In the end, it was our worst fear. Mike Smith having an answer for every question the Hawks could ask. The 1st period was probably the best period the Hawks played this series, and Smith made sure it wasn't enough. Credit where credit is due, he was simply too good. It's not easy for a goalie to be the main story in a series, it doesn't happen as often as people think. Smith was, and that's that.
The epitaph will have the same concerns, the same major holes a lot of us feared, and that I'd been in denial about for most of the year and certainly for this series. The goaltending and the special teams. While Corey Crawford couldn't have done all that much on the first two goals that really decided this, the softies of Games 3 and 4 became too much for the Hawks to overcome, however big their balls might be. The power play couldn't ever come up with a goal when the Hawks absolutely needed it, and the penalty kill wasn't strong enough tonight to keep Phoenix from slipping through the very tiny cracks that were available tonight.
A word on the Coyotes here. You win three road games, you are full value for your advancement. Whether we think it's all the heroics of one player or not, I simply have not seen a more well-drilled outfit that knows exactly what it has to do to win. And they do it, without variance. To their fans, while we all make fun and the vitriol between the two fanbases certainly was higher than I ever expected, there are some dedicated Yotes fans out there. We may mock the numbers, but it wasn't so long ago when there weren't enough of us to even hint at half-filling the UC. Add to that the constant threat that they would have their teams taken away from them, despite their dedication, and they have every right to celebrate wildly tonight. However many there are, they've gone through enough to truly enjoy this.
Are there questions to be answered by the Hawks organization and players? You bet there are. Will they requires a Flyers-like overhaul this summer? No, I don't think so. I don't really care if anyone in the press asks Coach Quenneville the tough questions, just that someone in the organization does. And gets answers. Why with a team this talented and with this many defensively aware players were the special teams so bad? With a far more complete roster than last year was the top end so overworked? There probably are a few others as well, but we've got more than enough time to go through those.
The GM will have some answering to do too, because I doubt consecutive first round exits are going to sit well with Rocky and McD. Especially when the GM they moved out to give Stan the job might just be watching his team prance to the second round. But none of Stan's moves really had an effect this postseason, whether it was due to injury, or odd fits, or just ineffectiveness. He can't just skate on that.
However, two of his kids did make an impact at points this season in Shaw and Hayes, and there are more on the way. He certainly shouldn't have to scrap to keep his job, but he's got some shoring up to do. Any GM who doesn't win his last game does.
This one hurts, I can't make that better for you. Last year, though the style of defeat was agonizing, we knew the Hawks just weren't good enough. This one? I just can't bring myself to say that. They had way more rocks this time around, and I really had hopes of a long spring. I feel like I've been cheated out of something, which I didn't last year. They lost three of five coin flips for various reasons, ran up against a goalie in inspirational form, and that just gave them too much to overcome.
Anyway, we'll start a season review here in a day or two. Might take some time to recover. I know I speak for Hack McClure, and Killion when I thank you from the bottom of my heart for reading this and spending part of your day with us. We have so much fun doing this, and even after four seasons are still in disbelief at what this blog has become. And a big reason for that is you. Yeah, maybe you piss us off sometimes, and I know we piss you off. But mostly, you make us laugh, and think, and brighten our day with your kinds words, and that's every single time.
Even July 1st seems so far away at this moment. That's what stings the most.