Chicago Blackhawks: 3 Areas in Which They Most Need to Improve in 2012-13
Cemented by the fact that online betting site Bodog has given them the sixth-best odds to win the Stanley Cup next year, they are a team that will be a force to be reckoned with.
Nonetheless, like every other team in the league, the Blackhawks are not perfect. There are a few key aspects the team will need to improve upon next season—if they see themselves lifting hockey's holy grail.
So, here are three key areas in which the Blackhawks most need to improve upon going into the 2012-13 season.
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Do not be mistaken, Joel Quenneville is a great coach. He led the Chicago Blackhawks to a Stanley Cup in 2009-10 and the team has made the playoffs ever since then—always presenting a tough challenge to their opponents.
He even has the support from the players. Greg Wyshynski reports, on Yahoo Sports!, Patrick Sharp as saying:
He's our leader, he's our coach, we play hard for him and we believe in him. I know that if something would happen, there would be a lot of unhappy people in the room right now, as far as players putting that on themselves.
However, if there is one thing that could benefit the team as a whole it would be some consistency. This involves Quenneville figuring out the line combinations he would like for the year.
Even strength, power play and penalty kill combinations need to be penned in, and not just penciled. The Blackhawks players may like the fluidity Quenneville imposes on the bench, but having set linemates for the duration of the season may be more beneficial.
It will allow the players to mesh with their teammates and really start to connect with the tendencies of the guys with whom they are skating.
Knowing exactly whom they are playing with will take some of the guess work from their minds—and will also free up time for Quenneville to concentrate on more pressing matters.
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Of course, goaltending has to be included on this list. Corey Crawford and Ray Emery will need to improve next season.
Both goalies should be able to bounce back, but most of the pressure sits on the shoulders of Corey Crawford. He will be the starter and expected to play 60 games or so in the Chicago Blackhawks' net.
His play will have to become more consistent. When the time presents itself, Crawford has to be there to make the big save—true No. 1 goaltenders are able to do that.
If Crawford can regain his form from two seasons ago, it should bode well for the rest of the team. It is a boost to the players if they know making a mistake will not lead to a goal. It allows them to play their game and not worry about other little things.
It is a two-way street however, and Crawford needs a lot more help from the rest of the team. Defenceman Duncan Keith will be expected to play better over the course of the whole season, and youngsters such as Nick Leddy and Dylan Olsen will be given a much larger role.
1. Special Teams
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Both the Chicago Blackhawks power play and penalty kill were atrocious last season. This is the biggest area of concern for the team, and definitely something they will need to improve upon.
Head coach Joel Quenneville expands on the special teams issue to Dan Rosen of NHL.com:
Our special teams obviously have to be way better. Whether it's tendencies, personnel, blocking shots, the group has to take more pride and we have to be more consistent both from the back end and the group we use up front.
One of the main factors to the power play was a lack of presence in front of the net. Looking towards this upcoming season, Quenneville has suggested that Jimmy Hayes may be able to take over that role if he can prove his worth.
As for the penalty kill—ranked 27th in the league last year—they need to be more competitive. Constantly covering the point man, blocking shots and, ultimately, limiting pucks fired at their goalie would certainly help.