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Why They Will Win

Why the Blackhawks will win the Stanley Cup

Kane, Crawford and Chicago core do it again

by Dan Rosen @drosennhl / Senior Writer

At this time of the year, coaches and players often will talk about how teams need to learn how to win in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. It's the walk-before-you-run point of view.

The Chicago Blackhawks learned how to walk seven years ago when they reached the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the first time with their current core: center Jonathan Toews, right wing Patrick Kane and defensemen Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook.

The same four players are going to help the Blackhawks win their fourth Stanley Cup championship since 2010 because nobody knows how to do it better in the spring.

Chicago will be the first team to repeat as champions since the Detroit Red Wings in 1997-98.

The key is the health of goalie Corey Crawford, and signs point to him being good to go for the start of the playoffs. Provided he is, all the problem areas the Blackhawks seemed to be trying to fix throughout the season are solved.

They were struggling to fill out their top-six forward group for the first three-quarters of the season. Now they have a defined top-two lines, and depth on the third and fourth lines.

Andrew Ladd is fitting in with Toews and Marian Hossa on the top line the way general manager Stan Bowman envisioned he would when he acquired the left wing from the Winnipeg Jets on Feb. 25.

Video: ARI@CHI: Ladd extends the lead with great deflection

Although it hit a slump a few weeks ago, the best line in the NHL this season is back. Patrick Kane, Artem Anisimov and Artemi Panarin create matchup problems no coach wants to deal with because of the skill on the wings and the size in the middle.

The Blackhawks' bottom-six forward group provides the necessary grit while also featuring some skill with Teuvo Teravainen, Andrew Shaw, Dale Weise and Tomas Fleischmann. Weise and Fleischmann, like Ladd, were acquired just before the 2016 NHL Trade Deadline.

The return of fourth-line center Marcus Kruger, who missed 41 games because of a wrist injury, is significant to Chicago's center depth. Kruger's presence allows Shaw to play on the wing.

Chicago again might have to rely on two defense pairs and minor contributions from the third, but that hasn't been a problem in the past.

Keith, who was suspended for the final five games of the regular season and Game 1 of the playoffs, will be healthy and rested. That's good because he again might have to play 30-plus minutes per game in the playoffs. He did it last season and won the Conn Smythe Trophy.

Seabrook might have to play more than 25 minutes per game, as he did last year in the playoffs.

Niklas Hjalmarsson is one of the most underrated defenseman in the NHL but all he's done is have another strong season as an all-around threat.

Don't discount what Trevor van Riemsdyk can do for Chicago in a top-four defense role. He's been in that position for most of the season and has looked at home.

Speaking of home, the Stanley Cup has found one in Chicago three times in the past six seasons. It will stay a while longer.

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