Beep, beep, beep, beep…..
Five more minutes mom!
For the Blackhawks, this series started with an ominous tone. In the first ten minutes of Game 1, it was clear that someone had pressed the snooze button. Fortunately, the Blackhawks woke up for the last 40-50 minutes of the game but they still went scoreless. In Game 2 they were faced with a similar issue.
This time, someone may have gotten a little overzealous playing Mario Kart and disconnected the team’s controller. They were lifeless, and ineffective for one of the most painful displays of hockey that Chicago has seen in many years. The defense looked sluggish, the offense looked like pixelated versions of themselves on an old school Atari game that sat in the sun for too long, and Corey Crawford simply looked stunned as he was hung out to dry.
It was an epic failure to a launch that felt like the ghost of Christmas future here to foreshadow the collapse that would have the opposing netminder Pekka Rinne put up two assists, while the entire Blackhawks roster registered ZERO. Yes, zero. The Blackhawks offense went missing so fast, they didn’t even have time to put it on a milk carton.
Shocking. Pekka Rinne tied Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane, the Blackhawks' leading scorers in the series, with two points.
— Ken Campbell (@THNKenCampbell) April 21, 2017
They were shut out in three periods where they literally looked like they were reenacting The Walking Dead from the zombie’s point of view. It really was an Emmy-worthy performance in the category of 60-minute horror show, unfortunately, it was completely panned by the audience. Two thumbs down, zero stars, do not pass go, and most certainly do not collect two hundred dollars.
There would be no stay of execution for the team that failed to execute the brand of hockey fans have come to expect from the Blackhawks.
Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, and Dennis Rasmussen managed to score in the final two games after being shut out and booed on their own ice, but that was all they could muster. The Predators did not discriminate as everyone was shut down, and the wellspring of puck luck that the Blackhawks have always seemed to have in their back pockets was the Sahara Desert.
Apparently, the Cubs ending a 108-year drought meant the Blackhawks got the box of Lucky Charms with no marshmallows because not even a little puck luck could right the ship this year.
I'm not surprised the Blackhawks got swept. It was part of the contract Chicago signed with the devil to bring the Cubs a World Series.
— Kelen Keller (@KelenKeller38) April 21, 2017
This was particularly evident when Crawford got a lucky break as the puck rang off the iron and landed on the back of his blocker. Unfortunately, Crawford swung his arm back thinking it had landed somewhere out front and slid the puck right into his own net.
It was truly a Charlie Brown moment.
It is a credit to the Predators who executed their plan with surgical precision. They clogged up the neutral zone forcing the Blackhawks to dump the puck in; they were disciplined in giving little up in terms of penalties, and they capitalized on the frequent turnovers from the Blackhawks who had trouble connecting on passes throughout the series. The Blackhawks had been beaten at their own game. Handily.
For the Blackhawks, much of their time was spent chasing the puck, and subsequently the games. At no point did they look like the team that earned 109 points during the regular season. Sure, they had some great shifts as the final game was winding down, but it was all just a little too late.
The Blackhawks had already fallen down the rabbit hole.
The Blackhawks have been built as a possession team, it’s what won them three Stanley Cups, but each year the numbers are a little less dominant with respect to their ability to control the puck. While some of that can be attributed to age, it is also a sign that the teams around them have been paying attention.
Teams are no longer marveling at the Blackhawks, they’ve studied and done their homework as they worked diligently to level the playing field. They’ve followed the same blueprints the Blackhawks did as they emulated the Detroit Red Wings when they stole the torch and lit their own path to the Stanley Cup in 2010.
This year, the shoe is on the other foot. It’s ugly and it doesn’t fit very well.
— NHL on NBC (@NHLonNBCSports) April 21, 2017
Foreclosing on Past Debts
Winning comes at a price and the Blackhawks have been taking out loans to mortgage their way into the Playoffs year after year. Every team does it, they make a deal with the devil to keep that window open just a little bit longer.
After a season that put the Blackhawks in the top spot in the West, the house went into foreclosure as the scoring dried up, the defense blew a tire, and the quarterback threw to the other team. There is enough blame to go around, and I’m sure everyone in that locker room is taking this loss personally. Unfortunately, that won’t take away the sting of this defeat. Now, the Blackhawks will be forced to come out and prove there is something left in the tank next season, but exactly who will be hitting the ice next fall is very much up in the air.
The future of this team is likely to be dramatically different once the dust settles as Vegas will take their pound of flesh in Trevor van Riemsdyk, or perhaps Marcus Kruger (unless the Blackhawks dangle a carrot to sway them in another direction) and the bloodletting is unlikely to stop there.
Perhaps a core defenseman will find his way onto the trade block in order to get out from under the crushing weight of the salary cap. Maybe, a centerman will be on the move after the Blackhawks absolutely abysmal faceoff performance. Both Kruger and Artem Anisimov were below 40% on the dot, and even Toews lost a few in critical situations. That stat line certainly contributed to their painful demise as well. Perhaps one of their rookies will be jettisoned to a new team in an effort to make room for Alex DeBrincat or Alexandre Fortin, and change in net is virtually certain as Scott Darling is a free agent and will likely command a hefty price tag.
For the first time since their early exit in 2011, even Joel Quenneville might be feeling some heat. Hopefully, Q’s successes in Chicago will be enough to keep him in the Windy City, but a number of coaches have been sacked for less. He is currently signed through the 2019-20 season.
It’s anyone’s guess what is to come, but it is certain after an embarrassing performance Bowman is likely to look long and hard at the roster and make some really tough decisions. Decisions that may taste even worse than the bitterness that is bound to linger throughout the offseason and quite possibly into next season.
The Blackhawks went quietly into the night, after suffering a fatal blow delivered by Colonel Mustard (Rinne) and his army with a hockey stick in Nashville.
Beep, beep, beep, beep……
Go back to sleep honey, I’ll wake you in October.