Behind Enemy Lines – Central Division Playoffs Wrap-Up

By JoHannah Lowder

Apr 19, 2013; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago Blackhawks center Jonathan Toews (19) shoots the puck against Nashville Predators goalie Pekka Rinne (35) during overtime at the United Center. The Blackhawks beat the Predators 5-4 in overtime. Mandatory Credit: Rob Grabowski-USA TODAY Sports

The Chicago Blackhawks followed up their worst game of the season against the Vancouver Canucks by finishing up their collection of The Best In Everything titles for the regular season against the Edmonton Oilers last week. The Blackhawks have 75 points, and no team has a chance of beating that with only 2 games remaining. The rest of the Central Division ia still fleshing out their post season positions during these last few days.

St. Louis Blues

The Blues went 3-1-0 in their past four games against teams that won’t continue into the post season. In Phoenix, the Blues had a 1-0 lead until the last minute of the game when the Coyotes scored on a power play with an empty net of their own. Andy McDonald scored in the shootout to get the extra point for the Blues. Against Dallas, the Blues had a 2-0 lead going into the third and managed to hold on to win the game 2-1. For their last road game, the Blues played the first of two consecutive games against the Colorado Avalanche. Amid his comeback, goalie Brian Elliott was pulled after allowing 4 goals in 19 shots. Rookie backup Jake Allen let in one more before the game was over, and the Blues lost 5-3. In the rematch in St. Louis, the Blues started off their 3-game home finale with strong defense, limiting the Avs to 18 shots and piling on 34 of their own for the 3-1 win.

The Blues have a record of 27-17-2, with 56 points and a clinched playoff spot. They are holding tight to 6th place in the Western Conference and have 2 more games to settle their place between 4th and 7th.

Detroit Red Wings

The Red Wings are walking a tight rope with Columbus breathing down their necks to get into the playoffs. Last week, they went 2-1-1 on their final stretch before post season. In Calgary, Miikka Kiprusoff out-dueled Jimmy Howard by saving 26 of 28 shots with Howard only making 14 of 17 for a 3-2 Wings loss. Against the Canucks, Detroit again dominated in shots on goal with 34 while limiting the opponent to only 14, but lost 2-1 in a shootout. But stronger goaltending and special teams did the trick while hosting Phoenix. The Red Wings scored 3 power play goals and an empty netter at the end, and Howard made 34 saves to get the 4-0 win. The still-defending 2012 Stanley Cup Champions, LA Kings proved to be a challenge against the Wings who needed a win to jump from 9th to 8th in the West. The Kings scored first but Red Wings managed to tie it up before the period was over and added two more in the final frame for the 3-1 win and a spot in the playoffs – for now.

The Red Wings now have a record of 22-16-8, and 52 points. They have two more games to either be overcome by the Blue Jackets or claim the 7th or 8th seed for the post season.

Columbus Blue Jackets

There’s just no escaping the Columbus Blue Jackets these days as they have made a very strong push to put themselves in the running for the bottom two playoff openings. They toured California last week and began in Anaheim, chasing the Ducks in scoring until overtime when Fedor Tyutin redirected a shot past Viktor Fasth halfway through the extra period for the 3-2 win. Columbus couldn’t pull off the magic against the Kings, allowing LA to regain the lead about 90 seconds after Columbus tied it up at 1 in the final period. The 2-1 loss was their first in 7 games. In San Jose, the Blue Jackets led the way in scoring through the third period until the Sharks tied it up. It looked like it was heading to overtime until Ryan Johansen wristed one past Antti Niemi with a minute and a half left in the game to take the 4-3 win.

The Blue Jackets have put on a show to make it to the playoffs, but have been bumped to the 9th spot in the West in a battle with the Red Wings with a 22-17-7 record and 51 points.

Nashville Predators

The Predators have had a tough wind down to the season with by losing 7 games in a row when they needed wins the most. Against the team with the best record in the NHL the Predators managed to get a point in an eventful game against the Blackhawks but lost 5-4 in overtime. They followed that up with their last home game of the season against the Calgary Flames. They were determined to win after such a letdown of a season and came back from every deficit to win 4-3, their first win in the last 8.

The Predators have only 2 more games before they’re put out of their misery with a 16-21-9 record and 41 points.

What is your prediction for the Blackhawks’ first matchup of the playoffs?

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