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Chicago Blackhawks: 5 Keys to Getting Back to Winning Form

James MaahsContributor IIIFebruary 6, 2012

Chicago Blackhawks: 5 Keys to Getting Back to Winning Form

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    The Chicago Blackhawks have hit a rough patch.

    In the past three weeks, the Blackhawks have played in only four games. Of those four games they have taken only one point. To make matters worse they have dropped five straight and still have six games left on their road trip.

    Aside from the math that makes up NHL standings, the Blackhawks have been defensively porous, goaltending has been shaky and their depth has been too quiet.

    Yes, dark times can be ahead for the Blackhawks if they choose to sit by and accept mediocrity. But not these Blackhawks. They have the talent to climb out of this slump and regain the crown of No. 1 in the Western Conference.

    These are the five keys to the Chicago Blackhawks' success down the stretch of this season.

Leadership

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    Jonathan Toews, Duncan Keith, Brent Seabrook, Marian Hossa, Patrick Kane and Patrick Sharp.

    Make no mistake, the leaders of the Chicago Blackhawks are some of the best in the NHL. But now more than ever the leaders of the Blackhawks need to whip this team into shape.

    All "veteran" leaders who won the Stanley Cup with the Blackhawks need to not only lead by example, but must also make sure that all rookies and depth players understand the Blackhawks' system of play.  

    Up until recently, the leaders of the Chicago Blackhawks have been shouldering most of the production load. There's been a slight drop-off but that is expected. Now it is time that some of the third and fourth-line players take charge and help.

    The top point leaders for the Blackhawks were all involved in the team's Stanley Cup win. It is essential that they use their extensive playoff experience now to buckle down and gain a playoff position come April.

Defense

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    As the old saying goes, "defense wins championships." That could not be more true for the Chicago Blackhawks.

    For a team that ranks third in the league for goals scored, one would expect the defense to also hold its own end. But they rank 25th in the league for goals against, an elite team cannot rank 25th and expect to coast into the playoffs. The simple fact is, this has to get better and fast.

    It all starts on the back end, Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook leading the way on the first defensive pairing. Niklas Hjalmarsson and Nick Leddy hold the second defensive pairing and the third is a tossup.

    If the games show anything about the Blackhawks' defense it's that a lack of effort seems to be creeping into their game plan. Defensive assignments are not being followed and the opposing team forwards are making their way into the zone without much fuss.

    Defense needs to tighten up, as well as back pressure from the forwards, but one step at a time.

Goaltending

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    How much can you blame the goaltending with the way the defense has been playing?

    This is a question up for debate but the Chicago Blackhawks can always expect more out of Corey Crawford and Ray Emery.

    As of late Corey Crawford looks to be worn down, a little nerve shaken. It's time to let Ray Emery handle the reigns of Chicago Blackhawks starting goaltender. Emery has more experience, not only in the regular season but in the playoffs as well. He led the Ottawa Senators to the Stanley Cup Finals.

    Of course health issues have hampered Emery in recent years and that could lead to questions about whether he can play so many games.

    Goaltending is an issue that will haunt the Blackhawks in the coming months if not dealt with immediately. It may or may not include Corey Crawford and Ray Emery since Stan Bowman may deal for a goaltender before the deadline.

Remaining Schedule

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    The Blackhawks have 29 games remaining in the regular season. They play 16 of those games on the road making the schedule unfavorable for the Blackhawks in the coming months.

    The key is for the Blackhawks to buckle down and to fight through some "playoff" type hockey against hungry teams. 

    Holding an above .500 road win average will be crucial, but being dominate at home will be even more important. With 29 games left, 13 of them being at home, it will be extremely important that the Blackhawks hold their own on home ice. 

    Though some traveling might be beneficial to this Blackhawks team as it will give them some time to build chemistry with other teammates.

    Only time will tell, but it's time to buckle down on the road.

Deal at the Deadline?

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    How close are the Chicago Blackhawks in making a deal at the trade deadline? Recent reports suggest not very close at all. But if the Blackhawks want to sustain the rest of the season and make a deep playoff run they will need to pick up another defenseman or forward.

    GM Stan Bowman will be under the gun to fill the holes of an already porous defense. But can he pull off a trade without getting rid of any of the leaders on this team? Can he fill the needs of this roster?

    All questions will be answered in time but one thing is for sure, the Chicago Blackhawks cannot sit by come the trade deadline. 

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