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Stan Bowman says changes coming to Blackhawks after ‘unacceptable’ playoff exit

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After winning 50 games during the regular season and entering the playoffs as the No. 1 seed in the Western Conference, the Chicago Blackhawks were one of the most popular picks to win the Stanley Cup. According to the oddsmakers at the start of the playoffs they were the favorites to win it all.

Not only did they fail to win the Stanley Cup, they failed to win a single game in the playoffs, getting swept out of the first-round by the Nashville Predators.

That result is not sitting well Blackhawks management.

General manager Stan Bowman met with the Chicago media on Saturday and did not paint a rosy picture of the Blackhawks’ postseason performance.

Bowman opened his media session with a blistering assessment of the postseason, using the world “unacceptable” three different times, and calling it a “complete failure” in his one minute and 57 second address.

“I am completely, completely disappointed, it is unacceptable to be where we are today,” said a visibly angry Bowman.

He continued: “I am frustrated, I am angry, this was a tough, tough loss for us all to take. Standing here April 22 is not the way we expected our season to end. It is a completely failure when you measure it against the expectations that we have for ourselves. We did not come even close to reaching the standard we have set over the years here. And that is unacceptable. Any successes that we did experience this year are completely overshadowed by the abrupt ending to our season. It is not close to good enough for anybody. I think it is times like now to take a look in the mirror and face facts. And when you do that you look at accountability and that starts with me. I need to be better. There is no doubt about it. I am going to take a look at all things and I can promise you I will be better. Top to bottom we need more. This is unacceptable to be where we are today. There will be change moving forward. Change comes in many different ways. So the specifics of how we are going to change things into next year are not really meant for this forum. But I can promise you we need to be better. Joel is our head coach. he will continue to be our head coach. Joel and I are going to work together to make sure this never happens again.”

This is the second year in a row the Blackhawks have been eliminated in the first-round.

The problem this time around was an offense that was completely shut down by the Nashville Predators, scoring just three goals in the four game series. One of those goals came in the final five minutes of their Game 4 season-ending loss when the team was already trailing the game 3-0 and the series was already all but over. That goal was scored by captain Jonathan Toews, his only goal of the series and only his second in his past 18 playoff games.

Here is the problem the Blackhawks are going to be facing this offseason when it comes to making changes: They are an extremely top-heavy team that is lacking the type of depth it had when it was winning Stanley Cups, while they have some massive contracts that are either going to be really difficult to move (no-move clauses or just contracts that other teams might not be able to take on), or are players they are not going to want to move. It’s going to be interesting to see what sort of changes Bowman is going to be able to make or what direction he is going to go in. Because that talent at the top of the lineup is still elite talent the Blackhawks are going to remain a contender. But until they can replenish some of the depth that has been lost over the years as part of their recent salary cap purges it might not be enough to get back to where they want to be.

 

Elliott would be ‘first to admit’ playoffs went poorly: Treliving

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The Calgary Flames were not blown out of the water by the Anaheim Ducks.

They were swept, yes, but all four games were close. The Flames should’ve at least won Game 3, which they led 4-1 before losing, 5-4, in overtime. In the first two games, it was penalties that hurt them.

Goaltending hurt them, too, as much as GM Brad Treliving was loath to pin the loss on one player.

The reality is, Brian Elliott finished the postseason with an .880 save percentage, the lowest of the 16 starting netminders in these playoffs. He played well at times during the regular season, but his first year in Calgary was ultimately a frustrating one.

“I think everyone would agree, Brian would be the first one, that he’s capable of playing much better,” Treliving said today. “The playoffs didn’t go the way he would like them to go. He’d be the first one to admit it.”

Read more: Flames are back to square one in search for starting goalie

Elliott and backup Chad Johnson can both become unrestricted free agents this summer; however, Treliving would not say what he intended to do about the position. Other potential UFAs include Ben Bishop and Scott Darling. Perhaps Marc-Andre Fleury will be available, too.

Before making any decisions, Treliving wants the sting of the playoff loss to wear off first.

“Emotion and frustration, I haven’t seen them ever be helpful in decision-making,” he said.

Like his two goalies, Treliving doesn’t have a contract extension either, and naturally there’s been talk he could land elsewhere if the Flames don’t buck up to keep him. The Buffalo Sabres have an opening at the GM position, if you didn’t hear.

Treliving was quiet about that as well.

“My situation, that’ll get dealt with when it gets dealt with,” he said. “That’s not for today.”

Looking back on the season as a whole, the Flames did make considerable progress, going from 77 points to 94 and a spot in the playoffs. Things didn’t go well against the Ducks, but that doesn’t cancel out all the positives.

“As difficult as the last 48 hours have been, there’s lot to be proud of and there’s a lot to look forward to,” said Treliving. “I think this organization, this team, is on the cusp of being there.

“But our message to the players is, ‘It doesn’t happen because we think we are. It doesn’t happen because we’re going to be a year older or a year wiser. It happens because we’re going to put the work in.'”

A ‘long summer’ awaits the Blackhawks, who went out with a whimper

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For the second straight year, the Chicago Blackhawks couldn’t survive the first round of the playoffs.

This year’s elimination was much worse, though.

The ‘Hawks were swept by the Nashville Predators, by far the better team in the series. At least last year it was a fight with the St. Louis Blues, who needed seven games to oust the then-defending champs.

“It was a major disappointment across the board,” coach Joel Quenneville said last night, per CSN Chicago. “I don’t think anybody exceeded their expectations. We don’t compete to the level that’s necessary. I take that personally, as a coach, that we didn’t find the all-out button, didn’t get the job done.”

