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.

What's done and what lies ahead: Five thoughts on the Blackhawks

What's done and what lies ahead: Five thoughts on the Blackhawks

The end came quicker than most of us expected on Thursday night when the Blackhawks were swept by the Nashville Predators, their second first-round exit in as many seasons.

Where do the Blackhawks go from here? General manager Stan Bowman, coach Joel Quenneville and Blackhawks players will address the media on Saturday as part of their locker clean-out day. Before they do, a few thoughts on the abrupt end of this season and the look ahead.

1. Quenneville taking the blame is wrong. Quenneville said it was on him that the Blackhawks didn't reach the necessary level in the postseason, that he didn't find "whatever buttons you have to push." As a coach he's responsible for finding the right combinations, for recognizing a player's strengths and weaknesses and adjusting accordingly. But when it comes to realizing it's the postseason and you've got to play that much better? That's on the players. These are grown men with very robust annual paychecks that serve as reminders on how they're supposed to play, especially during the postseason. Quenneville is responsible for certain things. Making sure a player's appetite to win is there in April is not one of them.

2. It wasn't about the goalie. There are still a few (albeit very few) who think if Scott Darling would've been in net at some point against the Predators, there would've been a different outcome. Well, we'll apply the same logic there as we did with Corey Crawford: Unless the Blackhawks' goaltenders were going to score some goals themselves, it didn't matter. Crawford wasn't the problem. Out of this four-game mess, he was probably the most consistent player. You get a slight argument on Game 3, but not much past that. The Blackhawks scored three goals in four games. They had more goals in the first game of this series two years ago.

[CHICAGO SPORTS TICKETS: Get your seats right here]

3. Don't look to the past anymore. On paper, both the Brian Campbell signing and Johnny Oduya re-acquisition looked like good ideas. Neither cost much. Neither were expected to be the go-to guys. But neither ended up being what the Blackhawks needed. This is the fourth time since 2013 the Blackhawks have brought back guys from previous Stanley Cup teams (Campbell, Oduya, Andrew Ladd and Kris Versteeg), but the moves usually didn't bring the desired results. It's great to think you can recapture the magic with former players, but years go by and times change.

4. Be ready for changes. Don't expect front-office changes. What Bowman and Quenneville have done over the past few seasons is tremendous, especially in the salary-cap era. While this result is shocking and beyond disappointing, it's not reason enough to start dismantling the brain trust. Roster changes, however, won't be a surprise. They never are with this team. It would be a surprise if either Oduya or Campbell are back. Do they consider moving a bigger contract? Maybe, but that depends on having a willing trade partner and the player (likely) having to OK it. But the Blackhawks have to start looking forward more.

5. Take heart in the future. The Blackhawks got a glimpse into what the next generation can bring this season, and most of it is good. Ryan Hartman had an outstanding rookie season. Nick Schmaltz had the growing pains that accompany a player making the jump from college straight to the pros, but the skill is there and he should keep developing. Tyler Motte was outstanding at the start of the season. If he can reach pre-injury levels again this fall, he'll be valuable. Let's not forget Alex DeBrincat, who put up an astounding 127 points and set and/or tied a few Ontario Hockey League records with the Erie Otters this season. He's been great in the playoffs, too, with 22 points through 11 games.

Regardless of lines, Blackhawks need a stronger overall game

Regardless of lines, Blackhawks need a stronger overall game

NASHVILLE — The Blackhawks' lines looked pretty much as they did when the postseason began, especially the top two. But with the Blackhawks right now, it doesn't seem to matter who's lined up with whom. It's the overall play which has been the problem, and regardless of lineup, that has to change on Monday night.

Nick Schmaltz is back on the top line and the defensive top six will also be the same when the Blackhawks face the Nashville Predators in Game 3 of their first-round series on Monday. The Blackhawks went into full line-blender mode on Saturday, when the Predators drubbed them 5-0. Nothing worked, so they’ll go back to what was successful a good part of the season.

What has to change is the compete level.

"It's how we play and how we compete that has to be raised to the level needed come playoff time. That's probably the one thing that sticks out, the certain standard you expect everybody to be at," coach Joel Quenneville said following skatearound. "We have to meet it tonight and get that engagement across the board."

Just getting a goal at this point would be a great moral victory for the Blackhawks. Getting the lead would be outstanding but again, finding some consistency is needed first.

"Well, of course, we want to play ahead, we want to start with a lead. But we haven't had the first 20 minutes, the first periods we've been looking for in the first two games. We'll look to improve there," Jonathan Toews. "At the end of the day, it has to be energy, speed and just that competitive nature has to kick in right away and we can't wait for them to wake us up. We'll start with that and try to, in some ways, be the guys that try and frustrate and agitate them a little bit."

The Predators are in good shape coming back home but they want to avoid what they did last spring. They took a 2-0 lead in Anaheim, only to come home and lose Games 3 and 4 at Bridgestone Arena. The Predators would end up beating the Ducks seven games but now that they have an edge on the Blackhawks, they want to keep it.

"You always say it but just sitting back for a half a second and they jump all over you. It's a desperate team and they're going to be playing like that," James Neal said. "[The Blackhawks] have been in a lot of different positions over the years and in the playoffs and have come out successful. We have to be ready to go with our game, we have to have the desperation in our building, get on the attack and do everything hard, fast and strong tonight."

BLACKHAWKS AT NASHVILLE PREDATORS

8:30 p.m.
TV: CSN
Live stream: CSNChicago.com or NBC Sports app
Radio: WGN 720 AM

Chicago Blackhawks

Forward lines

Nick Schmaltz-Jonathan Toews-Richard Panik

Artemi Panarin-Artem Anisimov-Patrick Kane

Dennis Rasmussen-Marcus Kruger-Marian Hossa

Ryan Hartman-Tanner Kero-Jordin Tootoo

Defensive pairs

Duncan Keith-Niklas Hjalmarsson

Johnny Oduya-Brent Seabrook

Brian Campbell-Trevor van Riemsdyk

Goaltender

Corey Crawford

INJURIES/ILLNESS: Michal Rozsival (facial fractures), Andrew Desjardins (lower body)

 

Nashville Predators

Forward lines (projected/Predators had optional skate)

Filip Forsberg-Ryan Johansen-Viktor Arvidsson

Harry Zolnierczyk-Mike Fisher-Austin Watson

Kevin Fiala-Calle Jarnkrok-James Neal

Pontus Aberg-Colton Sissons-Craig Smith

Defensive Pairs

Roman Josi-Ryan Ellis

Mattias Ekholm-P.K. Subban

Yannick Weber-Matt Irwin

Goaltender

Pekka Rinne

INJURIES/ILLNESS: Colin Wilson (lower body).