Like some new blood in the Stanley Cup hunt, NBC ratings be damned. Like a crazed hockey town finally, finally seeing its team get one over on its de facto arch rivals. Like the continuing adventures of the best line of the playoffs with Forsberg, Arvidsson and Johansen. Like the fact that our sweet hockey prince P.K. Subban could potentially play on longer than Shea Weber.
And there are some horrible things to come out of the Blackhawks’ first-round loss. Most of them involving idiots asking for Joel Quenneville’s head because the Cubs finally won and they’re bored.
Why did this happen to the Chicago Blackhawks?
Here are 10 reasons.
10 – Pekka Rinne
Many wondered if a 34-year-old goalie whose last two postseasons saw him finish with a save percentage under .910 had a dominant playoff performance in him. Or, more to the point, wondering when Juuse Saros would make his playoff debut in the series.
And then he wins four straight with two shutouts, a .976 save percentage and a 0.70 goals-against average against the Blackhawks. Wonder no more.
9 – The Game 3 Rally
This was the series, in hindsight.
The Blackhawks build a 2-0 lead by the 11:15 mark of the second period. They only lost five games in the 35 times they held a lead entering the third period during the regular season.
Then Filip Forsberg scored twice in the third, and Kevin Fiala ended it in overtime. That dug the impossible-to-leave 3-0 hole, and basically ended the battle before the final shots were fired.
“Whether it’s confidence or you’re in a bad spot, giving up the 2-0 lead in Game 3 was a tough one to swallow. That was the one where we could have put ourselves back in the series, and we let it go,” said Quenneville.
8 – The Regular Season Told The Story
In the regular season, the Chicago Blackhawks were a top-heavy offensive team — with three of the Top 100 NHL Players of All-Time! — that wasn’t nearly as possession dominant as it was in previous years (53.22 from 2013-16 vs. 50.41 this regular season) and had problems on the blue line.
In the playoffs, the Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane were the only players with more than one point – they had two each. The supporting cast offered nothing in the way of offense, as a team that scored 2.93 goals per game averaged 0.75 in these four games.
The team lost the possession battle with the Predators: According to Corsica, the Hawks were at 47.44 percent when adjusted for score and venue. And that blue line was exposed all series.
They are who we thought they were, or at least many of us should have known they were.
7 – Pekka Rinne
Rinne faced 126 shots and made 123 saves.
I mean, seriously.
6 – The Youth Gone Mild
Throughout their modern-day dynasty, it’s been clear that the Blackhawks are only going to be as good as the reinforcements that replaced their salary cap casualties.
It’s easy to forget there were two quarterfinal losses between their first two Cups. That’s how long it took to replace the several players that had to go after the first Cup – Byfuglien, Ladd, etc. – with an emerging Brandon Saad and Andrew Shaw, and with foot soldiers like Marcus Kruger and Michael Frolik. Their third Cup had even more reinforcements: Antoine Vermette, Brad Richards and a young Teuvo Teravainen among them.
They went young this year, and it worked out in the regular season. Rookies Ryan Hartman, Nick Schmaltz, Tanner Kero and Vinnie Hinostroza did the job for a good portion of the year, and did it admirably.
The Blackhawks’ five rookies that saw time in the Predators series? They combined for zero points and a minus-9. They were not ready for prime time. (Especially Schmaltz, who managed two shots on goal in four games despite 15:22 TOI.)
But yeah, fire Quenneville or whatever.
5 – The Blueline And How It Got So Bad
Stan Bowman has made a lot of trades for the Blackhawks. Some of them to improve the team, some of them necessitated by the salary cap. He’s done well in acquiring talent in those latter deals, but overall, it’s the blue line that’s suffered in all of this annual turnover.
The defensemen acquired by Stan Bowman in the last two seasons: Johnny Oduya, Brian Campbell (signing), Christian Ehrhoff, Rob Scuderi, Jay Harrison and Michal Kempny (signing). Stephen Johns was traded to Dallas, and played 61 games this season.
Oduya showed you can’t always go home again, a sentiment that Campbell echoed a little too often as well. The rest of these pieces, outside of the Kempny signing, were ineffective or inconsequential.
Duncan Keith can’t do it alone.
4 – Pekke Rinne
I mean, seriously: one even-strength goal against on 115 even-strength shots.
3 – Lots Of Miles On Them Tires
The Blackhawks were called “old and slow,” which really isn’t fair: They were just slow.
So while we disagree with the totality of Barry Rozner’s premise, he’s not wrong:
It’s worth considering that the Hawks, after a decade of dominance, are simply worn out. Their best players play in the Olympics, the World Cup, the All-Star Games and every other silly thing you can think of, while also having to carry a roster filled with spare parts and young kids, who look shaky at best on the big stage.
There may have been a couple of Hawks who showed their age in this series, but overall, it just seemed like a team that was half-a-step behind the playoff pace.
2 – Sometimes, The Bullied Little Brother Wins
As a Devils fan living in Rangers country, I can easily identify Bullied Little Brother syndrome.
The Predators had lost two playoff series to the Blackhawks, and the majority of their regular-season games to them. Chicago fans invaded their arena for years when the Blackhawks came to town. They are Original Six. Nashville is ‘Non-Traditional.’
Winning the Stanley Cup was important to both teams, but the Predators might have had more blood thirst to get one over on the Blackhawks. Combine that with the middling regular-season results that the Preds were desperate to not have define them, and there was just a little more wind in their sails all series.
It’s not quantifiable, but anyone who watched the series could see it: an unwavering sense from the Predators that this was their time.
Oh, and this helped too:
1 – Pekka Rinne
Stop it, man, this is absurd.
Congrats to the Predators.
Now, let’s see how Bowman and the Blackhawks respond to this …
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