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Why They Will Win

Blackhawks will be champs again

Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews to lead way to Chicago's fourth title in seven years

by Nicholas J. Cotsonika @Cotsonika / NHL.com Columnist

The Chicago Blackhawks will win the Stanley Cup because, well, that's what they do.

They won the Cup in 2010. They reshaped the roster to fit under the salary cap and won the Cup in 2013. They reshaped the roster and won the Cup in 2015.

Notice a pattern?

Here we go again: The Blackhawks had five rookies in the lineup opening night and have used seven this season. Yet they clinched a playoff berth in 72 games, faster than ever before in a full season during their nine-season playoff streak, and had the most points in the Western Conference.

 

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The Blackhawks' foundation has been their core: Forwards Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane and Marian Hossa, and defensemen Duncan Keith, Brent Seabrook and Niklas Hjalmarsson. It remains elite.

Toews, Kane and Keith have won the Conn Smythe Trophy as the most valuable player of the playoffs, and each is capable of winning it again. Toews rebounded after a slow start offensively. Kane won the Hart Trophy as the regular-season MVP last season and has played at nearly the same level again this season. Keith has won the Norris Trophy as the best defenseman in the NHL twice and continues to play at a high level.

Hossa cooled after a hot start but still has jump in his 38-year-old legs.

Goaltender Corey Crawford and forwards Artemi Panarin and Artem Anisimov now are considered part of the core too. Crawford, in net for the 2013 and 2015 championships, gives them excellent goaltending along with backup Scott Darling. Panarin and Anisimov have been consistent linemates for Kane. Anisimov should be back from a lower-body injury soon.

The Blackhawks brought back defenseman Brian Campbell, a smart, skilled veteran who was part of their 2010 championship team. They found another productive player in Richard Panik, who has had his best NHL season playing on Toews' line.

The rookies improved as the season progressed. Forward Ryan Hartman was consistent, versatile and productive. Forward Nick Schmaltz, after a slow start and a return to the American Hockey League, became more assertive making plays in the top six. Tanner Kero fit a role as a checking-line center. Michal Kempny was dependable as a depth defenseman.

General manager Stan Bowman isn't worried about the rookies' lack of playoff experience because his core is so strong and he has coach Joel Quenneville, one of the best in the NHL. He need not worry about fatigue this time, either.

There was some thought the Blackhawks had played too much hockey: Stanley Cup Final in 2013, Western Conference Final in 2014, Stanley Cup Final in 2015. But after losing to the St. Louis Blues in the Western Conference First Round last year, they had a long summer to recharge.

They have the energy. They have the experience. They have the coaching. They have the depth. They have the goaltending. They have the top-end skill.

And they have the track record.

The Blackhawks haven't won the Stanley Cup in two whole years. In Chicago, and only in Chicago, that means you're due.

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