Blackhawks

All or Nothing

All or Nothing

Friday, May 14, 2010
1:29 AM

Game 7. Thats what it gets down to. Everything determined by the seeming flip of a coin. Its the thing that baseball, basketball and hockey have over football. Not much else, but they have that. The entire hopes of a season come down to being able to get it done one more time or its time to go home. The cumulative scores of the previous six games dont matter, a win is a win and a loss is a loss, but, often, the cumulative affect of those games does. Each game a chapter in a story that always becomes more compelling as it goes along. The pressure on the athletes is staggering. As one who only gets to watch these games being played, I often marvel at that. Do they know? You often hear players after such games say that the key was to treat it like any other game, to stay within themselves. That they must have the ability to block out all of the extraneous thoughts and play the game the way they have for their entire lives. WHATEVER! Game 7s drive me crazy! I often wonder if theyre worth watching. (Kidding of course!)

Something else Ive also heard athletes say is that it was harder on everyone else around them in their lives than on them. I can relate to that. It comes down to control: I have none! Im just along for the ride. Hey! Rooting for my teams is like being with my wife and kids! (Ill be here all week!) The thing about Game 7 is that the finality is staring you right in the face. The key phrase in any season is: Theres still time. Weve heard it a million times, and thats just from both of the baseball teams here this season! (Try the veal!) Patience is always preached, during the season and in the playoffs. One game does not a season make, until this one that is. My patience is gone!
What I have right now is a mix of trepidation and that dangerous thing known as hope. You follow your team for an entire season, watching games, checking box scores and getting any information on them from any source you can, its all part of the journey. Then as the playoffs start, if your team is good enough to get in, you realize there are only two ways for the journey to end. The elusive ultimate triumph, or having your heart ripped out, AGAIN! Sorry, Im conditioned to react that way. The key then, for a fan, is to have realistic expectations. No need setting myself up for heartbreak, I mean, what are the odds that one of my teams would win?

For me this year, in hockey, its a tale of two teams. In my adopted hometown of Chicago, Ive gotten caught up in the Blackhawk fever thats sweeping the city. Not that Im a newcomer to following this team, since Rocky took over Ive watched about every game, but my expectation finally mirrors what is going on around me. I realize how hard it is for a team to win the Cup, so to this point Ive tempered my enthusiasm, but this team is truly built to win THIS year. Developmentally and contractually, this might be their best shot. Im still concerned with the good Blackhawkbad Blackhawk thing that theyve been displaying pretty much since the Olympic break, but their good games lately have been the best hockey Ive seen them play. Definitely they have championship talent, but I think its going to be everything else that determines whether they can win eight more games.

Then comes the thing that I cant get off my mind. The beginning of the Flyers season was loaded with hype. No less than Mr. Hockey Hair himself picked them to reach the Stanley Cup Finals, against the Blackhawks no less. Then as the season progressed, the Flyers play was a source of constant grief for Melrose from his TV mates. Oh, well. When the Flyers lucked into the playoffs on the last day of the season, after a shoot-out, needless to say I was not expecting much. Knocking the Rangers out of the playoffs on that final day was going to have to be my source of enjoyment of a season gone wrong.

Well, its going to be more than that now. In spite of a rash of injuries, (Theyve lost their leading scorer, their hottest goalie and their top penalty killer: has that happened to anyone else? No! ) the Flyers find themselves one win from HOSTING Game 1 of the Eastern Finals. They have this chance after rallying from being down 3-0. Each of the three wins to get back in it have been excruciating, to WATCH! At any time the season could have been over. And even if they had a lead, which they did most of the time, it seemed like the clock was moving backwards! Now all of that will be for naught if they dont seal the deal. Close is never enough! Do I like and respect this team more than I thought I would? Absolutely! But to win this game, to come back, against Boston would be, short of winning the Cup and beating the Russians, one of my all-time hockey moments, not to mention a great way to stop the chowder-heads in their tracks when they start to babble at the bar.

It will only take one game, one game for them to be immortalized. I dont know if I can watch. And for Frankie O irony,(is there any other kind?) I wont get to watch it live. It seems game-time coincides with dinner and a movie with the Boss for her birthday. (Chick flick or Game 7? Now thats funny!) I think its a sign. Just in case, thank goodness for TiVo and an occasional restroom break with my Crackberry! Any way it will give me more time to dream: What if? That, and time to thank God Im not from Cleveland!

Anton Forsberg is giving the Blackhawks exactly what they need

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USA TODAY

Anton Forsberg is giving the Blackhawks exactly what they need

Anton Forsberg had just finished an extended morning skate Wednesday morning in St. Louis. The backup goaltender had played in one regular-season game for the Blackhawks to that point, so getting in extra work to stay sharp was helpful.

“I try to keep my focus in practice and work extra every day, get a few extra shots in practice with the extra guys who are out there, work with Jimmy and try to keep my game shape,” Forsberg said, referring to Blackhawks goaltending coach Jimmy Waite.

Whatever Forsberg’s working on in practice and skates seems to be working, because in two games with the Blackhawks he’s looked sharp. Forsberg probably deserved a victory on Thursday night when he stopped 40 shots in the Blackhawks’ 2-1 overtime loss to the Edmonton Oilers. It’s the backup life to wait and see when that next start will come, but Forsberg has been ready.

