Hohl: Around the Central – Blues on top, Wild find a goalie and more

Garret Hohl is the Managing Editor of both @NHLJetsNation (Winnipeg Jets blog) and @HockeyGraphs (hockey statistics blog). Follow him on twitter @garrethohl

Welcome to the second edition of our new series Around the Central Division. Every two weeks we will take a look at how the seven teams out in #ConferenceIII have performed and their story lines.

The Central Division is arguably the toughest division in the NHL as a whole. Whether by wins, goal differentials, points, or advance statistics, the centre of North America has the best average and median.

One way to look at teams and their trends is through rolling Corsi percentage. Score-adjusted Corsi (SAC) percentage has been shown to predict future team win% better than past records, and peaks around 20-30 games. Here is the rolling 20 game SAC percentage for the Central Division:

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St. Louis Blues

The St. Louis Blues win first star yet again. The Blues went undefeated this week while outscored their opponents 12 to seven. Two of the games went to shootout, but their performance was impressive nonetheless.  With multiple lines that are threats to score, it seems no one can stop their offense. So far this season, St. Louis sits fourth in even strength goals per minute and second on the power play. The team also posted a 52.3 SAC% over their three wins.

There have been some concerns indicated with the Blues having one of the weaker Corsi percentages, in terms of the Central Division. However, their score-adjusted numbers could be overly deflated their numbers, as the Blues do have the eighth best shot differential.

T.J. Oshie continues his scoring rampage with two goals and eight assists in three games and a 53.9 percent SAC percentage. The Blues though enjoy quite a deep group of scorers. This time ten players posted over a point per game over the period. As well, only three players have played all three games without a point.

Minnesota Wild

The Minnesota Wild have a goaltender everyone. Since picking up Devin Dubnyk, the Wild have gone 5-1-1. Over the last two weeks Minnesota has 48.1 SAC percentage but has pulled out a 3-0-1. It looks like their goaltender pickup has fixed a long going problem, while also covering some other additional issues as well.

Last time we discussed how the young netminder was underrated and may turn the Wild’s season. Since the move to the Central Division, Dubnyk has posted a staggering 0.935 save percentage.

Ithomas Vanek and Zach Parise have combined for 16 points in 4 games each, while Ryan Suter has brought six of his own from the back end. In terms of possession, the underrated defender of Jared Spurgeon continues to push the play despite taking arguably the team’s toughest minutes.

Colorado Avalanche

The Colorado Avalanche have picked up a point in each one of their last three games. Proponents of fancy-stats suggest the bubble is likely to pop if the Avs continue to get outshot like they have. Of course we’ve all heard this story before and it does not always end the same way each time.

Semyon Varlamov though has been a major cause for a lack of so-called “regression” as of late. He continues his strong season with a 0.930 save percentage over the last two weeks.

While the Avalanche boast enviable youth, it has been the veterans Jarome Iginla and Alex Tanguay who have been filling the score sheet the most. Both players posted six points over the last three games, as well as the young and dynamic Matt Duchene. Rumours have swirled around Ryan O`Reilly as a possible trade chip, and also the sky is still blue.

Zach Remdond has been an interesting case, as he has performed relatively well but has struggled to stay out of the pressbox. This period though he’s posted a 50.3 SAC% (which is good on the Avs) and two points in three games.

Chicago Blackhawks

The Chicago Blackhawks have not been their typical dominant selves, although they are still scary. A 3-2-0 record may not be much, but it keeps the Blackhawks in the playoff picture. Their 54.1 percent SAC this period would be pretty impressive in most divisions, although it is only third in terms of Central Division teams.

The two Patricks (Kane and Sharp) scored an impressive 16 points each over the past five games. Meanwhile, Jonnathan “Captain Serious” Toews continues to be quietly effective with 6 points and a 62.3 SAC percentage. The Teuvo Teravainen hype-train continues with 6 even strength points and a 64.1 SAC% although with some severely pushed zone starts.

It looks as though Dan Carcillo’s disappearance due to suspension has not affected the Chicago Blackhawks too dearly.

Dallas Stars

The Stars continue climb up the Central Division. They went an even split two wins and two loses, although a decisive road win against divisional rival Winnipeg Jets placed the Stars that much closer to the playoff line. While the underlying numbers have been improving for the Texan team, a 49.7 SAC percentage is not much to rave over.

Captain Jamie Benn led the Stars in points with six goals and three assists; however, the combined fifteen points from defenders John Klingberg and Trevor Daley have been the real story. Kari Lehtonen continues to cary an extremely heavy workload and also continues to struggle carrying that load.

The Stars still sit outside of the playoff line, but they are getting closer and may squeeze in if the Vancouver Canucks and Los Angeles  Kingscontinue their slide.

Nashville Predators

It’s odd having the two teams that performed best in possession near the bottom, but here we are. The two week period saw the Preds pull off only one regulation win, giving them a 2-1-2 record despite an impressive 57.4 SAC percentage.

Mike Ribeiro continues his bid in a successful reclamation year, with scoring ten points in five games. Not to be left behind, Roman Josi and rookie sensation Filip Forsberg mimic’d Ribeiro’s ten points. Not so successful though has been the work of Olli Jokinen, who has struggled to score and to post above replacement level two-way numbers.

As expected by many, the Nashville Predators have stuttered a bit without Pekka Rinne. Carter Huton though still has been a formidable replacement with a 0.916 save percentage. If they can minimize the bleeding until Rinne’s return, the Predators should be in a good place come playoffs.

Winnipeg Jets

The last two weeks the Winnipeg Jets have severely out attempted their opponents, posting a 58.4 SAC%. They also scored thirteen goals and posted a shutout. Even their even strength goal differential was positive. Yet, despite all these nice things, the Jets finished 1-4-0. To add icing on the cake, the Jets also had three consecutive games of 2-5 loses.

The Jets almighty goaltending has fallen back to early. Michael Hutchinson started four of the five games and struggled in three of them. This has lead to some questioning Hutchinson’s mental fortitude in being able to take starters workload. The topic though is a silly debate as taking goaltender results for evaluations are fickle even at the biggest of samples.

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