The one-seed Chicago Blackhawks will not be hoisting Lord Stanley over their heads this year. In fact, there won’t even be a playoff win to celebrate period. Blackhawks nation is shocked and saddened to see their beloved team swept out of the first round by the Nashville Predators…badly.
The Blackhawks may have surprised a good amount of people by winning 50 games, but this nightmare of a playoff “run” was much more surprising. Known for their clutch play in April-June, this was the quickest playoff exit in the Bowman/Q era. Though they lost in the first round last season, it was a grinding seven-game series. This, was historically bad playoff hockey. Shutout in two of the four games…including shutout both times at home. They nearly got shutout in game 4 but Toews scored late in the 3rd to get on the board.
Toews and Kane had a combine two goals and scored two of the three goals…ALL SERIES. They could not get anything past Pekka Rinne and were outscored 13-3 in the series. The Hawks looked slow and sloppy and Nashville countered every move they tried to muster together; outcoached, outskated, outmatched. Peter Laviolette had the team defending the zone against the Hawks so well throughout the series they had tough times setting up, and the few times they did, Rinne was there to stop it.
Absolutely nothing went right in the series. Some people are questioning the future of the Hawks. While it is silly to declare that Bowman and Q should be fired then Toews and Kane traded, it is pretty clear some changes need to be made. The defensive core is probably the biggest point of concern, considering most of it was made up of veterans with a lot of miles on them. The Hawks have some great young assets like Hartman, Hinostroza, Motte, Schmaltz, Alex DeBrincat (still a prospect) ect. which is good to have for the future and clearly showed some inexperience in the playoffs.
Kane and Toews are being talked about a lot. People are wondering if Toews is “washed up”, which I do not think he is but maybe he needs to tweak something. He was getting tossed like a ragdoll on the ice which was rough to watch. Keith and Seabrook looked VERY slow and not themselves. As much as I like Seabrook I do feel his best days are behind him and Keith may be approaching that point.
Bowman has work to do, this season overall was odd because they grinded out 50 wins without really dominating like 13-15. They had a really great stretch in February and March before cooling off at the end. The beginning of the season saw them stack up points in games which Crawford or Darling bailed out struggling defenses more often than not. (STOP BLAMING CRAWFORD HE WAS THE ONLY ONE TO SHOW UP CONSISTENTLY! HIS TEAM LEFT HIM TO DRY!)
“Maybe we won a couple close games that might have made us feel like we were better than we really were.” -Patrick Kane to Mark Lazerus
The biggest question of all, “Is the window closing?” If the next wave of prospects turns out and Bowman makes moves for a younger defense, then they can get back into the tick of things. However, there may be a bit more transition time. Heck, this year was supposed to be a “transition year” with all the new youth mixed in with vets.
I am not writing off the near future completely, nor am I saying the Hawks are top favorites to win another next year…so many questions to be answered. It really depends on how the veteran core responds and the continuing developing of the youngsters and what Bowman does to address the defensive core. They cannot win every year, and my expectations going into this year were not gigantic, but I did not see this performance when the playoffs began.
Until next October, Blackhawks nation.