In hindsight, perhaps the Blackhawks overachieved during the regular season, when they won 24 one-goal games, the most in the NHL.

“Maybe we won a couple close games that might have made us feel like we were better than we really were,” said Patrick Kane, per the Chicago Sun-Times.

But the ‘Hawks were still a good team. They were the No. 1 seed in the Western Conference. It’s not like they were lucky to make the playoffs.

“I think the switch just didn’t turn on,” said captain Jonathan Toews. “I’m not going to sit here and try and come up with those reasons right now. We’ll have some thinking to do in the next few days and we’ve got a lot of time before next season.”

What the ‘Hawks really need is for their youth to step up and become impact players. Nick Schmaltz showed flashes this year, but not when it counted. Ryan Hartman scored 19 goals in the regular season, but none in the playoffs.

Blackhawks rookies against the Preds

 

On the back end, the ‘Hawks should move on from veterans Brian Campbell and Johnny Oduya, both pending unrestricted free agents. They need Gustav Forsling and Michal Kempny to play bigger roles, and soon.

A consequence of all their success, the ‘Hawks are not blessed with a pile of top-end prospects. The last two years they haven’t drafted in the first round, and they haven’t picked in the top 10 since 2007 when they got Kane. Their most intriguing prospect is Alex DeBrincat, a 19-year-old winger who averaged two points per game for the Erie Otters this season. However, it remains to be seen how his game will translate to the NHL. And if it does, when.

It is too soon to throw dirt on these Blackhawks, who still boast a core that’s won three Stanley Cups. But there will be plenty of soul-searching in the weeks and months ahead. This loss to the Predators was a shock to the system.

“Coming into the playoffs, I think we felt pretty confident,” said Kane. “So yeah, I mean, disappointing, shocked. I don’t know. Yeah. It’s going to be a long summer, for sure.”

Toews, Kane, Blackhawks feel emptiness, shock after sweep to Predators

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Even those who picked the Nashville Predators to upset the Chicago Blackhawks didn’t anticipate a clean sweep and a 13-3 goal differential. Who anticipated the series opening with two shutouts and the Blackhawks getting so little from Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews?

The Blackhawks aren’t immune to the emptiness and disappointment that came with being absolutely dominated by the Predators.

Jonathan Toews described it as “falling flat on your face,” even if he also praised the “relentless” Predators. The Blackhawks captain said the only feeling that would be worse would be falling short of the playoffs while Patrick Kane admitted it would be a long summer. Especially when you see stats like these, which hit you more bluntly than any possession stats (which look great for many Predators) would do:

Yikes.

This was the first sweep in Predators’ franchise history and the first time the Kane – Toews – Joel Quenneville Blackhawks suffered such a fate. Things sounded truly dour, with Kane wondering if the Blackhawks were lulled into a false sense of security by close wins and Coach Q … well:

Sheesh.

The Predators humbled the Blackhawks in this series. There are few ways to gloss over how one-sided things were at times.

Give Chicago credit for acknowledging that, even if many of their comments would mix well with an emo soundtrack.

Blackhawks become prey as Predators make huge statement with sweep

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The Nashville Predators managed something they’ve never done before and something basically no one manages to do on Thursday night.

For the first time in franchise history, they managed a playoff sweep. And it’s not like they did it against the Brooklyn Brawler; the Predators knocked out the top seed in the Chicago Blackhawks, the first time the Jonathan ToewsPatrick Kane edition of that team has ever been knocked out in four straight.

MORE: Blackhawks feel empty after resounding defeat

And make no mistake about it. Shutting down those two superstars and the other dangerous Blackhawks scorers ranks as one of their many rare accomplishments. They locked the series down with a convincing 4-1 victory tonight.

Pekka Rinne unquestionably deserves a ton of the credit. He remarkably managed two straight shutouts to begin the series. He almost had a third, but Toews scored his first tally of the series to spoil that late in Game 4.

Even so, it’s resounding that the Blackhawks were only able to score in two different periods during the entire series. Nashville outscored Chicago 13-3 in a stunning series.

MORE: No doubt about it, the Predators are brimming with confidence

While Rinne rightfully grabs a ton of headlines, plenty of other Predators stood out.

  • Ryan Johansen sure looks like the first-line center that Nashville was hoping for when they made that pivotal trade involving Seth Jones.

  • The Predators really enjoyed an advantage they subtly exploited during the season: their deep, talented defense was great. P.K. Subban didn’t score a ton – at least by his standards – but apparently he titled the ice.
  • It’s fitting that Viktor Arvidsson scored the empty-netter to really seal things up. He sure seemed to make more of a difference than merely getting two goals. You could probably make a similar argument for Kevin Fiala, who caused havoc with his speed and scored that crucial Game 3 double-overtime-clincher.
  • And, hey, Peter Laviolette gets a little revenge for the Blackhawks beating his Flyers in a Stanley Cup Final many moons ago.

The Predators came into 2016-17 with a lot of hype, but considering their place as the final team in the West, they didn’t always live up to it. Some of that was bad luck, some was poor execution.

Now the Predators dropped the team of this generation, a squad that was able to optimize its strengths enough to win the Central Division and No. 1 spot in the West.

Sure … with another first-round exit, there’s the question that maybe the Blackhawks are running low on  gas (or at least might suffer from “feast or famine” runs).

Of course, the thrilled fans at Bridgestone Arena might counter that it’s merely all coming together for a team that’s much better than its season indicated.