NHL Playoff Predictions 2011: 5 Keys for the Blackhawks' Postseason
The Blackhawks barely edged into the playoffs this season, but the fact of the matter is, they're in.
It may not have been an easy road getting into the playoffs, but it's not going to get any easier. They meet this year's NHL President Trophy winners-the Vancouver Canucks.
A lot of things have to fall into place for the 'Hawks to win this opening series, but it is possible.
Here are the Blackhawks' five keys to winning their opening series.
1. Top Players Scoring
For the Blackhawks' offense to be truly successful, it needs its top players to score.
I am talking about Jonathan Toews, Patrick Sharp, Patrick Kane and Marian Hossa. Without offense from those four players, the team is doomed.
There hasn't been much third- and fourth-line scoring, and there won't be much—if any—against the stellar Vancouver defense. That's why it's absolutely critical for the 'Hawks to produce offense from the top two lines.
Sharp is back and looks to be about 100 percent. His addition to the offense might be the key asset the 'Hawks can have against the Canucks.
He and Hossa are the two "big" guys for the 'Hawks who won't be bullied too much by the Canucks' defensemen.
2. A Strong Power Play
The 'Hawks' power play finished fourth in the league, and another strong performance in the playoffs can only help the defending champions—especially when it's against the Canucks.
In the playoffs, it's important for any team to get its power play hitting on all cylinders.
A team that wins a series is a team that is firing on all cylinders.
If the power play struggles for the 'Hawks, I'd except a short series not favoring them. Vancouver is just too good.
Not taking advantages of your short against them will prove fatal.
3. Supporting Crawford
It's no lie to say the 'Hawks defense has sort of struggled this season.
Despite that fact, goaltender Corey Crawford has actually flourished in his rookie season. If the 'Hawks can play better defense in front of him, they just might win a few more games.
Crawford has been a major reason why the 'Hawks even have a chance in defending their championship. I think the team in general has a duty to better support their young net-minder.
If not, a potent Vancouver offense will definitely punish the mediocre 'Hawk defense.
4. Staying out of the Penalty Box
The 'Hawks are already one of the league's least penalized teams. In fact, they are the third least penalized time in the league.
That is a stat the 'Hawks want to continue going into the playoffs. The less time your opponent has in the power play, the less chance they have of winning.
Vancouver will want to take advantage of mistakes the 'Hawks make, and that primarily means scoring on the power play.
A stubborn penalty kill could be the key for the 'Hawks and lead them to a huge upset in the first round of the playoffs.
5. Someone Becoming the New "Buff"
Former Blackhawk Dustin Byfgulien had a reputation of tormenting the Canucks—especially Luongo.
Sadly, Big Buff will not be there to torment them again this playoff season. This means another player will have to make that leap.
Scoring this season has been one-sided and lacking in depth. The 'Hawks desperately need a player from the third or fourth line to step up his game, like Big Buff always did come playoff time.
In the end, the one thing is slowing down this 'Hawks team is the lack of depth they have in scorers. That wasn't the case last season.
If a player doesn't step up, it'll be a quick exit for the returning Stanley Cup Champions.