The Chicago Blackhawks are one win away from locking up the Western Conference title in what has been one of their best seasons in franchise history. The Blackhawks have problems that many teams wish they had, which goalie to start since both are playing amazing? Who to play in the top 6 since there is about 8 forwards who can successfully fill that role? The Blackhawks just keep rolling this season and are heating up once again at just the right time.
Of course it may sound odd a team that has been at the top of the NHL for basically all season is heating up but the Blackhawks are starting to dominate again going 8-1-1 in their last 10 games.
Coach Q has the luxury of starting either Emery or Crawford and knowing he is going to get a world class effort from both goalies.
Marian Hossa is beginning to heat up once again, and though he has played under the point per game mark this season he has played exceptional on the defensive side. When a player like Hossa heats up he can truly dominate games and be the difference maker making little moves that result in positives for Chicago.
Hossa has put up 5 points in his last 4 games and the line of Saad-Toews-Hossa has become one of the best in the league.
Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews have led the team offensively, both over the point per game mark. Kane has cemented his status as a game breaker this season often being the difference maker, though he lacks a physical element.
Sunday’s game against St. Louis had playoff like intensity with both teams taking part in extra circular activities after each whistle. It was a good test for a Chicago team that isn’t necessarily built on physical presence, but showed they are up to the challenge.
Bryan Bickell has emerged as a budding forward and though he only averages 12:40 a night he has produced 9 goals and 13 assists for 22 points.A remarkable improvement when you consider last season in 71 games he had 9 goals and 24 points.
His production this season prorated to an 82 game season that would be equivalent to a 43 point season in under 13 minutes a game.
Michael Handzus the much overlooked April acquisition by the Blackhawks has been solid with 2 points in 7 games, which is the same total he had in 28 games with San Jose. Handzus has taken 387 faceoffs this year winning 216 for a success rate of 55.8 %.
Handzus’ skills in the faceoff dot should take some of the burden off Jonathan Toews, who takes the majority of the Hawks important draws and wins an impressive 60.4%
The Blackhawks are looking like they will play either Columbus, Detroit, Dallas or St. Louis in the first round and are the heavily favoured team to win the Stanley Cup. With so much playoff experience on their roster (8 core members from their 2010 Stanley Cup) the only major question is which goalie do they think will give the better shot at winning the Stanley Cup.
Creator of the Bettman Stand Up hockey blog. I cover the Chicago Blackhawks for The Hockey Writers, In Hossa we trust! I also write for publications such as Arbitrage Magazine and Elite Sports Blog. You can follow me on Twitter @RickEmrith