The Wild is not the only Western Conference favorite to fall into a 3-0 hole in the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
The Chicago Blackhawks, the conference’s top team at the end of the regular season, trails Nashville 3-0 in their series after Monday’s 3-2 overtime loss. The disappointing start has stunned Blackhawks fans and led local media to consider the possibility that this may be the end of an era of dominance for the franchise.
If the Blackhawks are eliminated, it will be their second-straight knockout in the first round of the playoffs. They lost to St. Louis is seven games last season while the Wild was getting eliminated by Dallas.
“If the Blackhawks get kicked out in the first round, I don’t even know what I’ll do,” Blackhawks fan Kennedy Powers tweeted.
Hockey fan Ryan Boyd tweeted “Never thought the Blackhawks would be down 3-0.”
Boyd is not alone. Just a week ago, the Blackhawks were 4-to-1 odds to win the Stanley Cup. Now they are one game from elimination. Chicago failed to score in each of the first two games and blew a two-goal lead Monday. Game 4 is Thursday night in Nashville.
Chicago Sun Times reporter Mark Potash wrote that Game 3’s blown two-goal lead was “yet another warning sign that this playoff series is not just a disappointment, but the beginning of the end of the era when the Hawks are annual Cup favorites. The Hawks seem to be in the awkward position of reaching back for a fastball they no longer have.”
Chicago Tribune columnist David Haugh wrote Wednesday that Nashville simply looks like the better, more dangerous team.
“They execute more efficiently at both ends, exiting their own zone quickly and entering Hawks territory smoothly,” Haugh wrote. “They resemble the No. 1 seed in the Western Conference more than their counterparts, operating at a different gear. The Hawks appear a step too slow, at least a year too old and on the verge of beginning an offseason full of introspection.
Chris Hine and Chris Kuc of the Chicago Tribune tried to answer the question: “What is wrong with the Blackhawks?”
“All series the Hawks have lacked energy and, frankly, have at times appeared disinterested,” Kuc said. “They were saying all the right things in the dressing room following Monday’s loss but the 'nothing is over yet' mantra rang a bit hollow. This looks like a beaten team. Expect a pushback in Game 4 on Thursday night but barring a miracle, it looks like a second consecutive first-round departure."
Hine said “A little bit of everything is wrong. The young players appear overwhelmed. The defense looks a step slow as the Predators outskate them. The forwards can’t create offense or maintain the puck for meaningful periods of time.”
Mark Lazerus of the Sun Times is reminding Blackhawks fans that overcoming a 3-0 deficit is not impossible. The team nearly achieved this feat in 2011.
“They were six years younger back then, with a lot less mileage on their bodies and a lot less weariness in their voices,” Lazerus wrote.
“But looking back through all the postseason memories they’ve made in the last nine years, the veteran Blackhawks still can recall how they took a 3-0 series deficit all the way to overtime of Game 7 against the Vancouver Canucks in 2011. … They did their best to ignore the daunting big picture and focused only on the task at hand: Win one game, then see what happens.”
Blackhawks fans have also received blowback from their team's disappointing effort with a heavy dose of online trolling.
The Chicago Tribune staff wrote, "Some anonymous Nashvillain (or several of them) kept hacking the Blackhawks' Wikipedia page until the site's operators restricted access. Some tweaks have cast the Nashville Predators or goaltender Pekka Rinne as the Hawks' 'owner.' Another tied the United Center to the incident where a United Airlines passenger was dragged from his seat: 'Arena: It starts with United so the Blackhawks going to get beat up.' "
More sampling of the reaction:
The Bulls have more playoff wins than the Blackhawks. No one on earth saw that coming. https://t.co/KddaARnBHt— James (@GodsChosenJames) April 19, 2017
Has anyone seen the Blackhawks??? pic.twitter.com/Bs178p4TUW— Blackhawk Up (@Blackhawk_Up) April 18, 2017