Central: Home cooking on the menu for division playoff contenders

By Andrew Sykes

Photo: Nashville Predators‘ forward Patric Hornqvist (#27) scores a goal last night in a rare home loss for the Predators (courtesy of

Danny Murphy/Icon SMI)

In the playoffs, there is a saying that states “you’re never out of a series until you lose at home,”, and, for four Central division teams, that notion should give them a great deal of confidence in any seven-game post-season series.

Aside from being one of two divisions boasting four teams with 35+ wins, the Central’s top four have become four of the toughest teams in the NHL to beat on home ice.

Including last night’s action, Detroit, St. Louis, Nashville and Chicago all have a home winning percentage above 60% with all four teams ranked in the top five in home victories.

With the Red Wings having set an NHL record with 23 consecutive wins at home this season, it is hard to imagine that there would be a team that could equal their overall record, and even more unlikely that the team would play in the same division. The St. Louis Blues however have managed to do just that by picking up their 27th home win of the season in last night’s 5-1 over the Blackhawks.

Both Detroit and St. Louis now have a league best 27 wins in front of the home fans against just four regulation losses, but it was last night’s win at the Scottrade Center that moved the Blues ahead of the Red Wings and into first place in the Central for the first time this year.

Despite having battled inconsistency over the last month, Chicago is also having a fine season at home. With a record of 22-7-4, the Blachawks can thank their lucky stars that they continue to play well at the United Center, as it has certainly kept them from losing their hold on sixth-place in the West.

The Central’s other top contending team, the Nashville Predators, had won 10 of their past 11 games at home but were knocked off last night by the visiting Los Angeles Kings. The loss dropped their home record to 21-8-5 and a still impressive winning percentage of 62%.

While the four teams’ dominance at home is certainly impressive, it may come as a surprise that all four have been unable to really even come close to having the same type of success on the road.

Nashville’s road record of 17-13-2 leads the pack in the division, while St. Louis sits just one game above .500, with Detroit and Chicago both below the .500 mark.

Although their struggles on the road, if you can call them that, are holding back the likes of St. Louis or Detroit from running away with the President’s Trophy, their home dominance is what might matter most in the end.

Central Division Notes

Chicago BlackhawksChicago’s three-game win streak came to an end in convincing fashion last night in St. Louis. Veteran forward Andrew Brunette snapped a horrendous, 27-game goalless drought but it would be all the offense the team could muster in a dominating 5-1 performance by the Blues.

Columbus Blue Jackets
For the first time this season, the Columbus Blue Jackets have won three straight hockey games. The Blue Jackets got goals from R.J Umberger, Jack Johnson and Derek MacKenzie, and Steve Mason made 38 saves in a 3-2 win over the Phoenix Coyotes.

Detroit Red Wings
The injury-riddled Red Wings were without six regulars for last night’s game in Phildelphia and dropped a 3-2 decision to the Flyers. Losers of five out of their past six road games, Detroit saw Todd Bertuzzi added to the list of wounded Wings that includes forward Pavel Datsyuk, defenseman Nicklas Lidstrom and goaltender Jimmy Howard.

Nashville Predators
Vezina candidate Pekka Rinne had a rare off game and the Predators suffered a rare home loss in a high-scoring affair with Los Angeles on Tuesday night. Rinne was pulled after allowing five goals on 24 shots and his teammates were unable to get him off the hook after Patric Hornqvist’s second goal of the game put the Predators within a goal with five minutes left in the third.

St. Louis Blues
And the Blues amazing season just keeps on going. Andy McDonald scored two goals and Jaroslav Halak won his sixth straight start in the club’s 5-1 thrashing of Chicago. The win, coupled with losses by Detroit and Vancouver, moved St. Louis into first-place in the Central division as well as first-place in the Western Conference with all three teams having played 67 games.