Blues' hot streak has them threatening the Hawks and Stars

Hot and not

TalbotCam Talbot, Edmonton Oilers
Talbot made 39 saves, including 24 over the final two periods, as the Oilers got a 2-1 road win over the Winnipeg Jets. Talbot has now won four straight starts, with a .979 save percentage in that span.

MrazekPetr Mrazek, Detroit Red Wings
Mrazek allowed two goals on five shots before being pulled just 6 minutes, 19 seconds into the Red Wings' 4-1 loss to the Chicago Blackhawks after allowing five goals in a loss to the Blackhawks in his previous start.

Are the Blues a true threat to win the Central Division?

Pierre LeBrun@Real_ESPNLeBrun: The St. Louis Blues beat the Minnesota Wild by a 4-2 count on Sunday to remain right there in the race for the Central Division title. Isn't it funny, though, that most people don't really include St. Louis when discussing a Central race that also includes the Chicago Blackhawks and Dallas Stars? Whether it's a perception created from their playoff stumbles over the past half-decade or something else, the fact is that the Blues have 85 points (two behind the Stars and Hawks) but haven't gotten much attention league-wide. The Blues have won seven of their past 10 games to make up ground on the Stars (3-5-2 in their past 10) and the Hawks (5-4-1 in their past 10). Wouldn't it be funny if this is finally the year the Blues have a playoff run, when so few people are talking about them? A lot is riding on it, that's for sure. I think tangible change is coming for the Blues if they don't win a round or two.

Scott Burnside@ESPN_Burnside: I'm starting to feel the love for the Blues with the playoffs now just a month or so away, Pierre. They have battled through injuries to key personnel up and down their lineup all season long and just keep on trucking. If they aren't the definition of battle-tested, I don't know what is. As we've discussed, winning the division is key in order to avoid the annual postseason death match between the second- and third-place Central Division teams, and the Blues have positioned themselves nicely even without the high profile of the defending Stanley Cup champions and the high-flying Stars. In Sunday's game, Blues goalie Jake Allen was tremendous while the Wild's Devan Dubnyk was not so tremendous, even though the Wild fought back valiantly. It will be hard to dislodge Chicago at the top of the Central, but it's going to be a great finish in hockey's toughest division -- even if it's Chicago in first that would create a must-see first-round series between St. Louis and Dallas. Stay tuned.

Craig Custance@CraigCustance: The Blues resilience this season while they've been crushed by injuries has quietly been one of the most impressive performances of the year. No team has lost players of such high value for longer periods than the Blues. And yet, here we are, headed down the stretch with them pushing the contenders at the top of the Central. There are a few really good teams around the league that could look noticeably different next season if things don't go well in the playoffs, starting with the Blues, Tampa Bay Lightning and New York Islanders. Of those teams, I think the Blues face the most pressure to perform this spring. I've defended their early exits in the past, in part because of the quality of competition they've faced every year, but after a while there are no longer any excuses. If this Blues team is as good as we think, it's time for a breakthrough.

Joe McDonald@ESPNJoeyMac: If the Blues are one-and-done again this postseason, you would have to think Ken Hitchcock's coaching days in St. Louis are over. The Wild dismissed the Blues in the first round last spring, but St. Louis has responded well this season. The Blues are in the midst of a three-game winning streak, but with the top three teams in the Central each having 14 games remaining the Blues are going to need more clutch performances like the one Allen gave them Sunday. Hitchcock made it a point last season to not place blame on Allen for the team's first-round exit, and he believed that experience would serve Allen well moving forward. We'll see if that's the case next month, when the playoffs begin.

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