Chicago Blackhawks: 5 Hawks Who Need to Step Up Their Game
It's not easy replacing Jonathan Toews when your team is in the midst of a tight Western Conference playoff race.
But the Chicago Blackhawks will have to do just that as their playoff life hangs in the balance.
There is no "replacing" Toews per se, but the Blackhawks can make the void a little smaller if certain key players step up their game.
These are the five Chicago Blackhawks players that need to step up their game in order to make the playoffs.
It's no secret that Patrick Kane is expected to put up big numbers each and every time he steps onto the ice. But as of late, Kane has failed to do this.
With only 15 goals and 37 assists to show for this season, Kane is well below his regular season average of one point per game. More will be and should be expected of Kane.
It is not enough to put up only one point per game.
With the absence of Jonathan Toews, Kane will be expected to pick up not only his point production but also his defensive abilities. That means a better backcheck and forecheck from Kane as well as a more aggressive pursuit of the puck. Kane showed signs of this in his game against Toronto on Wednesday night.
It would also help if Kane could get going on the power play. With all the talent that the Blackhawks have, it is only a matter of time, but it would help sooner rather than later.
It is also important that Kane be a leader in the locker room. He needs to lead by example and show the rest of the Blackhawks' roster the put forth their best effort each and every night.
Marian Hossa has been a man possessed this season, carrying the Blackhawks in his fair share of games this season.
He currently leads all Blackhawks with 62 points and has played in 64 games this season.
While Hossa has provided his fair share of production and defense, more will be asked of No. 81 on the ice.
Fair or not, Hossa will have to work twice as hard and put in more ice time with Toews out of the lineup. It's the only way the Blackhawks can fill the void.
Look for Hossa to get more days off from practice and more time in-game against some of the best teams in the Western Conference.
How badly do the Blackhawks need Duncan Keith to regain his form that won him a Norris Trophy in 2010?
Being that the Blackhawks rank 24th in goals against, they need Keith to regain form quickly.
It would help if Keith was able to limit turnovers in his own zone and be able to clear the puck out a little more quickly, and maybe even a body check or two?
Regardless, these Chicago Blackhawks will be lost without their leader on the back end. Keith needs to set a better example and start playing like a defenseman who has won a Norris trophy and a lot less like one that is tired.
One of the best shutdown forwards in the NHL needs to start playing like it again. Dave Bolland has been lackluster this season on the third line.
Bolland's main responsibility is to play against other team's top lines, to agitate and shut down their production while chipping in on the offensive a little bit.
In order for this team to get back into shape without Toews, Bolland will have to step up his game and make sure he does his job against other top lines.
We've seen how pivotal Bolland can be to this team as evident by his return last year during the playoffs. With the Blackhawks being down 0-3 against the Vancouver Canucks, Bolland made his return in Game 4 and the Blackhawks were able to force a Game 7.
That's how important Bolland is to this team. It's about time he start playing like it.
Corey Crawford and Ray Emery
There is no clear starting goaltender so far this season. Both Ray Emery and Corey Crawford have been given chances to take over the reigns of No. 1, but neither have played consistently.
One of the most important keys to the Blackhawks making the playoffs without Toews is for one of these goalies to step up and play like a true No. 1.
As of late, it looks like it's Emery's spot to lose, as Crawford has been slumping. Coming down the stretch and into the playoffs, that could change.
Regardless, the Blackhawks need consistent play from their goaltenders. Without it, fans can kiss their dreams of a playoff berth goodbye.
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