Blackhawks' Arsenal Locked and Loaded
As you know, Chicago defeated the Boston Bruins, four games to two, earlier in the week, clinching the Stanley Cup with a dramatic come-from-behind 3-2 victory in Game Six.
The difference between this championship and the 2010 Cup is that this time, the Blackhawks have their core players signed and will not have to break up the team because of salary cap reasons like they did in 2010. Goaltender Antti Niemi was the big loss in 2010, but this years' star goalie, Corey Crawford, is signed, sealed, and delivered. Thus, he will be back for the title defense next season.
When the Blackhawks hoisted the Cup last week, only nine players were left from the 2010 team. The core did remain, including Jonathan Towes, Patrick Kane, Duncan Keith, Patrick Sharp, Dave Bolland, and Marian Hossa, who has now played in four finals in the past six years, winning two Cups.
Losing the players they did after 2010 affected the Hawks, as they didn't get out of the first round of the playoffs for the next two years. Along with Niemi, Chicago lost Kris Versteeg, Andrew Ladd, Dustin Byfuglien, John Madden, Colin Fraser, Ben Eager, and Brent Sopel to either free agency or trades in order to stay under the salary cap.
When the Blackhawks return to practice after Labor Day all their star players will be on the ice. Chicago will do everything possible to sign free agent Bryan Bickell, who had a strong playoff season, including scoring the tying goal in Game Six with 1:16 remaining. The Hawks won the game and clinched the Cup seventeen seconds later.
Chicago will be one of the favorites in the West again next season, along with the Los Angeles Kings. With Detroit changing conferences, the West loses a perennial contender. If the 2014 Cup run doesn't offer a replay of this seasons' Chicago- Los Angeles conference final, teams like St. Louis or Vancouver could very well represent the West next season in the Stanley Cup finals.
But the hike to the hardware will definitely be going through Chicago.