I believe Jim Morrison penned a song once for times like these - this is the end.
The Phoenix Coyotes advanced to the second round for the first time in history which means no more scheduling our social lives around Blackhawks games. At least until October.
So what went wrong?
In one word: Goaltending. To be perfectly clear, Mike Smith was nearly impossible to score on. No discredit to the Coyotes, but Smith blocked 39 shots and even Coyotes Captain Shane Doan made it clear he was aware that Smith was the reason his team won stating "You know what? Smitty was unbelievable and thankfully he's on our team. It was a good way to win".
Post-game the Blackhawks were understandably frustrated for not being able to get even one goal past the 6'4 Goaltender (who if we all remember from Game 2 of this series, does a great impression of Italy's National Soccer team). Said Toews: "I don't know what to say right now, we worked so hard, we had so many chances, and every time we had a chance and it didn't go in, we said, `Keep working, we'll get another one. It'll go in eventually...we got so many pucks through and they always found a way to hit him in the head, the pads or the shoulder. We didn't get any lucky ones on him. He played great, but we didn't find a way to beat him." Sad statements from the Captain. And rightly so, everything seemed to be coming up 'Yotes last night.
The Blackhawks were playing without their best two-way player, Marian Hossa. Hossa was an integral force all season, and having him really helped the team stay strong after Toews was sidelined for 22 games with a concussion during the regular season. After Torres knocked Hossa out in Game 3 of the Playoffs, the Hawks were at a disadvantage. Again.
The cycle of players recovering only for another one to get knocked out this season was dizzying, so lots of credit is due to the Hawks for being able to make it to the Playoffs in the first place.
Truthfully though, for the names on their Roster, they SHOULD make it regardless (even though some other teams with "big names" didn't have the same fortune) - and I'm not trying to make them sound better than they are - but, they've gone through a lot of hardship this season. Looking back, the way our boys handled it all makes them pretty f-ing great!
Not only were they able to keep their heads up during that awful 9-game losing skid earlier in the year, they went on - without Toews - to beat the likes of the Blues, the Canucks, the Rangers, and yes even the Predators. Those are proud memories from this season I personally will look back on and smile about.
They've achieved so much under very trying circumstances, but admittedly, it hasn't always been zen. There have definitely been times I've had some words for this team (see HERE, or HERE). It was only natural, I mean how many times have we watched Patrick Kane get just a little too cute with the puck, or Viktor Stalberg act out impulsively, or even the nearly flawless Duncan Keith turn the puck over? And how many of those times did it make us mad? Exactly.
Logically though, what purpose does it serve to get mad at Keith, who wears himself down to play nearly 30 mins per game (on average)? Or Kane who has scored so many crucial goals? Or even Stalberg, who has been a huge contributor to the goal tally this season? It's more destructive than anything to hold these guys to unrealistic standards and expect them to do everything perfectly all the time. There is already an incredible amount of pressure on them out on the ice - so, I don't care how much they get paid - they're only human and cannot be expected to orchestrate miracles upon command. People are so quick to forget the good things this team has done and put all their slip-ups under a microscope which is actually unfair.
Maybe we do this because we are so spoiled with the talent and class on this team? We have the best Dangler, the best Captain, the best Defensive duo, one of the most effective Snipers, the best Enforcer, and the most interesting Rookies on our team (just to name a few things), and our Coach is pretty cool too - so, maybe we expect so much because subconsciously we don't realize how good we have it compared to other teams. Either way, we should be happy: These guys work hard and yes, maybe they didn't go as far as we all would have hoped, but honestly, they haven't really given us much to be legitimately sore about this season.
Aside from their obviously lacklustre Powerplay which is an issue that has been nit-picked to death by everyone.
Tightening up the Powerplay will need to be a priority for next season. It should also be a priority to maintain the flow some of the guys have been rocking as of late. Duncan Keith can go ahead and shed that Playoffs mullet, but it's not too terrible to see longer, sleeker hair replace Jonathan Toews' regular Lloyd Christmas-like haircut. And I don't have to say it, but Patrick Sharp definitely doesn't need to get a haircut any time soon. But, as great as everyone looks with their new steez, Brent Seabrook gets the award for best hair which is a huge honor (even though I just made the award up).
Joking aside, overall it's been an incredible season and I have genuinely enjoyed every minute of it. A big thank you to Hawks Nation for all your readership and support! I should also thank all my friends in Toronto, London, and Vancouver for their support even though they only read my pieces to chirp (jk). And of course a HUGE thank you to the Chicago Blackhawks for making this all easy by being the best and most fascinating team in the league!
A lot of you have asked if I will continue to post Blogs during the off-season and I think for now the answer is yes. There's lots coming up including the Locker Cleanout/Final Media Day tomorrow, the NHL Awards, and the Blackhawks Convention. I may also have some video snacks and other tricks up my sleeve so stay tuned.
And as always....
Keep the faith, Blackhawks fans!
Tags: beards, Blackhawks, Chi, Chicago, Coyotes, defeat, Doan, End of Season, Game, Game 6, Hockey, Kane, Keith, Locker Cleanout, Madhouse, Marian Hossa, Media, Mike Smith, mullet, NHL, NHL Awards, October, Phoenix, PHX, Playoffs, positivity, powerplay, Raffi, Seabrook, Seabrook hair, Sharp, shutout, Smitty, Snipe, stalberg, Toews, Torres