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Was There Any Anticipating The Blackhawks' Five-Star Flop? Kinda

By Stephen Gossett in Arts & Entertainment on Apr 21, 2017 3:05PM

How did this happen? A second consecutive first-round exit. The number-one favorite to win it all, according to the oddsmakers, swept aside by the eighth seed. With three goals total scored across four dismal games.

We won't offer any revisionist history and claim that we saw this coming, but as we warned in a preview, it looked like the Nashville Predators—who slammed the postseason door on the Blackhawks on Thursday night—would be among the stiffest competition if Chicago were to put together a run.

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Just about everyone picked the Blackhawks to advance, but there was always a creeping sense of trepidation. Take a peek at this prediction chart from ESPN, for example. Every damn one of 'em picked the Hawks, yes, but notice the smattering of Hawks-in-seven. That's hockey-media code for 'this looks like a toss up.' (Shouts to Puck Daddy's Greg Wyshynski, who had the courage to take the plunge.)

But as Scott Powers noted in his postmortem for The Athletic, the Hawks' overall team puck possession numbers—a fairly telling predictor for playoff success—have been on the decline as of late:

"From coach Joel Quenneville’s first season with the Blackhawks in 2008-09 to last season, the Blackhawks were first in the league with a 54.4 Corsi percentage over that stretch.

Which brings us to the last two seasons. The Blackhawks were 15th with 50.1 Corsi percentage last season. The St. Louis Blues, who knocked the Blackhawks out in the first round in 2016, were seventh. Last season’s Stanley Cup Final was between the second-ranked Corsi team, the Pittsburgh Penguins, and the 10th, the San Jose Sharks."

Also, check out this underlying hint, courtesy of stats guru Tyler Dellow, pointed out in response to a very telling Patrick Kane quote. The Hawks' regular goal differential was clearly misleading.

And here's one more indicator that the Blackhawks were not as good as their conference-leading record let on. Regular-season overtime is a whole mess of fun, but OT wins don't tell you anything about how a team will perform in the playoffs—where the three-on-three format does not exist. Get rid of the Hawks' OT wins during this year, and they suddenly look a whole lot more middle of the pack.

There are other factors to consider, like inexperience beyond the core and a shaky blue line beyond Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook, among others. There will be time to air it all out over the next few months. But for now, lets admit that the loss, if not a turf-out sweep, isn't all that surprising.