Hawks react to being eliminated from playoff contention originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago
After losing their fourth straight game on Saturday against the Florida Panthers, reality was starting to set in for the Blackhawks as they watched whatever was left of their postseason hopes fade away.
And on Monday, it became official.
The Blackhawks have been eliminated from playoff contention for the third time in four seasons after falling to the Carolina Hurricanes 5-2 at PNC Arena. It was their fifth consecutive loss (0-4-1), which is a new season-high.
"It’s always disappointing when you miss the playoffs," Alex DeBrincat said. "It’s what you work for all year. It's not the spot we want to be, no matter what expectations [are] going into the year. It’s disappointing."
The Blackhawks raised eyebrows across the NHL after they got off to a 13-7-5 start through their first 21 games. Only four other teams had more points than Chicago (31) through March 5: Florida (32), Carolina (33), Tampa Bay (34) and Toronto (38).
Since that point, the Blackhawks are 9-17-1 and have racked up only 19 points, which is tied with Columbus and Vancouver for the fewest over that stretch. And Vancouver has played in nine fewer games.
"It’s tough," DeBrincat said. "Obviously not the spot we want to be in with four games left. We know we had a good stretch there in the middle of the season but you've got to play a full season."
While they were still in it mathematically, the Blackhawks had a pretty good idea over the last few days that they wouldn't be one of the 16 teams in the postseason this time around. The fact they stayed in the hunt for as long as they did is probably a win, given what the outside expectations were going into the year.
"It doesn’t really change the message as far as what we’re trying to do," head coach Jeremy Colliton said of being eliminated from playoff contention. "We’ve got to get better, we’ve got to keep improving. We have a bunch of first- and second-year guys, even third- and fourth-year guys, trying to learn as a group how we need to play and have success and be at the top and compete against teams like Carolina. We have to use these games as an opportunity to get better."
Yes, it will be difficult for the Blackhawks to mentally get up for the final four games. But they're looking at the big picture at this point.
"It’s tough, but these next four games, we're still building for something in the future, still gotta play hard," DeBrincat. "Obviously, we’re still trying to win games, get points and just become a better team."