stars tried to keep a short hot streak going. Instead, a surging Minnesota Wild team exposed their every weakness, blowing them out 7-2 by the final horn. If the embarrassment wasn’t enough, there’s certainly discord brewing in the Stars’ locker room, as head coach Rick Bowness scratched rookie and Minnesota native Riley Tufte, who had reportedly spent all of the money he made in his call-up to the NHL getting his family members to the game.

The Stars also held a players-only meeting two weeks ago and Bowness didn’t seem interested in discussing it at the time.

It doesn’t look great in Big D right now.

Here’s how the Stars, and their division rivals, performed over the last week.

Arizona Coyotes (2-13-2)

The Coyotes are the only team that could lose three of four games in a week and still be able to say they had a good stretch and have it be completely true. On Friday, they lost 2-1 to the Chicago Blackhawks, took a rough loss on the back-to-back against the Nashville Predators. After some rest, the ‘Yotes managed a 3-2 upset win over the St. Louis Blues on Tuesday, thanks to a multi-goal effort from Barrett Hayton. Finally, to cap off their week, they fell 5-4 to the Columbus Blue Jackets in a seven-round shootout, playing great offensively, but poor in their own end. They finished 1-2-1 on the week, earning three of eight possible points.

The Coyotes’ leading scorer has been Shayne Gositsbehere all season long. The defenseman has 13 points (2 goals, 11 assists) through 17 games, staying high in the Norris Trophy power rankings to begin the season. The team’s leading goal-scorer is Lawson Crouse, who has netted 5 over 17 games. Goaltender Scott Wedgewood seems to have stolen the show in net, as he is 2-1-0 with the club, while boasting a .932 save percentage (SV%), including a 42-save performance last night.

It has not been fun in the injury department for the Coyotes, as they lost three players for the remainder of the season this past week, all due to knee injuries. Dmitrij Jaskin took a knee-on-knee collision with Mark Borowiecki, while Conor Timmins and Liam Kirk’s previously sustained injuries had become confirmed to be season-ending after they underwent successful surgery yesterday. Andrew Ladd and Johan Larsson remain on COVID Protocol, while Anton Stralman, Christian Fischer, Carter Hutton, and Nick Schmaltz are all out with their respective injuries as well.

Chicago Blackhawks (5-9-2)

The Blackhawks played just two games this week, but won both and are currently riding a four-game winning streak. They took down the Coyotes on Friday, then took four days off. The team hit the road, starting with the Seattle Kraken on Wednesday, winning 4-2, despite nearly letting Seattle mount a comeback late.

To nobody’s surprise, the Blackhawks’ leading scorer is Patrick Kane. He has 17 points through 12 games, posting 4 points this week. The team’s leading goal-scorer is Alex Debrincat, with 9 over 16 game, scoring in both of this week’s games. Goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury is slowly getting back on track, maintaining a 4-7-0 record and .901 SV%, which isn’t great, but still an improvement.

The Blackhawks recently placed Tyler Johnson on long-term injured reserve due to a neck injury. They’re also without Brandon Hagel on a day-to-day basis due to a shoulder injury, and MacKenzie Entwistle remains on LTIR with an ankle injury.

Colorado Avalanche (7-5-1)

The Avalanche really couldn’t have asked for a better week. With a season that looked like it was slowly slipping away, they managed to go 3-0 on the week and outscore their opponents 17-5 in that span, which is just absurd. They first blew out the Vancouver Canucks 7-1 on Thursday before giving the San Jose Sharks the same treatment with a 6-2 loss on Saturday. The team capped the week off with another win over Vancouver on Wednesday, this time 4-2.

Leading scoring for the Avs is Nazem Kadri, who has posted 17 points in 13 games. Kadri has been crucial in absence of Nathan MacKinnon, putting up 2 goals and 5 assists this week. Gabriel Landeskog and Mikko Rantanen share the honor of leading the team in goals, with 6 each. Goaltender Darcy Kuemper has gotten back on track after a terrible start and is currently 7-4-0 with a .916 SV%.

As for injuries, the Avalanche have been plagued with them. MacKinnon is still out for about two more weeks with a lower-body injury, and now J.T. Compher, who has 9 points on the season so far, is set to miss a month due to an upper-body injury. Defender Bowen Byram is also in concussion protocol, which is awful to see with his extensive concussion history at just 20 years old.

