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Chicago Blackhawks: Top 6 Surprises of 2014

By Tim Lively
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November 29, 2014; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Chicago Blackhawks left wing Daniel Carcillo (13) celebrates his goal scored against the Los Angeles Kings during the first period at Staples Center. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports
November 29, 2014; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Chicago Blackhawks left wing Daniel Carcillo (13) celebrates his goal scored against the Los Angeles Kings during the first period at Staples Center. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports /

#4 – Daniel Carcillo

When the Blackhawks traded Brandon Bollig during the 2014 offseason, there was speculation as to who would be brought in to fill the vacant enforcer role on the team, if anyone. It was quite the shock when the Hawks picked up Daniel Carcillo off the waivers, considering the last time Carcillo donned the indian-head sweater in 2013, he was more a liability than an asset, filling up the penalty box and IR more than the score sheet. The Carcillo that showed up for the Blackhawks in 2014 however is proving to be a born again hockey player. As a lower line forward, Carcillo has thus far shown that he is consistenly capable of putting up the points (4 goals and 3 assists in 27 games so far this season). More importantly, Carcillo has been playing with a discipline quite unbecoming of the Car Bomb. He’s been able to maintain composure and physicality to a degree reminiscent of Dave Bolland; getting under opponents’ skin to the point of drawing penalties while staying out of the box himself. I for one am certainly looking forward to seeing more of the new and improved Daniel Carcillo in 2015.

#3 – Depth Between the Pipes

Going into this season many NHL analysts pegged the Blackhawks’ goaltending situation as a potential weakness, and understandably so. The backup for starter Corey Crawford last season (Nikolai Khabibulin) was a complete bust, causing prospect netminder Antti Raanta to be prematurely thrust into the spotlight. While Raanta did well enough to get the backup gig by supposed default this season, he was still far from a known quantity. However, Raanta spend the back end of 2014 proving he’s earned his roster spot with solid play between the pipes. However, it would take one, and then another injury to Crawford to reveal the Blackhawks’ ace in the hole: Scott Darling. Darling literally made a towering NHL debut and clearly demonstrated the degree of the Hawk’s depth in the blue paint, so much to the point that some interesting decisions may need to be made next offseason….but that is light years away. For now, with three proven goal keepers, it’s a great feeling going into 2015 knowing for the Blackawks, goalie fatigue will be a non-issue.

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#2 – The Third Line Defense

With the departure of Nick Leddy and Sheldon Brookbank, it was anyone’s guess as to how the Blackhawks brass would address the void left on the Hawks’ third defensive line. Instead of one answer, the Hawks got several. The first was rookie Trevor van Riemsdyk, whose self-declared “keeping it simple” play allowed him to emerge as a reliable rock on the third defensive string. Unfortunately, an injury has put van Riemsdyk’s promising debut on hold till the early 2015. To compensate for the loss of van Riemsdyk, the Blackhawks had to get creative, and that creativity led to farm prospects Adam Clendening and Klas Dahlbeck cutting their NHL teeth with the Hawks, 36-year-old Michal Rozsival demonstrating new levels of endurance and reliability, and former Swedish teammates Tim Erixon and David Rundblad reuniting on the blue line. The Hawks may not yet have a permanent solution for their third defensive line, but what they do have is statistically the best defense in the NHL.

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