They did it once and the key characters are back for an encore. The Chicago Blackhawks can -- and will -- win the Stanley Cup again.
The Big Why: The Blackhawks know what it takes to win a Stanley Cup, and hands-on experience at this time of the year is huge. When you match that with a hunger to repeat and a desire to prove the critics wrong, well then you become an unstoppable force.
Chicago will be that again this spring. Captain Jonathan Toews doesn't know any other way.
The Big Uh-Oh: There's a few, in fact.
For as good as Corey Crawford has been this season, he's never started a Stanley Cup Playoff game. While you can assume that he'll treat it as just another game, nobody can say that for sure because there's zero history to suggest anything.
The Blackhawks had one of the League's best power plays but one of the League's worst penalty kills. They don't necessarily get themselves in too much penalty trouble, but when they do it can be disastrous.
And, the third period has not been kind to the Hawks, who failed to pick up a point in 14 games this season that they were either leading or the score was tied going into the final 20 minutes.
Final Argument: The Blackhawks were victims of the Stanley Cup hangover this season, but they got past it in just enough time to make the playoffs. Their desperate late-season push toward the postseason will be their best friend this spring. It taught them that nothing comes easy -- even when you are a champion.
The Blackhawks are still just that, champions -- and they will be until someone says otherwise. It'll have to wait until next year.
I'm just excited about the opportunity. I've been on the ice earlier than usual and in the weight room, pushing around a little more weights than usual. Every day I go into a workout with a smile on my face and ready to go. When you do have a little more responsibility, you want to take your lunch pail and get ready to work.
— Brian Elliott to Jeremy Rutherford of the Post-Dispatch on being the Blues' No. 1 goalie