It started out like a game that Blackhawks fans haven’t seen in two seasons. The Hawks were flying all of United Center ice with the ferocity, skill, speed & overall talent that defined the ’10 Stanley Cup champs. They were peppering Coyotes goalie Mike Smith with shots that elicited feelings that Phoenix could not keep up, let alone beat the Hawks. Through the first 20 minutes of game 6, talent was finally showing up.
But the Hawks couldn’t solve Smith in the first 20 minutes, and the momentum quickly turned. It has to be demoralizing to out shoot a team 16-2 and not bury one home. Not jumping on Smith and the Coyotes early in game 6 was as infuriating as Patrick “Invisible Pretty Boy” Sharp no-showing the series.
The final was 4-0, but I had checked out mentally right after the Coyotes jumped to a 1-0 lead after a suspect penalty on Johnathan Toews. By the way, how do you call a questionable penalty of a team’s captain and best player in their elimination game at home? This is the new pussified NHL, but it wouldn’t have mattered.
That’s because it’s hard to make a case for a team deserving to play a game 7 when it goes 1-19 on the power play in the series. The Hawks were swarming more before they got their first man advantage. How is that possible? They were the ultimate one and done on the PP in this series. If they got the puck in the zone for more than 1.8 seconds, it was a miracle.
The Coyotes power play was even worse than the Hawks this season, but they scored 4 goals in 19 chances. And did you know the Hawks didn’t shut a team out all season? That’s right, 88 games and not one 0 on the scoreboard. That’s as embarrassing as the Hawks continued efforts to try and set the record for most shots blocked in a playoff series.
Special teams and Crawford were the doom of this team, as much as the stars not earning their money. I never knew what a Gilbert Brule was, but he had more goals in this series than Patrick Kane and Sharp combined. One of the Hawks’ biggest holes was a second-line center who could play, and Antoine Vermette had as many goals as Hawks first-line center Jonathan Toews.
But as much as Mike Smith is the story of the series, the focus in Chicago should immediately turn to Stan Bowman. He gets a pass for last season because he had to dismantle a championship team that had the Hawks in salary cap hell. But what’s the excuse this season? He had a long off-season that included trading Brian Campbell to free up much needed cap space.
And yet, here are the Hawks with more questions as they head to the summer. That’s quite the indictment on a GM that we’re supposed to trust mainly because of his father’s Cup total and last name.
How can Corey Crawford be brought back as the unquestioned starter after allowing the soft goals he did in games 3 & 4? If the Cup is the measuring stick by which this franchise should be measured, then Crawford isn’t the answer. If he’s your number 2? Fine. But put starting quality goalie at the top of the list.
And what about the defensemen? Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook play so many minutes, it’s hard to judge how good they are. And the second Nick Leddy and Niklas Hjalmarsson find their way on the first one way ticket to anywhere, the better. Add two defensemen who don’t get shots blocked routinely and aren’t afraid of contact to Stanny boy’s list.
If you’ve watched the Hawks at all, you know how badly a second-line center is needed, so work on that too, Stan.
And how good are the Hawks top players? You know how I feel bout GQ Sharp, but can Patrick Kane get his head out of his ass?
You were given a mulligan following the Cup winning season, Stan, but the excuses are gone. The Hawks want to be viewed as a major NHL franchise that expects to hoists Cups in June. If you want to see the image of your players on buses in front of masses again, you better have already started the process of putting a better playoff ready roster together. First round outs don’t legitimize a franchise, and the memory of the Cup won’t last forever. It’s all on you, Stan.