When it comes to Stanley Cup Playoff competition, the Chicago Blackhawks don't have an abundance of experience, with half the roster's knowledge of the playoffs coming only from growing up watching it at home on the tube or playing their way to the Cup on a video game.
But what Chicago lacks with regard to playoff resume, it more than makes up for in readiness. The Blackhawks may not overwhelm at any one position or be carried by a single superstar, but in terms of skilled depth, this is a team that could find its way counting down all 12 wins left before hoisting the Cup.
Fifteen different players scored in the quarterfinal win over the Calgary Flames. While the future of the Blackhawks' offense seemingly sits on the sticks of young studs Jonathan Toews
and Patrick Kane
, this season a second pairing has risen to the fore, Kris Versteeg and Dave Bolland
. Both duos netted 10 points apiece in the first round, Versteeg leading all Blackhawks scorers with seven.
Sprinkle in the ample contributions of Martin Havlat and Patrick Sharp
, as well as the arrival of oops-another-star Samuel Pahlsson, and the Blackhawks have as turbocharged an offense as you'll find still skating.
Defense offers depth as well. Brian Campbell, an All-Star this season and accustomed to carrying a massive minutes load, skates the second line behind breakout defenders Duncan Keith
and Brent Seabrook
. And Cam Barker has equaled Seabrook's six postseason points for tops among Chicago's defenders.
Perhaps most significant are the steady hands in the net and on the bench. Goalie Nikolai Khabibulin has been here before, standing on his head to guide the Tampa Bay Lightning to the 2004 Stanley Cup. And coach Joel Quenneville, noted for the controlled fire he brings to his dressing rooms, assisted on Colorado Avalanche runs of the past. There aren't two more important positions on the team, and Chicago brings crucial experience and calm to both.
In what is sure to be an exhaustive run for whoever captures the Cup, the fresh legs that quality depth provides is a boon as April spills into May, and May trickles to June. No one man needs to carry the Blackhawks, while a dozen or more are capable of doing so. That's a recipe for a run to the Cup.
Author: Brett Ballantini | NHL.com Correspondent