Blackhawks bound for more playoff heartbreak until they can rebuild depth

Jared Clinton
Patrick Kane (Dilip Vishwanat/ Getty Images)

Following Chicago’s Game 7 loss, Blackhawks star Patrick Kane said exiting the post-season in the first round didn’t feel right. And that’s true. As the post-season rolls on without the Blackhawks, something will feel amiss. Chicago has made the Western Conference final in each of the past three seasons, twice taking home the Stanley Cup. They’ve become a staple of playoff hockey, a regular contender seemingly one bounce away from getting back into the winner’s circle.

They didn’t get that bounce in Game 7, though, and Blackhawks fans may have to prepare themselves for earlier summers going forward. Unlike years prior building back to consistent contention is going to take some time.

Before the post-season began, parallels were drawn between this season’s Blackhawks and the team that lost in the first-round in 2011. Both entered the playoffs as defending champions, both entered with high expectations and both were missing key pieces of what made them a contender the year prior. The comparisons will run deeper — and last longer — than this post-season, though.

Following the 2011 exit, which came via a 3-2 loss in Game 7 to the then-rival Vancouver Canucks, the Blackhawks were forced to say goodbye to Brian Campbell, Tomas Kopecky and — this one is going to hurt today — Troy Brouwer. What followed was a 2011-12 season in which Chicago stumbled again in the first round and were sent packing by the Phoenix Coyotes. And though the team recovered in time for the 2012-13 lockout-shortened season, the quick turnaround isn’t going to be as easy to come by this time. Read more

Watch Brent Seabrook hit both posts, come within inches of late tying goal in Game 7

Jared Clinton
Screen Shot 2016-04-26 at 8.13.15 AM

The Chicago Blackhawks’ season ended with an incredibly hard fought Game 7 against the St. Louis Blues, but the defending Stanley Cup champions didn’t go away without putting at least one final scare into the Blues.

With the Blackhawks trailing 3-2 in the final five minutes of the third period, Andrew Shaw collected a loose puck behind the Blues net and shovelled a pass back to defenseman Brent Seabrook. Blues goaltender Brian Elliott had to look through several bodies in front, so Seabrook unloaded a shot from the blueline with the hope he’d find the back of the net or catch a favorable bounce to set up a scoring chance. He got a bounce, all right, but it wasn’t exactly the one he wanted.

Seabrook’s shot eluded everyone on the way to the net, got past a screened Elliott and came inches from tying the contest. Watch as the puck hits the post, rides the goal line and exits the net after clanking off the opposite post: Read more

The Blues advance to Round Two, and it could be the start of a special run in St. Louis

Troy Brouwer (Scott Rovak/NHLI via Getty Images)

The St. Louis Blues are a long way from winning the Stanley Cup, but it can’t be understated just how big the 3-2 victory in Monday’s Game 7 was.

The mantra in St. Louis for the better part of the week, and maybe for the duration of the first-round series, was that this time things were going to be different. This time the Blues weren’t going to fall apart, they were going to close out a series and finally advance after three consecutive first-round exits. But a loss in Game 6 saw doubt creep in for the Blues, if not from the players then from those who’ve watched this team fail to get the job done in Round One for the past three campaigns.

However, following Game 6’s second period collapse, the Blues entered Game 7 with the same emotion they displayed in the first frame of Saturday’s game. The difference-maker was that this time the Blues didn’t fall apart at the seams. No doubt there was a scare — an early 2-0 lead was squashed by the rival Chicago Blackhawks — but with the game tied, the Blues didn’t blow coverages, they didn’t let a weak goal turn the tide and they didn’t give the Blackhawks one single Grade ‘A’ scoring chance. That all led to St. Louis’ Troy Brouwer scoring midway through the final period, and that marker stood as the goal that sent the Blues to the second round. Read more

What exactly is at stake for the St. Louis Blues in Game 7?

Ken Hitchcock (Photo by Gerry Thomas/NHLI via Getty Images)

It’s deja vu, except it isn’t.

Many powerhouse St. Louis Blues teams have disappointed with shockingly early playoff exits in the past five seasons. They got swept by the Los Angeles Kings in Round 2 of the 2012 playoffs; led L.A. 2-0 in the series only to lose in the first round in 2013; led the Chicago Blackhawks 2-0 only to lose in the first round in 2014; and bowed out to the No. 7 seed Minnesota Wild in six games in the first round of 2015.

