Western Conference

Central Division Showdown

Posted: March 3, 2014 at 12:00 pm   /   by   /   comments (0)
Janie Pierson
 
central top
With two months remaining in the 2013-14 regular season, the Central Division’s Chicago Blackhawks, St. Louis Blues, and Colorado Avalanche are poised for playoff contention and here’s what they need to do to secure their playoff positions.

 

After the new alignment of divisions for the 2013-14 season, it was unclear what kind of competition would be present within each division and even conference of the National Hockey League. The Western Conference’s Central Division, comprised of seven teams (Colorado, Chicago, Dallas, Minnesota, Nashville, St. Louis, and Winnipeg), has proven to be the league’s most competitive division this season so far.

 

In the new alignment, the top three teams from each division fill six playoff spots automatically at the conclusion of the regular season. The remaining two playoff spots are filled by each Conference’s remaining top two teams. If the season ended today (March 1st, 2014), the Central Division would send Chicago, St. Louis, and Colorado to the Stanley Cup playoffs with the first three guaranteed playoff slots. And the chance of the Blackhawks, Blues, and Avalanche staying in the top three of the Division for the remainder of the season is highly likely.

 

The Blackhawks and Blues are tied with 84 points each so far this year. Right behind them, currently with 81 points, is the Colorado Avalanche. Looking ahead, Chicago has nine Central Division matchups remaining this year, St. Louis has thirteen, and Colorado only has seven. The Central Division games will be the most influential for the three top teams and their records. As of today, the Blackhawks are (9-8-3) in the Central Division. The Blues are (15-0-1) and the Avalanche is (14-5-2).

 

In their nine remaining Central Division games, the Blackhawks should focus on improving their division record. Chicago, the reigning champs, is built for success with offensive powers such as Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, and Patrick Sharp plus defensive strengths from Brent Seabrook and Duncan Keith. Goaltending has been reliable for the Blackhawks this year, too, with Corey Crawford currently (22-10-10) and a 0.916 save percentage. Without a doubt, even if Chicago does not perform as well as St. Louis and Colorado in the Central Division, they will still earn a playoff spot due to their incredible play against the Pacific Division and Eastern Conference.

 

The Blues have thirteen matchups left against Central Division teams However, so far this year, they have only lost one division game, in overtime. No other team in the entire National Hockey League has 15 wins in its division. After February 28th’s trade with Buffalo, the addition of Ryan Miller and Steve Ott to the Blues makes them even more of a threat in the Central Division. If they continue to play the way that they have so far in 2013-14, the Blues could easily take the Division title and be front-runners for the Stanley Cup. They will be the team to beat.

 

Sitting in third place in the division, the Colorado Avalanche has truly been a rags-to-riches story this year. After finishing second to last in the league last year with a measly 16 wins in 48 games, the addition of Patrick Roy behind the bench and some other new features has propelled the Avalanche back into relevance in the NHL. The Avs have performed amazingly well this year in their division (14-5-2), compared to their terrible (5-13-0) record against the Northwest Division last year. It will be crucial for the young Avalanche team to stay focused through the remainder of the year. Captain Gabriel Landeskog, Matt Duchene, and Nathan MacKinnon will need to continue to produce points steadily and goaltenders Semyon Varlamov and Jean-Sebastian Giguere will need to continue to stay strong in net. Even earning a playoff spot in 2014 will be an incredible accomplishment for the Avalanche after the past few terrible years that the organization has had.

 

The Central Division’s top three teams are locked and loaded with their offensive and defensive weapons plus some impeccable play from goaltenders. The three coaches, Joel Quenneville (Chicago), Ken Hitchcock (St. Louis), and Patrick Roy (Colorado), all know what it takes to win a Stanley Cup and will do whatever it takes in the last two months of the season to ensure that their teams get to the playoffs.