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5 keys to Blackhawks’ season as title defense begins tonight

2013 NHL Stanley Cup Final - Game Two

2013 NHL Stanley Cup Final - Game Two

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Updated: November 2, 2013 6:16AM

If the Blackhawks are to repeat as Stanley Cup Champions, here are the five keys to their success:

1. Turn on the power

The last three teams to win the Stanley Cup did it with a lousy power play, but imagine how dominant the Hawks could be if they had a
functional one. With so much top-shelf talent, it can be tough to dumb things down and not get too cute with the puck. But if the Hawks keep it simple — stand a guy on the doorstep and shoot the puck in his
direction — they can fix the one thing that’s broken.

2. Man in the middle

Michal Handzus did a fine job as the Hawks’ second-line center during the playoffs, but it might be asking a lot to have him do it for a full
82-game season. The hole has been there for a few years now, and it’s time for someone — Brandon Pirri, perhaps? — to step up and prove he can be the answer. At least until tantalizing Teuvo Teravainen comes and takes it next fall, that is.

3. Grow a new Fro

Michael Frolik was about as valuable a three-goal scorer as you’re likely to find. He threw himself into his newfound penalty-killing role with abandon, using his aggression to block shots and his speed and offensive skills to create short-handed scoring chances, all while easing the minutes of Jonathan Toews and Marian Hossa. Unheralded Joakim Nordstrom will get the first try to become the new Fro.

4. QuennevilleCare

It’s up to coach Joel Quenneville to keep his team fresh and healthy. That will be no easy task, given a short offseason and a full 82-game slate that’s as compressed as the post-lockout schedule was because of the Olympics in February. That means carefully managing the ice time and games played of everyone, particularly veterans such as Hossa, Michal Rozsival and Handzus.

5. Big Bicks, big bucks

Bryan Bickell earned every bit of his four-year,
$16 million contract with his playoff performance. Now it’s up to him to prove it wasn’t a fluke by doing it for a full season and to prove he can be a 30-goal power forward while clearing space for — and cleaning up after — Toews and Patrick Kane.

— Mark Lazerus

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