Blackhawks

What's done and what lies ahead: Five thoughts on the Blackhawks

What's done and what lies ahead: Five thoughts on the Blackhawks

The end came quicker than most of us expected on Thursday night when the Blackhawks were swept by the Nashville Predators, their second first-round exit in as many seasons.

Where do the Blackhawks go from here? General manager Stan Bowman, coach Joel Quenneville and Blackhawks players will address the media on Saturday as part of their locker clean-out day. Before they do, a few thoughts on the abrupt end of this season and the look ahead.

1. Quenneville taking the blame is wrong. Quenneville said it was on him that the Blackhawks didn't reach the necessary level in the postseason, that he didn't find "whatever buttons you have to push." As a coach he's responsible for finding the right combinations, for recognizing a player's strengths and weaknesses and adjusting accordingly. But when it comes to realizing it's the postseason and you've got to play that much better? That's on the players. These are grown men with very robust annual paychecks that serve as reminders on how they're supposed to play, especially during the postseason. Quenneville is responsible for certain things. Making sure a player's appetite to win is there in April is not one of them.

2. It wasn't about the goalie. There are still a few (albeit very few) who think if Scott Darling would've been in net at some point against the Predators, there would've been a different outcome. Well, we'll apply the same logic there as we did with Corey Crawford: Unless the Blackhawks' goaltenders were going to score some goals themselves, it didn't matter. Crawford wasn't the problem. Out of this four-game mess, he was probably the most consistent player. You get a slight argument on Game 3, but not much past that. The Blackhawks scored three goals in four games. They had more goals in the first game of this series two years ago.

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3. Don't look to the past anymore. On paper, both the Brian Campbell signing and Johnny Oduya re-acquisition looked like good ideas. Neither cost much. Neither were expected to be the go-to guys. But neither ended up being what the Blackhawks needed. This is the fourth time since 2013 the Blackhawks have brought back guys from previous Stanley Cup teams (Campbell, Oduya, Andrew Ladd and Kris Versteeg), but the moves usually didn't bring the desired results. It's great to think you can recapture the magic with former players, but years go by and times change.

4. Be ready for changes. Don't expect front-office changes. What Bowman and Quenneville have done over the past few seasons is tremendous, especially in the salary-cap era. While this result is shocking and beyond disappointing, it's not reason enough to start dismantling the brain trust. Roster changes, however, won't be a surprise. They never are with this team. It would be a surprise if either Oduya or Campbell are back. Do they consider moving a bigger contract? Maybe, but that depends on having a willing trade partner and the player (likely) having to OK it. But the Blackhawks have to start looking forward more.

5. Take heart in the future. The Blackhawks got a glimpse into what the next generation can bring this season, and most of it is good. Ryan Hartman had an outstanding rookie season. Nick Schmaltz had the growing pains that accompany a player making the jump from college straight to the pros, but the skill is there and he should keep developing. Tyler Motte was outstanding at the start of the season. If he can reach pre-injury levels again this fall, he'll be valuable. Let's not forget Alex DeBrincat, who put up an astounding 127 points and set and/or tied a few Ontario Hockey League records with the Erie Otters this season. He's been great in the playoffs, too, with 22 points through 11 games.

Patrick Kane’s love-hate relationship with St. Louis fans highlight of 2020 NHL All-Star Game

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USA Today

Patrick Kane’s love-hate relationship with St. Louis fans highlight of 2020 NHL All-Star Game

ST. LOUIS — Patrick Kane has been booed all weekend in St. Louis and the nine-time Blackhawks All-Star poked a little bit of fun at Blues fans for their, shall we say, warm welcoming. But Saturday put the crowd in a weird spot.

On one hand, Kane is an arch rival in St. Louis. On the other, he represented the Central Division and was teammates with the four Blues All-Stars (Jordan Binnington, Ryan O'Reilly, David Perron and Alex Pietrangelo).

