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And then there were 11: Another first-round exit for Blackhawks

Apr 23, 2012, 11:49 PM EDT

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The Phoenix Coyotes finally beat the Chicago Blackhawks in regulation – and ended their playoff run, in the process. The final score was misleadingly lopsided (4-0), but the bottom line is that the Coyotes took the series 4-2.

The Blackhawks face a slew of haunting “What if?” questions and make no mistake about it: Mike Smith will haunt their dreams. (Raffi Torres might as well.)

To the autopsy…

What happened?

Smith stood on his head just about all series long. If you want a stat that summarizes Chicago’s frustration, just check Game 6: through two periods, the Blackhawks held a 28-8 shot advantage. The Coyotes had a 1-0 lead that eventually morphed into a 4-0 win. Yup, that must be frustrating.

Who takes the blame?

Smith’s brilliance only made Corey Crawford‘s inadequacies seem more stark. Tonight’s clincher is really the only game in which his numbers are awful (16 out of 20 saves), but the highlights of some of his softies will live on in the disappointed memories of many Blackhawks fans.

What will they do about it?

The overall core is what it is, really. Even Crawford and backup Ray Emery are under contract next season, although the Blackhawks haven’t been shy about scuttling out an ineffective netminder if necessary (see: Huet, Cristobal).

Beyond the big goalie question, the Blackhawks will likely do the same thing this summer that they did last year: stock up on cheap veterans to build around their still great-core. Hawks fans just have to hope that those veterans end up more effective than the last batch.

Having a healthy Marian Hossa wouldn’t hurt, either.

More

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And then there were 12: Presidents’ Trophy-winning Canucks bounced in Round 1

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