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Why Chicago can win the Cup

by Dan Rosen / Chicago Blackhawks

When hot, Chicago is almost unbeatable. When cold, the Blackhawks are full of holes and might as well be playing with a soccer net behind them.

Their ability to raise the temperature and keep it hot in the Stanley Cup Playoffs will come down to goaltending, just like it has all season.

Corey Crawford
Goalie - CHI
RECORD: 30-17-7
GAA: 2.72 | SVP: 0.903
The Big Why: Corey Crawford will likely be Chicago's Game 1 starter. How well he plays might determine if he starts Game 2.

Crawford has earned the opportunity to start the playoffs over veteran backup Ray Emery because of his relatively strong finish to what was a topsy-turvy season. He became a rock in net at a time the Blackhawks were without captain Jonathan Toews and defenseman Duncan Keith. If he continues to play like that in the postseason, the Blackhawks will be a tough out.

Crawford won only three games and allowed 40 goals in 12 appearances from Jan. 2 through Feb. 10, but he's been much better in the past two months and, as a result, the Blackhawks were one of the best teams in the NHL from Feb. 16 to the end of the regular season despite not having Toews in the lineup.

Speaking of the captain, the Blackhawks can't win without him. Toews missed the last 22 games of the regular season with an upper body injury, but he was close to returning in the last week of the season. The Hawks need him for Game 1.

Marian Hossa has consistently been the Blackhawks' best player this season while Patrick Kane and Patrick Sharp got hot toward the end of the season. Dave Bolland has to again be one of their key forwards in a shutdown role. There are few better centers in the NHL at playing a two-way game against the opponent's best forward line.

Keith and Brent Seabrook have to get back to being the dominant defense pair they can be. Just like Crawford, Nick Leddy should be better in this year's playoffs because he now has experienced a full playoff round plus a full NHL regular season. Chicago has also been one of the best teams in the league since Johnny Oduya joined the blue line at the trade deadline.

Jonathan Toews
Center - CHI
GOALS: 29 | ASST: 28 | PTS: 57
SOG: 185 | +/-: 17
The Big Uh-Oh: What if Toews can't play?

Yes, he was getting close to returning toward the end of the season, but the fact that he couldn't is cause for concern. Toews will not play until he is symptom-free, and he said Friday that his status had not changed so he sat out the game Saturday at Detroit.

There is arguably no better big-game performer in the NHL than Toews. He was the 2010 Conn Smythe Trophy winner and is a point-per-game player in the playoffs (46 points in 46 games).

Final argument: If Toews is good to go and Crawford plays up to the level he showed down the stretch and in the first-round series against Vancouver last season, then the Blackhawks have the goods to win The Stanley Cup for the second time in three seasons.

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