Blackhawks

Keeping (The) Score: Marshall not good for Bears' offense?

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Keeping (The) Score: Marshall not good for Bears' offense?

A lot of Brandon Marshall chat time during the regular Thursday 10 a.m. visit with The McNeil & Spiegel Show on WSCR-AM 670. And for good reason.
 
Mac and Spiegs shared my sense that Brandon Marshall and even Lovie Smith were talking as much to the team as to the media on Wednesday. Smiths repeated references to the Bears 8-5 record were perhaps reminders less to the assembled media corps than players who may not feel like winners after dropping four of five. Not a bad point for Smith to stress.

MORE: What's the Bears' record? Don't worry, Lovie's got you covered
 
Marshall flung down challenges to the Green Bay Packers defensive backs, which is fine, but also declared that this was the biggest game of his career.

That was refreshing. Not all games are created equal and this one isnt. Props to Marshall for putting his emotions out there, possibly in a way making it OK for other lesser lights to do the same. Emotion spikes on game days are not bad things.

MORE: Marshall on Green Bay -- 'This is personal'
 
The guys referenced our discussion earlier this season about a point Id made as to whether Brandon Marshall catching 100 passes in this offense would be a good thing. Marshall is indeed every inch a 100-catch receiver (101, actually) and it hasnt been a good thing for this offense.
 
The problem obviously isnt what Marshall is doing; its what others are not. And I suggested a possible reason why Marshalls very strengths as a receiver may play to a shortcoming in Jay Cutlers style as a quarterback.
 
Besides the question of whether Cutler has real trust in his receivers, Cutler is a see-it-throw-it quarterback. His default setting is to wait a tick longer for a receiver to come open rather than throw to a spot at a time with the solid trust that a Devin Hester, Earl Bennett or whomever will get there when the ball does.
 
Marshall is so good, however, that Cutler can legitimately think that if he keeps a play alive and waits another tick longer, Marshall will be open. Marshall will be. He works. He works the entire play. Given enough time, against most coverages, he will win.
 
So Cutler waits and sure enough, 15 is open. Or if hes not, all things being equal, even a well-covered Marshall may be a better choice than a slightly open Kellen Davis.

MORE: Marshall ready for second shot at Packers
 
Mac and Spiegs wondered how I was leaning for outcome this weekend. Hard to pick against the Packers. Mac assessed both teams as having a little bit of hanging on at work, given the injuries all around.
 
My take, however, is that whenever you have Aaron Rodgers under center, you are by definition never just hanging on.

Three Things to Watch: Blackhawks face Golden Knights for first time

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Three Things to Watch: Blackhawks face Golden Knights for first time

Here are Three Things to Watch when the Blackhawks take on the Vegas Golden Knights Tuesday on NBC Sports Chicago and streaming live on the NBC Sports app. Coverage begins at 8:45 p.m. with Blackhawks Pregame Live.

1. Corey Crawford vs. ... Oscar Dansk? 

The Golden Knights have seen both Marc-Andre Fleury and Malcolm Subban go down with injuries, so they're scraping for goaltenders at this point.

On one end of the ice, you have one of the best netminders in the league and a two-time Stanley Cup champion in Crawford. On the other, you have a 23-year-old rookie in Dansk making his first official NHL start who will be backed up by a 24-year-old rookie in Maxime Lagace, who has never appeared in an NHL game.

In his first game action, Dansk stopped 10 of 11 shots in relief during Saturday's 3-2 overtime win over St. Louis.

2. Fast start.

The Blackhawks are tied for second in both goals scored (13) and fewest goals allowed (four) in the first period, which has a large reason for their early season success.

The Golden Knights aren't the kind of team that gets out to a blazing start. They've allowed only five goals in the opening frame, but they've scored only five as well, which ranks among the bottom 10 teams in the league. 

3. Beware of James Neal.

The Golden Knights became the first team in NHL history to win six of their first seven games of their inaugural season. And they probably don't have half of those wins if it weren't for Neal, who scored the game-winning goal in each of their first three games.

He leads the club with six goals and eight points, and serves as the motor for a team that doesn't have much offensive talent. He's the go-to guy, and somebody you have to keep an eye on when he's on the ice.

 

Three Things to Watch: Bulls square off against LeBron and the Cavaliers

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Three Things to Watch: Bulls square off against LeBron and the Cavaliers

Here are Three Things to Watch in the Bulls' Tuesday night tilt against the Cavaliers on NBC Sports Chicago and streaming live on the NBC Sports app. Coverage begins at 5:30 p.m. with Bulls Pregame Live.

1. LeBron James will be on your television

Love him or hate him, LeBron James is must-see TV. Now in his 15th NBA season, James has shown no signs of slowing down. Despite playing just one preseason game (against the Bulls), James has shown anything but rust in three games, averaging 25.0 points on 60 percent shooting, 8.3 rebounds and 6.3 assists in nearly 37 minutes. He's a threat every night to do something you've never seen on a basketball court, His Airness included. Justin Holiday and Paul Zipser will have their hands full against the game's best player.

2. Lauri Markkanen, Week 2

Small sample size alert! But through the season's first week Markkanen and Ben Simmons are the only rookies averaging a double-double (Dallas' Dennis Smith has played just one game, averaging 16 points and 10 assists). While the Bulls have struggled through two games, Markkanen's net rating is third best on the team and he leads the Bulls bigs in rebounds per game and rebound percentage. Markkanen has shown some versatility offensively, and his 7 free-throw attempts have been a nice surprise as well.

3. Don't forget: The Bulls swept the Cavaliers last year

OK, so expecting a victory Tuesday night in Cleveland isn't smart. The Bulls will be underdogs just like they were in each of the four games last season, all of which were Bulls winners. It was the first time in 52 division series that LeBron James had been swept, which is pretty remarkable considering the Bulls were the No. 8 seed and the Cavs coasted to a third straight NBA Finals. We're not over here predicting a win. But just remember: the Bulls have fared well against James in the regular season.