THW Writer Faceoff: Debating the Hawks Stanley Cup Chances

Five Reasons the Blackhawks WILL NOT Win the Stanley Cup

Earlier this week, Andy Graziano of The Hockey Writers and I discussed debating the Blackhawks chances of bringing the Stanley Cup back to the Windy City this season. Despite the fact that Andy has made some incredibly valid points and it’s difficult to argue with the success of Chicago this season, their sensational season will not be ending with a parade. Andy, you’ve done a great job at THW but here are five reasons why you are wrong about the Chicago Blackhawks.

Corey Crawford has answered all the questions about his play so far this season(Icon SMI)

Corey Crawford has answered all the questions about his play so far this season(Icon SMI)

Goaltending: Coming into this season, the only major question mark Chicago faced was between the pipes. Specifically, could Corey Crawford and Ray Emery play well enough to get the Hawks back to the Promised Land? The tandem answered the bell in a big way early as each goaltender played a significant role in Chicago’s record setting start. That being said, none of it matters if they flame out in the playoffs. And while everybody has to win their first one sometime, there will always be question marks until they do it. Sure, Ray Emery took the Senators on a run to the Finals a few years ago but neither he nor Crawford have delivered the goods to this point and will be questioned until they do so.

The Shootout: The Hawks have earned 11 of their 51 points via the shootout, or roughly 20%. Without those points, they would still lead their division but not the Western Conference. Ultimately, that doesn’t really matter once the playoffs begin but the fact remains that Chicago won’t be able to rely on Patrick Kane’s superhuman moves in the skill competition to get them through once the postseason begins.

Defense: Why, when the Hawks are third in the league in goals against, is defense a question mark for Chicago? It’s simple. There are teams out there that this blue line does not match up well against, particularly if they are to play them in a seven game series. Specifically, teams with big, strong power forwards give the Hawks defensemen fits. Have you watched, for example, them play Anaheim this year? Chicago can’t handle the likes of the physical fore-checking of players like Ryan Getzlaf, Corey Perry and Bobby Ryan. Over a seven game series, they will be worn down and, ultimately, won’t find success. Even if they can get passed the Ducks, the prospect of facing Boston in the Final still looms (how’s that for a dream match-up for the league?) and that is a task they may not be up for.

Parity: Long gone are the days of a team dominating the NHL wire to wire. Free agency and the salary cap have brought with them a league full of parity. Just look at what happened last year: the Kings underachieved all season and squeaked into the playoffs as the West’s 8th seed only to ride on the back of white hot goaltender Jonathan Quick and take home the Stanley Cup. That was an extreme example – the Kings were the lowest seeded team to ever win a championship – but it just goes to show that all it takes is one hot goalie to derail a team’s Cup aspirations. As a result, it is rare that the league’s top regular season team sips from Lord Stanley’s Cup. In fact, only three teams this century have won the President’s Trophy and Stanley Cup in the same season and none have since the 2008 Red Wings. If the Blackhawks do indeed lock up the President’s Trophy, history won’t be on their side for winning the only trophy that matters.

The Streak: While Chicago’s streak to start the season was an incredible story, it could come back to haunt them in the long-run. It had to have taken an incredible toll, both mentally and physically on the entire team. The injuries, though not necessarily a direct correlation of the streak, are starting to pile up. Marian Hossa, for example, is banged up and Patrick Sharp is out for an extended period. While the team does have time to get healthy, they may have peaked at wrong the time.

Yes, the Blackhawks have had an incredible season. Their story has been one that hockey desperately needed to shake off all of the terrible P.R. from the debacle that was the lock out. Unfortunately for Chicago fans, though, none of that will be enough to raise another banner to the United Center rafters next fall.

