Sweep leaves Chicago Blackhawks 'shocked, surprised'
NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- The 2017 Stanley Cup playoffs will go down in the record books for all the wrong reasons for the Chicago Blackhawks.
First time they've been swept since 1993. Third time in NHL history a team with the best record in its conference was swept. First time a No. 1 seed has been eliminated since the 2012 Vancouver Canucks.
Fourth time out of nine playoff appearances that a Joel-Quenneville-coached Hawks team was eliminated in the first round.
It reads like some sort of horror story, and that's what the dazed Hawks felt like they were participating in against a Nashville team few believed in just more than a week ago.
Last season the Hawks were eliminated in a heart-wrenching seven-game series against St. Louis, but this setback may have hurt more.
"We accomplished all our goals of getting home-ice advantage and we get here and don't take advantage of the opportunity one bit," captain Jonathan Toews said. "We just couldn't find a way to get to that highest level of what we know is our potential. We didn't even get close to it.
"So in some ways, yeah, it is more disappointing that we left so much on the table compared to losing a Game 7. It's obviously quite a bit different."
Toews finally broke his 12-game goal-scoring drought in the playoffs in Thursday's Game 4 loss, but it came with 5:18 left in the game and the Hawks already trailing 3-0. Kane assisted on the play, but he only scored 1 goal in the series as well.
"Right now (this is worse than 2016) just because coming into it we were all very confident with our team and the group we had in here," Kane said. "To not even win a playoff game and score 3 goals in for games, I don't think we really expected it in here. Obviously we're all a little bit shocked and surprised."
Ryan Hartman and Nick Schmaltz enjoyed successful rookie seasons, but the first three playoff games against Nashville were tough ones for both Hawks rookies.
Schmaltz was demoted off Jonathan Toews' line after just 20 minutes in Game 1 and had just 2 shots in four games against Nashville. Meanwhile, Hartman punched Craig Smith late in Game 2 to earn a game misconduct penalty, and he played just 8:36 in a Game 3 that lasted nearly 77 minutes.
Hartman did take 4 shots on goal in Game 4 in 11:38 of ice time.
After Thursday's game, coach Joel Quenneville wouldn't lay much blame on the rookies for his team's stunning demise.
"We could talk about every single guy," he said. "We needed more. Whether it's inexperience or experience, everybody could have given more."