NHL

Blackhawks blame goaltending, special teams play for early exit

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Associated Press
4/25/2012 5:50:21 PM
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CHICAGO -- Two days after the Chicago Blackhawks were eliminated from the playoffs, general manager Stan Bowman said goaltending and poor special teams play were the major obstacles to success this season.

No. 1 goaltender Corey Crawford let in two soft goals in overtime that cost them in playoff games, and didn't post a shutout this season in 57 appearances. His goals-against average of 2.72 ranked 32nd in the NHL, and more than a goal a game worse than the league leader, St. Louis' Brian Elliott.

"Our goaltending in general was not our strength this season," Bowman said. "Individually, (Crawford) has to be better, and I think he would agree with that."

Crawford was not at the news conference Wednesday.

The Chicago power play, led by Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane and Patrick Sharp, scored 42 times in 82 games, connecting on 15.2 per cent of chances, and ranked 24th in the 30-team NHL.

"You want the power play to be a momentum generator, not a momentum killer," Bowman said. "The momentum would die when we got the power play. It's unacceptable to have the calibre of players we do and not make it work."

Kane called the power play "a big downfall for us. It's embarrassing when you're 16th out of 16 teams in the playoffs." He said missing a big player screening the goaltender, as Dustin Byfuglien did during the Stanley Cup run of 2010, was a reason why.

"That's a huge part of the power play," Kane said.

The penalty killing was worse, ranking 27th and allowing goals on 21.9 per cent of opposing chances.

Bowman called it "a coaching thing," but while voicing confidence in head coach Joel Quenneville, refused to say if assistants Mike Kitchen or Mike Haviland would return. Kitchen and Haviland traded special teams duties during the season.

"I thought the power play was a sore point," Quenneville said. "The penalty killing wasn't much better when you look at the stats. I'm going to absorb some responsibility for this year. In the future, our coaches will have to absorb responsibility, and our players will have to absorb responsibility."

Bowman said losing gritty forward Dan Carcillo to a season-ending knee injury in January hampered the club.

"He really fit in well with our higher-end players," Bowman said. "He made a contribution. When you can spread the scoring out on three lines with physicality, you have an advantage."

Carcillo has been re-signed through the 2013-14 season. Other moves, Bowman said, won't be decided until he completes assessing this year's roster, but not every free agent will return.

"It's hard to look at the season as a success two days after you're eliminated," Bowman said. "This is what you're measured on. But you also can't throw out the 101 points this season."

The Hawks finished fourth in the Central Division with the fifth-most points in the Western Conference, but were eliminated by Phoenix, the Pacific Division champion, in six games. Five went to overtime.

"When you don't reach your goal, it's a big disappointment," Bowman said. "We set out every year to win the Stanley Cup, and we didn't do that. We're sitting here and not playing past the end of April."

Bowman said he expected forward Marian Hossa, who suffered a season-ending concussion after a hit to the head by Phoenix forward Raffi Torres, to be ready for next season. Training camp is five months away.

Stan Bowman (Photo: Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

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(Photo: Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
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