Blackhawks

Stan Bowman 'completely, completely disappointed' with Blackhawks

Stan Bowman 'completely, completely disappointed' with Blackhawks

Stan Bowman walked to the lectern with a note in his hand, a few things written down. It was unusual for Bowman to do so; his opening remarks are usually off the cuff.

But there was nothing usual about Saturday, a day the Blackhawks should have been hosting the Nashville Predators for Game 5 of their first-round series. Instead, the Blackhawks general manager was leading off the team's locker-cleanout day. It was much earlier than expected and he was predictably angry about it.

"I'm completely, completely disappointed. It's unacceptable to be where we are today," Bowman said. "I'm frustrated, I'm angry. This was a tough, tough loss for us all to take. Standing here April 22 is not the way we expected our season to end. And it's a complete failure when you measure it against the expectations that we have of ourselves. We did not come even close to reaching the standard we have set over the years here. And that's unacceptable."

Bowman used the word "unacceptable" numerous times, and understandably so. After a great regular season, the Blackhawks crashed and burned in the first round. Considering how poorly it went, Bowman said there will absolutely be changes this offseason.

"There will be change moving forward; change comes in many different ways. So the specifics of how we're going to change things into next year are not really meant for this forum. But I can promise you we need to be better," Bowman said.

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There has been plenty of change for the Blackhawks in every offseason, but usually that's been due to cap. This being due to poor performance is something they haven't dealt with in a while.

"I understand that they're upset. Going out the way we did was not acceptable and if Stan thinks we need a change, you know, we might need a change," Niklas Hjalmarsson said. "He's pretty good at what he's doing, so I guess we'll see what happens over the summer."

So how do you make changes on a team loaded with lengthy contracts, many of which comes no-movement clauses? It can be done, but it's up to finding a team with some cap room and a player who's willing to OK the deal. The Blackhawks have made that work before; in the summer of 2011 they traded Brian Campbell and Campbell's then-sizeable control to the Florida Panthers. But one way or another, be it with different players or a different attitude, the Blackhawks say they need to find what they lacked in these playoffs.

"It seems like Nashville had more bite and more aggression. In the playoffs you have to bring it and we didn't answer," Duncan Keith said. "I know I could've played better and we all could've played better. As a team you have that aggressiveness and energy and bite and pushback. Just seemed like it wasn't there."

One area that won't change is at coach. Bowman said, "Joel [Quenneville] is our head coach. He will continue to be our head coach. And Joel and I are going to work together to make sure that this never happens again.

Outside of that, however, it sounds like the Blackhawks will take a thorough look at things this summer, reassess and see what they can do to be better. The Blackhawks thought they were in good shape heading into the playoffs. But their lack of performance there, proved otherwise. Anything they accomplished in the regular season seemed worthless.

There's no doubt the Blackhawks will look long and hard at things this offseason, which came a lot faster than anyone expected.

"I guess anger is probably as good a word you can express with where we're at and how I feel. After the game, you had a sense over the last couple of games and series that it was one of those, whether frustration or whatever word is a negative connotation that jumps out, explains where we're at and how we're feeling," Quenneville said. "Figuring it out is the process now."

How Blackhawks' unlikely heroes on defense are providing boost in Oilers series

How Blackhawks' unlikely heroes on defense are providing boost in Oilers series

Jonathan Toews was dominant in Game 1's 6-4 win and he was back at it in Game 3. But, with the special teams woes the Oilers have been causing the Hawks in touting a power play that was No. 1 in the NHL at the time of the pause and a penalty kill that was No. 2, not to mention the top two points leaders in the league during the regular season (Leon Draisaitl and Connor McDavid), Chicago needed some unlikely heroes to emerge in the series.

Enter Blackhawks defensemen Connor Murphy, Olli Maatta and Slater Koekkoek.

With Game 3 tied 3-3 and just 1:16 remaining early Thursday morning, Murphy fired a wrist shot to put the Hawks ahead. It even appeared as if he scored the goal himself at first, but Toews was credited with his second goal of the game on the play and Murphy with the primary assist. The D-man finished Game 3 with a +/- rating of +1 in 21:55 of ice time.

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"Just a lucky bounce," a modest Murphy said of his play that helped the Blackhawks take a 2-1 lead in the best-of-five series, having the Oilers facing elimination in Friday's Game 4. "Didn’t throw (a) hard one at the net. I saw Tazer had good position. He was all alone in front, should be able to get a tip on it. ... Just those last minutes of games, every faceoff’s so huge, obviously that one being a big one to get a shot off."

Koekkoek got the primary assist on Matthew Highmore's first career postseason goal which tied the game 3-3 at 14:13 of the third.

Maatta scored the first goal of the game 9:14 into the opening frame off a pass from Patrick Kane and picked up the secondary assist on Highmore's goal. 

"He's got experience from playing in the playoffs, it's nice to have that, and he's done a great job defensively, killing penalties and he's calm back there," Blackhawks coach Jeremy Colliton said of Maatta, who won two Stanley Cups with the Pittsburgh Penguins before coming to the Hawks, after the game. "He's been able to chip in offensively, too, that's always a bonus. Our D as a whole are doing a great job of getting pucks through and getting it to the net, and we're going to need to continue to do that."

Related: Blackhawks overcome special teams woes, complete comeback in Game 3

Maatta has a two-game goal streak in the series and he and his D-partner, Koekkoek, were the only blueliners in Game 2's 6-3 loss with a positive +/- rating (+2). Maatta had one goal in Game 2 and Koekkoek a goal and an assist.

"I think we do a great job whenever we get in the zone, our forwards do a great job holding onto the puck. That makes them collapse a little bit. They do a good job of giving us the puck with a little more time. It hasn't been only me and Kooks," Maatta said of the Hawks blueline's contributions to the series. "It's been Haaner (Calvin de Haan) and Murph and Duncs (Duncan Keith) and Boqi (Adam Boqvist). They're getting pucks through and it feels like every time we get it to the net our forwards are in good position, battling for them, getting rebounds, getting tips. It makes it tough for them."

According to Murphy, with the way the Blackhawks' forwards and D have been effectively collaborating in the offensive zone, it's best for Chicago's defensemen to just keep firing pucks on net when they can.

"It’s always part of your game plan," Murphy said. "Especially our forwards draw good attention when they’re entering the zone, knowing that we’ve got a lot of firepower in them, a lot of skill and strength. They do a good job of drawing wingers down to them. It leaves a couple of open shots. Kooks and Olli have been hot lately and have really smart shots they get through, go in. That’s always a good plan."

Podcast: Blackhawks take 2-1 series lead with amazing 4-3 win over the Oilers

Podcast: Blackhawks take 2-1 series lead with amazing 4-3 win over the Oilers

Host Pat Boyle is joined by 2013 Stanley Cup champion and Blackhawks analyst Jamal Mayers as they discuss the Hawks' 4-3 win over the Oilers in a game that went down to the final 1:16. They discuss Toews' game-winning goal, the commanding lead the Hawks took in the series, and will the Blackhawks be able to close the Oilers out in game 4?

(1:15) - Biggest takeaway from the Hawks' win

(8:09) - Hawks special teams breakdown

(10:20) - Hawks' power play

(15:20) - How will the Oilers respond to being one game away from elimination?

(22:00) - Will the Hawks be able to close out the Oilers in game 4?

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