Central Division Playoff Picture

Still nearing the end of the NHL regular season, some top teams have been experiencing some decline in their play leading up to the playoffs. Thursday night posed a good opportunity for the Chicago Blackhawks to grab two points against an up and down Boston Bruins team who are still fighting for a playoff birth. Chicago had previously scored five goals in stealing two points from the Red Wings in the Wednesday night matchup. They then flew straight to Boston for one of their final back-to-backs of the season.

It looked great for the surging Bruins to pick up two points because starting goalie Corey Crawford was not set to begin the game in net. Instead backup Scott Darling got the call, making his first start since February 15th. As a second option goalie in Chicago, its hard for Darling to get comfortable in a game situation where you have high expectations playing for a team who has won multiple Stanley Cup Finals in recent years. Darling is not likely to see much more time going forward as there is only one set of back-to-back games left this season. Here’s one of the goals scored by Loui Eriksson assisted by John Michael-Liles

laddgone.jpgThe Hawks power play unit saw better play Thursday night. They scored once on two opportunities, making it three games in a row where they have scored with the man advantage. Some of the better play came from recent addition to the team Andrew Ladd who is prime in front of the net and isn’t afraid to go into the corners. This aspect poses a great threat going forward into the playoffs for an already great team.

In the race to the top of the central division, Chicago is leading Dallas by only a slim margin of one win, but it may get bigger. The Dallas Stars have fallen in 7 of their last 10 games this season. Why is this happening?

1457031580-NS_08STARSCANES19_47704608.JPG Dallas is prone to letting opposing teams put the puck in the net. They’ve had multiple games this season where they have let up at least 5 goals in a game. But, they are second in the lead in scoring only trailing the Washington Capitals. So, this scoring is bailing them out of their defensive struggle. The on thing that Dallas does not have is a great goalie. I believe the game of hockey is lead by defense. There no opportunity to win a game if you let goals into the net too often.Going forward, the Stars will play teams with some of the leagues top goaltenders such as the King’s Jonathan Quick, the Blackhawks Corey Crawford, and the Lightning’s Ben Bishop. With these guys in net, even a team who is scoring over 3 goals a game will be more likely to drop the two points in a division where they will need to keep winning to keep their playoff spot.

I am not saying that either of these teams will not be in the playoffs or Stanley Cup contenders but they both need to tighten a few loose screws before the games get more important come post season.

Cover Photo via United Center

Pictures via Chicago Now, and NHL.com

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