ST. LOUIS – Brent Seabrook’s shot caromed off one goal post before skidding through the blue paint and hitting the other, remaining out of the net.
In all of their success these past few seasons, the Blackhawks have gotten the clutch performances and some of those bounces. They didn’t get enough of either this postseason. And for the first time since 2012, the Blackhawks are done playing hockey in April.
Andrew Shaw scored his fourth goal of the series but former Blackhawks forward Troy Brouwer supplied the winner as the St. Louis Blues eliminated the Blackhawks 3-2 in Game 7 of their first-round series on Monday night.
The Blackhawks are done after the first round for the first time since 2012, when the Arizona (then Phoenix) Coyotes eliminated them in six games.
That team was still trying to rebuild after the post-2010 Stanley Cup purge. This one felt it could go farther, and was tremendously disappointed that it didn’t.
“Huge disappointment for me,” said coach Joel Quenneville. “We didn’t get that excitement factor, we didn’t get that investment to take off.”
The Blackhawks went to the Jonathan Toews-Patrick Kane combination heading into Game 5. Pairing them usually leads to scoring. But not this time: Kane had one goal and Toews had none. Nevertheless, the Blackhawks nearly advanced despite Toews' and Kane’s quiet postseason.
“You get that feeling that it’s going to be one of those things again, we feel from the get-go this season that we got the team to do it again,” Toews said. “I guess it’s obviously a long regular season and you get a tough matchup like St Louis, I guess at the end of the day it doesn’t really matter when you look at the other teams we could have been up against in our division, we’re gonna get a tough matchup in the first round. For a while people were saying this series looked like it was probably going to come down to one goal at the end, and it did.”
Yes it did.
And as much as the Blackhawks were denied on a bounce in their attempt to tie the game, the Blues took advantage of a bounce when they went ahead. Brouwer’s first shot, off a Robby Fabbri pass, hit the post. But he steadied himself and backhanded it past Corey Crawford to give the Blues that lead 8:31 into the third period.
“That was the ugliest goal I've ever scored and probably the most timely goal I've ever scored,” Brouwer said. “I was joking with [broadcaster Darren Pang] that if I didn't put that one in I might quit hockey. I just tried to stay with it; knowing the magnitude of the game, knowing how everything's been going. We've been having great opportunities but haven't been able to put them in.”
The Blackhawks were down 2-0 just 14 minutes into this one, thanks to goals from Jori Lehtera and Colton Parayko.
But just as they had come back from a two-game deficit in the series and a two-goal deficit in Game 6, the Blackhawks came back to tie this one. Marian Hossa scored late in the first period and Shaw added his power-play goal in the second. But that’s where the comeback stopped.
Crawford stopped 23 of 26 in the loss.
“It just doesn’t really feel right. Pretty quick right after to put everything right after into words. Obviously not the outcome we were looking for,” said Kane. “It’s not the exact start you want when you go down 1-0 first shift. That was disappointing. We fought back to get it to 2-2. Obviously they got that goal there in the third and you’re trying to play catch-up again. Maybe one too many times in the hole.”
The Blackhawks aren’t used to this, being done so early in the postseason. They’ve had a lot of success lately but that doesn’t take the sting away this spring. They thought they had enough to make a run at another Cup. They thought they had one more comeback in them. They didn’t.
“Obviously the last three years we’ve had a lot of success in the playoffs,” Duncan Keith said. “I think it’s fun. This is what we play for: these type of games, and these series and playing late into the year. It’s fun having short summers. Obviously, we’re going to have a longer summer this year.”