I’m just as stunned writing this as you probably are reading it, but the Chicago Blackhawks have been swept by the Nashville Predators in the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs — and just like that, their 2016-2017 season is over
There’s certainly a lot to cover and talk about in the Chicago Blackhawks’ Game 4 loss to Nashville on Thursday, ending their postseason run. But here are my five thoughts about what went wrong in Game 4 (and the series), as well as what the ’Hawks have to look forward to this offseason.
Shoot the puck
Obviously, anything involving the gameplay is irrelevant now since the ’Hawks won’t take the ice again until September, but what happened to the ’Hawks’ shooting mentality? Stop trying to get cute with it. Stop trying to make the perfect pass. Just start firing the puck on the net. Enough is enough when it comes to playing with the puck.
You can’t score if you don’t put the puck on net, and the ’Hawks passed up more great shot opportunities than I can count. No matter what happened in the game, the ’Hawks could have at least made it difficult on Pekka Rinne if they fired the puck on net a few more times, and maybe put somebody in front of the net.
The ’Hawks were beat by the better team
Look, you can slice this anyway you want, but the bottom line is the Blackhawks were beat by the better team and it really wasn’t even close at any point in the series. The regular-season record doesn’t matter. The seeding doesn’t matter. The stats don’t matter.
What mattered in this series is that Nashville took the ice every single game and outplayed the ’Hawks for 60 minutes, with the exception of maybe a period or two.
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The Preds were hungrier. The Preds were stronger. The Preds were faster. The Preds were just plain better. You can point the finger all you want at anyone on the ’Hawks team, but don’t forget to give credit to the Preds for playing a truly great series on all sides of the puck.
How much bad luck can one team have?
I’ll be honest, this was a thought of mine after every single game of the series, but this is the first time that I can actually write about it.
I know the ’Hawks have been aided by some good puck luck on the way to three Stanley Cups, but I’d say they’re even for every puck that has gone their way after what happened this series. I truly can’t think of a single thing that went the ’Hawks’ way, and I’m having a hard time finding something that didn’t go the Preds’ way.
Just to name a few instances, there was the incredible diving save by Rinne, the puck that Corey Crawford couldn’t find that led to a goal and the missed goaltender interference in Game 3, and the goal that Crawford accidentally threw in on his own after making a save in Game 4, among others.
Sometimes you get the bounces and sometimes you don’t, and the ’Hawks were clearly on the wrong side of the luck for four straight games.
It’s going to be a long offseason
After a 50-win season, 109 points and clinching the No. 1 seed in the Western Conference, there weren’t many people in Chicago who thought the ’Hawks would be in trouble this series let alone getting swept. All of that combined is going to make for a very long offseason for the ’Hawks and one that will certainly see some questions and criticisms from fans and media alike.
Ultimately, we can’t say for sure what the ‘Hawks are going to do as there is no clear answer to what needs to be done. The ’Hawks had a lot of rookies on the team, a lot of new faces and the veterans are starting to get older.
While none of those are valid excuses, it’s hard to look at where the Blackhawks need to improve after their second straight first-round exit, but I would start by adding a couple dependable defensemen as well as some depth forwards who can help bulk up the bottom talent for the ’Hawks.
It’s OK if this one hurts
Sports are a funny thing. In an instant, they can lift us up with incredible moments of joy, and in another instant they can break our hearts.
Over the last nine years, we’ve seen the Blackhawks go to the playoffs nine times and lift the Stanley Cup three times. By all measures, Blackhawks fans have had plenty to cheer about and are probably even a little spoiled.
However, that doesn’t make it any easier when they lose earlier than they should have. It doesn’t make it any easier when they go in as a 1 seed and get swept in four straight games. And it certainly doesn’t make it any easier to see your team skate off the ice for the final time for five months.
So let this one hurt. Get mad. Get upset. It shouldn’t have happened the way it did. The past success of a team doesn’t make the current failure any easier to handle. Nothing you do is going to change the outcome of the series, but that doesn’t mean you can’t let your emotions show.
There you have it. Those are my five thoughts following what can only be described as total team failure by the Blackhawks. They were never in a game and they were never in the series. Now, we have a long five-month offseason ahead of us. So sit back, watch the rest of the playoffs and start getting ready for next season, even though it seems so far away.