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Mailbag: Rangers rolling, Central Division update

NHL.com's Dan Rosen answers weekly questions

by Dan Rosen @drosennhl / NHL.com Senior Writer

Here is the Nov. 16 edition of Dan Rosen's weekly mailbag, which will run every Wednesday through the course of the 2016-17 NHL season. If you have a question, tweet it to @drosennhl and use #OvertheBoards.

Are the New York Rangers really as good as they look right now? -- @joshbenn80

No, but they're good, really good. They're more of a legitimate contender than a fraud, that's for sure. I find it impossible to believe they'll keep scoring at their current pace for the entire season because that would be 1980s Oilers-esque and that's just unrealistic in the NHL today. However, one of the best things going for the Rangers and their future success is the fact that Henrik Lundqvist hasn't been the story yet. He's been mostly good and getting better, but he hasn't had to be great. He has great in him this season, and that could show up if or when the scoring starts to tumble a bit. Think about it: if the Rangers drop a full goal per game the rest of the season, they'll still be averaging more than three goals per game. And if they slump, it could coincide with a hot streak for Lundqvist. Plus, the Rangers are playing much better defense in front of Lundqvist. Their forwards are coming back into the zone better than they did last season and that's a big reason for why they're creating turnovers in the 'D' zone and they're quick to transition. I think the Rangers' success is sustainable. I think they're legit.

Video: NYR@CGY: Vesey puts home McDonagh's nice pass

 

Are you a bit surprised about the way the Central Division has shaken out so far? -- @nachoSEABre

Absolutely. For starters, I didn't see the Winnipeg Jets being a Stanley Cup Playoff contender, but Patrik Laine has made such a huge impact there and Mark Scheifele has been consistently excellent too, so they are. Jacob Trouba is working his way back also, which bodes well for the Jets. Goaltending, specifically early goals against, could be a hiccup. The Jets also have to get better in the second period. They've been the comeback kids this season. I wonder how long that can last.

The Dallas Stars have been crushed by injuries, but they were suspect anyway because of their goaltending. You can't win when each of your goalies has a sub-.900 save percentages. They're lower than I thought they'd be because of the injuries, but I was curious about them being a contender anyway.

The Nashville Predators and St. Louis Blues have been the disappointing teams if you look at preseason projections. I don't think they will stay disappointing all season long. The Predators are showing signs of life now. They need more out of Filip Forsberg.

The Minnesota Wild and Colorado Avalanche are where I thought they'd be.

 

Do you think Chicago and Montreal can stay atop the East and West? -- @NimerHawks

I think they can, but it's not a given. The analytics suggest there should be a regression at some point for both teams, but their goalies, Carey Price for the Canadiens and Corey Crawford for the Blackhawks, are in my mind the top two candidates for the Vezina Trophy at this point. In that order, too. They should be able to help their teams sustain success. However, each team has to start doing a better job of consistently limiting shots against to make life a little easier on their goalies. Both teams are also in that 11 percent range for shooting percentage. That's high. History suggests that will go down eventually, which is going to make life even harder on the goalies, especially if they don't limit the shots against them.

Video: LAK@MTL: Price's spectacular glove save on Kopitar

 

The Blackhawks might have an easier time of staying atop the Western Conference because, frankly, the competition isn't as strong as it is in the Eastern Conference. The Canadiens will get challenged by the Rangers, Pittsburgh Penguins, Washington Capitals and potentially the Tampa Bay Lightning. The Western Conference is not what it once was.

 

Do you believe the new rink in Arizona will help attendance to increase? -- @PLLevesque94

Yes, if it comes to fruition. The Coyotes took a big step Monday by announcing the plans for the new 16,000-seat arena in Tempe, Arizona, but now they have to get the necessary funding to get shovels in the ground to make it happen. If that happens, and I have no reason to believe it won't, the new arena in the East Valley region of the greater Phoenix area will be a big deal for the Coyotes, interest in the team and attendance. The majority of the Coyotes' fanbase is in the East Valley and it's hard and time consuming for them to get to Glendale on a week night. Getting to an arena in Tempe will be much easier and obviously better for attendance. It will also be better for the hockey in the region to have a new building with an extra ice sheet in the 4,000-seat multi-sport arena that will be attached to the new arena. More ice equals more opportunity for kids in the area to play. That's significant. But, in the end, the Coyotes are going to have to be good if they want to fill their building on a regular basis. They're on their way with a plan in place. Looks like there are good things ahead for hockey in Arizona.

 

Is Travis Green a candidate for the head job for the New York Islanders if Jack Capuano doesn't right the ship? -- @Tom_Doran49

Green could be a candidate for a lot of teams, including the one he currently works for, the Vancouver Canucks. But if the Islanders make a coaching change mid-season, I can't see how or why the Canucks would let Green leave his spot as the coach of the Utica Comets in the American Hockey League. Remember, the Canucks could be eyeing Green as their next coach if they don't believe Willie Desjardins is longed for the job.

 

Are the New Jersey Devils for real? -- @NJDDiehard

Great question. To be honest, I'm not so sure. Let's see what shape they're in when they get back from this western road trip. I want to say they're a legit playoff contender, but I'm more inclined to say at this point they're a bubble team. They still don't score enough, but they get great goaltending and their defense is holding up better than I thought it would. I like the way they're trending and I think John Hynes is developing into one of the better coaches in the League. Things are looking good, but it's too early to get overly optimistic about them.

 

Does Las Vegas get a first round pick next year? And, if so, where would they slot in? -- @JerBoom

Yes. Las Vegas will be slotted third in the 2017 NHL Draft Lottery, which means they can move up to as high as the No. 1 pick or as low as No. 6 in that draft.

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