After falling into a 3-0 hole to the Pacific Division, the Central Division stormed back for three straight goals. Perron scored the second goal, which drew huge cheers. Fourteen seconds later, Kane scored the equalizer, which also drew loud cheers. 

But then the St. Louis fans realized who had scored and Kane had some fun with them by holding his glove up to his ear. 

"Tried to like put my hand up to my ear to hear the boos," Kane said. "But then I was showing them that hey, I’m playing with the Blues players, I’ve got the same jersey as them. Just had fun with it. "

The Blues found themselves conflicted for a second time when Kane evened the score at 5-5 after converting on a breakaway. The interaction between Kane and the crowd was the most memorable moment of the night.

"It’s all in good fun," Kane said following a 10-5 loss to the Pacific Division. "To be honest with you, sometimes you get booed, you kind of like it a little bit. It’s St. Louis and Chicago, it’s a huge rivalry. Not only in hockey, but pretty much every other sport they play against each other. I guess that’s only baseball, but, you know what? Had a lot of fun this weekend and I thought that was a pretty cool moment."

Even the Blues had fun with it.

"Those were boos," a smiling Pietrangelo said. "Not cheers."

But at least somebody had sympathy for Kane.

"I felt bad for Kaner," Blues coach Craig Berube said. "He comes out in his introductions and is getting booed and stuff and then he scores and they're cheering for him. Tough situation for him. Players all know. They all handle it very well. It's a fun event."

In the end, it provided entertainment and brought some life to the event. What Kane is really trying to figure out is why he's snake bitten at All-Stars Games. He hasn't won since 2012 in Ottawa when Team Zdeno Chara defeated Team Daniel Alfredsson 12-9 under the fantasy draft format.

"I know, right?" Kane said. "Central can’t get over the hump. We won one last year and lost in the final. I think every time you look at the roster, you always think you have a really good roster with some of the players that are on the team, and for whatever reason we can’t do it."

The Central Division slipped to 1-5 under the 3-on-3 format, but Kane may have a solution on how to fix their struggles.

"Maybe it would be better if the Central played an Eastern team next year or something," Kane said half-jokingly. "Maybe you could switch it up that way."

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Patrick Kane finishes NHL All-Star Tournament with two goals

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AP

Patrick Kane finishes NHL All-Star Tournament with two goals

Patrick Kane made his ninth NHL All-Star appearance in Saturday's 3-on-3 tournament in St. Louis. It was short-lived, but the superstar forward scored two impressive goals for the Central Division's team before they were eliminated after one game. 

The 31-year-old winger won the inaugural "Shooting Stars" challenge in the Skills Competition on Friday, beating the Blues' Ryan O'Reilly and Maple Leafs' Mitch Marner in sudden death. 

Then, the three-time Stanley Cup champ scored to tie the game 3-3 at 7:18 of the first period for the Central in the semifinal bout against the Pacific on Saturday. Kane kept the puck on a 2-on-1 with Eric Staal and fired it in stick side on goalie Jacob Markstrom. 

He later scored on a breakaway, shooting five-hole on David Rittich to tie it 5-5 at 1:37 of the second period. The Central lost the contest 10-5 and missed out on winning the million dollar prize. 

Kane, who recorded his 1,000th NHL point last Sunday, had four hometown Blues players as teammates: Jordan Binnington, David Perron, Alex Pietrangelo and O'Reilly.

The Atlantic beat the Metropolitan 9-5 in the first semifinal game. Former Blackhawks forward Anthony Duclair had three goals and an assist in the first game of the tourney. Duclair has 33 points (21 goals, 12 assists) in 47 games with the Ottawa Senators this season.

The Pacific beat the Atlantic 5-4 in the final. It was the Pacific's third straight tournament victory. David Pastrnak of the Atlantic (and Boston Bruins) was the MVP of the tournament, winning a 2020 Honda CR-V HYRBRID. 

Attention Dish and Sling customers! You have lost your Blackhawks games on NBC Sports Chicago. To switch providers, visit mysportschicago.com.

Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Blackhawks easily on your device.