Blackhawks exit Stanley Cup playoffs earlier than expected


Dilip Vishwanat

Members of the Blackhawks and Blues form a line to shake hands after game seven.

Jacqueline Brennan, Sports Editor

An early summer faces the Blackhawks after their game seven elimination loss to the St. Louis Blues on Monday April 25th. The Blackhawks have spent the last three seasons playing to at least the Western Conference final; two of those seasons ending with a Stanley Cup.

“It just doesn’t really feel right,” said Blackhawks forward Patrick Kane to the media after the game seven loss.

For many fans, it doesn’t feel right because the Blackhawks are held to a higher standard due to their success in the recent years. But nevertheless, everyone has to accept the reality that the 2015-2016 season is over.

But was the early exit a complete surprise? Many will answer with no. The regular season success was impressive; from Patrick Kane’s point streak to Corey Crawford leading the league in shutouts to Artemi Panarin performing exactly how the Hawks imagined he would, but too many inconsistencies lead to the downfall and early exit.

Players that came over to the team at the trade deadline didn’t meet the expectations that were set for them, which really hurt the depth of the team. This year’s team just couldn’t match up against an improved Blues team.

Everyone had the hopes of a repeat this year; but in this league a repeat is the hardest thing a team can do.

“It’s obviously weird,” said Jonathan Toews. “At the end of the day, I think a lot of people recognize this as two teams with the potential to go far and obviously someone had to go home. It’s unfortunate that we didn’t give ourselves a chance to go deep again.”

It’s disappointing, but at the same time the abrupt exit could be used as advantage. The longer summer vacation could help the team regroup and heal up any nagging injuries that they might have sustained during the season. Needless to say, this team deserves some time off, because they sacrifice their bodies for over half of the year. They’ve earned it.

That being said, the Blackhawks have another tough summer ahead of them facing the salary cap. With Panarin receiving his bonus, that takes away a huge chunk of money from keeping forward Andrew Shaw.

“He’s [Shaw] a heart and soul player, really competitive. He lays it on the line every night,” said Stan Bowman, Chicago Blackhawks General Manager. “We certainly like what Andrew brings to the table. There’s just some things that have yet to be determined, in terms of what’s the salary cap going to be. I don’t have enough information to answer that, but certainly we’d like to try and do what we can to bring him here.”

Shaw was the leading scorer for the Blackhawks this postseason with four goals in six games. He was a big part of why the Blackhawks came back and gave St. Louis a run for their money in this series.

“I want to be back here,” Shaw said. “I’ve been in Chicago for five years now and I’ve made this place my home. We’ve got a lot of friends. I love this city; love the fan support here. Like I said, be patient and wait for the call.”

The Blackhawks are going to do everything they can to keep Shaw but as we’ve seen in the past, that doesn’t always work out. Last season’s cap issues caused the loss of forwards Brandon Saad and Patrick Sharp and defenseman Johnny Oduya.

Since the Blackhawks have been eliminated, who are fans rooting for in their place?

“I really want to see either the Islanders or Capitals to come out of the Eastern Conference and either the Stars or Sharks from the Western Conference,” said Christian Haney, Normal West junior. “I would be fine with any of those four teams winning the cup this year.”

The season may not have ended how everyone expected it would, but fans have nothing to be ashamed of. The Blackhawks had a great season even though they have no hardware to show for it. Next year they will come back with a vengeance.