Jan 26, 2014; Chicago, IL, USA; Winnipeg Jets defenseman Dustin Byfuglien (33) is pursued by Chicago Blackhawks defenseman Brent Seabrook (7) during the third period at the United Center. Winnipeg won 3-1. Mandatory Credit: Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports
It’s no secret that the Chicago Blackhawks have hit a bit of a rough patch when it comes to “should win” games. They have recently suffered losses to the Calgary Flames, Winnipeg Jets, and Minnesota Wild and have lost the most games in the league past regulation with 13. The struggle tied them in points with St. Louis and momentarily dropped them to second in the Central Division. Their 5-2 win over the Vancouver Canucks put them back on top and hopefully turned the corner on their slump. The Blackhawks will have to have a crazy good road trip in order to stay in the lead in the Central Division.
The St. Louis Blues are still breathing down the Blackhawks necks with four games in hand over the first place team and only trailing by two points. Their record is 36-11-5 with 77 points. They play the Carolina Hurricanes, Nashville Predators, and Ottawa Senators in the next week and have a great opportunity to grab the lead in the Central Division as the Blackhawks work their way through tough teams on the road.
The Colorado Avalanche also have four games in hand over the Blackhawks but trail by 8 points. They have a record of 36-11-5 with 71 points. The Avs will face the Minnesota Wild, Buffalo Sabres, New Jersey Devils, and New York Rangers within the next week.
The Minnesota Wild have played 55 games this season and earned 64 points. Their record of 29-20-6 gives them a little bit of a cushion against the bottom three Central Division teams but also places them an uncomfortable distance from Colorado and the third playoff seed in the Central Division. The Wild currently hold the first Wild Card slot in the Western Conference by 1 point ahead of the Vancouver Canucks. They are coming off of a 4-2 win over the Anaheim Ducks and will face Colorado, Calgary, and the Tampa Bay Lightning within the week.
The Dallas Stars have 56 points in 53 games with a record of 24-21-8. They trail the Wild by 8 points and have 2 games in hand. If they want a Wild Card spot in the Western Conference, they would have to jump the Phoenix Coyotes and oust the Canucks for the second position. They’ll face the New Jersey Devils, Anaheim Ducks, and Phoenix Coyotes in the next week which could make gaining ground even more challenging.
The Nashville Predators are tied with the Stars with 56 points in the Central Division but have played 2 more games. Their record of 24-23-8 has them in sixth place in the division and trailing a Wild Card spot by 7 points. The Predators are coming off a 4-3 win over the Winnipeg Jets and will face the New Jersey Devils and St. Louis Blues in back to back games before having a 4 day rest.
The Winnipeg Jets round out the Central Division with 55 points in 55 games and a record of 25-25-5. They have gone 6-2-0 in their last eight games and beaten teams like the Coyotes (5-1), Ducks (3-2), Maple Leafs (5-4 OT), and Blackhawks (3-1). Their recent losses have all been by a one goal margin against the San Jose Sharks (1-0) and Nashville Predators (4-3). The Jets will face the Canucks, Montreal Canadiens, and Carolina Hurricanes next week in an effort to keep up the pace.
Which Central Division team do you think will gain the most ground in the last third of the season?