Why the Blackhawks won't win it all
1. Special teamsThe Blackhawks are the only playoff team whose power-play and penalty-killing units ranked in the bottom third of the league during the regular season. Only one team (Phoenix) in the playoffs has a worse power play and only one playoff team (San Jose) ranked worse on the penalty kill. It's hard to imagine both units making a dramatic turnaround over four rounds of the postseason.
2. GoaltendingThe Blackhawks' Corey Crawford was near the bottom of playoff goalies in terms of save percentage and goals-against average in the regular season. In fact, his .903 save percentage is actually worst in the league among goalies who played as many games as his 57. His goals-against average was fourth-worst. He's been better lately but he'll have to outplay several Western Conference netminders who had big years -- starting with Mike Smith of the Coyotes -- for the Hawks to have a chance.
3. Jonathan Toews' conditionBlackhawks captain Jonathan Toews missed the final 22 games of the regular season with a concussion. He says he's close and there is a good chance he'll start the opening series against the Coyotes, but how much of a factor can he be with that much time off? And if he's not 100 percent, how will that affect his mindset as he most certainly will be tested physically by opponents throughout the postseason? Toews is a huge question mark, which makes the Blackhawks' chances a question mark.
4. Inability to win low-scoring gamesThe Blackhawks were the only team without a shutout all season. They gave up one goal just 17 times in 82 games. That leaves 65 games when the Hawks gave up two or more, which means they needed to score three or more in 65 games to come out on top. That's asking a lot for an offense that didn't produce power-play goals on a regular basis. The Hawks can win if both teams are playing a wide-open style but to count on that through four rounds of the postseason is hoping for a lot.
5. Lack of home iceAs the No. 6 seed, it's likely the Blackhawks won't have home-ice advantage in any round of the postseason. Their 17-18-4 record on the road in the regular season leaves something to be desired. If backup goalie Ray Emery plays, it better be at home, where he was 10-0-3 -- but he was just 5-9-1 on the road. It also means plenty of travel out west, starting with the opening-round matchup against Phoenix. If the Blackhawks win -- and the other top seeds advance -- Round 2 would be against Vancouver. Unless they have an easy first- or second-round series, the Blackhawks could be exhausted before heading out again for the conference finals. It's not impossible but it will be a tough road for the Blackhawks to come out of the West as the No. 6 seed.
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