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Blackhawks not OK with first-round KO

Blackhawks goalie Corey Crawford was clearly outplayed by Coyotes’ Mike Smith their first-round playoff matchup. | Tom Cruze~Sun-Times

Blackhawks goalie Corey Crawford was clearly outplayed by the Coyotes’ Mike Smith in their first-round playoff matchup. | Tom Cruze~Sun-Times

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Updated: May 26, 2012 8:22AM



They are all the same, really.

Every team that advanced to the second round in the Western Conference — the Phoenix Coyotes, Nashville Predators, St. Louis Blues and Los Angeles Kings — relies on similar defensive tactics and a standout goalie.

Still, that shouldn’t mean the Blackhawks should follow suit and give up on their puck-possession scheme, start utilizing the neutral-zone trap and trade the farm for a top-flight goaltender.

Who can say that the same strategy that worked this postseason will work next year? This year may just turn out to be a coincidence.

That said, the success shows how the right moves by the general manager and the right tactics from the coach can go a long way. So let’s hang what happened this season with the Hawks on Stan Bowman and Joel Quenneville.

When they both meet the media Wednesday morning at the United Center, they’ll likely declare their faith in what the Hawks have, say the team fell short of expectations and that the Stanley Cup is still their “one goal” for next season.

But since neither is going anywhere, the right choices in the front office and on the ice have to be made in Year 3 post-Cup or that “One goal” slogan should become “One more round.”

If Quenneville and Bowman weren’t on the same page before, they have to get on it now. The Hawks have devoted too much money and put too much faith in what they’ve built to abruptly stop everything and try something completely new.

Stan’s plan

Bowman is 0-for-2 in finding the right pieces to complement his core players. With so much money locked up in several players, it may take jettisoning a core piece to fill other holes, be it their need for a second-line center or a defenseman capable of handling the point on the power play.

There have been plenty of cries from the faithful for a top-tier goalie. But really, who are you going to get to replace Corey Crawford?

Bowman has Crawford signed for two more years and he deserves a chance to show this season was a sophomore slump. Bowman’s decision to sign Ray Emery worked out and he rewarded him with an extension.

Moving on, it can be said that Bowman’s apparent (and peculiar) decision to have his father’s longtime assistant Barry Smith help the Hawks’ frustrating power-play situation only made matters worse, creating confusion among players and friction with Quenneville. Hockey insiders have questioned that move for good reason: it undermines what you have.

Bowman, though, did well in adding young players via trades or the draft that may fit in where his signings haven’t. Nick Leddy and Andrew Shaw may be key parts going forward.

Q’s world

Quenneville admitted he was too soft on his team and shrugged off their defensive deficiencies when they were outscoring everyone early in the season.

The Hawks paid for it, though, with a nine-game losing streak and then had to play catch-up the rest of the season. The stress of that may have worn out some of the Hawks’ best players.

Andrew Brunette and Jamal Mayers are both considered Quenneville’s guys, but neither is expected back next season.

The poor power play and penalty kill also fall on Quenneville and his staff. It’s highly unlikely that Hawks brass will turn on Quenneville, but someone might take the fall for the poor special teams, perhaps Mike Kitchen, the man in charge of the power play.

Quenneville does deserve credit for coaching a team filled out with kids and aging veterans to 101 points.

But in the world of three-point games and post-lockout parity, that’s only good enough for a sixth seed these days.



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