For the first time in nine seasons, the Chicago Blackhawks will not make it to the Stanley Cup Playoffs. The nine year streak was the second longest active playoffs streak in the league.
Last night’s 5-1 loss to the Colorodo Avalanche made a trip to hockey’s “second season” a mathematical impossibility for these Blackhawks. For a point of reference, last season, the Blackhawks were, at this point in the season, 61 points ahead of the Avalanche, who were at that point dead last in the Central Division.
“Yea, it sucks, and its kind of embarrassing”, said Blackhawks defenseman Connor Murphy. “Not making it is definitely a failure”.
The slide out of playoffs contention didn’t really blindside anybody. The Blackhawks, the front office, and the fans in general have known for a while now that this year’s iteration of the Blackhawks were not build for the rigors of the playoffs. This season has had more ebbs than usual, and the past two months has been an uncontrollable slide, the losses piling and the team grasping at straws to find out why.
For guys like Murphy, who languished in the bottom heap of the league with the Arizona Coyotes for three seasons, it is disappointing to finally be with a contender like the Blackhawks, only to not make the playoffs once again. It may also be like that for guys like Erik Gustafsson and Vinnie Hinostroza, who experienced the playoffs last season but will now be on the outside looking in.
But for Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, Duncan Keith, Brent Seabrook, Corey Crawford and Brandon Saad, the faces of this franchise for the past nine seasons, this year is extra disappointing. The party is finally over for them. Kane, for one, attributes the inevitability to a deflating second half of the season. The Blackhawks were still a playoff team as of January 9th, having a 21-15-6 record. Since then, they have only won nine games, watching helplessly as the season slipped by them with each agonizing loss.
The Blackhawks will need to move on from the chagrin of elimination quickly. They still have eight games left in the season. Kane himself agrees.
“We’re playing for the Chicago Blackhawks, we’re playing in front of 21,000 fans every night. That’s enough motivation right there.”