Dec 17, 2013; Nashville, TN, USA; Chicago Blackhawks left wingPatrick Sharp
(10) skates with the puck ahead of Nashville Predators left wingViktor Stalberg
(25) during the second period at Bridgestone Arena. Mandatory Credit: Mike Strasinger-USA TODAY Sports
The Chicago Blackhawks lead the Central Division by 7 points, but have also played more games than any of their division rivals. They improved to a league best 55 points in 37 games with a record of 25-7-5.
The St. Louis Blues continue to lag a short distance behind the Blackhawks in second place. They won 6-3 against the Toronto Maple Leafs and 4-3 in overtime against the Columbus Blue Jackets. The Blues earned a point in Ottawa against the Senators in a 3-2 overtime loss but skated off home ice with nothing in a 4-2 loss against the San Jose Sharks. Their record is now 22-7-3, worth 48 points in 33 games.
The Colorado Avalanche played only division rivals in the past week and earned 5 out of 8 points possible. They won a shootout in Winnipeg against the Jets 4-3 and lost a shootout 2-1 at home against the Minnesota Wild. Then in back to back games against the Dallas Stars, the Avs took the first game with a 6-2 win at home, but lost 3-2 in Dallas the following night. The Avs record is 22-10-1 with 45 points in 33 games.
The Minnesota Wild had a 3-1 loss against the San Jose Sharks and then a couple of shootout wins. The first shootout win came in Colorado with a final score of 2-1 followed by a 3-2 shootout win against the visiting Vancouver Canucks. The Wild have a record of 20-11-5 with 45 points in 36 games.
The Dallas Stars are keeping steady with their hot-and-cold system with back and forth wins and losses. They lost in Nashville 3-1 but won in Winnipeg 6-4. Then in Colorado, they lost 6-2 followed by a 3-2 win against the Avs in Dallas. They have 37 points in 33 games and a record of 16-12-5.
The Nashville Predators had a 3 game home stand that went pretty well until they encountered the Blackhawks. They won 3-1 against the Stars and 3-2 against the San Jose Sharks, but the Blackhawks caused a little trouble by handing the Preds a 3-1 loss. The Predators have 35 points in 34 games and a record of 16-15-3.
The Winnipeg Jets are tied for last in the Central Division with 35 points in 36 games and a record of 15-16-5. They played well against the Avalanche but lost in a shootout 4-3. They followed it up with a 6-4 loss against the visiting Dallas Stars, but won 3-2 against the Columbus Blue Jackets. The hurting Buffalo Sabres didn’t make it easy on the travelling Jets, and the visitors walked away with a 4-2 loss.
Although there are 20 points between the first place Blackhawks and last place Jets, the variations in games played and points makes it difficult to say that there is any definite separation between Central Division opponents. The Blackhawks still have 4 games to play before reaching the halfway point of the season, and other teams have up to 8 more games. Predictions won’t be easy, but who do you think will make the top three in the Central Division?