Looking ahead for the Blackhawks: Find a top-4 defenseman, trade Anisimov

Perhaps the most critical part of the Blackhawks' fortunes in 2018-19 will be the health of franchise goaltender Corey Crawford. Patrick Gorski/Icon Sportswire

As each NHL team is eliminated from playoff contention -- either mathematically or by losing in the postseason -- we'll take a look at why its quest for the Stanley Cup fell short in 2017-18, along with three keys to its offseason and a way-too-early prediction on what 2018-19 will hold.

What went wrong

Corey Crawford's absence was the biggest dagger to the Blackhawks' season, as a Dec. 23 game is likely to be his final action of the season. The 33-year-old goaltender was having a Vezina Trophy-caliber campaign and masked a lot of Chicago's weaknesses for the first half of the season.

About those weaknesses: Though Patrick Kane proved he can produce with any linemates, the creative chemistry he developed with Artemi Panarin was sorely missed. Bringing Brandon Saad back wasn't a terrible idea by general manager Stan Bowman, but the 25-year-old had an off year, and the reunion with Jonathan Toews didn't automatically re-ignite the magic. The captain, too, had a season of subpar production.