Blackhawks

Swept away: Predators eliminate Blackhawks from Stanley Cup playoffs

Swept away: Predators eliminate Blackhawks from Stanley Cup playoffs

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Four and out. On the losing end of a postseason sweep for the first time in more than 20 years. On Thursday the Blackhawks’ postseason, which began with so much promise after a 109-point regular season, ended with a thud.

Roman Josi scored twice and Pekka Rinne stopped 30 of 31 shots as the Nashville Predators beat the Blackhawks 4-1 at Bridgestone Arena. The Blackhawks were swept for the first time since the 1993 division semifinals.

“It was a major disappointment across the board,” coach Joel Quenneville said. “I don’t think any of the four games – there was a stretch in the second period where we might have been competing to the level that we needed in the playoffs. We had some stretches in maybe Game 1 and maybe in segments in all four games. Not good enough. I don’t think anybody exceeded their expectations. We don’t compete to the level that’s necessary. I take that personally, as a coach, that we didn’t find the all-out button, didn’t get the job done.”

In the Blackhawks’ locker room there were a myriad of feelings, all in the same range: shock, bewilderment, disappointment and frustration.

“Yeah, I think we probably all thought it was going to go a different way, especially with the regular season you have,” said Patrick Kane. “Coming into the playoffs, I think we felt pretty confident. So yeah, I mean, disappointing, shocked. I don’t know. Yeah. It’s going to be a long summer, for sure.”

Quenneville said it was on him to make sure the Blackhawks were ready for this series – “whatever buttons you have to push, to find a way to make it work, whether it’s lines or excitement,” he said on what he didn’t do. But ultimately it’s the Blackhawks players who didn’t come through. They couldn’t solve the Predators, who were strong from the start. They couldn’t stop the Predators in their end and they couldn’t score at the other. In four games the Blackhawks scored just three goals, and two of them were on the power play.

“A feeling of emptiness. We can’t lose like this,” Artemi Panarin, who went goal-less in the series, said through interpreter Igor Alfimov. “[The Predators] kept it simple. We couldn’t control the puck well. Their defensemen were able to get the puck, get it into the offense. We weren’t able to control.”

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Down 1-0 the Blackhawks made a push in the third period. But about nine minutes into the third the Predators started a push the other way, with Colton Sissons ringing one off the crossbar. The puck got caught under Corey Crawford and when he pushed back, the puck went in behind him to give the Predators’ a 2-0 lead. Josi, who put the Predators up 1-0 midway through the second period, would add his second of the night about 90 seconds later.

“Yeah, it’s tough every time you lose a game in a series like this. It’s tough to mentally battle back and find that confidence and get ready for the next one,” said Jonathan Toews, whose third-period goal was his first postseason tally since the 2015 Stanley Cup final. “I think every game they seemed to get better and better and just thrive off what happened the last game. Every single time we couldn’t start the game the right way. We’d get behind, start forcing offense and then it seems like every defensive breakdown or turnover we had they would come back our way. Odd-man rushes were going in against again. Just an uphill battle every which way.”

Once again the Blackhawks talked about being ready at puck drop. Once again, they weren’t. From the start the Predators looked like they wanted no part of a return trip to Chicago. They swarmed the Blackhawks once again and were looking from the early lead at every opportunity.

Toews scored with a little more than five minutes remaining in regulation but it was too little, too late. Viktor Arvidsson scored an empty-net goal with 1:48 remaining in the game.

The Blackhawks were a heavy favorite to come out of the West this postseason. They couldn’t even get out of the first round. The Predators outplayed them throughout and now the Blackhawks will have a long offseason for the second consecutive season.

“We always talk about not expecting to just turn on the switch when we get to the playoffs. Obviously we didn’t like the way we were playing going into the playoffs and maybe not necessarily the last three games even though we lost a couple on the road, I think the switch just didn’t turn on,” Toews said. “I’m not going to sit here and try and come up with those reasons right now. We’ll have some thinking to do in the next few days and we’ve got a lot of time before next season.”

