If you take a look at the goalscoring stat line for the Chicago Blackhawks since this year's Stanley Cup playoffs commenced, it would probably appear worrisome.
Atop the list, you won't find the likes of Jonathan Toews or Patrick Kane. They were too busy being shadowed and hounded by other star-studded names like Ryan Suter, Niklas Kronwall and Henrik Zetterberg.
Instead, you may come across the name Bryan Bickell, who has built himself a sturdy nest in front of the opponent's goal crease. Bickell's six playoff goals are matched only by teammates Marian Hossa (six) and Patrick Sharp, who leads the league with eight.
How about Andrew Shaw? The Blackhawks' fifth-round draft pick from the 2011 NHL Entry Draft currently has four goals to his name in this year's playoffs—two of which came in a pivotal Game 5 elimination game to the rival Detroit Red Wings in the Western Conference Semifinals, which saw the Hawks tackle momentum after the Red Wings rolled off three consecutive wins.
And, after last year's hypersensitive self-implosion in the 2012 Western Conference Quarterfinals against the Phoenix Coyotes, who would have thought that Blackhawks netminder Corey Crawford would be leading the NHL in goals-against average in the playoffs?
All year, the Chicago Blackhawks' dominance over the Western Conference has been a collective effort. The timely goals of role players like Bickell and Shaw are arguably just as important as the defensive efforts of hard-working forwards like Marcus Kruger and Michal Frolik, who have led the Blackhawks' penalty-killing unit to a sparkling 96 percent kill rate in this year's playoffs.
So when it comes to brass tax, when we know only one player can be selected as the tournament's most valuable player, who on this team deserves the credit? Is there a single person that can be extracted from this bunch and be called "most valuable?"
Corey Crawford has been thrown accolades left and right, and he is surely deserving of all of it. His clutch play has bailed the Hawks out of the occasional defensive lapse, and he's made every game winnable for the Hawks so far this postseason.
Patrick Sharp and Marian Hossa will most likely be given their due consideration, given their reputations and the adequate number of points they picked up. Sharp, in particular, is having a phenomenal run this postseason and has more than earned back his salary after a passive regular season where he contributed a mere six goals in 28 games.
The one thing all of these arguments continue to negate, however, is the complete game that the Blackhawks have contributed night in and night out, all season long.
For the Blackhawks, there is no Jonathan Quick to point to and shower praises for his other-worldly success. Unlike two years ago when he was awarded the Conn Smythe trophy in 2010, Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews has been too easily subdued this postseason. But that hasn't mattered.
The Blackhawks realize that the most important single entity is the team itself, and if they want to continue to push this remarkable season to its most rewarding destination, then they must believe that the most valuable player is the Indian head on their sweaters.
The road to Lord Stanley's Cup has been as difficult as was expected for the Blackhawks, and the incline is only getting steeper. But the Hawks have multiple X-Factors who can find ways to produce at any time, and that may make them the most dangerous team left standing.
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