The Hawks got pantsed once again by the Stars last night. While we’ve seen them take a break before the playoffs in previous seasons, for some reason this year feels a bit different. They do have some legit depth issues, especially on the blue line where they don’t have a true fourth defenseman. So why am I not that worried?
The Hawks should be getting Marcus Kruger back sometime soon, and I highly doubt that Crawford’s “injury” is anything serious and it’s possible that he’s just being rested. So there are still a few bullets in the chamber for when the calendar turns to April. However, when it comes to winning playoff series, it’s about two things: What kind of goaltending are you getting and how well are your stars playing?
In past years, Keith, Seabrook, Toews, Kane, etc. (etc. being a bunch of really good players), have all performed like the stars they are. Since the Blackhawks have more top level talent than any team in the league, they’ve won the Stanley Cup three times in six years. Pretty simple to understand. I love statistical breakdowns and comparing matchups, but in the case of the Hawks’ playoff success, it comes down to their stars.
It also comes down to goalie play. Last year Crawford apparently had some version of the yips and Darling stepped in to pick up the pieces. Without that contribution the Hawks probably don’t win the Stanley Cup. After Crawford got over himself he went on to win his second Stanley Cup, which allowed him to swear on TV again. Make no mistake, Crawford will have to come up huge for the Hawks again to win another Cup, just as he’s come up huge all season long.
I’m not worried because the Hawks have the highest ceiling of talent in the NHL. Their stars have proven time and again that they can play like stars when they need to. Their goaltender is among the best in the NHL and has the ability to shut out a team on any given night. It’s easy to point out their lack of defensive depth among other issues this team faces, but it’s important to remember that no one can match their top-end talent if those guys play like top-end talent. Maybe their star power will have to reach another level this year, but there’s no reason to think this group doesn’t have that ability.