Cup Scouting Report: Blackhawks

Opponents provide breakdown on how to battle, beat Chicago

Originally Published: April 28, 2013
By Craig Custance | ESPN Insider

Corey CrawfordPerry Nelson/Getty ImagesCorey Crawford's improved play has lifted Chicago this season.

Craig Custance chats with rival scouts and players to break down the strengths and weaknesses of the Chicago Blackhawks.

The Blackhawks are built so perfectly and playing so well as a team that there's really only one way they make an early exit: if they have a hard time matching the intensity of a No. 8 seed that fought hard to get into the playoffs.

With such an incredible regular season, one that never suffered any dips like many of the other Stanley Cup contenders, Chicago  hasn't played a meaningful game in weeks. Maybe months.

The Blackhawks clinched a playoff spot three weeks ago, so they'll have to find that intensity right away. It can be a tough switch to flip.

"It's a big challenge," said one NHL coach who has been in a similar position. "If your fingers don't get to the switch right away, boy, you can be in trouble."

The advantage is they have a group that isn't far removed from winning a championship. They know what's ahead.

"They're confident," said the coach. "They understand what it takes. The leadership group is there."

KEY STRENGTH: "Chicago's Chicago. They're so talented and they work so hard. I think their team unified. So they've got a lot of things going for them," said a Western Conference forward.