The playoffs are on the horizon, and the Chicago Blackhawks are currently playing their most inspiring hockey of the season.
While fans and Chicagoans are foaming at the mouth at the idea that the injured Jonathan Toews and suspended Duncan Keith are soon to return, the Hawks have a long way to go if they want to throw down in the Windy City in June.
The Hawks are in somewhat of a precarious situation. Currently sitting as the No. 6 seed in the conference may not bode well if the Hawks are to face the Los Angeles Kings. This season, the Hawks have only been able to muster up one win and three goals over four games against Jonathan Quick and company.
The Hawks will certainly have their work cut out for them, but what we do know is that they can compete with or potentially beat any team in the league. The Hawks have talent and will be a team nobody wants to face in the postseason.
Keeping that in mind, here are a few things you can count on when the Hawks enter the second season next week.
It's admirable that the Hawks have gone 11-3-2 since the trade deadline, and they have had to do it without captain Jonathan Toews.
Adding Toews and Duncan Keith back into the fold should have the Hawks oozing with confidence.
The Hawks were able to gain six of a possible 10 points while Keith served his five game suspension. Keith will bring a more puck possession-focused game, and nobody needs to be reminded of what Toews can mean to a team in the playoffs.
Though the Hawks will be without Steve Montador and injured winger Daniel Carcillo for the playoffs, they will still have the significant depth needed to make a deep run.
When the Hawks won the Cup in 2010, in the final three rounds Dave Bolland was asked to contain Henrik Sedin, Joe Thornton and Mike Richards. Vancouver's Sedin finished minus-4 against the Hawks, Thornton was held to one point over four games and Mike Richards had two points and was minus-7 in the Stanley Cup Finals.
Bolland was only able to play in four games in last season's first-round series and registered six points.
Bolland is playing his best hockey of the year right now, and without a doubt will be a player to watch this postseason. His third-line center role is absolutely critical to the Hawks' success.
Look for No. 36 to be a royal pain in the rear for anyone wearing a different color jersey.
Similarly to the last two years, the Hawks have waited until very late in the season to determine their No. 1 goalie.
A few weeks ago it was still in doubt, but as of right now there is little question that Corey Crawford will take the load when the postseason begins.
Crawford played very well in the 2011 playoffs, and the Hawks will need him to be even better this time around.
Good luck, Corey. With an inconsistent defensive unit, you are once again under the microscope.
Lets hope the real Corey Crawford stands up.
Last seasonm Michael Frolik, Viktor Stalberg, Marcus Kruger, Corey Crawford and Nick Leddy all got their first taste of NHL playoff hockey. After a seven-game series and another year under their belts, hopefully they will be ready to go in the first round.
Sure, Andrew Shaw and Jimmy Hayes will be entering their first rodeo this spring, but would you rather have skill players in their first postseason like last year, or two that go to the net, play with reckless abandon and are great at their roles? I would think the ladder.
Either way, the Hawks certainly have a more seasoned and experienced roster this season, and that will show when the playoffs begin.
If there is one person I would not want to watch a hockey game with during the last few weeks, it would be Jonathan Toews. There are few that care about the game as much as he does, and sitting out must have been absolute torture.
Certainly, a player that led his team to a Stanley Cup and won a Conn Smythe in the process should need to prove anything. Don't tell that to Johnny T.
Though coming back from a concussion, it seems like the Hawks have been very cautious with his return. He could be back as early as Thursday in Minnesota or the season finally against the Wings on Saturday.
When the playoffs begin, don't expect anything less than the best of Jonathan Toews.