Patrick Kane was disappointed the season ended Tuesday but was encouraged by the Chicago Blackhawks’ experience in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
“To play in these postseason playoff games, [especially] for guys that had never done that, it’s a huge way to get experience for those guys and I think we can build off this too, as a team,” the forward said after the No. 8 seed Blackhawks were eliminated by a 4-3 loss to the No. 1 seed Vegas Golden Knights in Game 5 of the Western Conference First Round at Rogers Place in Edmonton.
“I’m not sure what the team will look like come next year, but the young guys that got a chance to play in the postseason hopefully they’ll take this as a valuable learning lesson. We can get better as a group from it.”
The Blackhawks, who had not reached the Stanley Cup Playoffs since 2017, defeated the Edmonton Oilers in four games of a best-of-5 Stanley Cup Qualifier series. Young players, including forwards Kirby Dach, 19; Alex DeBrincat, 22; Dylan Strome, 23; Matthew Highmore, 24; Dominik Kubalik, 24; and 20-year-old defenseman Adam Boqvist, gained their first NHL playoff experience.
Kubalik scored eight points (four goals, four assists) in the nine games, and Dach (one goal, five assists) and DeBrincat (two goals, four assists) scored six points each.
“For the young players, of course this experience is going to be huge. We just wanted to prolong it, go as long as we could,” Blackhawks coach Jeremy Colliton said. “Every moment in there was a positive, so that’s only going to help these guys. Just being here, and even going to games. A lot of guys, you see them going to watch the other playoff games (in the hub city), and just seeing how the [St. Louis] Blues play and how hard they played to crawl back into [their] series (2-2 against the Vancouver Canucks).
“That kind of thing is hugely valuable. We want to be that team. We want to be an elite team. We want to be competing for Cups. So they’ll get better [from] this for sure.”
Center Jonathan Toews, who scored nine points (five goals, four assists), said he and others who have been to the playoffs numerous times needed this too. He, Kane and defenseman Duncan Keith were Stanley Cup champions in 2010, 2013 and 2015, and forward Brandon Saad and goalie Corey Crawford were on the 2013 and 2015 Cup-winning teams.
“It was definitely good for us to get back to the playoffs and play some meaningful games, for guys that haven’t been here before, and even for the guys who have,” Toews, the 32-year-old Chicago captain, said. “You miss the playoffs for a couple years in a row, you’re watching a lot of hockey late in the spring, and you kind of lose track of where you stand, because there’s no doubt it’s a different level from the regular season. There’s some benefit there for the veteran guys on our team as well.”
Kane said the Blackhawks can also take some things from the Golden Knights.
“I thought we were very prepared against Edmonton and we can learn from the way Vegas plays,” the 31-year-old said. “They play hard, they play fast, but they also aren’t afraid to jump in the rush and make plays and use that transition to their advantage. I think that’s maybe the next step for us. It’s tough to look on the brighter side right now after a loss. But that’s a good team over there and we can learn from them, like I said.
“It’s nice to play in the playoffs again, you know? It’s been a while. So it was nice to do that this year and get a chance to do that even though it probably wasn’t looking that way in the regular season.”