2010 NHL Playoffs: Raising The Cup Is a Date With Destiny in Chicago

Matthew HoganAnalyst IMay 22, 2010

CHICAGO - MAY 21:  (C) Dustin Byfuglien #33 of the Chicago Blackhawks reacts with teammates Jonathan Toews #19, Adam Burish #37 and Kris Versteeg #32 after Byfuglien scores the game-winning goal in overtime to defeat the San Jose Sharks 3-2 in Game Three of the Western Conference Finals during the 2010 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at the United Center on May 21, 2010 in Chicago, Illinois.  (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
Jamie Squire/Getty Images

Four well-balanced offensive lines that cover every necessary aspect, five solid defenders including two of the league’s best, and a rookie goaltender who is playing like a seasoned veteran in the postseasonthe Chicago Blackhawks have all of the ingredients and are looking to win their first Stanley Cup since 1961.

Captain Jonathan Toews has proven once again, that he thrives in big situations.

Toews, the fourth youngest captain in NHL history, led the Canadian Olympic team in points (eight) in route to the gold medalthe story has been no different this postseason.

The 22-year-old Toews has points in 12 straight playoff games and leads all players with an incredible 25 points in just 15 games. He has always won 58 percent of faceoffs taken.

Patrick Kane has followed up Toews’ efforts with 19 points of his own, while Patrick Sharp has 16 points.

Toews, Kane, Sharp, and Dustin Byfuglien lead the Hawks with seven goals apiece.

After scoring in overtime against the San Jose Sharks on Friday night, Byfuglienconsidered a third line forwardis now tied for the team lead with three game-winning goals.

The sheer amount of young talent on Chicago’s front end often makes fans forget about a forward by the name of Marian Hossa.

Due to the incredible play of some of the Hawks’ younger players, Hossa has almost fallen by the wayside. But the 31-year-old has quietly put up 11 points this postseason and leads the team with a plus-eight rating.

The Hawks tend to roll five defenders, with a sixth defendernormally Jordan Hendryaveraging less than 10 minutes per game.

Brent Sopel’s defensive play has been stellar throughout the postseason. He has a plus-five rating and leads the team with 41 blocked shots.

Despite putting up just three assists during the playoffs, the normally offensive-minded Brian Campbell is second on the team with a plus-seven rating.

In his second postseason with the Blackhawks, 22-year-old defenseman Niklas Hjalmarsson has seen his minutes rise significantly. Hjalmarsson has four points and a plus-five rating to go along with over 21 minutes of ice-time per game.

Brent Seabrook may be Chicago’s most well-balanced defenseman right now. Seabrook has eight points, a plus-six rating, 34 blocked shots, and he leads all players with 58 hits in the playoffs.

Seabrook’s defensive partner and Norris Trophy nominee, Duncan Keith, has continued his dominance on the blue line in the postseason. He has nine points and is playing roughly 27 minutes, 30 seconds every night.

But this borderline all-star team wouldn’t be complete without a goaltender leading the way.

Rookie Antti Niemi has gotten progressively better with each round of the playoffs, which spells disaster for whichever team gets matched up with the sizzling Hawks in the Stanley Cup Finals.

In the Western Conference Finals against the Sharks, Niemi has a .958 save percentage and has stopped 44 shots twice in the series.

The list of amazing players never seems to end with the Blackhawks. If one, two, or even three players were to have an "off" night, there are still a handful of other stars to pick up the slack.

It seems that Chicago worked out most, if not all, of its kinks in the first round against the Nashville Predatorsand if that is the case, then a Stanley Cup is just a couple of weeks away.