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Heading into the offseason, the Chicago Blackhawks look to be the most complete team in the NHL, which is why they're the No. 1 contender for the 2012 Stanley Cup.
While the defending Stanley Cup Champion Blackhawks were ousted by the Vancouver Canucks in the first round of the 2011 Playoffs on Alexandre Burrows' overtime-winning goal in Game 7, they seem to have finally found their man in between the pipes.
Rookie goaltender Corey Crawford played like a seasoned veteran in net for Chicago, helping them climb out of a three-games-to-none hole to force a Game 7 in dramatic fashion.
The 2010-11 season was a difficult one for Chicago, as they dealt with the departures of 2010 Playoff heroes Dustin Byfuglien, Kris Versteeg and Antti Niemi, as well as the lengthy absences of Patrick Kane, Marian Hossa, Dave Bolland and Brian Campbell due to injuries.
That being said, now that the Blackhawks have found a capable goaltender, they look like the team to beat entering the 2011-12 campaign, simply because they have an abundance of talent at every position.
Up front, Chicago has some of the best young offensive players in the game, and more importantly, they've all proven that they can elevate their level of play when the chips are down.
2010 Conn Smythe winner Jonathan Toews and 2008 Calder Trophy winner Patrick Kane are two of the best clutch performers in the league, and both will be 23 entering the 2011 Playoffs, which means their best years are yet to come.
Beyond Toews and Kane, the Blackhawks have a skilled group of offensive players, including Bolland, Hossa and Patrick Sharp that give Chicago all the secondary scoring they need.
On the blue line, the Blackhawks are fortunate to have what may be the best defensive pair in hockey in 2010 Canadian Olympians Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook, not to mention former All-Star Brian Campbell. Again, not only are Chicago's rearguards talented and intelligent, but they're proven postseason performers, which is just as important.
Ultimately, the Blackhawks are a playoff-tested team with a young, sublimely talented nucleus. They're stocked with elite level players at each position, so assuming Corey Crawford's 2011 Playoff performance was no fluke, they should be considered the early favorite to come out on top as the 2012 Stanley Cup Champions.