Dallas Stars (6-7-2)

The Stars just seem to be in a rut for the last half-decade, being largely mediocre, and their season record is showing that once again. This past week was a bit better, going 2-1-0 with solid consecutive 5-2 wins over the Philadelphia Flyers and Detroit Red Wings, but they finished it off by getting obliterated 7-2 in veteran defender Ryan Suter’s return game to Minnesota last night.

The team’s leading scorer is Miro Heiskanen, who has totaled 13 points over 15 games, but was held to just 1 point last week. Tyler Seguin leads the team with 5 goals. Goaltender Jake Oettinger made his season debut with the Stars this past week and saved 28 of 30 shots en route to the win over Detroit. Anton Khudobin wasn’t as lucky, posting a .731 SV% against the Minnesota Wild last night.

Goaltender Braden Holtby is the only recent injury for the Stars as of late, as he’s been day-to-day with a lower-body injury. Another netminder, Ben Bishop, remains on LTIR with a knee injury he’s had since the 2020 post-season.

Minnesota Wild (11-5-0)

The Wild put up a respectable week, splitting wins and losses evenly. They took a 3-2 loss to the Vegas Golden Knights in a near-comeback effort on Thursday, and a 4-1 loss to the Sharks on Tuesday, where, despite playing well, they could not score. Between those losses, though, they beat the Kraken 4-2, and as mentioned earlier, the Wild destroyed the Stars last night.

Kirill Kaprizov leads the team in points with 15 (4 goals, 11 assists) through 16 games, mainly thanks to his 4-point effort last night, and 5 points on the week. The team’s leading goal-scorer is Ryan Hartman, who has impressed mightily with 8 goals in twice as many games. In net, Cam Talbot has been respectable, but not what one would hope from a starting goaltender, posting a .906 SV% on the season.

The team has been very lucky with injuries and is currently fully healthy.

Nashville Predators (9-6-1)

The Predators were held to just three games this week rather than four, due to the Ottawa Senators’ COVID-19 outbreak, however, they went 2-1-0, which is something to be proud of. They took the Blues to overtime in the second half of a back-to-back on Thursday, and won thanks to Matt Duchene. The Coyotes came to town on Saturday and the Predators won, 4-1. Unfortunately, they were shut out 3-0 by the Toronto Maple Leafs in their final game of the week, but Juuse Saros put up a valiant effort to keep them in it all game.

Matt Duchene, Mikael Granlund and Roman Josi are all tied for point-leader, each with 16 through the same number of games. Duchene has been on fire this season, and is also the leading goal-scorer, with 9. In net, Saros showcases a 7-5-0 record to go with his elite .928 SV%.

On the injury front, the Predators haven’t struggled with anything major. Filip Forsberg is still out, but other than that, it’s just been depth pieces like Nick Cousins and Alexandre Carrier who are day-to-day.

St. Louis Blues (9-5-2)

The Blues had a nightmarish week. Not only did they have to play five games in seven days, but they also went 1-3-1 in that span, which is not ideal. They lost to the Predators in overtime on Thursday, then lost three straight games in regulation by one goal, in which the game-winning goal was scored in the final eight minutes of the third period. They managed to squeeze out one win last night over our beloved Sharks, who did not show up to play in a 4-1 win.

Forward Jordan Kyrou leads the team in both goals (8) and points (18) at the 16-game mark. In net, Jordan Binnington has a 6-4-2 record and .912 SV%, while backup Ville Husso boasts elite numbers through a very small sample size: a 2-0-0 record and .984 SV%.

Brayden Schenn is still day-to-day with an upper-body injury, although he is skating again. Niko Mikkola, who was placed on COVID Protocol on Nov. 5, is still unavailable.

Winnipeg Jets (9-3-4)

The Jets had themselves an amazing week, going 3-0-1 as they reign at the top of the Central Division. They took down the Sharks 4-1 on Thursday before hosting the Los Angeles Kings on Saturday and beating them 2-1 in overtime. On Tuesday and Thursday, they hosted a home-and-home series against the Edmonton Oilers. The first game was the final of a seven-game homestand and the Jets took the victory, 5-2. When the series moved to Edmonton, they held on through a shootout, ultimately falling 2-1.

Their leading goal- and point-scorer is forward Kyle Connor, with 12 goals and 21 points over 16 games. The 24-year-old is riding a six-game point streak, and has been having a career breakout season. In net, it looks like primetime Connor Hellebuyck is back, going 6-2-3 with a .918 SV%.

The Jets are currently only missing veteran center Paul Stastny, who is day-to-day with a foot injury.