Blackhawks remember Dave Bolland for more than just '17 Seconds'

Blackhawks remember Dave Bolland for more than just '17 Seconds'

The Blackhawks are honoring one of their own on Friday, with Dave Bolland set to skate “One More Shift” with the organization. He will join the team on the ice during the anthem, and will be featured throughout the game commemorating his time in Chicago.

When you think of Bolland, the first thing that pops up into the minds of fans is his game-winning goal in Game 6 of the 2013 Stanley Cup Final against the Boston Bruins. Or, better known as the second goal of "17 Seconds."

But his former teammates remember him for more than that.

"He was awesome," Patrick Kane said. "He was one of those guys who played a third-line role for like his whole time here and just really did well with it. I remember the line with him, [Martin] Havlat and [Andrew] Ladd really took off in 2009 and obviously [Dustin] Byfuglien, him and [Kris] Versteeg were a good line in 2010. But just the way he played, he got underneath the other team's skin, especially their star players. Wasn't afraid to chirp, wasn't afraid to get into the mix, especially with his size and the way he was built.

"But yeah, some great moments, some big goals, a lot of big shorthanded goals, you can obviously remember his 17 seconds was unbelievable as well, that's a goal I'm sure he'll never forget. We'll never forget that celebration too, so it's awesome he's getting honored."

Bolland, who earned the nickname "The Rat," is perhaps best known for the role he played in the Blackhawks' playoff series battles with the Vancouver Canucks. His line frequently drew the defensive matchups against Daniel and Henrik Sedin, and he's the one player who really knew how to throw both twins off their game at the same time.

"I think he's kind of like Shawzy," Jonathan Toews said. "He's one of those guys that fans here in Chicago really like. Aside from scoring goals and the plays that he made over the years in the playoffs, he was one of those guys that you loved having on your team that other teams hated. He found ways to chip away at their best players and get them off their game. He was good at a lot of little things like that, so he was a big part of those winning teams."

Andrew Shaw was teammates with Bolland for only two seasons, but they won a Stanley Cup together and Bolland was one of the best and knowing his role and perfecting it.

"One of the best at his job," Shaw said. "He played that shutdown centerman. I always thought he had the shortest shifts. His shift lengths were so short just 'cause he would play so much against top guys that he'd want to be so well-rested while he was out there. ... He was skilled enough to chip in offensively as well.

"That's the type of player he was. He'd play against the top guys, he'd shut them down, he'd be that little rat himself, just try to get them off their game as well as outworking them."

Bolland spent seven of his 10 NHL seasons in Chicago, where he registered 168 points (70 goals, 98 assists) in 332 games. He was drafted by the Blackhawks in the second round (No. 32 overall) of the 2004 NHL Draft.

Friday will mark the first night honoring the 10-year anniversary of the 2010 Stanley Cup Championship, which ended a 49-year drought in franchise history. The first 10,000 fans on Friday will receive a Marian Hossa bobblehead.

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Robin Lehner to start in goal for Blackhawks vs. Blue Jackets

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USA Today

Robin Lehner to start in goal for Blackhawks vs. Blue Jackets

Robin Lehner will start in goal for the Blackhawks when they host the Columbus Blue Jackets on Friday night, coach Jeremy Colliton confirmed after morning skate. It will be his second start of the season.

In his season debut against the Winnipeg Jets, Lehner stopped 30 of 33 shots for a save percentage of .909 in a 3-2 overtime loss. He gave up a 5-on-5 goal, power-play goal and overtime goal at 3-on-3. Overall, he was solid.

"Everyone wants to play all the time," Colliton said of the dynamic between Corey Crawford and Lehner. "Whether it's a goalie, forward or D, they play better when they play more. That's just the standard answer. But we've had a little bit of a lighter schedule. We're trying to make ... we want both guys going because we're coming up on a stretch where we're playing a lot of games, so we're going to need them both."

Lehner is 5-3-0 with a 1.97 goals-against average, .945 save percentage and one shutout in eight career appearances against the Blue Jackets. 

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