After coming off an impressive 5-1 victory over the Buffalo Sabres, the Chicago Blackhawks seem to be rounding into shape for a serious run at the Stanley Cup. The Hawks have won three of the last seven Cups.

The return of a man named Hossa

Sunday night’s win highlighted some emerging Hawks strengths. The Hawks line of Patrick Kane, Artem Anisimov and Artemi Panarin has been effective all year. Marian Hossa has enjoyed a resurgence at age 38 and Jonathan Toews has been looking like is old self in recent games.

Something new

In addition to the Hawks residual core, younger players are maturing at a steady pace. Ryan Hartman netted his 15th goal and adds grit to a relatively finesse oriented team. Tanner Kero and Vinnie Hinostoza have joined Hartman and formed a nice line third line.

Earlier in the season, Jonathan Toews played like a guy with a bad back. That seems to have healed. The Hawks have tried a boatload of guys as Toews wingers but Nick Schmaltz and Rich Panik seem to have jelled with him to form a solid line.

For years the Hawks defense corps has relied heavily on Duncan Keith, Brent Seabrook and Niklas Hjalmarsson. While that’s a great trio, depth as been an issue. Free agent signee, Brian Campbell has been a big help, as has the development of young guys, Trevor vanReimsdyk and Michal Kempney. The reduced workload on Keith, Seabrook and Hjalmarsson could play dividends in the playoffs.

Crawford and Darling are pretty good too

The Hawks are also deep in the nets with Corey Crawford being playoff tested and Scott Darling being one of the best backups in the game.

Some, like me, think he’d be a great number one goalie.

Until recently, the thinking has been the Hawks needed to get a top six forward to compete in the playoffs. With the recent excellent play of the team, that may not be the case. If nothing else, the Hawks are now in a stronger position to make a trade if need be.

In this era of a hard salary cap in the NHL, the idea of a team remaining consistently competitive for years is far tougher than it used to be.

Somehow, the Blackhawks keep bucking the odds.

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