Chicago Blackhawks: 5 Most Important Players Heading into Season

James MaahsContributor IIIJanuary 11, 2013

Chicago Blackhawks: 5 Most Important Players Heading into Season

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    The Chicago Blackhawks are set to begin their shortened season on January 19 against the Los Angeles Kings.

    With only a week left to get ready for the season, the Blackhawks will have to rely on a few key players to help them through most games.

    Some of these players are obvious while others may be lesser-known to the average fan, but each player has something to give in order to help the Blackhawks win every game they play.

    These are the five most important players heading into the season:

Jonathan Toews

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    This one is obvious.

    Jonathan Toews, or "Captain Serious" as some would like to call him, has been essential to the Blackhawks' success as of late.

    Toews' leadership on and off the ice has helped mold the Blackhawks into a winning team over the past four seasons. Four seasons that include four postseason appearances, one Central Division title and a Stanley Cup.

    Not to mention that Toews has the ability to put up significant points during the season––a season that could see Toews win the Hart Memorial Trophy.

    The captain is also one of the best players in the NHL at winning faceoffs, a huge advantage to a Blackhawks team that lacks a second-line center. 

    However you choose to look at him, Toews is the Blackhawks' most valuable player and one that should never be moved from the roster.

Dave Bolland

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    Dave Bolland has served as the Blackhawks' shutdown guy on the third line.

    He's been pretty effective in that role, helping the Hawks shut down some of the top scoring lines in the NHL. Most notably, the Sedin twins of the Vancouver Canucks, whom he has trifled with more than once in the playoffs.

    But when you talk about Bolland, you have to mention how his influence affects other players on the team. Bolland's determination and ability to play defense may inspire his teammates to pick up their games.

    Just look at the first round of the 2010-11 Stanley Cup playoffs, when the Blackhawks took on the Canucks.

    Bolland was out the first three games of the series with a concussion, which the Hawks lost and saw them go down 3-0. His return in Game 4 sparked the team in a way that led them all the way to a Game 7 showdown.

    The Blackhawks would go on to lose that series in overtime of Game 7, but their ability to come back after being down 3-0 is a testament to what Bolland does for this team.

    It also helped that he was able to shut down the Sedin twins and effectively get into Roberto Luongo's head.

    Don't underestimate a guy like Bolland, he's far too valuable to leave behind.

Daniel Carcillo

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    By a fair margin, the biggest agitator on the Blackhawks has to be Daniel Carcillo.

    He has one job on this team: to get into the head of his opponents.

    While Carcillo has been effective at doing that, he has also shown how undisciplined play can lead to more time on the penalty kill for the Hawks.

    Yes, Carcillo can improve his defensive play, but he is still very valuable to this team. Just as any agitator, Carcillo stands up for his teammates, getting into fights when he feels the need to do so.

    This sparks energy on the roster and gets the team pumped to come back onto the ice.

    It's no coincidence that the Blackhawks went on a nine-game losing streak last season at the same time that Carcillo went down with a season-ending knee injury.

Duncan Keith

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    Duncan Keith is the leader on the blue line for the Chicago Blackhawks.

    His fast, defensive style of play has led to him having a pretty successful stint in a Blackhawks jersey, one that includes a Norris Trophy.

    Keith's play has dipped as of late and he has been coughing up too many pucks to the opponents.

    However, that doesn't make his job any less important. 

    The Blackhawks will have to rely on Keith, and his defensive partner Brent Seabrook, for a good portion of the season.

    Considering that the goaltending can be shaky at times, defense will be key to any hopes at a playoff berth.

Corey Crawford

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    However you choose to look at it, Corey Crawford is one of the most important players on the team.

    The goalie responsible for backstopping the Blackhawks' playoff hopes is Crawford.

    How he plays affects the whole team in many different ways––momentum, energy and the score of the game all hinge on how well Crawford performs in the net.

    It's the ultimate pressure situation, one that Crawford has failed to succeed in, as evident by his play in last season's playoffs.

    But this year is different. This is half a season in which Crawford can shake off his sophomore slump and act as a true No. 1 goaltender. 

    Or he can fall apart and let backup Ray Emery take over.

    Either way, one of these guys has to play well in order for the Blackhawks to make the playoffs.

     

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