As the first round starts to wrap up, you'll notice that most of these series and games are extremely close in terms of results. Out of the 8 matchups, there wasn't a sweep. Not even by the mighty Bruins and all of their records this season. Exactly half of the series are tied after 4 games as well. This is a well balanced, razor-thin league when it comes to competition.
There has to be some seperation though right? Coaching certainly helps, but in the playoffs typically the lucky bounce is rewarded to the harder working team. When I watch these games I see a few seperation points game by game:
1. Game-Breaking Forward
That one player that can turn a seemingly harmless rush into an A+ scoring chance with one elite skill play. Perhaps it's a quick burst of speed, or a saucer pass east to west through traffic, or a drag move inward to shoot through the legs of a defender. This is why the Jack Hughes, Mitch Marner, Nathan MacKinnons' of the playoffs make such a difference when the playoffs start.
Blackhawk Future Options: LW Lukas Reichel, C-RW Frank Nazar, 2023-2025 1st Rd. picks
2. Dominant Puck Possession Two-Way Defenseman
Even during our dynasty era Hawks, it was obvious; this team doesn't get through without Duncan Keith. In today's matchups you are seeing the Cale Makar, Alex Pietrangelo, and Adam Foxs' rack up the points, ice time, and possession. The other team can't score if you constantly have the puck after all, making these type of players vital to any cup run.
Blackhawk Future Options: Kevin Korchinski, Sam Rinzel, 2023-2025 1st Rd. Picks
3. Role-Defined Bottom 6 Wings and Centers
When thinking about our Blackhawks and the success they produced, it's hard not to think of guys like Andrew Shaw, Marcus Kruger, and Dave Bolland. Not superstars, not big point getters, but the guys that gritted their way into the lineup every night. They gave it their all in every situation; defend a team's top line, win a board battle, smoother a puck off a draw, earn an offensive zone draw for our top line.... These are the Marcus Foligno, Brandon Tanev, and Ross Coltons' I'm watching this year. You need these guys to win your top lines the advantages. You get your game-breaking forward a better situation then that's a perfect outcome. You win a possession to get it to your dominant defenseman then you did your job.
Blackhawk Future Options: Samuel Savoie, Paul Ludwinksi, Landon Slaggert, Future Picks
While roster construction certainly isn't an exact science, it is noticeable when watching the playoffs that these 3 players greatly increases a teams' success in my view. Typically a cup winning team has a story line centered around a game-breaking skilled forward, a dominant puck possession two-way defenseman, and a story or 2 involving a gritty bottom 6 forward that made winning plays when it mattered most.
The Blackhawks future is bright as they already have some of these options matriculating into form. There is still work to done and players to be drafted, but right now the plan seems to be to stay on this course and take zero short-cuts.
Note: 13 days until the draft lottery and the final determination of where we will draft 1 through 5.