The Chicago Blackhawks were this close to making it to a second consecutive Stanley Cup Final. They were five playoff wins away from repeating as champions. Ultimately, the Los Angeles Kings won one of the best (and wildest) series in ages, leaving a powerful Chicago team asking itself some tough questions.
Let’s look back at the Blackhawks’ 2013-14 season:
No doubt about it, Corey Crawford’s campaign ended on a sour note. That tends to happen when you allow 25 goals in your last six playoff games, many of which were ugly. Even so, those who can step back and look at the big picture may give Crawford a little more leeway and realize that he’s at least a solid starter. He went 32-16-10 with an acceptable .917 save percentage. He also went on some nice playoff runs, including a six-game winning streak in which he only allowed three goals once and had a shutout (from Game 3 against ST. Louis to Game 2 against Minnesota).
That being said, GM Stan Bowman needs to figure out a backup solution in case Crawford struggles in another playoff series. It seemed clear that Chicago had zero interest in turning to Antti Raanta even during Crawford’s darkest moments.
While the goaltending situation might leave some feeling a little sour, the overall picture of this Blackhawks team is still very bright.
For one thing, Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews continue to distinguish themselves as elite performers. Both seemed to take turns dominating spans of this postseason and regular season. Bowman can lock up each player long-term, as their contracts will expire after the 2014-15 campaign.
Duncan Keith enjoyed the best (or second-best) season of his career, generating 61 points in a dominant year.
The knock on Chicago’s depth is that they struggled at the second center position. That’s true, but many believe that Teuvo Teräväinen has a chance to solve that riddle.
If nothing else, other young players showed promise, including Brandon Saad. Saad formed a dangerous combination with Kane and Andrew Shaw late in the Western Conference finals and could be another difference-maker, especially if the likes of Marian Hossa and Patrick Sharp begin to decline.
It’s foolish to be excessively negative about Chicago after the Blackhawks fell one game short of the Stanley Cup Final, yet the organization will likely try to find a way to be even better next season. That’s a scary thought for the rest of the NHL.
But the chance for at least a single point slipped at the worst possible time, as Jonathan Toews scored with 1:18 left in regulation and then set up an empty net goal from Marian Hossa just a few seconds later to secure the 4-2 win.
The Canucks remain stuck at five wins — just five wins — on the road. They have the 29th-ranked road record in the entire NHL. Only the Arizona Coyotes have been worse away from home ice. So, that’s a problem that needs to be fixed down the stretch.
Vancouver had a chance to move into a wild card spot. Instead, they let the Blackhawks regain momentum as the period went on, and as a result, they remain on the outside of the Western Conference playoff picture for right now.
Corey Crawford earned his 200th career win, making 26 saves. That’s a milestone night for him. For Toews, that’s his most productive night of the season, as he factored into all four Chicago goals, which, of course, included the winner.
So overtime against the New York Islanders seemed like a perfect time for captain Claude Giroux to bust his scoring slump.
Without a goal in his last 12 games, or since Dec. 21 before the holiday break, Giroux finished the Flyers comeback with an overtime goal to give Philly a 3-2 victory on Sunday. Jakub Voracek did great work along the boards to force a turnover from John Tavares, and Shayne Gostisbehere followed up his chance with a quick pass to a wide-open Giroux at the top of the crease.
That comeback win — Philly trailed by two goals early in the second period — bumps the Flyers back into a wild card spot.
Steve Mason had a big game in net for Philly, with 36 saves, while the Flyers fired 47 shots on goal toward Thomas Greiss, although it’s a difficult task trying to re-set and stop Giroux — an accomplished scorer in the NHL — on the doorstep.
Goals, goals and more goals! Blue Jackets outlast Senators for overtime win
Plenty of goals. A little three-on-three overtime. Seemed like an enjoyable afternoon of hockey between the Ottawa Senators and Columbus Blue Jackets.
Well, maybe the goalies, Mike Condon and Joonas Korpisalo, didn’t enjoy it as much.
The Blue Jackets prevailed for a 7-6 overtime win, with Cam Atkinson scoring just 1:09 into the extra period. That’s his 23rd goal of the season. Only two players — Jeff Carter (24) and Sidney Crosby (28) — have scored more goals than Atkinson this season.
With the win, and the Capitals sitting idle today, the Blue Jackets move back into a tie with Washington at 68 points in the fight for first place in the Metropolitan Division.
There were some anxious moments for Columbus.
Rookie defenseman Zach Werenski was hurt blocking a shot in the third period. He briefly left the game, unable to put any pressure on his right leg as he was helped off.
The good news: He only missed a few minutes, returning late in regulation and for the overtime as well, which is important for the Blue Jackets.
#CBJ Zach Werenski said on @FOXSportsOH post-game he "thought it was broken" and "long term" injury when he blocked the shot.
“He’s made a couple of huge mistakes in a game and he comes to the bench, shakes it off and then goes out and makes a great play. For a 19-year-old playing that position and the amount of time he’s getting in key situations with this organization, it’s pretty impressive.”