Behind Enemy Lines – The Central Division


Jan 22, 2013; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago Blackhawks goalie Corey Crawford (50) is congratulated by right wing Marian Hossa (81) and defenseman Niklas Hjalmarsson (4) for a victory against the St. Louis Blues at the United Center. The Blackhawks beat the Blues 3-2. Mandatory Credit: Rob Grabowski-USA TODAY Sports

The Chicago Blackhawks still hold the NHL lead in points this so far this season with a 7-0-2 record and 16 points. They have yet to lose a game in regulation time which is more than we can say about our Central Division opponents. Here’s a recap of what happened last week.

The Blackhawks closest competitor in the Central Division is the St. Louis Blues who have a 6-2-0 record after winning against Columbus on Thursday and losing in Detroit on Saturday. The Blues jumped out to a first period lead that the Columbus Blue Jackets could not recover from and added an empty net goal at the end to seal the deal with a 4-1 victory. Then they traveled to Detroit to take on the Red Wings. Maybe because they beat the Wings in a sound 6-0 shutout season opener, they thought they could do it again, but they were surprised when the Wings jumped out to a 2-0 lead. The Blues retaliated with 3 goals of their own to take the lead but a hat trick from Henrik Zetterberg put an end to their momentum. The Blues are currently second in the Central Division and sixth in the league with 12 points.

The Nashville Predators looked to get back their offensive touch and recover from the 3 shootout losses in the first 5 games. That wouldn’t happen against Phoenix on Monday. The Preds were shut out by Nick Johnson who replaced shaky Jason LaBarbera who usually backs up Mike Smith who was injured. Nashville welcomed the new goalie to his 3rd NHL start and first in Phoenix by handing him a 4-0 win. Nice Predators. After a few days off, the Preds got their second win of the season by beating the LA Kings in the 8th round of a shootout, 2-1. But probably the biggest thing they did (for the Blackhawks) over the week was hand the San Jose Sharks their first loss of the season in a shootout, winning 2-1. The Predators are still looking for their offensive spark to ignite with a 3-2-3 record. They are fourth in the Central Division and 16th in the league.

The Detroit Red Wings had a pretty decent week until they ran into the Columbus Blue Jackets on Saturday. They gave their fans a show as they took on the Dallas Stars, beating them 4-1, two of the goals coming 23 seconds apart – both assisted by Pavel Datsyuk, FYI. Dallas scored first but the Wings rallied to take the 4-1 win. Jordin Tootoo gave the Wings some uncharacteristic team toughness with two fighting majors. So weird for the Wings… Next, Detroit hosted the St. Louis Blues and won 5-3 with help from Zetterberg’s hat trick. They also took some momentum from a controversial David Backes penalty for an illegal shot to the head. (Did he hit Kent Huskin‘s head or didn’t he? He didn’t.) But Detroit’s good feelings about beating strong teams came crashing down when they faced the Blue Jackets in Columbus. They lost 4-2 and also saw defenseman Brendan Smith leave with a shoulder injury. The Red Wings have a 4-3-1 record, place third in the Central Division and 13th in the league.

That brings us to the Columbus Blue Jackets who have their moments. They hosted the Dallas Stars on Monday taking a 2-1 victory for the second win of the season, then traveled to Minnesota to take on the Wild in a game that they lost 3-2 in the third period after coming back from a 2-0 deficit. Back in Columbus on Thursday they lost a physical game against the St. Louis Blues 4-1, but wouldn’t go quietly with multiple fights and penalties assessed in the final minutes. Then their trade for Artem Anisimov paid off once again as he scored twice on Saturday against the Detroit Red Wings to secure a 4-2 win. The Blue Jackets are currently 3-5-1, sit at the bottom spot in the Central Division and are 25th in the league.

The best thing about last week is that every game played among the Central Division was settled in regulation, keeping opponents points on the season to a minimum. The Blackhawks have a great lead, and let’s hope they keep it up for the rest of the season!

What do you think of our Central Division opponents’ performances last week?

For more updates and conversation, follow us on Twitter @Blackhawk_Up and friend us on Facebook at Blackhawk Up.