The Chicago Blackhawks surely had their share of fails and triumphs in this roller coaster 2011-'12 season, but I firmly believe that the 'Hawks have a legitimate shot at hoisting "Lord Stanley" at the end of the playoffs.
The Blackhawks finished the 2011-'12 regular season with a 45-26-11 record (101 points) earning them a No. 6 seed in the playoffs. The Blackhawks will take on the No. 3-seeded Coyotes of Phoenix, who finished the year with a 42-27-13 record and clinched their division. This Blackhawks went 1-3 against the Coyotes this season.
The Blackhawks regular season finale win against the Red Wings is the confidence builder the Blackhawks needed to catapult them to a successful playoff run. The win showed the Blackhawks are battle tested and mentally tough heading into the postseason. With nine players from the championship team still on the 'Hawks' lines, this team has already been there and done that.
In order for the Blackhawks to win Round 1 of the playoffs, they need a few things to happen.
1. They need their captain back.
Jonathan Toews has missed over 20 games due to concussion-like symptoms he sustained in February game against the San Jose Sharks. The Blackhawks have had a few struggles without their 23-year-old captain. Since the injury Chicago has gone 13-5-4.
The Hawks have struggled against teams above them in the standings and have been giving up goals in the latter moments of the game, at times leading to a loss in OT or a shootout. "Taser" is clearly the X-factor for the Blackhawks this postseason. If he can come back without any bumps in the road, the Blackhawks' odds for another championship will certainly increase.
2. Someone has to step up
Throughout the season, the Blackhawks have used both Corey Crawford and Ray Emery, with Crawford getting a bit more playing time.
Both goalies have playoff experience and had decent seasons, but there has to be a clear No. 1. Honestly, I think it would be in the Blackhawks' favor to have Crawford as their workhorse netminder. Crawford proved he could compete against the best in the playoffs (last year's performance against the Canucks). If Crawford can continue his stellar play of late, it will be tough for the Coyotes to find the back of the net.
3. Play Chicago Blackhawk Hockey.
Chicago has a vast array of superstars who don the historic Indian on their sweater. Players like Toews, Patrick Kane, Marian Hossa, Duncan Keith, Patrick Sharp; it's hard not to see the Blackhawks not make a serious run this year.
The Blackhawks just simply need to play their style of hockey. They need to play their tough style defense. They need to risk injury by blocking shots. They need to share the puck. The Blackhawks also need to cut down on penalty minutes.
The Blackhawks, along with "Taser," come out to play and defeat the Coyotes 4-2 and advance to play their rivals, the fifth-seeded Detroit Red Wings. Yes the Red Wings.