Let another summer of discontent begin.
The Blackhawks have fallen short of their ‘‘one goal” again.
The season began with expectations the Hawks would make a deep playoff run. It was billed as another Stanley Cup-or-bust season.
In the end, it ended somewhere lost in Phoenix Coyotes goalie Mike Smith’s pads and glove. So call it another bust.
Smith marvelously backstopped the Coyotes to a first-round series victory in six games, coming through with his best performance in their clinching 4-0 victory Monday in Game 6 at the United Center.
Smith made 39 saves in a game the Hawks thoroughly dominated for the first 40 minutes. He was the difference in the finale, just like he was throughout the entire series. Oliver Ekman-Larsson, Gilbert Brule, Antoine Vermette and Kyle Chipchura scored for the Coyotes, who will face the Nashville Predators next.
‘‘It’s pretty tough right now,” forward Patrick Sharp said. ‘‘I’m still thinking about hockey. It’s a tough way for things to end.”
The way the Hawks were eliminated this season is definitely worse than the way they were knocked out last season by the Vancouver Canucks. Last season, they rallied from a 3-0 series deficit to lose in overtime of Game 7.
This time, there is no major roster overhaul to blame. There is only Smith, the Coyotes’ tight system, plenty of regrets in overtimes and three tough-to-forget losses on their home ice.
‘‘You don’t want to go out on a loss like we did,” captain Jonathan Toews said. ‘‘It’s disappointing for this group. We had so much more than we ended up showing. We gave it everything; it just didn’t go our way. I’m disappointed we couldn’t give our fans more than that.”
From serious injuries to a spate of poor defensive play to even poorer special teams, it just wasn’t the Hawks’ season for a lot of reasons. There are plenty of questions surrounding the team.
Who will take the fall for the Hawks’ horrendous power play? After finishing near the bottom of the league during the regular season, the Hawks went 1-for-19 with the man advantage against the Coyotes. That might have been the biggest reason they didn’t advance.
‘‘Whether it was a power play or breaks around the net, we just didn’t find those loose pucks,” coach Joel Quenneville said. ‘‘We didn’t find those loose rebounds.”
Is a roster overhaul needed? The Hawks’ lineup had holes, too much youth and too many passengers in big games. All their core players had issues against the Coyotes, and players signed to fill roles either got hurt or wound up scratched.
‘‘We believe in each other and we believe this group is a special team,” Toews said. ‘‘It’s pretty frustrating we couldn’t make it further than we did.”
Is Corey Crawford the answer in goal? After an up-and-down sophomore season, he had a tough series, including allowing four goals on 20 shots in Game 6.
‘‘You never want to finish a year with a loss; you want to go out with a win,” Crawford said. ‘‘I thought we had a strong enough team to do that. You look at that game tonight. We definitely could have won that one. It just didn’t go our way.”
Like a lot of things this season.