Remember when the Central was pegged as the deadliest division in the NHL? They certainly have the deepest teams in the league, and it's hard not to see why when they play night after night. They boast some of the best talent in hockey, but as of late the decision has been a mixed bag.
Take the Stars, for example, who didn't play on Friday after stealing a win from the Lightning the day before. They're 4-3-3 in their last 10 games and haven't looked like their dominant, confident selves for a while now. Their stars were having trouble finding the net and their goaltending finally became exposed as the club's overall weakness. And now, half of their dynamic scoring duo in Tyler Seguin will be out of the lineup for three to four weeks with a cut to his Achilles tendon.
Yet somehow, they've remained atop the Central with 93 points.
Chasing them have been the Blues, who looked like they were going to overtake Dallas with a six-game win streak that stretched back to the end of February. Since, they've dropped two huge contests where they were outscored 13-8 and questions on their goaltending have risen once again -- just in time for the playoffs where St. Louis famously never lasts past the first round.
A big reason for the Blues looking so, well, blue in the postseason has been the Chicago Blackhawks. But even the infallible Stanley Cup champions have looked vulnerable in a recent stretch. They did halt a four-game losing streak that had them dangerously close to falling into the wild card with a 4-0 victory over the Jets Friday. Still, the Blackhawks have just looked off over the last few weeks, something that was starting to worry fans as the playoffs draw near.
That being said, the Blackhawks did just coast over the bottom-feeding Jets, a win they most definitely needed and can probably build upon as the season comes to a close. Teams have cold spots all the time, but there's a good reason why the Central is so commanding -- they've got talent for days and they know how to use it. If anything, this recent stretch has shown us that even the deadliest teams in the NHL are human, something the rest of the NHL can hold on to as the playoffs close in on us all.
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3 things we learned
1. Ladd scores in homecoming to Winnipeg
It feels more common than not that players returning to their former cities after being traded have standout games. Maybe because we notice it more due to the narrative surrounding them, but Andrew Ladd is the latest player to follow the trend. The Blackhawks blew out the Jets 4-0, but Ladd drove the nail in deeper against his old club from Winnipeg -- where he was the captain for a few seasons -- with a goal.
2. The Flames continue to be red hot on the PK
If you can believe it, the Flames have scored five shorthanded tallies over their last four games after scoring just two all season long before that. Their latest came against the Avalanche, where they tallied two shorties on the exact same PK 30 seconds apart.
At this rate, opponents will be declining power plays against the Flames.
3. Basement teams are still slugging it out
There's no reason for the Oilers and Sabres to be winning games anymore as two of the league's worst teams, yet the pair both had solid wins on Friday. Buffalo was boosted by two early goals in the first 10 minutes of their game against the Senators that took the visitors out of the game almost immediately. The Oilers, on the other hand, took two points from the Canucks despite being outshot 40-25. Edmonton scored both goals in the game as Cam Talbot deservedly got the shutout after a solid 60 minutes in net.
Evgeny Kuznetsov continues to be deadly behind the net for the Capitals, as he assisted on yet another goal from below the red line in the Capitals 4-1 win over the Predators. In fact, Kuznetsov had three helpers on the evening in a dominant performance at home.
Stat of the Night
#Flames are the first team to score 2 short-handed goals in 2 out of 3 games since the Blackhawks in November 2007— Sportsnet Stats (@SNstats) March 19, 2016