Blackhawks begin uncertain off-season after sweep by Preds
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CHICAGO — Just two short weeks ago, the Chicago Blackhawks were closing out another successful regular season. The top seed in the Western Conference was wrapped up, and Jonathan Toews and company were a common pick for another run to the Stanley Cup.
Four games later, it's all over.
Chicago was swept right out of the playoffs by the Nashville Predators, who skated circles around the Blackhawks for most of the first round. The Blackhawks looked tired while managing just three goals in four
"When you don't compete to the level that's necessary, I take that personally, and as a coach, we didn't find the 'all-out' button and get the job done," coach Joel Quenneville said after Thursday night's 4-1 loss in Game 4 in Nashville.
Chicago also was eliminated in the first round last year, bowing out in seven games against the St. Louis Blues. Back to back early playoff exits for the team that won Stanley Cups in 2010, 2013 and 2015 send general manager Stan Bowman into the
The Blackhawks continue to play right at the top of the salary cap, making any sort of major move a tricky proposition. But it looks as if age might be catching up to some of the team's most important pieces, and several of its best young players flopped in the
"It's tough enough to lose a series and fall short. It's a whole different story to lose four straight and get swept like we did," Toews said. "I think we've got guys in this room that have experienced the highs of going all the way, and aside from what it would feel like to miss the playoffs, especially with the potential in this room, this has to be the next-worst feeling for sure."
Toews, who won the Conn Smythe Trophy as the playoff MVP in 2010, has just one goal in his last 13
Almost everyone on the Blackhawks seemed to have trouble with Nashville's athletic top line of Viktor Arvidsson, Ryan Johansen and Filip Forsberg. Duncan Keith, the Conn Smythe winner in 2015, finished with a minus-6 rating, and fellow
"We didn't play the game that's supposed to be played in the playoffs," winger Artemi Panarin said through an interpreter.
While the salary cap likely will be a major factor, Bowman has some intriguing options when it comes to addressing areas of concern.
With veterans Brian Campbell and Johnny Oduya likely headed for free agency, the Blackhawks could take a closer look at young
The upcoming expansion draft also could affect Bowman's plans. Center Marcus Kruger, a key penalty killer and one of the Blackhawks' best players against the Predators, and young
In the meantime, the Blackhawks are left to lament what happened in the franchise's shortest stay in the playoffs since Quenneville took over in 2008. It was the first time a No. 1 seed was swept in the first round since the NHL adopted its current playoff format in 1994.
"I think every game they seemed to get better and just thrived off what happened the last game and every single time we could not start the game the right way," Toews said. "We would get behind, start forcing
AP Sports Writer Steve Megargee contributed to this report.
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Jay Cohen can be reached at http://www.twitter.com/jcohenap