By: Sydney Fann
As the regular season begins to draw to a close, there is a very noticeable question arising in the Central Division: who is going to come out as the Central Division Champion? For nearly the entire, if not the entire, 2015-2016 season, the Central Division has been a very close race between three teams for first overall. The Chicago Blackhawks, Dallas Stars, and St. Louis Blues have spent the current season fighting each other for that coveted top division spot.
Currently, the Blackhawks and Stars are tied for first with 88 points with the Blues very close behind with 87 points. All three teams have 14 games remaining, and all three teams will play each other at least one more time before the regular season is over.
The Blackhawks started the season going 6-5-0 in the first month, a somewhat less-than-ideal start for the 2015 Stanley Cup Champions. They did pick up some steam as the season continued, especially in January, in which they went 11-3-0. So far in the month of March, the Blackhawks have been 2-1-1. In their most recent loss, the Blackhawks lost 3-2 to the Blues in a 6-round shootout, although it did allow for the Blackhawks to gain a point that tied their point total with Dallas in first place.
The Stars, on the other hand, started the season on an absolute tear, going 9-2-0 in the month of October. The Stars’ hot start to the season shocked a lot of people, especially since the Stars ended last season out of the playoffs and in a pretty average final position. And unlike many of the other teams who start the season off at the top, the Stars have managed to keep their momentum going and stay in the top of the division. In their most recent loss, also in overtime, the Stars lost 4-3 in overtime, resulting in them remaining in their top spot but tied with the Blackhawks.
The Blues continued their regular season success and started off the season 8-2-1, possibly motivated by a disappointing 2015 playoff performance. The Blues’ solid start to the season was not a surprise, and for the most part they kept pace with the Stars and Blackhawks at the top of the Central. There were times when the Blues were in danger of falling into a wild card spot, but they were able to hold onto their third position spot. The Blues are currently on a 4 game win streak, with their last win against the Blackhawks.
When put up against each other, the teams are pretty even matches, with the slight exception of Blues vs. Stars in which the Blues are up 3-1 in the series. Being able to beat each other will soon become extremely important, as the winners of regular season series become the winners of any ties that occur in the standings. The Blues and Stars will face each other once more before the season is over, meaning the Blues will win in a tie-breaking scenario with the Stars. The Blackhawks will face the Blues once more in the regular season, and whoever wins that game will determine who wins in the case of a tie. And the Stars will face the Blackhawks twice more before the season is over, and both of those games will be important in terms of points as well as in the case of who wins the series in the case of a tie.
All in all, the final 14 games of the regular season will be an intense race to first place between the Blues, Blackhawks, and Stars. All three teams have an equal shot at taking first, but only one will come out on top. Personally, I would love to see the Blues take first and win another division championship, and they might actually have the best chance at taking that spot given the fact that their schedule is slightly less difficult than the other two teams.