Central

Predators Will Win the Central Division Crown

Predators Will Win the Central Division Crown
Pavel Kofman

First it was Nashville, then St. Louis, now back to Nashville. First place in the Central Division has been a game of musical chairs, but as the final two weeks of the season play out, it appears the Predators have the inside track to the division title.

After it seemed like Nashville was in cruise control to win the Central, they had a difficult 15-game stretch that started in mid-February. The team went 4-9-2 in a stretch that included a six-game losing streak all in regulation. That run saw the Predators play poorly in all areas. Rookie star Filip Forsberg went cold and All-Star goaltender Pekka Rinne wasn’t at his best.

Now fast forward to late March and Nashville has suddenly figured it out again. Saturday afternoon, the Predators became the first team in the Western Conference to clinch a playoff spot, beating Washington 4-3. The win was their fourth straight and gives them 101 points with six games to play.

Although Nashville leads St. Louis by three points with an extra game played, the difficulty of the Blues’ schedule to the end season may mean a division title for the Predators.

Nashville is one of the best home teams in the NHL, and it finishes the season with four of six on home ice. Only three of those games are against playoff teams.

Meanwhile, the Blues find themselves trying to prevent a similar collapse like the end of last season. A slew of injuries played a major factor in the team losing their last six games of the regular season and losing the Central Division title to Colorado on the last day of the 2013-14 campaign. As a result, the Blues fell to a playoff matchup with Chicago, which ended in six games.

This year, the Blues are hoping to build momentum heading into the playoffs, but their extremely difficult schedule to end the season may prevent that.

In their final 7 games, the Blues will play desperate teams in Calgary, Winnipeg and Minnesota. They will also play a pair with Chicago, which may be a preview of a first round playoff matchup. The remaining two games are with Vancouver and Dallas.

The team will have to be in playoff mode much sooner if they want to still challenge for first place in the Central Division, and simply not finishing the regular season on another losing streak.

With so many questions surrounding the Blues, Nashville has to be feeling pretty good about their situation. They have managed to recover from a major slide and may still hold on to win the division title.

They may be in a better position, but the Predators are not problem-free either. All-Star defenseman Shea Weber missed Saturday’s game, the first game he’s missed all season. He’s listed as day-to-day but the feeling is the team may be resting their 30-minute per game work horse before the playoffs. He also missed Sunday’s game against the Flames.

Speaking of rest, Predators may also give Rinne a game off before the playoffs begin. Backup Carter Hutton played well when Rinne was hurt earlier in the season. He may play Sunday in the final back to back of the team’s season.

The Central Division has given hockey fans some incredible competition this season. Fans may get some bonus Central Division hockey in the playoffs. Besides the 2nd and 3rd place teams matching up in the playoffs, there’s a good chance the central division winner may play a central wild card team such as Winnipeg or Minnesota.

If Winnipeg does make the playoffs, they’ll be one of five Central Division teams to qualify for the postseason. As many as four teams may also finish with more than 100 points this season.

No matter what happens in the end, the Western Conference playoff picture will be as intriguing as ever. Fans can only hope that every series will live up to the high expectations and competition level of the Western Conference.

Central
Pavel Kofman
@sportsfanaticpk

Pavel Kofman is a writer based in St. Louis, Missouri. He has written and covered various sports teams including the St. Louis Blues, Green Bay Packers, and Michigan State Spartans. But his one true passion is covering the NHL. Pavel has worked in the media for 10 years writing for Scout.com, ChatSports and more recently in sports radio and TV news. Carrying a true hockey name, Pavel was born in Moscow and speaks fluent Russian.

More in Central

NHL: SEP 23 Preseason - Predators at Lightning

Predators Have Deep Forward Prospect Pool

Mark HarrisMarch 28, 2015
Byfuglien

Byfuglien’s Return the Last Push the Jets Needed

Luke LapinskiMarch 28, 2015
NHL: JAN 20 Wild at Red Wings

NHL Central Power Rankings: Wild On Top

Mark HarrisMarch 26, 2015
NHL: JAN 15 Red Wings at Blues

How Kevin Shattenkirk’s Return Boosts Blues’ Blue Line

Pavel KofmanMarch 26, 2015
Toews

Jonathan Toews is King of 2006 Draft Class

Andy DudonesMarch 26, 2015
NHL: SEP 29 Preseason - Blue Jackets at Predators

Kevin Fiala: Checking in With the Rookie

Cat SilvermanMarch 25, 2015
NHL: JAN 18 Stars at Blackhawks

Tyler Seguin and Jamie Benn or Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews

Mark HarrisMarch 25, 2015
NHL: FEB 12 Jets at Predators

Predators’ Schedule Gives Them Edge Over Blues

Mark HarrisMarch 24, 2015
NHL: MAR 10 Devils at Wild

Breaking Down the Goalie Depth of Every Central Club

Luke LapinskiMarch 24, 2015

YOUR HOCKEY YOUR WAY, BE SEEN BE HEARD BE A SLAPSHOT FAN TODAY! PART OF THE FANRAG SPORTS NETWORK

Slapshot on Facebook

Slapshot On Twitter

Tweets by @TodaysSlapshot

Copyright © 2014 Today's Slapshot, All Rights Reserved. | Terms of Use/Privacy | Copyright | Site Map | About Us | Authors | Contact Us