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Blackhawks Show Their Unrivaled Star Power to Close Out Pesky Predators

Adrian Dater@@adaterNHL National ColumnistApril 26, 2015

USA Today

I go along with this tweet from media colleague Dan Rosen, a senior writer with NHL.com, who summarized the Chicago Blackhawks thusly Saturday night:

Dan Rosen @drosennhl

When the Blackhawks want to be the best they are the best.

Yep. When Chicago's best players are motivated enough, they are the best 1-5 group in the league. Jonathan Toews, Marian Hossa, Patrick Kane, Brent Seabrook and Duncan Keith are the best top-five in the league, and we haven't mentioned others such as Patrick Sharp and Brandon Saad yet.

Two Stanley Cups since 2010, two other Western Conference finals appearances since 2009. All of them with the core of Toews, Kane, Keith and Seabrook on hand. Hossa played for Detroit in its 2009 Western finals victory over Chicago, but has been a Blackhawk since.

The Blackhawks showed Saturday night that when they finally start to combine mind and body, they are the best in the league. The stars led the way to Chicago's 4-3 Game 6 victory at home against the Nashville Predators

Nam Y. Huh/Associated Press

Keith's goal in the final minutes of a 3-3 game got the Blackhawks out of what started as a nightmare game, so much so that Chicago media probably were already pricing flights to Nashville for a Sunday series finale.

The cast beneath them has changed a lot the last few years, but those top five position players continue to be just too much for the majority of opponents. Just when you think they might be getting a little tired, they prove you wrong.

Chicago fell behind 2-0 and 3-1 in the first period. Nashville looked by far the hungrier team. Despite the absence of captain Shea Weber, the Predators seemed to want to show the world they were more than just dependent on a few star players. It would be a nice thumb in the nose of the top-heavy Blackhawks.

Except, Chicago's star players totally took over from there. Down 3-1, captain Jonathan Toews tipped in a Sharp shot to get the Hawks back to within a goal, then Kane scored with six seconds left in the first period to tie it.

Chicago's stars were back into it. It didn't seem like the short-handed Preds had a chance from there. Yet, it was surprisingly a close game from there, won only when Keith's slap shot from the left point went past Preds goalie Pekka Rinne, with Hossa and Nashville's Matt Cullen screening him.

So, Chicago moves on, if a bit shakily. 

Whether Chicago's goaltending is good enough will remain an open question.

Chicago coach Joel Quenneville started the series with Corey Crawford as top guy, switched to Scott Darling after Crawford faltered, then came back with Crawford after Darling's three-goal first period in Game 6. 

Crawford played well in getting the win, and it is assumed he'll start when Game 1 of Round 2 rolls around. While Chicago's top five players are the NHL's best, questions about the sixth guy on the ice —the goalie—will continue to be a media favorite when "potential weakness" categories are filled in on advance stories.

Toews, the marvelous Hawks captain, thinks his team is deeper than people give credit.

Mark Lazerus @MarkLazerus

Toews: "We’ve got a number of guys — more guys than not — that are willing & ready to jump over the boards & try and make that difference."

If Minnesota can finish off St. Louis Sunday at home, it'll be a rematch of last year's Western Conference Central Division final series. Chicago was tested in six games before winning. If they are to beat the Wild again, the Blackhawks will need the depth guys to show more. Sure, Chicago's top-end talent was good enough to beat an undermanned Predators squad, but the road gets tougher now.

At least one thing can be safely said about the Hawks now: Their top players look seriously interested in winning another Stanley Cup. Bet against them at your peril.

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