Sunday, January 22, 2012

Central Division dominance

The Central Division has been the best division in the NHL so far this season. Detroit, St. Louis, Chicago and Nashville have four of the five highest point totals in the Western Conference so far in the 2011-2012 season.

If the regular season were to end today, the Central Division would hold four of the top six places in the Western Conference standings going into the playoffs. It's been an extremely competitive division since the beginning of the season, and it doesn't seem like that will change anytime soon.

So far this season, the top four teams in the Central Division have posted a 30-19-5 record against the Northwest Division and a 30-16-1 record against the Pacific Division, which is a combined 60-35-6 record against the rest of the Western Conference.

The Western Conference as a whole has posted a 90-61-25 record against the Eastern Conference so far this season. The Central Division has gone 32-16-7 against Eastern Conference opponents this year, and Columbus has accounted for seven of the 16 losses in regulation.

Nashville has posted a 9-2-2 record against Central Division opponents this year, which is the best record in the division against divisional opponents. It's going to be a battle between four teams for the rest of the year in the Central Division.

It seems as if the top teams in the Central Division have been winning every night when they're not playing each other. The Predators have won 15 out of their last 20 games, and haven't really gained much ground on Detroit, St. Louis and Chicago.

"For some odd reason, even though we've been going so well, we're somehow fourth in our division," said Predators forward Colin Wilson after Saturday night's 5-2 win over Chicago.

Nashville has 10 games remaining against the top three teams in the Central Division this season. The Predators will take on Detroit and St. Louis three more times respectively, and they still have four more contests against the Chicago Blackhawks. If they are able to perform well in those games and collect points, it could go a long way toward winning the division.

There is no denying that the Central Division will be the toughest division to win this year. There is a possibility that it will take close to 110 points just to win the division. However, the high level of play that has been on display among the top four teams in the division so far this year could serve each of them well in the playoffs.

It's going to be an interesting race as the regular season winds down. With the exception of Columbus, each team in the division has a legitimate chance to come out on top. Could this be the year that Nashville manages to win their first Central Division title in franchise history?

(Photo Credit: Leanne Charles)

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