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NHL playoff predictions: One team stands out
Traditional playoff prediction posts are incredibly boring to me. Instead of trying to convince you on a round-by-round basis who I think is going to win I'm going to present a case to you for the eventual Stanley Cup Champion. The problem is determining who to tout. The eventual champion is likely to be the Chicago Blackhawks or the Los Angeles Kings. If you put a gun to my head I still would need a second to think about it, but I would end up going with the Blackhawks.
Chicago and LA are the two top possession teams in the NHL. The third, New Jersey, ended up not making the playoffs somehow. Both clubs are deep, but I can't get the image of the Blackhawks flying around the ice during their points streak from early in the year out of my head. Every time I watched the Hawks play I was stunned by how skilled and structured their game was.
Two things set Chicago ahead of the Kings in my mind. The first is their depth on defense. Duncan Keith, Brent Seabrook, Nick Leddy, Johnny Oduya, and Niklas Hjalmarsson give the Hawks the ability to throw different looks at their opponent. The Kings' defense isn't as good, though it's still solid. The second aspect that sets Chicago apart is their speed. Every line attacks with speed and forces opposing defenses into mistakes. The high level of skill with which they play allows them to capitalize on those mistakes.
The only aspect of the Blackhawks roster that gives me pause before picking them is in net. Corey Crawford and Ray Emery have been good this season, but how far can that duo take them? Chicago could be in the midst of a dynasty had their goaltending been consistent over the last several years.
Is this duo good enough for the Hawks to win the Cup? The question is probably more 'how good do they need to be?' than 'are they good enough?' The Hawks are stacked. Average goaltending should be enough given how much skill they have among their skaters. I don't see any team short of the Kings giving the Hawks trouble. Put everything you own on Chicago taking the Cup in June.
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