This is my least favorite write up of the season, the last one. The Blackhawks absolutely dominated the 1st and 2nd periods but once again had nothing to show for it. Mike Smith, who is on the run of a lifetime, stole Game 6 and was the biggest factor in the Coyotes’ series win. He was fantastic all series long with 3 overtime wins and a shutout in the elimination game. He is starting to remind of former Blackhawks and Coyotes goaltender Nikolai Khabibulin’s run to the Cup in 2004 with Tampa Bay. Speaking of Tampa, why did they keep Dwayne Roloson over Smith?
The Hawks had out shot Phoenix 28-8 after 2 periods but were trailing 1-0. It was so frustrating to be trailing after giving up a power play goal on a garbage call to Jonathan Toews. But, you couldn’t help feel this coming. The longer the Hawks went without a goal the more you felt the end was coming. The Hawks had so many chances to score multiple goals. Dave Bolland missed a wide open net. If Brendan Morrison could lift the damn puck he would have scored. Smith was having a skate issue through most of the 1st period where he couldn’t stay on his feet. Did the Blackhawks force him to move from post to post? Nope. Of course Smith had a shutout. When a goalie, who has been as hot as Smith, can see every shot he is going to stop them all.
The 3rd period the Coyotes came out like a sniper laying in the weeds and took control of the game. The Hawks had no answer and let the game and the season slip away after such a promising start. General Manager Stan Bowman is going to have a long and interesting summer. There are a lot of decisions to be made. We can not keep wasting these years with Toews, Patrick Kane, Patrick Sharp, Brent Seabrook, Duncan Keith and Marian Hossa in their prime. Back to back 1st round eliminations after a Cup is not acceptable. No one gets a free pass, from the top to the bottom. This team should and can be a legit Cup contender again next season, if the right moves are made. What are those right moves? Well, we will have lots of discussion about those over the next few months. Here on the observations on why the Hawks are going golfing tomorrow.
- The biggest reason for the Hawks playoff defeat; 1-for 19 on the power play. That is 5.3%, by far the worst in the 1st round. In a series that featured 5 overtime games not being able to come up with clutch power play goals ultimately did the Hawks in. Everyone knew this was going to happen. Anyone who thought the Blackhawks would suddenly fix their power play because its the playoffs had to have broken into Q’s stash of magic mushrooms. This is something that needs to be Bowman’s top priority in the summer. And if Mike Kitchen still has his job I will be very upset.
- Why did the Blackhawks wait until Game 6 to force their will on the Coyotes? Had they played the entire series like they did in the first 40 minutes last night things would have been very different.
- Where were the stars? Toews, Kane, Sharp and Viktor Stalberg combined for 3 total goals. That isn’t going to get the job done. You can throw Marian Hossa in this group. Yes, I know he essentially played only the first two games but he was a non factor in those games.
- Why was Sean O’Donnell allowed to play in this series? He was on the ice for 2 of the 3 OT losses. His horrible decision to pinch in Game 4 lead directly to Phoenix’s game winning goal. The 6th defensive spot was a glaring hole all season long and was exposed in the playoffs. O’Donnell, Sami Lepisto and Dylan Olsen were a combined -6.
- Here’s another question for Q; why did it take an Andrew Shaw suspension to play Michael Frolik? Frolik was the best Hawks forward in the series but he missed the first two games so Brandon Bollig can waste a uniform.
- No net presence from the Hawks. Mike Smith’s biggest weakness has always been giving up rebounds and he gave up plenty in this series. The problem was there were never any Blackhawks around the net to clean them up. Another major issue that needs to be addressed.
- I really enjoyed watching the progression of Viktor Stalberg and Marcus Kruger down the stretch but they were both invisible in this series. Stalberg managed two assists but was rather ineffective. Kruger was a shell of himself in this series. He had no points and finished a -4. Not good for a guy who has been touted as a very good defensive center.
- Corey Crawford has shown me nothing over the season that makes me believe he will ever be an elite goalie. His save percentage was .893 against the Coyotes. You are not going to win many playoff series with a save percentage like that. His two soft goals in overtime will be a very hard image to erase from my memory. Crow is 3-4 in playoff overtime games. Elite goalies excel in overtime they don’t let in goals from the side of the net. Right Michael Leighton?