Can the Blackhawks repeat as champions?
In a league where the last team to repeat as champions was in the 1997-98 season, it seems extremely difficult to hoist Lord Stanley’s hardware for the second consecutive season.
But this season as the Chicago Blackhawks, led by future hall of famer Joel Quenneville, begin the quest to repeat as champions, there are many questions that need to be answered by a team that retains most of their cup-winning team from this past June.
There are three big questions of doubt as the team is six games into the season with a record of 4-1-1.
Can the recently extended goaltender Corey Crawford deliver like he did one year ago?
With a six-year, $36 million contract extension this offseason, the net minder will be closely watched by the tough Chicago fan base and media that will be on him after every goal given up. Some say that with a contract extension comes a confortable goaltender that may give up easy goals, as we saw in the 3-2 loss in St. Louis last Wednesday night with 22 seconds to go.
Even though Crawford has looked pretty good minus the few soft goals given up through three games, the goaltender has responded to adversity every single time he faces it. If Crawford can show that he can play at the level he did last season and in the playoffs, a Veznia Trophy can come his way.
With the departure David Bolland, Michael Frolik and Viktor Stalberg, who will step up as the scrappy players that mean so much to the team?
After the Hawks won the cup in 2010, their team took a significant hit due to the salary cap rule that led to most players being forced to sign with other teams or be traded.
This offseason, the Hawks only lost a few players but most significantly they lost key power-kill and scrappy players including Bolland, Frolik and Stalberg who contributed with huge plays and energy that brought the Hawks to another level.
So far, the Hawks are shuffling through a couple minor league players that made the roster out of training camp to try and fill these big holes. No one can tell how these youngsters will be able to handle the NHL or just playing for the team. Time will tell to see who can fill the hole that these secondary players left in this year’s squad.
Can the Blackhawks repeat as Stanley Cup Champions?
The easy answer is yes. This Hawks team boasts a solid core of players with Patrick Kane, Jonathan Towes, Marian Hossa and Duncan Keith just to name a few that led them to two Stanley Cups in four years. This team has great potential to reach the Cup Finals once again.
Even though the Western Conference has more contenders than usual, if the Hawks can stay healthy and have top notch goaltending again, this team will make a deep run in the playoffs.
Aaron Freeman is a sophomore sports communication major from Wheeling. He is the Scout assistant sports editor.
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