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Why the Blackhawks will win the Stanley Cup

by Dan Rosen / NHL.com

The Chicago Blackhawks check all the boxes required to be a championship team, which is exactly why the city should plan to keep the Magnificent Mile parade route open for an afternoon in June.

Do the Blackhawks have experience? Yes they do.

The Blackhawks have 17 players with a combined 25 Stanley Cup championship rings, including two each for Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, Patrick Sharp, Marian Hossa, Bryan Bickell, Duncan Keith, Brent Seabrook and Niklas Hjalmarsson.

In addition, Kimmo Timonen and Antoine Vermette have played in the Stanley Cup Final for other teams. Brad Richards won the Stanley Cup in 2004 with the Tampa Bay Lightning and played in the Final last season with the New York Rangers.

Fifteen players remain from Chicago's team that won the Stanley Cup in 2013. Nine players were on the 2010 championship team, including Kris Versteeg, who left Chicago after winning the Stanley Cup five years ago and returned last season.

Are there quality leaders on this team? No question about that.

Toews is a modern-day Mark Messier in that his teammates follow his example and let him lead them to wins. Quantifying the best leader in the NHL is difficult because there aren't real statistics to measure it, but it's hard to argue against Toews being that based on his performance in big moments.

He has 81 points in 94 playoff games. He won the Conn Smythe Trophy in 2010 with 29 points in 22 games. He has won the Olympic gold medal twice, serving as an alternate captain for Canada at the 2014 Sochi Olympics.

Toews is supported by Keith and Sharp, who are alternate captains, but the Blackhawks' leadership extends beyond them to Hossa, Richards, Kane, Seabrook, Hjalmarsson and now Timonen.

Toews, though, is without question the man in charge.

Do they have enough depth? Check.

Chicago can roll four lines and three defense pairs, and that's without Kane in the lineup. The hope is Kane, who is recovering from a clavicle injury, will able to return in the playoffs, but the Blackhawks played the final 21 games of the regular season without him and were among the best teams in the NHL during that stretch.

Toews stepped up his game in Kane's absence as the center on the top line with Hossa and Brandon Saad. That line does it all for 200 feet. Toews and Hossa could be perennial Selke Trophy finalists; Toews usually is, and he won it in 2013.

Beyond that line, the Blackhawks have had interchangeable parts up front without Kane.

Versteeg can play on the second or third line. Sharp can do the same and be effective. Vermette has bounced between center and wing. Shaw has moved up and down the lineup. Richards did too before missing the final three games of the season with an upper-body injury.

Chicago has a deep top-four on defense, with Keith, Seabrook, Hjalmarsson and Johnny Oduya. Timonen and Rozsival are at the tail end of their career but can move the puck and get up in the play.

Is Chicago's goaltending good enough to win? Yes.

Corey Crawford isn't viewed in most circles as being an elite goaltender because that's typically reserved for Carey Price of the Montreal Canadiens, Pekka Rinne of the Nashville Predators and Henrik Lundqvist of the New York Rangers.

None of them have a Stanley Cup ring. Crawford has one, and he earned it with a .932 save percentage and 1.84 goals-against average in the 2013 playoffs. He has 32 wins, a .920 save percentage and a 2.21 GAA in the postseason.

Crawford is coming off a strong season when he again won more than 30 games and was among the League leaders in save percentage.

Factoring in Chicago's impressive play up front, its strong defense, quality possession numbers, and its goaltending, it's no wonder the Blackhawks were among the best teams at preventing goals this season. They were even better with Kane out of the lineup.

Chicago's goaltending stable is deeper this season with Scott Darling and Antti Raanta available should Crawford get injured or struggle.

Are the Blackhawks fast enough? Definitely.

The Blackhawks have an abundance of speed. It's a big part of their game, and a big reason they are arguably the most skilled team in the League.

Chicago uses its speed by stretching defenses with long passes or checking plays in the defensive zone that lead to odd-man rushes into the offensive zone.

Saad and Sharp are two of the faster players in the League, and Teuvo Teravainen is small and fast, making him a difficult player to check, particularly because people around the League are still trying to figure out his game.

When the Blackhawks match their skill with their speed they become the best offensive team in the NHL. When they do that they become a Stanley Cup championship team.

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