Chicago Blackhawks: 5 Biggest Storylines That Will Decide the 2012-13 Season

Nicole Blum@@nblumNHLContributor IIIJanuary 24, 2013

Chicago Blackhawks: 5 Biggest Storylines That Will Decide the 2012-13 Season

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    Could the Blackhawks ask for a better start to the shortened 2013 season?


    It has been a surprisingly successful run out of the gates for the Chicago Blackhawks. The same team that failed to advance past the first round of the playoffs for the last two years now holds the best record in the NHL.

    But 'Hawks fans shouldn't be too confident just yet. Even with this stellar start, the Blackhawks still face questions that can change the course of their season—for better or for worse.

Will Crawford's New Confidence Last?

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    The Blackhawk's goalie situation last season was unfavorable to say the least. One day, Corey Crawford played an unbelievable game, the next day...well, the fans booed. 

    The team allowed 238 goals last year, the most of any playoff team.

    Crawford, however, came up big for the Blackhawks against the St. Louis Blues and saved 32 out of 34 shots. Per the Daily Herald:

    "I feel really good," Crawford said after Tuesday's win. "I said last game (at Los Angeles) I was really focused and I was able to carry that into this game."

    Whatever is helping Crawford's game now—whether that be his frustration with last year's play or his attempt at winning back the confidence of coach Joel Quenneville—is working.

    But, for how long?

A Patrick Kane Revival

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    The first pick of the 2007 NHL Draft is supposed to be a prodigy. Kane helped clinch—and ultimately clinched—Lord Stanley for the 'Hawks.

    He has lacked this exemplary play, however, since winning the Cup. Last season, the Buffalo, New York native tallied a career-low 66 points in 82 regular-season games. 

    Now, he seems to be back to playing like his old—rather, younger—self.

    Kane has tallied five points in three games with his speed, vision and passing skills at a pinnacle. Hopefully, this isn't just a hot streak.

Will the 4th Line Step Up?

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    Some say you're only as strong as the weakest link.

    As cliche as this sounds, the fourth line has been key to the success of many Stanley Cup champion teams. It provides energy and crucial goals. 

    The Stanley Cup champion Los Angeles Kings were propelled by their fourth line in the playoffs—and so were the 2010 Blackhawks.

    Brandon Bollig, Marcus Kruger and Michael Frolik have the chance to boost the team's momentum.

    We can only hope that the chemistry between the three becomes apparent soon.

A Month Without Daniel Carcillo

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    The Blackhawks expected to have the presence and enthusiasm of Daniel Carcillo to start the season. After undergoing ACL surgery last season, he was ready to go.

    Until he was injured in Saturday's game (per ESPN).

    Now that Carcillo is out of the lineup for a month, the Blackhawks lack a solid physical presence.

    Sure, Bryan Bickell, Andrew Shaw and Brandon Bollig can deliver some big hits and start a fight. But, they aren't an intimidation factor like Carcillo. 

    In any case, all three of these "tough guys" need to step up to allow the Blackhawks to play a more physical game.

Will the Power Play Stay Productive?

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    Power plays are supposed to generate momentum—that wasn't the case with the Blackhawks last year.

    Chicago was ranked 26th in the league for their power-play percentage last season. This was, by far, the worst of any playoff team.

    This season's power-play unit looks different with 6'4" Viktor Stalberg in front of the net.

    Stalberg took up Dustin Byfuglien's old spot to pick up any loose pucks around the crease.

    For now, this looks like it could be a solution to a once-struggling power-play. The 'Hawks have scored three goals on 13 power-play opportunities.

    It's rare to see a good team without a good power play.