the Western Conference with a 2.26 goals-against average, good for ninth best in the NHL, leading to 32 wins that placed 10th among all goaltenders. The concern for the Blackhawks regarding Crawford is how he played in the postseason. His save percentage decreased as he went from .917 in the regular season to .912 in the playoffs. His goals-against average also jumped up almost a quarter of a goal as it rose from 2.26 to 2.53. His play against the Los Angeles Kings was especially concerning. In that series, he had a save percentage .900 or above only twice in the series, with the low coming at .800. Crawford will have to prove he is over these struggles if the team is to contend for another Stanley Cup this year. Raanta proved to be a capable backup as he is expected to continue in that role in the upcoming year. He posted a respectable 2.71 goals-against average while coming away with 13 wins in the 25 games he played (22 starts) last season. Power Play With a team loaded with as many superstar players as the Blackhawks are, you would imagine that whey would consistently have one of the top power-plays in the league. The team improved in that facet last year as they jumped up from 19th in the league with a 16.6 percent success rate in the 2012-13 season to 10th last season by scoring on 19.5 percent of their opportunities. With Patrick Sharp and Patrick Kane leading the way on the powerplay, as each player put the biscuit in the basket with the man-advantage ten times, the Blackhawks are primed to be an elite power-play team. With the addition of Brad Richards, this group will have another player that has flourished on the point in the man-advantage situation. Whether he plays on the first or second power-play unit has yet to be determined, but he will make a difference. Penalty Kill If there is one glaring weakness that the Blackhawks have had in three of the last four seasons is their play on the penalty kill. Last season the team finished 19th in the NHL after finishing third during the 2012- Duncan Keith Richard W. Rodriguez/Fort Worth Star/Getty Images 13 season, despite having one of the better defensive forwards in all of hockey in Jonathan Toews. (57) Not all is lost though for the team from Chicago. While the team has had its difficulties on the penalty kill, the team has the ability to turn the tables on the opposition in a blink of an eye. With Toews and Marian Hossa on the kill, both scored three goals each to be among the league leaders in that category. Toews had five points in total while his team was shorthanded, tied for fourth in the league. Three Questions 1. Can Crawford put the Kings series behind him? The thought is he can. For the Blackhawks to have a chance at winning the Stanley Cup, Crawford will have to replicate his regular season performance from last season. If he does, the team has enough scoring to make a run. 2. Will GM Stan Bowman have flexibility to make moves during the season? The Blackhawks have their backs against the salary-cap wall. In fact, they may have to make a move at the start of the season to get below the cap number. Bowman will have very little room to make roster moves. He will need to be very creative if he does. 3. Will Brad Richards provide the depth at center the Blackhawks crave? Richards had a rebound season with the Rangers last season. With a cap-friendly contract, Richards is almost guaranteed a roster spot. He will start on the second line, but if he proves age has gotten the better of him, young phenom Teuvo Teravainen is waiting in the wings. Prediction A team with this much firepower will almost assuredly make the playoffs. How deep they go will be determined by the play of goaltender Corey Crawford and the performance of their special teams units. A potential run to the Stanley Cup finals is not out of the question with this all-star cast.
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