A loss at home to the Chicago Blackhawks in Game 7 tonight thus wouldn’t blow our hair back. At this point, early-round disappointments feel like second nature for the Blues. There’s a difference this time, however. The stakes are higher. Important heads stand to roll if St. Louis buckles under the pressure once more and loses a series it led 3-1.

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Getting to Know: Rangers goaltender Antti Raanta

Antti Raanta (via NHL/YouTube)

Status: New York Rangers goaltender.

HT: 6-0 WT: 192 pounds
DOB: May 12, 1989 In: Rauma, Finland

First Hockey Memory: “I think when I went first time on the ice, I got my players skates and stepped on the ice. That was the biggest celebration when you fell all the time, skating a little bit forward and I didn’t fall down. So I think that was my first memory. If you think about games, I think ’95 when Finland was in the World Championship, that’s the first memory I remember about the hockey and winning something.”

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Weise makes long-awaited impact as Blackhawks rout Blues to force Game 7

Dale Weise celebrates his go-ahead goal (Chase Agnello-Dean/NHLI via Getty Images)

Dale Weise was acquired by the Blackhawks at the trade deadline with the belief that he would round out the third- or fourth-line and give Chicago the depth that makes a difference in the post-season. However, Weise has been scratched in three of six games in the first-round series against the St. Louis Blues, has averaged less than 10 minutes of ice time per game and hadn’t won coach Joel Quenneville’s favor. Well, that may have changed Saturday night.

Weise didn’t play much — he logged just 8:44 in Game 6 — but when he did he was incredibly effective. He used his speed on the forecheck to create opportunities, threw his weight around without running out of position and he was one of the more noticeable Blackhawks on the ice in the first period, even when things looked bleak as Chicago fell behind 3-1. But Weise’s biggest moment came with less then four minutes remaining in the second frame, after Artem Anisimov and Trevor van Riemsdyk had scored to help the Blackhawks claw back into the contest.

With the Blackhawks chasing the puck in the Blues’ zone, Artemi Panarin lifted the stick right out of Kevin Shattenkirk’s hand, and Weise came in to bowl over the Blues defenseman over as the puck laid in his feet. Weise then poked the puck behind the goal to Panarin, moved to the front of the net, opened himself up and called for a pass from the Russian rookie. He spotted Weise, and the winger with one of the best nicknames in all of hockey, ‘Dutch Gretzky,’ one-timed what would be the game-winning goal past Brian Elliott. Read more

Angry TV announcer versus NHL: who’s right in debate over crazy-late start times?

Pat Foley. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

Hockey fans living in the central time zone and anywhere east of there may one day remember spring of 2016 as The Red-Eye Playoffs. The need to stagger games has produced some late start times, and we’re not just talking the usual Pacific Division fare that starts at 10:30 p.m. ET and only stops diehard East Coasters from going to bed.

This year’s post-season has produced the oddity of Central-time games being treated like West Coast telecasts. Game 5 of the Chicago Blackhawks and St. Louis Blues’ Central Division semifinal Thursday started at 8:42 p.m. central and 9:42 p.m. eastern for the third time in the series. The wildly entertaining game was too good to turn off, so it sucked a lot of sleep from a lot of people. Among that group: Chicago Blackhawks play-by-play personality Pat Foley. He decided he was fed up with the scheduling and unleashed this rant, mid-broadcast, before a commercial break cut him off:

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Blackhawks stay alive as Kane’s wraparound steals overtime thriller for Chicago

Patrick Kane (Scott Rovak/NHLI via Getty Images)

The Chicago Blackhawks will live to see another game.

With their backs against the wall in a must-win Game 5, the Blackhawks stayed alive for at least one more contest thanks to a wraparound goal by Patrick Kane three minutes into the second overtime. Kane used a slick move to get by sprawling Blues defenders before slipping the puck on goal only to watch it trickle wide, but the Blackhawks winger beat his check — and Blues goaltender Brian Elliott — around the net in order to sweep the loose puck home.

From his reaction alone it’s not hard to believe the winner was a relief for Kane, who had yet to find the back of the net in the playoffs following the best goal-scoring season of his career. It’s no doubt been frustrating for the Blackhawks star, but the same could be said for teammate and captain Jonathan Toews. Read more