“For sure I felt more comfortable today, more used to the speed,” he said following Thursday’s game. “I felt I read the game better, felt I had more time moving around. It’s tough, again, to lose in overtime. Obviously I wanted to win and it’s frustrating.”

Frustrating for sure, but Forsberg is giving the Blackhawks exactly what they want and need: a dependable backup that gives them a chance to win. The two goals Forsberg gave up on Thursday weren’t softies, either — Patrick Maroon’s goal off a ridiculous Connor McDavid pass and Mark Letestu’s over game-winner that deflected off Brent Seabrook’s stick.

“He kept us in a tight game like he did in Toronto, got us to overtime. I kind of feel bad we didn’t get him a win in either of those,” Ryan Hartman said. “He played well both of those games. It’s nice to have a guy on the back end like that.”

Forsberg has blended in well with the Blackhawks. It helps that he already knew two of them, Brandon Saad and Artem Anisimov, his former teammates in Columbus. He and Corey Crawford already have a good rapport. Same goes for he and Waite, and Forsberg has soaked up any information they’ve given him.

“I feel like both him and Corey teach me a lot. We talk about different situations, especially all the reads,” Forsberg said. “I get to know how (Crawford) thinks the game. He’s been around a long time and has been doing well, so it’s interesting every day to hear what he has to say. Even Jimmy’s been around same thing there, discussing my game, what we want to improve, what we want to do different, what to keep the same and go from there.”

The extra work in practices and skates appears to be working as Forsberg has done a lot right in just his first two games, which were 10 days apart. The Blackhawks have had a good run of backup goaltenders; two games is a small sample size but Forsberg could be the latest reliable backup.

The craziest stats from Cubs 2017 postseason run

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AP

The craziest stats from Cubs 2017 postseason run

The Cubs go home for the winter with a bad taste in their mouths for the 108th time in the last 109 years.

But such is the nature of professional sports, where only one team and its fanbase gets to experience euphoria on the final day of the season.

The Cubs didn't play as well as they would've liked in the 2017 postseason, something they readily admit.

But the numbers behind the October run are pretty astounding.

Here are some of the most eye-popping stats from this fall, courtesy of NBC Sports Chicago stat guru Chris Kamka:

—The Cubs had the second-lowest batting average (.156) of any team in a best-of-7 League Championship Series.

The only team lower is the Houston Astros through five games, hitting .147 entering play Friday night against the New York Yankees.

The next lowest batting averages in a best-of-7 LCS:

.157 - 2012 Yankees
.164 - 2015 Cubs
.168 - 2016 Indians

—The Cubs also had the lowest batting average in a single postseason in baseball history among teams who have played at least eight postseason games.

And it's not a particularly close margin:

.168 - 2017 Cubs
.188 - 2012 Yankees
.198 - 1974 A's (won World Series with no LDS)
.204 - 2015 Cubs
.207 - 1973 A's (won World Series with no LDS)

—2017 was an interesting year when it came to home runs for the Cubs.

In the regular season, the Cubs were 77-37 (.675 winning percentage) when hitting at least one homer and just 15-33 (.313 winning percentage) when not homering.

But in the postseason, that script was completely flipped.

The Cubs were only 1-5 (.167) in October when homering and 3-1 when going homerless.

—The offensive issues go far beyond just homers for the Cubs.

They scored nine runs in that epic Game 5 of the NLDS but scored just eight runs as a whole in the NLCS. 

What's even crazier — all nine runs in Game 5 came without benefit of a homer. Every NLCS run the Cubs plated was off a longball as they went 0-for-14 with runners in scoring position.

And then there's this:

—The difference in offensive execution in the NLCS can be summed up just by looking at the strikeout-to-walk ratio of each team.

The Cubs struck out 53 times in the five games compared to only five walks.

The Dodgers, meanwhile, struck out just 41 times with a whopping 28 walks. 

—A huge reason for the Cubs' downfall was the disappearance of Bryzzo in the NLCS.

Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo combined for a .135/.179/.216 slash line with one walk and one hit by pitch. Their only run and RBI combined came on Bryant's homer in Game 5 Thursday when the Cubs were already down 9-0.

—Here's how each spot in the Cubs order fared in the postseason:

1. 4-for-36 (.111 AVG)
2. 7-for-38 (.184)
3. 7-for-38 (.184)
4. 5-for-33 (.152)
5. 10-for-37 (.270)
6. 7-for-33 (.212)
7. 5-for-30 (.167)
8. 0-for-31 (.000)
9. 6-for-28 (.214)

Total: 51-for-304 (.168)

—In the Cubs' defense, they were going up against an elite starting staff led by Clayton Kershaw (whom they faced twice) and a bullpen that ranks among the best in baseball history.

The Dodgers had the second-best bullpen WHIP in an LCS in baseball history, coming in at 0.294 in 17 innings pitched.

The only team better? The 2005 White Sox bullpen, though they only had to get two outs in that ALCS.

The 2016 Blue Jays bullpen came close, posting a 0.553 WHIP in 12.2 innings against the Indians last fall.