Don’t give up on the Blackhawks

Updated: April 20, 2017

1:16 AM ET

You knew this moment was coming, but it was still hard to believe.

There they were, the mighty Chicago Blackhawks, glumly on the wrong end of the handshake line while a joyous crowd at Bridgestone Arena celebrated their Nashville Predators.

You can only imagine the disbelief in that Chicago locker room after being swept — swept! — from the playoffs in the opening round.

Four games. Four losses. Three goals scored. Total.

The Blackhawks, Central Division champions with 109 points, sank beneath the surface of the playoffs like a stone in water, leaving not even the smallest ripple.

Sure, it’s a bottom-line business, and bottom line is this team didn’t get the job done.

But two questions face Bowman, Quenneville and the rest of this team.

Will those young players — now with valuable postseason experience — be better served next spring to answer the bell, to score those crucial goals that eluded the Blackhawks in this very brief first-round ouster?

And, secondly, can the core that has served this team so well, has won so often and brought so much glory to the franchise and the city, bounce back next spring?

Hossa is 38 and headed to the Hall of Fame, and so expectations must be muted. Toews had a miserable playoff series but remains one of the top leaders in the game. Keith is still playing at a Norris Trophy level. Kane followed up last season’s Art Ross and Hart Trophy run with 89 points and remains one of the most dangerous offensive players in the game.

It’s why so many experts I spoke to believe this is just a blip on the radar. Bottom line, it is still too early to count out the Blackhawks.

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