By Doug Upstone for ScoresandStats.com
All season long the Central Division has been sensational. For large expanses of time, the Central has not had a team with a negative goal differential. Even now Chicago is only at -3 and they could be overcome to get back to at least even in one game.
Here is an indicator of just how strong the Central Division has played when going against its peers.
Central vs. Atlantic – 51-36 SU
Central vs. Metropolitan – 53-37 SU
Central vs. Pacific – 62-54 SU
Nobody is even close to this kind of dominance. A few naysayers might claim they only have seven teams and while that is true, the Pacific had seven a year ago and they added expansion Vegas, which has strengthen them, not weakened the other Western Conference division.
Winnipeg and Nashville are going toe-to-toe for the division lead and might go to the wire. However, do not expect the Predators to do whatever is necessary to win the Central. It was less than a year Nashville was fighting for its playoff lives and on the second to last day of the regular season, they clinched the last available spot in the West. The Preds were heating up and upset Chicago, St. Louis and beat Anaheim (Nashville was favored) to reach the Stanley Cup Finals.
The formula that came together last year is still intact, a plethora of talented defensemen, many who can play in the offensive zone and aggressive fast-skating forwards who attack the net. Nashville is in the Top 10 in scoring and goals allowed and has a Top 5 power play.
Winnipeg actually has better statistical numbers than Nashville. In nearly every key metric, the Jets are in the Top 6 in the NHL and they are 4th in score differential. While we have heard a great deal about the Vegas “flu” which supposedly helped them build such a great home record, the Jets are matching them at every step with a 23-6-2 mark on home ice.
Chicago Has to Start Over
The Blackhawks dynasty is over. From 2010 to 2015, Chicago hoisted three Stanley Cups. The last one was even challenging, trying to keep the main core together and fitting in the pieces, but they managed because of their experience. Even last year, the Hawks were the top seed in the West but were swept in four games by a better Nashville crew.
This season, Chicago has fallen to last in the division. Other than Patrick Kane, franchise faces like Jonathan Toews, Duncan Keith, Patrick Sharp and Brent Seabrook are all in decline. Even Kane has become more of a liability on defense. The Blackhawks are the sixth-best play against a team and it does not seem that will change.
Home is Where The Money Is
For the remainder of the teams in the Central Division, you always want to see if Dallas, St. Louis, Minnesota, and Colorado are playing at home. Here is why.
Dallas 21-10 SU
St. Louis 19-13 SU
Minnesota 20-11 SU
Colorado 20-9 SU
Add those together and you have 80-43 record, good for a 65 percent winning percentage. As a hockey bettor, those are rather favorable odds as long as the money line numbers make sense to you. For the Wild, you might want to explore to see if your sportsbook offers the – regulation time – option, as six of Minnesota’s 11 home ice defeats have come in overtime.