This Blackhawks season just became a failure. There’s no other way to look at it.
The franchise’s motto is “One Goal.’’ This isn’t that goal. This is failure.
Some franchises might be happy to reach the conference finals. Some might be thrilled just to reach the Stanley Cup Final. Not the Hawks. It’s Cup or bust. They tell us all the time. “One Goal.’’
In fact, Duncan Keith said as much before Game 6: “I don’t think we look at it as a success if we don’t win. I think with the group of guys we have in here, especially the core guys, that’s our goal. … I don’t think anybody in our room’s satisfied with just getting to the Western Conference finals.’’
Now they can get packed up and watch the Kings play the Rangers for the Cup the Hawks surrendered when Alec Martinez wristed a shot from the left point off Nick Leddy and over Corey Crawford for the winner at 5:47 of overtime.
Just like that, epic fail.
They also had Marian Hossa, a first-team two-way player. They had Patrick Sharp, one of the best snipers going. They had defenseman Keith, a Norris Trophy candidate, and their next three defensemen were considered to be No. 1 blueliners by Kings coach Darryl Sutter.
The Hawks had everything their way. They owned the roster with the best top-end talent and depth. They had some swagger. They were the defending champs, and despite finishing third in their division, they were looking at home-ice advantage in the three final rounds.
They missed the Avalanche and vexing goalie Semyon Varlamov. They got into the Blues’ heads. They had more talent than the Wild. They had more top-end talent than the Kings, and they are a far more talented team than the Rangers, even if the Rangers have the best goalie in the game.
The Hawks should’ve been the best team going, and they should gone back-to-back and won their third Cup in five years. They didn’t.
The Blackhawks choked in some epic ways throughout these Western Conference finals against the Kings. They already had blown two two-goal leads in this series, so why would a two-goal lead in a must-win Game 7 at home be any different?
Why would a third-period lead in the clincher be any different?
Look, if you blow three leads in a Game 7 of a conference finals at home, not to mention a 5-on-3 power play, you can just leave the Stanley Cup outside the dressing room door. It’s not yours anymore and you don’t deserve it
Since the Kings took a three-games-to-one lead, both teams seemed to spend a lot of time trying to say the pressure was on the other team. Turned out, the pressure was on the Hawks throats, courtesy of their own hands.
There were Olympic medals won by Hawks this season and there might be some individual awards later. But they won’t collect the only prize that matters.
“One Goal.’’ The only goal. Not achieved. Failure.