Five Reasons the Blackhawks WILL Win the Stanley Cup

The merits of who will win what and who has the better team comes up constantly in
discussions in bars and pubs worldwide, in office buildings during the week and even
at home among passionate fans in every sport. Hockey is certainly no exception. The
Chicago Blackhawks are primed for a major run at the most coveted piece of hardware
in sports. The 35 inch tall, 34.5 pound behemoth known as the Stanley Cup which
epitomizes everything about team sports, hard work and dedication.

My colleague, Sean Griffin, is an excellent writer here at TheHockeyWriters.com. He
has great hockey experience and writing talent but I am here to rebut his reasons why
the Chicago Blackhawks will not win the Stanley Cup. It’s nothing personal Sean, but I
believe you are incorrect in your assumption.

Coaching: Joel Quennville has an impressive resume, to say the least. 1,192 games,
648 wins (Both 1st among active coaches)..210-101-42 as leader of the Hawks…Has
never coached a team to a losing season and a .577 playoff winning percentage, tops
of all Blackhawk head coaches since 1940. He has experience, a feel for the game, and
knows how to get the most out of his players. Oh, and did I mention he won a Stanley
Cup with this team in 2010? Mike Kitchen has stepped up and done an admirable job
filling the shoes of departed Mike Haviland.

Patrick Kane has overcome a tumultuous off-season. (Matt Boulton/wikimedia)

Patrick Kane has overcome a tumultuous off-season. (Matt Boulton/wikimedia)

Jonathan Toews/Patrick Kane: Captain Toews leads by example. Everything
he does on the ice is flawless and men follow him, even at his young age. He is the
youngest player ever to become a member of the hockey triple gold club (Olympic gold,
World Championship gold, Stanley Cup). Kane survived a tumultuous off-season by
rededicating himself and it has shown in his scoring totals and leadership on the ice this
season. He leads the team in scoring and consistently shows up when it counts the most. 52 points
in 51 career playoff games. These two just might not let the Blackhawks lose.

Team Defense: Is it any surprise the Hawks are 3rd in the league in goals against
at 2.10 with two former NHL defensemen behind the bench? Really collapsing in
the defensive zone and keeping the slot clear for Corey Crawford and Ray Emery…
Aggressive along the boards and winning most puck battles. They are also 4th in shots
allowed per game at 26.5 which is another indicator of defensive prowess. Good defense
always leads to good offense, and they are 1st in the entire league in 5v5 differential at
1.60 – in the playoffs, rarely does a team win on the power play.

United Center: The Blackhawks began play at the ‘Madhouse on Madison’ after
moving from Chicago Stadium in January of 1995. Over the past 6 years, they have
a .633 winning percentage on home ice. It truly is one of the cathedrals of hockey and
consistently rated by players as one of the loudest NHL arenas in the league. With a
capacity of 20,500, at times it is like having a sixth skater on the ice.

History: This team has been there before, winning the Stanley Cup in 2010 and still
boasting 10 players from that squad on today’s active roster. With 52 wins and 112 points
that season, it is remarkably similar to the unbelievable success of this year’s team. In
defeating a very sound defensive club in Nashville, deposing of the hated Vancouver
Canucks in an always intense six game series, then sweeping the San Jose Sharks, the
Hawks overcame the Philadelphia Flyers on Kane’s overtime winner in game six.
Anything but easy and valuable experience garnered every step of the way. People often
forget they rebounded from a 5-1 trouncing in game one of that Vancouver series.

Am I guaranteeing the 2013 Stanley Cup will be awarded to the Blackhawks sometime
in June? Of course not, you would have to be out of your mind to make such a bold
prediction. But this team is battle tested, with a mix of youngsters and veterans who have
been there before, are excellently coached and play a system that is conducive to playoff
success. Not to mention they roll 4 lines like nobody’s business. The Blackhawks have
just as good a shot as any other team in the league heading into the stretch run, maybe
even more so, due to the fact they are almost assured top playoff positioning with still 18
games to go.

Sean Griffin

Sean Griffin

Sean Griffin is a lead writer for the Pittsburgh Penguins at The Hockey Writers. He can be contacted at psgrif27@gmail.com.

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