NASHVILLE -- Despite losing their final four regular-season games (0-2-2), the Chicago Blackhawks were on of the top scoring teams in the League and entered the 2017 Stanley Cup Playoffs as the No. 1 seed in the Western Conference.
However, Chicago was shut out in the first two games of their first round series against the Nashville Predators and managed to score three goals, losing in four games.
Here are 5 reasons the Blackhawks were eliminated:
1. SILENT TO THE CORE
The Blackhawks' two highest-paid players, forwards Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane, have struggled to score in the past two postseasons, combining for three goals in 11 playoff games. Toews' goal in Game 4 against the Predators ended a 12-game playoff goal drought that dated to Game 4 of the 2015 Stanley Cup Final. The Predators also shut down forwards Artemi Panarin, Marian Hossa, Richard Panik, Artem Anisimov and Ryan Hartman. Those five players combined for 120 goals in the regular season and zero in the playoffs.
"You could say [Nashville goalie Pekka Rinne] played well," Kane said. "We'll give him credit. But I think at the same time … did we make things really tough on him? I don't know. A couple chances here or there would've been nice to finish."
Video: CHI@NSH, Gm3: Rinne snags Toews' wrist shot
The Blackhawks' season-long puck-possession issues played into the loss. They were 13th during the regular season at 50.4 percent, but that number slipped during the postseason to 49.64 percent. The disparity was even greater when accounting for score; The Predators had a 53.23 SAT close percentage to just 46.77 for the Blackhawks.
"Our puck possession, will to keep it, will to get it back, will to protect it, will to fight and determination and net presence [were the issues]," coach Joel Quenneville said. "Give them credit, how they tried to box us out at the net and [for us] not getting to the front of the net, where perseverance might have been a little more on our side. I think we made it a little easier on them than it needed to be."
3. PREDATORS TOP LINE TOO MUCH
The combination of Viktor Arvidsson, Filip Forsberg and Ryan Johansen had 15 points (five goals, 10 assists). Not only did they keep the Blackhawks' defensemen on their heels, they hounded the top line of Chicago all series.
"I think it's insulting to not give that team credit for how well they played and how well they played us specifically," Toews said. "I think they were relentless. Anytime we seemed to start to get things going, they found ways to stymie our momentum or our offense."
Video: NSH@CHI, Gm1: Arvidsson tips in Forsberg's dish
4. LACK OF FORWARD DEPTH
Quenneville mixed and matched his lines, but was unable to find combinations that produced. In Game 4, he played seven defensemen and double-shifted Kane, but that plan also failed. The Blackhawks top rookie forwards struggled in their NHL playoff debuts, which made the veterans more vulnerable to tougher matchups.
5. DEFENSIVE ISSUES
General manager Stan Bowman set out to fix the defensive woes in the offseason after a rotation of young defensemen struggled to replace Johnny Oduya. Bowman signed Brian Campbell and Michal Kempny, brought Gustav Forsling over from Sweden and re-signed veteran Michal Rozsival. He then re-acquired Oduya in a trade with the Dallas Stars on Feb. 28. On paper, the defense was much deeper. On the ice, they struggled to keep pace with the speedy Predators.
Video: CHI@NSH, Gm4: Sissons' wrister banks in off Crawford