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Chicago Blackhawks: Central Division Update

By Andrew Facemyer
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The Chicago Blackhawks have gotten off to a less-than-desirable start in the 2015-16 season after coming off their third Stanley Cup in six seasons. While a slow start may have been expected by some, there is no reason that these ‘Hawks shouldn’t bounce back. There are plenty of new faces for ‘Hawks fans to learn, and there are still some rosters spots that former (and current) Rockford IceHogs are fighting for.

Unfortunately, this slow start for the ‘Hawks has been met by the Central Division that we all expected to see. As things currently sit, the ‘Hawks hold the No. 5 spot in the Central Division. This puts them in eighth place in the Western Conference, which is the last playoff spot. Obviously, it may be a tad too early to start worrying about falling out of the eighth spot, but in the much deeper of the two conferences, the ‘Hawks need every point they can get. The points that should matter to them most are those gained from their opponents in the Central, so let’s take a look at who they should be most and least worried about.

Mandatory Credit: Jean-Yves Ahern-USA TODAY Sports

Colorado Avalanche (currently in seventh place)

Should the ‘Hawks be worried: No

While the Avalanche certainly do not lack talent on the upper half of their roster, their bottom half leaves them with plenty to desire. Their one rock in Semyon Varlamov has dealt with injury problems yet again this season, leading to his poor performance in net, and Reto Berra has been incredibly inconsistent in Varly’s relief. The only way things get better for this Avs team is for their goaltending to come through. For now, this is not a team that the ‘Hawks will need to worry about in the overall standings, but if history repeats itself, the Avs’ goaltenders may end the season with a collective .965 save percentage against the ‘Hawks.

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Mandatory Credit: Bruce Fedyck-USA TODAY Sports

Winnipeg Jets (currently in sixth place)

Should the ‘Hawks be worried: No

The Jets have greatly underachieved throughout the first quarter of the season. Like the Avalanche, this has been in large part due to inconsistent goaltending. This is a talented team that is built for a long run in the playoffs, with one exception: goaltending. The Jets are stuck on netminders Ondrej Pavelec (now injured) and Michael Hutchinson, and it has not worked out for them so far. The only worry that the ‘Hawks should possess is getting run over by the likes of former Chicago Blackhawk Dustin Byfuglien. Other than that, the ‘Hawks do not have a reason to worry about the Jets.

Mandatory Credit: Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

Nashville Predators (currently in fourth place)

Should the ‘Hawks be worried: Yes

Across the Central, the Preds may be the most complete team in terms of talent. They have two forward lines that can score with the best of them, two defensive pairings which can shoulder 25 minutes night in and night out and a goaltender who can be a consistent force 65-70 games per year. On paper, this team could chill bones, but so far this season, it hasn’t done that. Last season, the Preds showed us what they can do by leading the Central for almost the entire season before collapsing at the end. Moving forward, the Preds will be no slouch, and the ‘Hawks will need to bring their A-game for every game against them.

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Minnesota Wild (currently in third place)

Should the ‘Hawks be worried: Maybe

The Wild are the Wild. Devin Dubnyk has been so-so after coming off the 40-game stretch of a lifetime. Their defense has been so-so. All in all, their entire team on the defensive side of the ice has been underperforming. The Minnesota offense this season, however, has been just a bunch of overachievers. The weird thing is that there has not really been one person standing out. This has been a true team effort. Unfortunately for the Wild, this luck may run out soon. Even with Zach Parise returning in the foreseeable future, the Wild aren’t built for an offensive onslaught. For now, the ‘Hawks will not need to worry about the Wild, but if Dubnyk gets back on his game, that thought changes entirely.

Mandatory Credit: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

St. Louis Blues (currently in second place)

Should the ‘Hawks be worried: No

Yes, this team is talented. But on and off the ice, it is led by people whose values are a disgrace to the game of hockey. Their true leader is overshadowed by a cheap-shotting buffoon. Their faith is put in a coach who won a Stanley Cup in the stone age. A new, brighter future has arrived in St. Louis with the likes of Vladimir Tarasenko, Jaden Schwartz and Co., but until they truly take over this team, the ‘Hawks will never have to worry about the St. Louis Blues.

Mandatory Credit: James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports

Dallas Stars (currently in first place)

Should the ‘Hawks be worried: Yes

This team should be feared like the plague at the moment. If you’re only basing your Stanley Cup predictions on play this season, you may be considered legally insane if your Western Conference representative is not the Dallas Stars. Their goaltenders are performing, their defense is performing and their offense is out of this world. Their first line of Tyler Seguin, Jamie Benn and Patrick Sharp may be one of the best forward lines NHL fans have seen in a long time. The only fault this team could suffer is head coach Lindy Ruff choosing the wrong goaltender come playoff time. Odds are, the ‘Hawks will need to play some of their best hockey all season to come away with points in a game versus Dallas.

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So, there you have it. While the Chicago Blackhawks are going up against some of the most talented teams in the league, there shouldn’t be too much for the ‘Hawks to worry about once you dig into the details. No, the ‘Hawks aren’t perfect and will certainly concede some crucial points mentioned above, but all of these teams are beatable. Once this team finds its stride, there will be much less to worry about.

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