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Atlanta Thrashers forward Andrew Ladd, formerly of the Stanley Cup champion Chicago Blackhawks, spends his day with the Stanley Cup atop Crown Mountain, B.C., north of Vancouver, on Monday, July 19, 2010. Ladd, a two time Stanley Cup champion, was flown by helicopter to the top of Crown Mountain to watch the sunrise. THE CANADIAN PRESS/ Mark L. Johnson (Mark L. Johnson)
Atlanta Thrashers forward Andrew Ladd, formerly of the Stanley Cup champion Chicago Blackhawks, spends his day with the Stanley Cup atop Crown Mountain, B.C., north of Vancouver, on Monday, July 19, 2010. Ladd, a two time Stanley Cup champion, was flown by helicopter to the top of Crown Mountain to watch the sunrise. THE CANADIAN PRESS/ Mark L. Johnson (Mark L. Johnson)

NHL economics

Did the salary cap <br>kill the Blackhawks? </br> Add to ...

You can already hear the whispers, one game into the series.

With the Vancouver Canucks soundly beating the Chicago Blackhawks in Game 1 last night, a lot of the talk is again about how the NHL's salary cap has decimated the defending Stanley Cup champs and just how hard it is to keep a great team together.

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And there's definitely some truth to that.

For a closer look at how the Blackhawks have changed, here's a look at the lineups, with players ranked by position and ice time, based on who Chicago used against Vancouver last year and who played for them last night.

Rank

Last year (Round 2)

This year (Game 1)

Forward





1.

Toews (20:33)

Kane (23:58)

2.

Kane (19:20)

Toews (23:17)

3.

Hossa (17:57)

Hossa (21:40)

4.

Sharp (17:43)

Sharp (20:56)

5.

Bolland (17:04)

Frolik (18:18)

6.

Versteeg (16:04)

Brouwer (16:25)

7.

Byfuglien (15:15)

Bickell (12:42)

8.

Kopecky (14:00)

Smith (12:29)

9.

Ladd (13:15)

Stalberg (12:10)

10.

Madden (10:42)

Dowell (9:24)

11.

Brouwer (11:19)

Johnson (6:42)

12.

Burish (5:43)

Kopecky (2:22)







Defence





1.

Keith (26:08)

Keith (27:30)

2.

Seabrook (23:17)

Campbell (26:11)

3.

Hjalmarsson (21:01)

Seabrook (23:39)

4.

Campbell (20:42)

Campoli (15:00)

5.

Sopel (17:19)

Hjalmarsson (13:09)

6.

Hendry (8:48)

Leddy (12:11)







Goal





Starter

Niemi (.898 sv%)

Crawford (.939 sv%)

Backup

Huet (DNP)

Turco (DNP)

It's not hard to see what was missing last night for Chicago. With Dave Bolland out with a concussion, Tomas Kopecky leaving the game after only four shifts with an upper-body injury and Niklas Hjalmarsson either hurt or benched, depth was a big problem for the Blackhawks.

Kane, Toews, Hossa, Sharp and Campbell are all being asked to do far, far more than they did in last year's six-game series win. And players like Andrew Ladd, now the captain of the Atlanta Thrashers and a 29-goal man, aren't skating on the third line.

Ben Smith is, even though that was just his seventh NHL game.

With a healthy group, however, this is still a very good Blackhawks team. The blueline remains remarkably similar to the one they won with last season and their top five forwards are the same. Corey Crawford has given them better numbers in goal than Antti Niemi did a year ago during the regular season, and Chicago went 24-13-6 - a 103-point pace - after he took over in goal full-time.

Problem is, the cap crunch from the off-season has limited their forward depth to the point where injuries will really affect their performance and the big guns have to play far more than they did a year ago.

The Blackhawks of a year ago aren't dead, but they've certainly got far less room for error. Especially against a team like Vancouver, which doesn't have any issues with depth at all.

 

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