Which Blackhawks will be participating in 2017 IIHF World Championships?

Which Blackhawks will be participating in 2017 IIHF World Championships?

The Blackhawks' season ended much sooner than expected after being swept in the first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs by the Nashville Predators.

But for some players, their hockey season may not be finished yet.

The IIHF World Championships begin May 5, and an early postseason exit gives several Blackhawks an opportunity to play in the tournament.

With the National Hockey League saying it will not participate in the 2018 Winter Olympics, players may be more inclined to join given the uncertainty of when they'll be able to represent their countries again — if ever, for some.

Here's an update on which Blackhawks players could be participating:

— Patrick Kane said Saturday he's taking the weekend to mull over Team USA's offer, and will make a final decision in the next "day or two."

— Duncan Keith, Brent Seabrook and Jonathan Toews each declined their invites from Team Canada, electing to use a lengthy offseason to recharge and focus on training for the 2017-18 NHL season.

— Corey Crawford and Nick Schmaltz said they have not been contacted by their respective countries, but both said they would consider going if they are.

— Artemi Panarin has reportedly already accepted Team Russia's offer to play.

— Niklas Hjalmarsson said he's "thinking about" Team Sweden's offer after the NHL's decision not to attend the 2018 Winter Olympics. "Who knows when I'll ever get a chance to play for my country again, so that might be factor," he said.

— Marcus Kruger said he's talking with Team Sweden officials, and has expressed interest in going.

— Marian Hossa said he informed Team Slovakia that he will not be playing: "Let the young guys play."

— Richard Panik will not be participating either, saying he doesn't want to risk injury as he seeks a new contract.

Stan Bowman 'completely, completely disappointed' with Blackhawks

Stan Bowman 'completely, completely disappointed' with Blackhawks

Stan Bowman walked to the lectern with a note in his hand, a few things written down. It was unusual for Bowman to do so; his opening remarks are usually off the cuff.

But there was nothing usual about Saturday, a day the Blackhawks should have been hosting the Nashville Predators for Game 5 of their first-round series. Instead, the Blackhawks general manager was leading off the team's locker-cleanout day. It was much earlier than expected and he was predictably angry about it.

"I'm completely, completely disappointed. It's unacceptable to be where we are today," Bowman said. "I'm frustrated, I'm angry. This was a tough, tough loss for us all to take. Standing here April 22 is not the way we expected our season to end. And it's a complete failure when you measure it against the expectations that we have of ourselves. We did not come even close to reaching the standard we have set over the years here. And that's unacceptable."

Bowman used the word "unacceptable" numerous times, and understandably so. After a great regular season, the Blackhawks crashed and burned in the first round. Considering how poorly it went, Bowman said there will absolutely be changes this offseason.

"There will be change moving forward; change comes in many different ways. So the specifics of how we're going to change things into next year are not really meant for this forum. But I can promise you we need to be better," Bowman said.

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There has been plenty of change for the Blackhawks in every offseason, but usually that's been due to cap. This being due to poor performance is something they haven't dealt with in a while.

"I understand that they're upset. Going out the way we did was not acceptable and if Stan thinks we need a change, you know, we might need a change," Niklas Hjalmarsson said. "He's pretty good at what he's doing, so I guess we'll see what happens over the summer."

So how do you make changes on a team loaded with lengthy contracts, many of which comes no-movement clauses? It can be done, but it's up to finding a team with some cap room and a player who's willing to OK the deal. The Blackhawks have made that work before; in the summer of 2011 they traded Brian Campbell and Campbell's then-sizeable control to the Florida Panthers. But one way or another, be it with different players or a different attitude, the Blackhawks say they need to find what they lacked in these playoffs.

"It seems like Nashville had more bite and more aggression. In the playoffs you have to bring it and we didn't answer," Duncan Keith said. "I know I could've played better and we all could've played better. As a team you have that aggressiveness and energy and bite and pushback. Just seemed like it wasn't there."

One area that won't change is at coach. Bowman said, "Joel [Quenneville] is our head coach. He will continue to be our head coach. And Joel and I are going to work together to make sure that this never happens again.

Outside of that, however, it sounds like the Blackhawks will take a thorough look at things this summer, reassess and see what they can do to be better. The Blackhawks thought they were in good shape heading into the playoffs. But their lack of performance there, proved otherwise. Anything they accomplished in the regular season seemed worthless.

There's no doubt the Blackhawks will look long and hard at things this offseason, which came a lot faster than anyone expected.

"I guess anger is probably as good a word you can express with where we're at and how I feel. After the game, you had a sense over the last couple of games and series that it was one of those, whether frustration or whatever word is a negative connotation that jumps out, explains where we're at and how we're feeling," Quenneville said. "Figuring it out is the process now."

History may not be on the side of the Blackhawks this time around

History may not be on the side of the Blackhawks this time around

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – History teaches us plenty. It's a great guide to show us what worked, what didn't in the past.

For the Blackhawks, recent playoff history has been good. Even when they've been down in a series, the Blackhawks have shown great resolve. They've come back from 0-2 and 3-1 deficits to win series against St. Louis and Detroit, respectively, rallied from 0-3 against Vancouver in 2011 to force a Game 7, which they lost in overtime.

With each deficit the Blackhawks have faced in this series against the Nashville Predators, we've looked back on their history, looked for some instance in which they've been here, done this before and can do it again.

But in this case, there may not really be a good comparison.

The last time the Blackhawks trailed 3-0 in a series was that first-round tilt against Vancouver in 2011. But as coach Joel Quenneville said about that on Monday night, "that was a long time ago. Different group here."

That team was coming off its first Stanley Cup in decades and the salary-cap purge that followed. Even going down 3-0, there were more positives to take from those three games. There were a few more contributions across the board offensively. The Blackhawks were shut out in that first game vs. Vancouver but scored six goals over the next two contests.

And while the Blackhawks were pared down to the core that's still relatively intact today, that core was six years younger with a lot less mileage on it. Stanley Cup runs, Olympics, World Cup, whether players or coaches want to admit it, it all has to take its toll.

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If there is any similarity between then and now it's the Blackhawks' mantra, which is the one any team takes when it's down 3-0 in a series.

"Obviously, it's not the situation or position we want to be in, being down 3-0, but take it one game at a time, one shift at a time, one period at a time," Duncan Keith said. "Anything can happen. We've got to stay positive in here and try to win that first shift and go from there."

Do you rule a comeback completely out? Of course not. It's the Blackhawks and it's the postseason, so anything is possible. Four teams in NHL history have come back to win a series after being down 3-0, two from a while back (1942 Toronto Maple Leafs and 1975 New York Islanders) and two recently (2010 Philadelphia Flyers and 2014 Los Angeles Kings). Quenneville referenced the last two on Tuesday.  

"We played Philly in the finals in 2010. They were down 3-0 and they go to the finals. L.A., down 3-0 first round to San Jose, and win a Cup. So, I know it's a gigantic hole we've put ourselves in here, but those are two pretty good examples of being around to see," he said.

Again, anything is possible. But the Blackhawks' performances are going to have to get a lot better at lot quicker. In the first three games they've played one really good period, and that was the second on Monday night.

The Blackhawks face a Herculean task starting with Thursday night's game. It can be done. History has shown us it can be. But considering how the Blackhawks have played so far this series, this history will be even that much tougher to make.