Behind Enemy Lines – Central Division
Feb 24, 2013; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago Blackhawks center Andrew Shaw (65) and Columbus Blue Jackets center R.J. Umberger (18) fight for a faceoff during the third period at the United Center. Chicago won 1-0. Mandatory Credit: Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports
The Chicago Blackhawks‘ lead in the Central Division is getting quite cozy, not only due to their impressive point streak, but also because of the inconsistency of their division rivals. Dominant wins, blowout losses, and last minute decisions were the story lines last week for the opponents.
The Detroit Red Wings fared the best last week with one loss, one overtime loss, and two wins. Their overtime loss came on Tuesday night against the Nashville Predators. Starting goaltender Jimmy Howard left the game with blurry vision halfway through the first period due to rouge puck in practice. Pavel Datsyuk practiced some magic that night skating through four Predators and beating Pekka Rinne. But it still wasn’t enough, and the Wings lost 4-3 in overtime. Two days later, the Red Wings headed home to take on fellow divisional opponent the Columbus Blue Jackets. This was the game they lost in regulation, allowing the Jackets to score with just 24 seconds left on the clock. On Saturday, the Predators stopped by for a rematch which the Red Wings were more than willing to oblige with a 4-0 shutout and ending their 5 game losing streak. Detroit next hosted the Vancouver Canucks in an offensively charged game that the Canucks led 3-2 after the first period – but that would be the extent of their scoring. Detroit, however, thought it would be fun to pile on 6 more goals in the next two periods. So they did, and they sent the Canucks away with an 8-3 loss. The Red Wings have 21 points in 19 games, are 6th in the Western Conference, and 4th in the Central Division.
In three games last week, the St. Louis Blues went 1-1-1 against the San Jose Sharks, Colorado Avalanche, and the Columbus Blue Jackets. The Blues hosted the struggling Sharks on Tuesday night in a close game, but lost 2-1 to end the Sharks’ 7 game losing streak. The following night, the Blues traveled to Colorado in another tight defensive match in which both goalies earned a shutout – until the Avalanche ended it with a goal over Jaroslav Halak‘s glove with 14 seconds left in overtime. After a few days off, the Blues headed back home where they had not won a game in the month of February. The only way to break that streak before hosting the Chicago Blackhawks next Thursday was to get a win over the Columbus Blue Jackets. After giving up a second period goal and allowing Columbus to tie it up, the Blues pulled out a win with a goal in the third period to secure a much-needed moral victory. The Blues have 22 points in 18 games, are 5th in the Western Conference, and 3rd in the Central Division.
The Nashville Predators felt like they were finally getting back on track with their Captain and highest paid player finally scoring again. Shea Weber came up big against the Detroit Red Wings by scoring the game winner in overtime and sealed the 4-3 victory. But before they could get too excited, they lost the next two by scoring nothing. The Vancouver Canucks only needed one goal halfway through the third period to win that one in regulation. Next, the Predators traveled to Detroit for a rematch against the Red wings where they were shut out for the second game in a row, losing 4-0. Their scoreless streak would come to an end on Monday night against the Dallas Stars. After giving up 4 goals in the second period, the Predators were down 4-3 but managed to tie it up in the third and win it 28 seconds into overtime. The Predators have 23 points in 20 games, are 4th in the Western Conference, and 2nd in the Central Division.
The Columbus Blue Jackets had a tough and busy week, playing the top two teams in the league and two division opponents all on the road and scraping out one inspired win for all of their efforts. On Monday, the Blue Jackets faced the red hot Ducks in Anaheim, played a strong game, and were just barely edged out in a 3-2 loss. Next, they took on the Red Wings in Detroit where they lost star forward Artem Anisimov when he took an awkward tumble along the boards with Kyle Quincey. The Jackets found themselves in a bad spot without an important forward and in a 2 goal hole, but they came back to win the game 3-2 and finally added another win to their record. To continue their Central Division rounds, they visited St. Louis and played a hard-fought game but lost 2-1 to a team that desperately needed a win on home ice. Then in Chicago, the Blue Jackets took on their nemesis that owned them last season but are having a much tougher time this year. They fell to a strong Corey Crawford performance which shut out the Blue Jackets and allowed the lone Blackhawks goal to be the game winner. Columbus has 12 points in 19 games, are 15th in the Western Conference, and 5th in the Central Division.
The lead that the Blackhawks have on the rest of the Central Division is unbelievable right now. They are easily 12 points ahead of the second place Predators, 13 points ahead of the Blues, and 14 points ahead of the Red Wings. They’re also leading the Blue Jackets by 23 points, but who’s counting? With 26 games left to play, it would take a pretty spectacular fall for the Blackhawks to lose their fist place spot in the Central Division.
Do you think the Blackhawks will be able to keep the lead in the Central Division for the rest of the season?
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