It’s that time of year again! The Stanley Cup Playoffs! And, if the Chicago Blackhawks know how to do anything it is win in the playoffs. Seven years ago the Blackhawks figured out how to win in the playoffs for the first time with their current core: Jonathan Toews (C), Patrick Kane (RW), Duncan Keith (D), and Brent Seabrook (D). These four players are at the strength of the Blackhawks and have helped them to win their past three Stanley Cups and will help in winning their fourth since 2010. Why? Because the Chicago Blackhawks know how to win in The Stanley Cup Playoffs. Need more proof? Here you go…
A Healthy Goalie
We saw Corey Crawford miss the last of the season, minus the very last game, but it is safe to say he is healthy again. Yes, Crawford has so many haters season after season even with two Stanley Cups under his belt, but we’re going to silence those haters yet again. The key to the Blackhawks winning is the health of Crawford—you simply cannot deny that. With the health of Crawford and backup, Scott Darling, the Blackhawks are set for the playoffs as long as the rest of the core is intact.
A Defined Top-Two Lines
The Blackhawks might have struggled the last part of the season (you know, the annual March slump), but it seems they have it figured out and just in time for the playoffs. With a defined top-two lines, as well as depth on the third and fourth lines, the Blackhawks enter the playoffs stronger than ever.
We have Andrew Ladd meshing well with Jonathan Toews and Marian Hossa on the top line—exactly what Stan Bowman envisioned would happen when he brought on Ladd from Winnipeg earlier this season. After all, in Bowman We Trust, right? Exactly. But we can’t forget about the best line in the NHL this season: Patrick Kane, Artem Anisimov and Artemi Panarin. This second line is exactly what players are warned about. Kane-Anisimov-Panarin create matchup problems no coach or player wants to deal with. They have the skill on the wings and the size in the middle—watch out!
The Bottom-Six Forwards
So, we’ve covered the top-two lines, but what about the rest? That’s where the Blackhawks continue to stack up. The bottom six forwards exhibit natural, necessary grit and skill with Teuvo Teravainen, Andrew Shaw, Dale Weise and Tomas Fleishmann. Wait, time-out—Weise and Fleishmann? Yes, as you might have been aware of, or not, the Blackhawks acquired Weise and Fleischmann at the same time as Ladd earlier in the season right before the trade deadline. Their addition to the team helped to flesh out the bottom-six forwards and maintain that depth the Blackhawks always seem to have.
Next up is Marcus Kruger—we can’t forget him. As you know, Kruger missed 41 games because of a wrist injury and the Blackhawks definitely missed his presence. Now that Kruger is back and healthy, the team has dominated in penalty kills because he is significant to the Blackhawks’ center depth. With Kruger back in the game, Andrew Shaw is able to play on the wing.
Defense! Defense! Defense!
Do we even have to prove why the defense will dominate in the playoffs? Let me remind you, Duncan Keith. And, as you know from last year, Chicago Runs on Duncan. While Keith was suspended for the final five games of the regular season and Game 1 of the playoffs, we will have him back for Game 2 and he will be fully rested and healthy—we will probably need his robot skills of non-stop play. After all, last year in the playoffs he was seen playing 30-plus minutes per game, which earned him the Conn Smythe Trophy. With Keith, we are strong.
The same goes for Seabrook. Last playoffs he palyed more than 25 minutes per game and will probably do the same again this year. And don’t forget about Niklas Hjalmarsson. While he might be one of the most underrated defensemen in the NHL, he is a strong defenseman who led another strong season yet again. With Keith, Seabrook and Hjalmarsson, the Chicago Blackhawks have a lot of backbone.
With winning the Stanley Cup three times in the past six seasons, it is safe to say the Chicago Blackhawks are a force to be reckoned with. Are you ready for the 2016 Stanley Cup Playoffs? Get ready because Game 1 begins tomorrow! Let’s go Blackhawks!