Chicago – The Blackhawks face elimination after dropping a 3-2 decision in overtime at the United Center. The game marked the sixth consecutive overtime playoff game dating back to last season for the Blackhawks which is a NHL record. The loss may lead to consecutive first round eliminations for a club which some thought was a true Stanley Cup contender.
On April 11, I wrote the following and stand by those comments today:
“An early exit by the Hawks would highlight a roster with holes, which can’t be coached effectively. Another opening round defeat would be a much bigger setback than last year’s loss to Vancouver. It would be a black eye which would stain the franchise and lessen the fan and media buzz that started before the 2010 Stanley Cup victory. In many ways, falling to the Coyotes would be as bad as not qualifying for post-season play at all.”
In Game 4 the Blackhawks played some of their best hockey of the series in the opening 40 minutes. The Hawks were able to play in a scoreless game while staying patient for the most part, at least until the third period. Corey Crawford was strong when called upon, but the Coyotes’ Mike Smith was a real difference maker for the first time in the series. The Hawks sent 23 shots his way but couldn’t solve Smith until the third frame. In the end Smith should get a gold star and be given much of the credit for the victory.
As the game wore on many of the bad habits the Hawks have been guilty of throughout this series and for the entire season surfaced. This should make fans question the type of team which was assembled and their ability to be coached.
Again there was too much perimeter play and individual efforts by the Hawks’ top players. Thursday night, it was Patrick Kane, more than anyone else, who tried to do too much on his own and accomplished little. Kane failed to get shots off in prime scoring areas and was repeatedly knocked off the puck as he tried to go to the net. In Game 4 too many plays ended with Kane and the Blackhawks quickly out of the offensive zone.
The Hawks were guilty of turnovers in their own end and were outworked along the boards. Defenseman Johnny Oduya has had a bad series and last night was another poor performance. Oduya appeared to be skating in slow motion when the Coyotes Shane Doan stripped him of the puck and eventually scored the first tally for Phoenix. Oduya not only coughed the puck up in his own zone but was slow to get back to cover the front of the net. Oduya has gone from one of the best Hawk defenders down the stretch to a liability.
To continue reading click here.
To follow me on Twitter@AlCimaglia
Next article out on Sunday.
About the Author: