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No tiebreakers needed: Blackhawks beef up Central lead over Wild

Chicago Blackhawks v Ottawa Senators

OTTAWA, ON - MARCH 16: Alexandre Burrows #14 of the Ottawa Senators sets up a screen in front of Scott Darling #33 of the Chicago Blackhawks in the second period at Canadian Tire Centre on March 16, 2017 in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada. (Photo by Jana Chytilova/Freestyle Photography/Getty Images)

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The Chicago Blackhawks took another step toward winning the Central Division title on Thursday, and not just because the Minnesota Wild remained in neutral.

Scott Darling came in for an “under the weather” (or maybe no quotation marks needed?) Corey Crawford on Thursday, helping Chicago grind out a 2-1 win against the Ottawa Senators.

This marks a three-game winning streak for the Blackhawks, who are now 15-3-0 since February began.

On the other end, things look pretty ugly for the Wild if you merely look at March.

They’ve now lost three in a row and five of six, falling to 2-6-0 in February. As you can see, they’re not just losing; they’re failing to even grab “loser points.”

With that, Chicago opens up the sort of lead where you don’t need to split hairs about regulation/overtime wins and other factors:

Blackhawks: 95 points in 70 games (42 ROW, 45 W)
Wild: 92 points in 69 games (40 ROW, 43 W)

Now, that’s far from an insurmountable lead, yet it’s pretty significant considering how frequently the Blackhawks have been chasing the Wild so far this season. The best news for Minnesota might just be that their schedule softens up, at least as far as offering up more home contests after they limped through a five-game road trip.

Chicago is riding high, although they do need to keep an eye on Crawford.

The Blackhawks themselves will attest to the notion that a big lead can turn on its head with dizzying speed, even with a mere month remaining in the season. Still, this the best view Chicago’s had in quite some time.