Behind Enemy Lines-Early Returns

Oct 3, 2013; St. Louis, MO, USA; St. Louis Blues center David Backes (42) and Nashville Predators defenseman Roman Josi (59) battle for position during the third period at Scottrade Center. The Blues defeat the Predators 4-2. Mandatory Credit: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

With additions and departures to the new Central Division, the Chicago Blackhawks will have to start a new book on a few more teams if their hoping to repeat last season’s heroics. It has only been a week and a few games for each team, and there’s still plenty of testing to be done, but there are already a few things for the Blackhawks to watch out for when they meet their new (or old) division rivals.

The Colorado Avalanche are new to the Central Division and have had a pretty great week. Patrick Roy‘s team is 3-0-0, and goalie Semyon Varlamov played a huge part in getting them there. He allowed only 1 goal in each game and was 57 seconds away from shutting out the Anaheim Ducks 6-1 in their season opener. Next was a 3-1 win over the Central Division opponents Nashville Predators, then a close 2-1 win in Toronto where PA Parenteau scored his 3rd and 4th point of the season to win the game.

The St. Louis Blues have played twice at home, won twice, caused their opponent’s goalie to be pulled twice, and scored 11 goals in the process. In their 4-2 win over the Nashville Predators, their captain David Backes opened the scoring for his team with a power play goal. Two days later against the Florida Panthers, goalie Jaroslav Halak set a franchise record with 17 career shutouts in the 7-0 win. The insanity needs to stop, especially when the Blackhawks come to town for game 3!

The Winnipeg Jets are also a new division rival and have a few faces familiar to Blackhawks fans. Michael Frolik scored twice in the Jets’ 5-4 win over the Edmonton Oilers to start the season. The Los Angeles Kings decided to give Jonathan Quick a rest in the 3rd period after he allowed 4 goals on 27 shots. The Jets would score once more to win 5-3. Andrew Ladd scored both Jets goals in a 3-2 loss to the Anaheim Ducks in their 3rd game of the season.

The season opener for new division rivals Minnesota Wild was a little lackluster on their part – but it’s game 1, so that’s allowed. Goalie Niklas Backstrom made 16 saves in the game and none in the shootout in the 3-2 loss against the Los Angeles Kings. Zach Parise scored twice to tie up the game after trailing 3-1 in the 3rd period, but the Anaheim Ducks scored with 5 seconds remaining in overtime to hand the Wild a 4-3 loss. They visited the Nashville Predators for their first road game but lost 3-2. They are now 0-2-1 to start the season.

Things didn’t start out so well for the Nashville Predators, though. They spent their first week greeting 3 of their 6 division rivals, starting in St. Louis where Pekka Rinne was pulled after allowing 3 goals on 6 shots. Former Rockford IceHogs goalie Carter Hutton was on the ice for the Preds for the 4-2 loss. Rinne regained game-form with 33 saves in a 3-1 loss against the Colorado Avalanche. The Predators were finally able to record a win with a 3-2 win against Minnesota.

The Dallas Stars relied heavily on Kari Lehtonen in their first 2 games of the season. The goalie was the #1 star of the game with 35 saves in a 4-2 loss against the Florida Panthers, and he was the #2 star in their 2-1 win against the Washington Capitals. Two games is enough for Lehtonen to show he’s ready but not long enough for newly acquired Tyler Seguin to make much of an impact. Just 2 games.

It seems like everyone wasn’t too far off in their predictions that the St. Louis Blues will be the Blackhawks biggest challenge in the Central Division. They’re on fire out of the gate, but the Blackhawks have a chance to meet the challenge head-on and finally get a feel of the season and the new Central Division tonight against the Blues!

 

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Topics: Chicago Blackhawks, NHL Central Division

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