Game 7 loss, elimination 'really doesn't feel right' to Blackhawks

Game 7 loss, elimination 'really doesn't feel right' to Blackhawks

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.”

[WATCH: Brent Seabrook's shot attempt in third period hits both posts]

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.”

How Blackhawks plan to handle Corey Crawford's workload

How Blackhawks plan to handle Corey Crawford's workload

Corey Crawford is back and it didn't look like he skipped much of a beat. The Blackhawks were handed their first regulation loss of the season to the Arizona Coyotes on Thursday, but the 33-year-old netminder stopped 27 of 30 shots (.900 save percentage) in his season debut and made several timely saves to keep his team in it.

In the larger picture, it was a win based on how well Crawford looked between the pipes.

"Yeah, I think it is," coach Joel Quenneville said after practice on Friday. "It's one of things we were wondering, how he would handle post-game and how he came in today. Very encouraging signs. He felt good in all aspects of what he went through and dealt with, and practiced well today too, so that was good."

The first one is in the books.

But what's the plan going forward? Will Crawford be on a "pitch count" or will they treat him like they have in past seasons when he was healthy?

In the past, Crawford has generally started somewhere in between 55-58 games per season. Part of that has been because of injuries. Another part is the Blackhawks have had reliable backups, which allowed them to give Crawford an extra night off here and there to keep him fresh.

It's not unreasonable, though, to think Crawford could flirt with 50 starts, considering he missed only five games to start the season. And they can still accomplish that by playing it safe.

The Blackhawks have 13 more back-to-backs this season, which gives them the opportunity to start Cam Ward at some point in each of them. That leaves room for another 15 or so starts to sprinkle in for Ward that could serve as rest days for Crawford and still being on track to start around 50.

Obviously, the Blackhawks want to be careful with how much they ask of Crawford because concussions are tricky to deal with and every player responds differently to it.

His return comes at a time where the Blackhawks are slated to play seven games in 11 days after playing just two in the previous 10. Thursday marked the start of that stretch.

"He’ll tell us how he feels and we’ll go from there and make those decisions," Quenneville said.

The Blackhawks have been on record saying they prefer not to carry three goaltenders. But in this case it makes sense. At least in the short term.

Quenneville said Friday that the Blackhawks will reevaluate the situation at the end of the weekend following the beginning of a busy stretch where they'll play three games in four days.

"Yeah, that’s the mindset," he said. "Let’s see how we handle these three in four and then we’ll address it."

Crawford is expected to start on Saturday in Columbus, making it his second start in three days. That's when they'll get a better sense of how he's handling things.

If it were up to him, Crawford said he feels he's prepared for it.

"Yeah, sure," Crawford said. "Why not? I've been working hard with [strength and conditioning coach Paul Goodman]. He's got me where I need to be, so I'm in shape right now. Why not?"

Hawks Talk Podcast: Thoughts on Corey Crawford's season debut


Hawks Talk Podcast: Thoughts on Corey Crawford's season debut

In the latest Hawks Talk Podcast, Pat Boyle, Jamal Mayers and Charlie Roumeliotis recap Corey Crawford’s season debut after missing nearly 10 months with a concussion.

Mayers talks about the Kitty system that Niklas Hjalmarsson and Vinnie Hinostroza probably dealt with in their returns to Chicago.

The guys also discuss what’s next for Crawford, the upcoming matchup against Artemi Panarin and the Columbus Blue Jackets, and the Blackhawks’ biggest areas for improvement.

Listen to the full podcast here or via the embedded player below, and be sure to subscribe, rate us and write a review!