3 Early Signs the Chicago Blackhawks Are Stanley Cup Contenders in 2013

Taylor GiffinCorrespondent IIFebruary 18, 2013

3 Early Signs the Chicago Blackhawks Are Stanley Cup Contenders in 2013

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    The Chicago Blackhawks have started the year without losing a game in regulation for the first 15 games.

    They are on fire.

    With a record like that, it is easy to consider the team as a top Stanley Cup contender.

    That record, however, does not just write itself. There have been many things the Blackhawks have been doing right that have allowed the team to play well.

    If they can keep up what they have started by the end of the year, we may see the team hoisting the Stanley Cup again. But, that will not happen if the team cannot keep up what it has been able to excel at early on.

    In saying that, here are three early signs why the Chicago Blackhawks are Stanley Cup contenders in 2013.

Star Players Are Playing Like Star Players

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    Unlike most teams in the NHL, the Blackhawks do not have to rely on just one line to carry the load and provide offense.

    Their most potent offensive weapon so far this season has been playing on the second line.

    Patrick Kane has been able to put up 21 points through 15 games and has been consistently near the top of the scoring race.

    His play has been remarkable.

    In the past few years, many fans have had a love/hate relationship with Kane. They love his offensive play, but if he is not scoring they criticize him for not being able to play in his own end.

    This year, Kane has been able to score, and on many occasions he shows a new sense of place in his defensive zone. He will never be considered a two-way player unless he makes a drastic change, but Kane has stepped up in more than just the offensive zone.

    It is not just Kane who provides a constant threat out on the ice for the Blackhawks. The team is also enjoying the success of their other star players.

Improved Play from in Between the Pipes

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    The Chicago Blackhawks could not have been expecting this.

    The team has two goaltenders who have been playing excellent hockey. At the start of the season, many fans were hoping the team would have just one capable goalie in between the pipes.

    Nonetheless, you have to applaud the play of both Corey Crawford and Ray Emery.

    Crawford was coming off a bad year and needed to improve. So far, he has done that, easily passing all expectations that were laid out for him.

    He sports a goals against average (1.65) and a save percentage (.935) that fall within the top 10 in the league for both categories. On many occasions he has come up with a big save, ultimately keeping the Blackhawks in the game.

    As for Emery, he has had a lot more work than what was expected of him going into this season. With the recent injury to Corey Crawford, Emery has picked up the slack and has kept his strong play rolling.

    Through the last two games the Blackhawks have played, Emery has allowed a goal in one and two in the other. He was able to pick up the win in both to improve his overall record to 5-0-0.

    So much for those rumours about Roberto Luongo coming to Chicago. It seems—for now, anyway—the team is happy with the tandem they have playing.

Confidence in the Entire Roster

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    As great as it is to have players like Jonathan Toews, Marian Hossa and Duncan Keith on your team, that does not guarantee a championship.

    What does is the bottom two lines.

    And so far this young season, the Blackhawks have been able to roll four lines up front and three down back. Every player has stepped up and has been able to consistently play well whenever they are out on the ice.

    Players like Marcus Kruger and Michael Frolik have taken on more responsibility and have been great for the team.

    These two players, in particular, have helped the Blackhawks improve their penalty kill. Currently, the team is third in the NHL with an 89.1 percent kill rate. 

    When the playoffs roll around, the Blackhawks will be playing tough teams. No matter who they play, the Blackhawks will need to make sure the entire team is ready to go.

    These are a few of the little things that will help the Blackhawks be Stanley Cup champions by the end of the 2013 season.

     

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