Central Division Wrap-Up

Still smarting from their road trip that saw the Red Wings lose the final 3 games, including a heart-breaker in Phoenix. While the Wings look to pick up the pieces and get ready for a March that sees the Wings only play 3 road games for the rest of the month, the rest of the Central continues to fight for playoff positioning, and in one case, the division.

Chicago Blackhawks:

Season: 37-23-6, 80 points (2nd in Central, 4th in West)
The Skinny: Objects may appear larger than they appear. The Hawks have been on a tear, winning their last 8 games to pull within 6 points of the Wings in the division. Jonathan Toews has been a stud, racking up 384 points in the last month to lead the team. Their newly formed line of Toews/Kane/Sharp is admittedly a pretty impressive trio.
Since the Hawks last loss (to the Coyotes in a shootout on February 12), they have beaten the following teams: Wild, Blue Jackets, Penguins (without Crosby/Malkin), Blues, Predators, Coyotes, Wild, Flames, Hurricanes, and Maple Leafs. Not exactly a murderer's row of teams.
Think the Hawks are good? Personally, I think they still lack the depth to do anything in the playoffs as evidenced by the fact their recent hot streak is because of the new top line. If that line gets cold, the Hawks are done. However, the next 10 games will be very telling: they play Lightning, Capitals, Sharks, Stars, Ducks, Red Wings and Bruins. If the Hawks are still chugging along after that, we'll talk.

Nashville Predators:

Season: 33-24-9, 75 Points (3rd in Central, 11th in West)
The Skinny: The Predators have played some mediocre hockey since the All-Star break, going 6-6-3.
Want to know the reason why the Preds are struggling to make the playoffs? In the last month they have beaten the Red Wings once and the Canucks twice, yet they have lost to the Blue Jackets once and the Oilers twice. A 4-0 loss to Edmonton is a game I can guarantee Preds fans will be kicking themselves over if they miss the playoffs.
As predicted by many at the beginning of the season, the Preds are having a lot of trouble scoring. They currently sit dead last in the West in goals for with a paltry 167 goals. However, they have only given up 156, and if they continue to get solid goaltending, they may just earn a spot in the playoffs.

Columbus Blue Jackets:

Season: 31-26-7, 69 Points (4th in Central, 12th in West)
The Skinny: The BJs are doing their best to stay in the playoff race, but they are going down fast.
If the Jackets can find some defense or goaltending, they'd give themselves a shot; they last among all teams still within less than 10 points of the 8th playoff spot in team GAA.
Rick Nash is once again the leading scorer for the Jackets, but he's not even at a point-per-game pace. However, he has 7 GWG, tied for third in the NHL. Can you imagine how bad they would be if they did not have him?
The BJs get the Blues in a home and home beginning tonight (they are playing as I write this), and anything less than 3 points should mean the BJ fans can kiss a playoff spot goodbye.

St. Louis Blues:

Season: 28-28-9, 65 Points (5th in Central, 13th in West)
The Skinny: Stick a fork in 'em: the Blues are done.
In the Blues last 9 games, they are 2-7; their combined score in their 2 wins is 14-3, while they have been outscored 27-12 in the 7 losses.
The Blues currently sit 11 points behind Los Angeles for the last playoff spot, and have 4 teams in front of them. I think there are far too many teams and too many Bettman-point games for the Blues to make that up.
Jaroslav Halak is still on IR, ensuring that he won't get lit up by the Wings when they play next Saturday.

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