NHL Betting Preview: The Colorado Avalanche shocked the hockey world when they won 52 games and posted the best record in the Central Division in 2013-14. What do they have in store for an encore? The St. Louis Blues and Chicago Blackhawks would certainly like to knock Colorado out of the top spot while the Minnesota Wild and Dallas Stars reloaded in the offseason with their sights on a Central Division title and more. With five legitimate playoff contenders that each have the potential to go all the way it’s clear that the Central will be one of the NHL’s most intriguing divisions to watch in 2014-15.
Team That Could Surprise
The rivalry between the Blues and Blackhawks has been well documented over the past couple of years and the Avalanche and Wild should be back in the playoff picture but the one team that really has the potential to surprise is Dallas. The Stars showed flashes as the final Wild Card team in the Western Conference a year ago but a promising offseason has provided plenty of reason for optimism moving forward. First the team traded for a second No. 1 center in Jason Spezza. Then they solidified their top-six forward core with the addition of Ales Hemsky who is likely to play on the second line with Spezza while Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin remain on the top trio. Dallas also signed Anders Lindback to back up Kari Lehtonen behind a decent defense core that includes Jordie Benn, Trevor Daley, Alex Goligoski, and Sergei Gonchar. The Stars have plenty of firepower up front and if the defense and goaltending holds up they will certainly surprise as a legitimate contender to win the Central in 2014-15.
Team That Could Disappoint
Colorado was the surprise team in the West a year ago but after overachieving they could be primed for a step back. The loss of Paul Stastny is certainly the biggest concern although they may feel that Nathan Mackinnon is ready for a starring role at center. The Avalanche added some veteran grit when they signed Jarome Iginla and also brought in Daniel Briere and Brad Stuart to help add some stability to a young roster. However, it might not be enough to maintain their hold on the Central with St. Louis, Chicago, Minnesota, and Dallas all making substantial improvements.
Who’s Most Likely To Win The Central Division
Some will argue that the most complete team in the Central is still the Blackhawks but St. Louis finished one point back of Colorado for top spot in the division after a rough finish a year ago and has improved on paper by stealing Stastny away from the Avalanche. Stastny, David Backes, and Patrik Berglund fill out arguably the league’s best group of centres and there is no shortage of talent around them with TJ Oshie, Alex Steen, and Jaden Schwartz on the wings. The defense core is still among the league’s best with Jay Bouwmeester, Barret Jackman, Kevin Shattenkirk, and Alex Pietrangelo all returning as well. If there is one concern it could be in goal where Brian Elliott and Jake Allen will be relied on to lead the way. Both goalies have the potential to be solid and Elliott certainly has the track record of success in St. Louis. With such a complete team in front of them there won’t be many people that bet against the Blues.
Will the Dallas Stars finish with more points than the Colorado Avalanche?