The Chicago Blackhawks can win the Stanley Cup this year.
With only 12 games left to go in the season, the Blackhawks look likely to make the No. 6 seed for the playoffs. Surely the Blackhawks are not the critic's favorite to win a Stanley Cup.
But just why can't the Blackhawks take home a championship to their fans in Chicago?
This team did lead the NHL in points halfway through the season. What happens if they get Jonathan Toews and hit a hot streak right at the time the playoffs start?
The NHL playoffs are always unpredictable and it is not uncommon to see a lower-seeded team beat a higher-seeded team.
These are the top five reasons why the Blackhawks are a serious Stanley Cup contender.
It boggles the mind as to how a Blackhawks team with this much firepower can't score on the power play. Nonetheless, this team has a very offensive core that is signed for the long term.
How can anyone count this Chicago Blackhawks team out with the core that they have?: Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, Patrick Sharp, Marian Hossa, Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook.
Granted Toews is still out with a concussion but is looking to make his return Tuesday. If the Blackhawks' core all started to click at the same time, then there's no stopping this team.
Forget about toughness and body checking, the Chicago Blackhawks can win if their core started producing like they did in the first 40 games of the season.
The return of Toews could be the spark needed to get this team going and make a deep playoff run.
Just look at the first half of the season, when the Blackhawks led the NHL in points. The core guys were producing the most and the Blackhawks' depth players were contributing little.
This all needs to change back to the way it was in the first half, along with more scoring from the depth players.
Just how bad can this Blackhawks team be if they were able to beat every legitimate Stanley Cup contender in the Western Conference?
Records aside, the Blackhawks were able to beat the Red Wings, Canucks, Blues and Predators all this season. They may have stumbled as of late, but it is still important to note that the Blackhawks can get the job done.
Write them off if you wish, but this Blackhawks team has the necessary skill to put away the top teams in the Western Conference.
The Chicago Blackhawks are on the verge of hitting a major hot streak.
If captain Jonathan Toews comes back at the right time, he might be the spark the Blackhawks need in order to get rolling.
Anything is possible in the playoffs if a team gets hot with a goaltender or a select group of players.
It may also benefit the Hawks if they become the sixth seed in the Western Conference. Playing a team such as Dallas or Phoenix may go a long way in building up the confidence of some of the players and igniting a hot streak.
Regardless, it is not uncommon to see a lower seed beat out a top seed in the NHL playoffs. The Blackhawks can win a Stanley Cup if they catch fire at the right time.
At least all of the core players were with the team when they won the Stanley Cup in 2010. That experience will pay dividends come playoff time.
Remember last year's playoff games against the Canucks? The Blackhawks eventually came back to force a Game 7—that showed the heart and an ability to play under pressure. It also showed the experience that was gained just the year before.
The experience that the core has will prove valuable to the rookies on the team looking for guidance. Patrick Kane has already stepped up as a leader in the locker room in response to Toews' absence. Now the rest of the core must follow and be leaders on this team.
When you account for the experience and youth in the Blackhawks locker room, they're a hard team to beat.
While the Blackhawks may not have home-ice advantage heading into the playoffs, make no mistake: Playing at the United Center will create a huge boost of energy.
Playing in front of 22,000 screaming fans is sure to get all the players psyched up and ready to take on any opponent.
It will provide an advantage that will help the Blackhawks win their playoff home games. They still have to win on the road, but at least it's comforting to know that home will be a nice place to come back to.