Yes, it was a disappointing finish for Blackhawks fans, but no NHL team has been able to repeat since 1998 when the hard salary cap went into effect, and our Blackhawks have been able to accomplish what no other NHL team has: THREE CUPS in SIX SEASONS! In contrast, imagine the struggle of Canadian fans: Not one of their seven teams made into the playoffs.
The seven-game battle with St. Louis certianly had the feel of a Stanley Cup Final, as Blues Head Coach Ken Hitchcock expressed. When you are playing in the toughest division in the toughest conference, just making it to the playoffs is an accomplishment. Blackhawks Head Coach Joel Quenneville has consistently said it's tough to make the playoffs.
Boston was the last Eastern Conference team to win the Cup in 2011, and they have missed the playoffs the last two seasons. Preseson predictions had Washington the favorite in the East and Anaheim in the West. Going into playoffs, the favorites were Washington and Los Angeles. In the West, both the Kings and Ducks have been ousted.
Looking back on the Blackhawks' series with the Blues, you could argue that twice hitting two goal posts in two different games could have changed the results. Two suspensions to two key Blackhawks players didn't help, despite the outstanding play of goalie Corey Crawford. It's easy to point fingers at individual players in every game, but captain Jonathan Toews summed it up best: "We win as a team, and we lose as a team."
So far in the playoffs, the visiting teams have enjoyed a great deal of success. Despite the fact that the Blackhawks won two games in St.Louis, the series was really decided when the Hawks were unable to win at least one of of the first two games at the United Center and put themselves in a hole by having to battle back from a 3-1 deficit.
Now Blackhawks fans have to look forward to next season, while SVP/GM Stan Bowman tries to continue his success in finding the right path by juggling the difficult salary cup situation. Hopefully the pattern of the last six seasons will return for the 2016-17 campaign, as the Hawks have won the Stanley Cup every other year over that span.
Harvey Wittenberg's latest updated edition of "Tales from the Chicago Blackhawks Locker Room" includes new features from the 2013 and 2015 Cup teams in addition to many more from Blackhawks players from the 1960s through 2015!