With their ouster from the playoffs, the Chicago Blackhawks are left wondering what might have been as they’ll watch another team hoist the Stanley Cup in June.
As is usually the case when a team is eliminated, especially in the first round of the postseason, fans are left asking the same question: what went wrong?
To answer that question, we’re taking a look at three factors that led to the Blackhawks’ exit from the playoffs.
Defensive Depth: The Ever Present Problem
Losing Johnny Oduya made the Blackhawks’ top four on the blue line a significant question mark, and the team never really sufficiently addressed their lack of depth on defense. Players like Michal Rozsival and Erik Gustafsson had flashes of solid play, but nobody could quite nail down a spot in that part of the lineup.
Perhaps most disappointing of all was the overall play of Trevor van Riemsdyk. Instead of progressing during the season, it seemed as though he made some steps back in his development, and the Hawks will likely look at him as a bottom pairing guy rather than a second-pairing blue liner from now on.
Careless Turnovers a Killer
It seems appropriate that the goal that ultimately eliminated the Blackhawks in this series came when Gustafsson had a bad turnover in the neutral zone, leading to the Troy Brouwer tally in the third period of Monday’s Game 7.
Throughout the postseason, the Blackhawks couldn’t seem to get out of their own way when it came to turnovers. Michal Rozsival was an early and frequent offender in this area, routinely skating into traps and coughing up the puck along the boards. Trevor van Riemsdyk also had plenty of turnovers, showing indecision with the puck and throwing passes into dangerous areas.
Even Patrick Kane wasn’t immune from turnovers, as his saucer passes across the middle of the ice led to some serious St. Louis scoring chances late in the series.
Penalty Killing a Letdown
The Blackhawks’ penalty kill came into the playoffs on a red hot run after getting Marcus Kruger back from injured reserve, but things didn’t go according to plan once the postseason began as the Hawks surrendered five power play goals during their series with the Blues.
The big struggles came in Games 3 and 4 in Chicago, where the Blackhawks gave up four power play tallies to the Blues. That inability to kill off penalties put the team into a deep hole, and although they came close to coming back in the series, they could never quite overcome it.