Now it’s officially over.
The Colorado Avalanche’s 6-2 defeat of the Edmonton Oilers on Tuesday night eliminated the Chicago Blackhawks from the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the second straight season. The upcoming months will bring plenty of time for dissecting what went wrong with the 2018-19 Hawks, but here are five quick reasons why Chicago will be heading to the golf courses in early April once again:
This entire article could focus on defense as the sole reason for Chicago’s struggles this season and it wouldn’t be wrong: the Hawks gave up the second most goals in the NHL this season (282 as of Wednesday morning), with only the basement-dwelling Ottawa Senators allowing more. The deeper the dive into statistics, the worse it gets for the Hawks. No team allowed more even-strength scoring chances (30.12) or high-danger chances (13.64) per 60 minutes than the Hawks, according to Natural Stat Trick. Corsica’s data placed the Hawks as the worst xGA (expected goals against) team in the league at 2.8 per game. Everything about Chicago’s attempts to keep pucks out of their own net was a disaster this season.
A dismal finish to 2018
A 6-2-2 start to the season raised hopes that the Hawks would returun to the playoffs. But during the next six weeks, Chicago plummeted to the bottom of the standings and change head coaches. Between Oct. 27 and Dec. 11, the Hawks went 3-16-3, a 22-game stretch that they weren’t able to overcome.
A “bad” penalty kill would’ve been an improvement for this team. Instead, the Hawks fielded a historically inept penalty kill. Their PK conversion rate was at 73.2 percent as of Wednesday morning, the worst by an NHL team since the 1988-89 Toronto Maple Leafs finished at 72.7 percent.
Losing every important game down the stretch
In spite of that horrendous 22-game stretch to close 2018, the Hawks started 2019 on fire and re-emerged in the playoff chase — even owning a wild card spot for about an hour. But every time the Hawks needed a big win, they didn’t get it. In late February, Chicago faced the Avalanche and Dallas Stars at the United Center, two teams it was battling for a postseason berth — and lost both games. In mid-March, Chicago had games against the Vancouver Canucks and Philadelphia Flyers at home that they needed to keep pace in the standings — and lost both games. That was followed with a weekend home-and-home against the Avalanche, who the Blackhawks still had a chance to overtake. Chicago came away with two points but Colorado earned three to stay ahead. Then a regulation loss to the Arizona Coyotes on March 26 ruined any realistic chances of Chicago’s last-ditch efforts to make the playoffs.
Struggles against the Pacific Division
Chicago is 16-13-3 against the Eastern Conference this season, a strong showing against that slate of opponents. Its record is even better against its biggest rivals, with Chicago going 12-7-4 against Central Division foes. But the Pacific Division was another story: the Hawks went 6-13-5 against those teams.