Something that doesn’t get brought up enough when talking about this Blackhawks team is how hard it is to win the Stanley Cup. It’s the hardest trophy to win in sports, not only because one bounce here or there can decide your fate but for the most part there isn’t much difference in the talent level for each team in the playoffs. Then there’s always the hot goaltender who can put a team on his back for a Cup run. Jonathan Quick used to be great at that. Now he’s not so great at it and the Kings aren’t the Cup-contending Kings of old. When you throw in finances, the salary cap makes repeating or maintaining a dynasty nearly impossible, yet the Blackhawks have won three in six years.
Last night sucked. It really did. Not only are we not seeing hockey in June for the Hawks since the Coyotes knocked them out in the first round in 2012, but it was at the hands of the one team who Hawks fans don’t want to see advance. Make no mistake, the Blues deserved to win this series. I would probably give a slight edge to the Hawks in overall play, but it’s too close to say either one of these teams is outright better than the other. The Blues are going to have their hands full, battling the hangover of an epic series and matching up against the number one seeded Stars who seem to score six goals a game. I’ll be watching for sure, probably still thinking about how mathematically unlikely it is to hit two double posts in one series.
I wouldn’t say my mind was thinking about the positives of this season for the Hawks until about 1 PM today after I was able to get all of the sad emojis and ridiculous Tweets out of my head. One of those positive outlooks is realizing how hard it was to actually beat the Hawks. In a series worthy of a Stanley Cup Final, it took fortunate bounces, a Herculean effort by Elliot, two double post shots with one coming at the end of Game 7, and Jonathan Toews not scoring to finally beat this team. If that’s the worst it gets, if that’s what it takes to actually beat this team every year in a seven game series, sign me up.
Now take all of that and look at this roster. It’s easy to forget the Hawks had to shed Patrick Sharp, Johnny Oduya, and Brandon Saad after winning the Cup last year. Those are three really nice pieces to a solid core for a contending team. Yet the Hawks were inches away from once again beating possibly the biggest threat to another Cup. You’d also have to think a summer off is going to make a world of difference to this team. There has been more taxing minutes on those bodies than any human can take, and it showed in this series.
Still, there are some negatives aside from losing. The Hawks wasted what probably will go down as Crawford’s best year. It’s hard to imagine him getting much better, but hopefully they won’t need him to as they retool and add depth in the offseason. Also, that Panarin bonus is looming pretty large now especially considering he locked it up in a meaningless game at the end of the regular season. That bonus is going to cost the Hawks a very good player, and his name might be Andrew Shaw. You can also consider the necessary Andrew Ladd trade a failure, as nothing short of a Cup makes a rental like that plausible.
The Blackhawks will be just fine next year. They’ll grab as much rest as possible, hopefully avoid any off the ice troubles, and come back ready to bring another Cup home. Stan Bowman has had much more difficult tasks in his tenure as GM than what this offseason brings. I have no doubt he’ll address the blue line problem by possibly moving Teravainen or Shaw (or both if Teuvo is still not going to play on the top two lines). “The core is still intact” is possibly the most overused sentence when talking about the Hawks, but there’s a reason for that. This core has brought three Stanley Cups to Chicago and still has more than a few runs left in the tank.