This week, the Chicago Blackhawks lead the Central Division, the Western Conference, and the League with a 12-0-3 record worth 27 points. That just never gets old… While the Blackhawks remain steady in the standings, the rest of their division opponents experience hot streaks and cold streaks that slide them up in down the standings on a weekly basis. Here’s a brief recap of the Central Division drama from last week.
The St. Louis Blues capped off a five game losing streak at home on Monday night with a 4-1 loss to the L.A. Kings. Goalie Brian Elliott has struggled during that time while filling in for injured Jaroslav Halak. Elliott’s previous lackluster play earned a benching threat from Head Coach Ken Hitchcock when Halak was slated to return. But Halak reaggravated his injury during warm-ups and Elliott recorded the loss. That sealed his fate as young Jake Allen played the next three games straight – and won them all on the road. On Wednesday in Detroit, Allen helped his struggling team to a 4-3 overtime victory and followed it up with a 5-2 win in Calgary two days later. On Sunday, the Blues faced everyone’s favorite team in Vancouver and once again their new goalie came up big in the shootout to earn the 4-3 victory. The Blues are currently 8th in the League, 4th in the Western Conference, and 2nd in the Central Division with 19 points and 15 games played.
Behind the Blues are the Nashville Predators who are clinging to their goaltender Pekka Rinne for every success last week. On Tuesday, the Predators hosted the struggling San Jose Sharks and both goalies (Rinne and Antti Niemi) shut out the skaters until overtime. Rinne’s shutout lasted longer and secured a 1-0 win for the Preds. Next, the Phoenix Coyotes came for a visit – the first since they beat the Predators out of the playoffs last year. The home team found retribution in the form of another Rinne shutout, winning 3-0. On Saturday, the Predators faced the second best team in the NHL in the Anaheim Ducks and played a close game. Rinne’s shutout streak ended in a 3-2 shootout loss at home. Then the defense struggled in Colorado as they lost an emotional game to the Avalanche, 6-5. The Predators are now in 9th place in the League, 5th in the Western Conference, and 3rd in the Central Division with 19 points and 16 games played.
The Detroit Red Wings had a pretty bad week losing all three games. They fell victim to a rallying St. Louis Blues team desperate to end their five game losing streak. After the 4-3 overtime loss to the Blues, the Red Wings hosted the Anaheim Ducks and lost it in the third period, giving up two goals and an empty netter to fall 5-2. The Wings might be running into some defense problems as they let up a 2 goal lead in Minnesota to lose 3-2 against the Wild on Sunday night. The Red Wings fall to 17th in the League, 9th in the Western Conference, and 4th in the Central Division with 16 points and 15 games played.
The Columbus Blue Jackets started off the week with a big win on Monday but followed that up with two losses later in the week. The Blue Jackets hosted the San Jose Sharks and saw a frenzy of goals scored in spurts accumulating to a 6-2 win. A three day break may sound nice to most of us, but it threw the Blue Jackets off of whatever groove they were hoping to start. They faced the L.A. Kings on the West Coast and lost 2-1 – offense extinguished. They then traveled to the desert to take on the Coyotes without the key players of Artem Anisimov and James Wisniewski. They lost 5-3 and have only won 4 games so far this season. The Blue Jackets are dead last in the League (30), the Western Conference (15), and the Central Division (5).
The biggest movers this week were the Red Wings and the Blues, with the Blues moving up three spots in the Western Conference and the Red Wings sliding out of a playoff spot into 9th place.
With all of the leapfrogging going on in the Central Division so far this season, how do you think the five teams will end up in the standings?