NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- So much promise. So much hope. So many dreams.
All gone for the Chicago Blackhawks in the blink of an eye.
100-point teams swept out of the first round since all series became best-of-seven in 1986-87
Season, team, points Opponent
2016-17 Blackhawks (109) Predators
2013-14 Lightning (101) Canadiens
2005-06 Rangers (100) Devils
2002-03 Red Wings (110) Mighty Ducks
2000-01 Senators (109) Maple Leafs
1988-99 Senators (103) Sabres
1992-93 Bruins (109) Sabres
1992-93 Blackhawks (106) Blues
The obit was penned by a supremely talented, blazing-fast, rough and gritty Nashville Predators squad that swept the top-seeded Hawks out of the first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs.
The Preds hammered the final nail home with a 4-1 victory Thursday night at Bridgestone Arena, becoming the first team to sweep the Hawks out of the postseason since the Blues did so in 1993.
Roman Josi scored 2 goals, and Colton Sissons and Viktor Arvidsson scored the others for a Nashville team that moves on to face the winner of St. Louis vs. Minnesota, a series the Blues lead 3-1.
"The switch just didn't turn on," said Jonathan Toews, who scored the Hawks' only goal with 5:18 remaining to make it 3-1. "I'm not going to sit here and come up with those reasons right now. Obviously we'll have some thinking to do in the next few days. We've got a lot of time before next season."
Said coach Joel Quenneville: "We (didn't) compete to the level that's necessary. I take that personally, as a coach, that we didn't find the all-out button."
There were myriad reasons behind the dreadful result, but there's no escaping this number: 3. That was all the goals the Hawks could muster in almost 257 minutes against Pekka Rinne, Nashville's 6-foot-5 wall of a goaltender. In four games, Rinne stopped 123 of 126 shots for an off-the-charts .976 save percentage.
"Obviously they took it to us this series," Patrick Kane said. "To score 3 goals in four games, I mean, there's no way you're going to win doing that."
The Hawks had two glorious chances in the first two periods of Game 4, but Artemi Panarin and Marian Hossa inexplicably fired wide. Panarin's miss in the waning seconds of the first period was especially galling. After taking a pass from Kane, Panarin closed in on Rinne and flat-out missed his target.
"In the first two games I didn't have many chances," Panarin said. "I couldn't get in front of the goal. Today I had a bunch of them and could have helped the team a lot and didn't."
Corey Crawford was the only reason the game was in reach after two periods as each of Nashville's 20 shots seemed to be of high quality. The Preds took a 1-0 lead at 9:41 of the second period when a Josi blast hit Crawford between the legs and managed to trickle past the Hawks netminder.
Just less than six minutes later, Kane would have tied the game, but a sliding Filip Forsberg got in the way of a point-blank shot with Rinne out of position.
Sissons' crazy goal made it 2-0 with 11:08 left in the game. After the shot hit the crossbar, the puck ricocheted into Crawford's arm, and when Crawford moved his arm back, the puck dislodged and flew into the net.
Eighty-nine seconds later, Josi completed a 2-on-1 break and it was 3-0. Toews' goal -- his first in the postseason since the 2015 Cup Final -- came on the power play and made it 3-1.
Arvidsson sealed the deal by scoring into an empty net with 1:48 remaining.
"They are such a great organization, a great team with so many great players," Josi said. "We have a lot of respect for them. We lost to them two years ago and it is great to be on the winning side."
This is the fourth time in Quenneville's nine seasons in Chicago that the Hawks have been eliminated in the first round, and the second time it happened in back-to-back years. Of course, the other three times the Hawks weren't the top seed and they always pushed the series to at least six games.
"Give them credit. They played great," Quenneville said of the Predators. "I still think we didn't push in a lot of areas. We could have had the puck a lot more in a lot of situations. (We) lost lots of those 1-on-1 or those individual battles. (We were) missing shots, missing pucks. I think that was contagious.
"We had to be better."
Now that's a shot that found its mark.
Because unfortunately for Quenneville, his teams and its fans, it was the Predators who were far better and ended a season that began with so much promise.
So much hope. So many dreams.
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