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Western Conference woes

April 11, 2014

Chicago Blackhawks players plagued by injuries this season.

The following statement will make most Chicago Blackhawks fans sick. The Blackhawks have almost no chance to win the 2014 Stanley Cup.

I grew up a Chicago Blackhawks fan. My father loves to show the picture of me coming home from the hospital in Blackhawks baby apparel. I went to my first game when Chris Chelios still played for the Blackhawks. I am down right, no doubt about it, a die-hard Chicago Blackhawks hockey fan. That being said, I feel qualified and humble enough to say there is almost no chance for the Blackhawks to repeat a Stanley Cup victory again this year.
One could say it’s the Stanley Cup hangover. Players don’t skate hard enough. They don’t want it. They are lazy. Others might say we have been plagued by injury or that their goaltending isn’t up to snuff. And I think everyone could say the Western Conference is the strongest it’s been in years.

The fact that the Blackhawks won the 2013 Stanley Cup just about puts them out of the running for the 2014 Stanley Cup. I qualify that statement by adding there hasn’t been a repeat winner since the 1997 and 1998 Detroit Red Wings, 16 years ago. Now, I know its been done before, but in recent years the league and its increasingly young talent hasn’t afforded an “off” team even the slightest chance at a Stanley Cup victory. Especially this year’s “weak” Chicago Blackhawks.

Two of the Blackhawks four leading goal scorers, captain Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane, are out until further notice. Last Friday, Kane skated with the team but it is uncertain when he might return. Regarding Toews, it is certain that he will not return for regular season play but will most likely participate in the playoff series.
More importantly, I believe that the two biggest problems facing the Blackhawks’ run at a repeat Stanley Cup victory is their goaltending and Western Conference rivals.

Yet again Blackhawks fans will hate me for this, but Corey Crawford is not our goaltender. Ever since his injury he hasn’t played the same. I believe if the Blackhawks are to make a run this year we should put our faith in the hands of Antti Raanta. With Raanta playing a third of the games Crawford has, we haven’t fully seen what he can do. I will say this, Crawford ranks eighth overall for NHL goaltenders. He isn’t bad and he has taken the Blackhawks places. I am unsure of his ability to win when they enter the playoffs.

My last point is that the Western Conference is full of extremely talented teams this year. Although we have clinched a playoff birth, we are certainly not out of the woods. The Blackhawks biggest contenders this year to get out of the Western Conference are the St. Louis Blues, Anaheim Ducks and Colorado Avalanche. All of these teams not only lead the Western Conference, but also are in the top four in the entire league behind Eastern Conference leader, the Boston Bruins.

As I am sure most Blackhawks fans are cringing at my opinion, I still do believe the Blackhawks have a slight chance. As we saw the other night, the Blackhawks can beat the Blues, who lead the Western Conference. If we can bring that fire and intensity to the playoffs, who knows what will happen? It’s a long shot, but that’s what Chicago sports are all about.

Mike Olszewski
Graphics Editor

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