For the second straight season, following their 2010 Stanley Cup championship, the Blackhawks were eliminated in the first round of the playoffs. Last season was sort of a hangover following the overspending of the previous title campaign, with the Hawks having to jettison players to get back under the salary cap, but even so they took the Vancouver Canucks to the seventh game of the opening round, where they lost in overtime to the team that eventually lost in the Cup finals, so it didn’t seem as if the required fixes were that dramatic. The Hawks definitely seemed improved this season, with a bit more grit and a shored-up defense, and they pulled themselves up to the sixth seed in the Western Conference playoffs, after just making it in a year ago. Yet they went out in six games to the Phoenix Coyotes, who had never before won an NHL playoff series, so the prevailing mood at the moment is the Hawks took one step forward and two steps back.