The first game of the season for the Dallas Stars has been rescheduled for January 22nd.
So while Stars fans have yet to see their team play, their division rivals are back at work.
It’s hard to draw any definitive conclusions after only a few games and with teams are still knocking off the rust.
That being said, what conclusions can we jump to about the first few games in the realigned Central Division?
The bunch of jerks played their first two games in Detroit and split the season series. The most striking thing about Carolina’s play in both games was the high volume of shots generated, especially right in front of the net.
Dropping a game 4-2 to Detroit, however, who are once again hot favorites to be the bottom dwellers of the league, does ask some questions about their defense and goaltending.
Cane’s beat writer Sara Civian said it best…
Every fanbase is one loss to the Red Wings away from becoming Leafs Twitter
— Sara Civ (@SaraCivian) January 17, 2021
This year was looking rough for the Blackhawks long before the season started, with rumors of the veteran core being upset about the team’s direction. Things have only gotten worse since then, with Kirby Dach out for the season after an injury at the WJC, Jonathan Toews out with an undisclosed illness, and a less than convincing goaltending pair.
Losing their first 3 games in Florida, it looks like the Hawks may be contending for last in the division.
Columbus Blue Jackets
Columbus dropped both their season-opening games against Nashville. As a team known (much like Dallas) for playing a defensively solid but unexciting brand of hockey, giving up 8 goals in two games must be concerning.
Detroit Red Wings
Detroit has looked…not terrible? They struggled somewhat offensively in their opening game against Carolina but took the second in the series. Most projections have them at the bottom of the division but in the early running? They might be beaten out for that spot by Chicago.
Florida was supposed to start the season with two games against Dallas. Instead, they opened their season 4 days later against Chicago.
Even when we’re making sweeping assessments, one game is a bit hard to judge. They looked shaky in the first period but came back to win; that’s about all we can say!
Nashville impressed in their first two games against Columbus on both sides of the puck. The team from Tenessee scored eight goals over two against the usually solid Blue Jackets.
After two whole games, Nashville looks like they could be there or there about this season.
Tampa Bay Lightning
Tampa is, unfortunately, looking like Tampa. They easily swept their opening games against the Blackhawks and looked much like the two-way juggernaut that crushed the dreams of Stars fans everywhere in the cup final.
So, where do the Stars fit in?
It probably wouldn’t be wise to bet against Tampa taking the division, and Detroit and Chicago seem likely to bring up the rear. That leaves 5 teams fighting for 3 playoff spots. The loss of Bishop and Seguin for most of the season is, of course, a concern but perhaps not so much as some commentators have suggested. The most difficult hurdle to overcome is the compressed schedule.
If the Stars get off to a slow start like last year, it could be a whole lot more costly, and managing injuries and recoveries will be key. The already sprint-like season has been made even more challenging by rearranging the first three games of the season, assuming that the pandemic doesn’t cause even more issues.
Maybe the one thing the Stars have going for them is that they aren’t relying on any one player.
The “next man up” mindset that took them to the Stanley Cup Final last summer might be essential in this unusual season.
Featured Image: NHL