Jan 19, 2014; Chicago, IL, USA; The Chicago Blackhawks celebrate a victory against the Boston Bruins during the shootout at the United Center. The Blackhawks beat the Bruins 3-2 in the shootout. Mandatory Credit: Rob Grabowski-USA TODAY Sports

Chicago Blackhawks: Can They Defend Their Stanley Cup Title?

It goes without saying that the Chicago Blackhawks have become the Windy Cities most beloved and emphatically praised sports franchise.  While teams such as the Chicago Bears and Chicago Bulls have made their city proud with their own dynasties, as of recently, neither of these organizations has been able to live up to their fan bases understandably high expectations.  However, over the last few years, the Blackhawks have consistently proven that they can make up for the transgressions of these local sports franchises by remaining supremely competitive and satisfyingly dominant season in and season out.  Since 2008, the Blackhawks have earned two Stanley Cups and have quickly made a name for themselves as one of the most dangerous teams in the Western Conference.  While there is plenty of hockey left to be played for this surging Blackhawks squad, they have already put themselves in position to defend their glorious and well-earned Stanley Cup Title.

Looking at this strong willed team; it becomes easy to see how they have remained one of the best franchises in the NHL since 2008.  Although the Blackhawks aggressively charged offense has been their modus operandi this year, they have developed an intriguing reputation as being one of the more balanced and skilled teams in the league.  While the Blackhawks have always been known for their strong Goalie play that is complemented by a solid offense, this year the Blackhawks top notch offense has been largely responsible for both their dominant and close victories (the Blackhawks score 3.5 goals per game, 1st in NHL).

However, this is not to say that the Blackhawks goal tending has been poor.  While it is true that Corey Crawford’s saving percentage has taken a slight dip (92.6% as opposed to 91.2% this year), he has already garnered 817 saves this year, which is over 100 more than had last season when played in 30 games (he has only played in 34 games this season). 

If anything, the fact that the Blackhawks are able to adjust their game plan on the fly with such ease and determination is what makes them such an intimidating foe to reckon with, especially when they have home field advantage.  Even if the Blackhawks do succumb to a heartbreaking loss on their home turf, it almost always comes down to a shootout or overtime goal as a member of the opposition is able to skillfully slip the puck past Crawford (7 of the Blackhawks 10 home losses have come either in the overtime period or doing a shootout).

Luckily, even if the Blackhawks allow two or three goals per game, they have a prolific offense that can out shoot their opponents by doubling or even tripling the opponents score count when all is said and done.  Of course, the leader of the Blackhawks high-octane offense is none other than their coveted right wing star Patrick Kane.  This season, Kane has already scored 23 goals while contributing 33 assists to the Blackhawks productive offense.  However, this unselfish and vigilant play style doesn’t simply stop with Kane’s dynamic abilities.  Veteran left winger Patrick Sharp has likewise been an ample contributor as both a talented shooter and as a disciplined passer (he as contributed 25 goals and assists respectively).  This swift and controlled passing game is what allows the Blackhawks to quickly rack up goals against an opponent that becomes overly eager to intercept the puck as it gracefully glides from one player to the next.  Rather than shifting a puck to a favored shooter in repetitive fashion, the Blackhawks have faith in their entire rosters ability to take an open shot when they see it.  This type of unanimous confidence is what allows the Blackhawks to be highly successful in the first place.  In a sport that is as physically draining and fast paced from start to finish, having a deep and reliable roster means everything.  The fact that the Blackhawks have been able to maintain this type of treasured consistency is what allows them to be a step ahead of their supposedly elite opponents.

When all is said and done, the Blackhawks look to be confidently on their way to another well-deserved playoff berth where they will valiantly attempt to keep the Stanley Cup in Chicago for another year.  While the notion of repeating is a tall order for even the most dynamic and determined teams, the Blackhawks have the advantage of knowing how to integrate methodical strategy with sheer physicality.  If this inspirational squad can maintain this type of raw determination and athleticism, they’ll have a great chance at going back to the Stanley Cup finals to defend what they genuinely believe is rightfully theirs.        

Tags: Chicago Blachakws NHL

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