No comeback this time around.
After the near-magic of the 2011 Stanley Cup Playoffs, some wondered if the Chicago Blackhawks might have saved a little of that for this opening round series against the Phoenix Coyotes. They didn’t.
The Coyotes knocked off the Blackhawks in Monday’s Game 6, ending what can easily be considered a disappointing season for the Hawks.
It was a game that, just based off of the first period, you thought the Blackhawks were going to win. They dominated the puck, firing shot after shot at Mike Smith, and not allowing the Coyotes to attempt anything on offense. But it wasn’t enough.
The Coyotes weathered the storm and came back in a big way, taking the elimination game 4-0 on United Center ice, which also kept the Blackhawks winless at the Madhouse this postseason.
Smith was great once again, as he has been all series. However, it’s pretty easy for a goaltender, especially one playing as well as Smith, to make saves when shots are either at his pads or at the big Coyote in the middle of his jersey. The Hawks needed to create traffic, wreak havoc, and elevate the puck on Smith. But they didn’t.
In the end, it was special teams that ended up being the difference. The Hawks allowed a pair of power play goals and once again failed to convert on their own power play opportunities. Say what you want about Corey Crawford, it’s impossible to put this loss, or the other three in the series on him (more on that later).
Overall, this is an incredibly disappointing end to a disappointing season. This was a team that many expected to leap back into Stanley Cup contention, after an offseason of acquiring savvy veterans. Those pickups didn’t all really work out. Nonetheless, this was a much more talented team than the Phoenix Coyotes, but one club obviously wanted it more.
The Hawks didn’t play at a level they were capable of. And it cost them.
I don’t expect an overhaul this summer, but I do expect moves to be made. The defense needs massive shoring up, and Stan Bowman needs to evaluate who he brings in as role players. We said it last year, and we’ll say it again this year: this team will be back. But it’s going to be up to the front office (and the coaching staff) to help them get there.