Blackhawks

Latest battle between Djokovic, Nadal won by...

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Latest battle between Djokovic, Nadal won by...

From Comcast SportsNetMONACO (AP) -- Rafael Nadal finally managed to beat Novak Djokovic in a final, thrashing the top-ranked Serb 6-3, 6-1 on Sunday to win the Monte Carlo Masters for the eighth consecutive year and end a run of seven straight defeats to his rival in title matches.Nadal was hardly troubled by Djokovic in this one and broke the Serb's serve five times in a one-sided affair on clay to win his 42nd straight match at Monte Carlo. It was his first title since last year's French Open and the 47th of his career."I always loved this tournament since I was a kid. One of my dreams was play here," Nadal said. "It's a historic tournament (where) you see all your idols when you are a kid playing here."The 25-year-old Nadal thrust his hands in the air after clinching victory in style with an ace that flew past the beleaguered Djokovic, who beat Nadal in an epic Australian Open final this year."If you see the finals I win here, all the finals are against probably top-six players," Nadal said. "That's something that makes the victories even more difficult."Nadal now leads their head-to-head series 17-14, but it was his first win against Djokovic since an early match at the 2010 ATP Finals in London. The Serb had beaten Nadal in three consecutive Grand Slam finals and handed him his only defeats on clay last year."Winning against Novak in (the) final after losing a few ones is important for me," Nadal said. "My level of tennis was high during the last four matches."Nadal was also relieved to come through the tournament without further aggravating his troublesome left knee, having rested it and had treatment for three weeks before coming to Monte Carlo."I am very happy because my knee is not limiting (my) movement. I can run 100 percent," Nadal said. "You have pain, but (if) you feel you can run to every ball, (then) the pain never is a problem."Nadal has won a record 20 Masters titles, putting him one ahead of 16-time Grand Slam champion Roger Federer.Djokovic, who has been playing through grief since the death of his grandfather Thursday, said he felt emotionally drained and was unable to summon the mental strength he needed to dig deep against Nadal."I definitely don't want to take away anything from Rafa's win. He was a better player," Djokovic said. "But it's a fact that I just didn't have any emotional energy left in me."Djokovic's grandfather was buried back home in Serbia on Saturday."I've never been caught up in this kind of emotional situation before," Djokovic said. "I'm just happy to reach the finals really under the circumstances. It's been a very difficult week for me to go through mentally."He has not decided what his schedule will be over the next few days."I obviously have to go to visit my grandfather's grave and see, because I wasn't there (at the) funeral yesterday," he said. "So I'll be there."Nadal had promised to be aggressive and, after Djokovic held in his opening service game at love, the Spaniard was relentless in running the Serb all over the court."Fantastic, impressive. The way he's been treating this sport is a real example of a champion," Djokovic said of Nadal's eight straight wins at Monte Carlo. "I only have nice things to say about him. Every year he comes back and he looks like he's the first time in this place."Djokovic struggled to find a rhythm, making 25 unforced errors to just 11 winners. Nadal, meanwhile, timed most of his shots to perfection and pushed Djokovic further and further back."I think today he played just enough to win," Djokovic said. "I just wasn't there. You know, I didn't play well, play at all, you know. I just was out there trying to put the ball in the court."The breezy conditions seemed to bother Djokovic more than they did Nadal, although the swirling winds were not as intense as Saturday.Nadal, the 10-time Grand Slam champion, found his range quickly and broke Djokovic in the third game when the Serb's backhand sailed wide.In the second set, Nadal went up 3-0 after breaking Djokovic's serve then holding at love.That was soon 4-0 as Nadal won a long rally on break point. Djokovic looked to have won it with a big forehand, but Nadal somehow managed to lob Djokovic while fully stretched out. The ball landed right at the top of the court, surprising Djokovic, whose hurried return set up nicely for Nadal to whack another brutal forehand winner.Although Djokovic broke right back, any thought of a comeback was snuffed out by Nadal when he broke Djokovic at love.

Five takeaways from Blackhawks' overtime loss to Lightning: Missed opportunities and one too many penalties

Five takeaways from Blackhawks' overtime loss to Lightning: Missed opportunities and one too many penalties

Here are five takeaways from the Blackhawks’ 3-2 overtime loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning on Wednesday night:
 
1. One too many penalties.

The Blackhawks flirted with danger in the first period when they handed the Lightning three straight continuous power plays, a four-minute double minor high-sticking penalty from John Hayden and a Jonathan Toews hooking call that resulted in a 5-on-3 opportunity for Tampa Bay for 43 seconds. 

The penalty kill unit that ranked fourth in the league entering the matchup, however, killed off all three of those penalties against the NHL's top-ranked power play, and did so in commanding fashion.

The Blackhawks went 5-for-5 on the penalty kill in regulation, but couldn't stop the sixth one — a questionable slashing call on Nick Schmaltz —  in overtime when Brayden Point buried the winner on a 4-on-3 opportunity.

It was also interesting that Jon Cooper elected to go with four forwards (Nikita Kucherov, Vladislav Namestnikov, Point and Steven Stamkos) and zero defensemen during that man advantage, putting all of his offensive weapons out on the ice. It's something more teams should do in that situation.

2. Patrick Kane gets going.

After scoring just one goal in his previous 10 games, Kane found the back of the net twice in the opening frame against Tampa Bay and stayed hot against a team he historically plays well against. And he nearly netted a hat trick in overtime but couldn't cash in on a breakaway opportunity.

Kane has 20 points (eight goals, 12 assists) in 14 career regular-season games against the Lightning, and extended his point streak to five games. He has three goals and four assists over that stretch.

We wrote about how important it is for the Blackhawks' superstars to get going again with the offensive contributions mainly coming from role players as of late, and Kane getting into a groove is a perfect step in that direction.

3. How about that goaltending battle?

Corey Crawford and Andrei Vasilevskiy showed us exactly why they belong in the Vezina Trophy discussion, and as of this moment, it's hard not to include both of them as finalists. They put on a goaltending clinic, seemingly topping the other as the game went on.

The two teams combined for 71 scoring chances, and Crawford and Vasilevskiy came up big when their teams need them the most.

Crawford finished with 35 saves on 38 shots (.921 save percentage) in the loss while Vasilevskiy stopped 29 of 31 (.935 save percentage), and improved to 15-2-1 on the season. 

4. Missed opportunities.

You couldn't have asked for a better start for the Blackhawks. They scored the first goal 3:49 into the game and the second on the power play at 15:54, killed off three penalties, including a 5-on-3, had 24 shot attempts (13 on goal) compared to the Lightning's 16 attempts (11 on goal) and led in even-strength scoring chances 9-6.

It was a different story the rest of the way.

The Blackhawks took their foot off the gas pedal a bit and let the Lightning back in the game by getting away from what they do best, and that's control the puck. Obviously, you expected the league's best offense to push back and it's certainly not an easy task to keep them off the scoresheet all together. 

But the Blackhawks had their chances to stay in front or retake the lead and just couldn't bury them. Tampa Bay had 50 shot attempts from the second period on while the Blackhawks had only 32, and finished with 44 scoring chances compared to Chicago's 27.

5. Richard Panik in the doghouse?

Joel Quenneville didn't go to his line blender in this one, but he did shorten some leashes. Panik, most notably, had a season-low 12:28 of ice time in the loss and had 15 shifts, which was second-fewest only to Ryan Hartman (13) on the team.

Panik had a prime chance to break a 2-2 tie in the third period but was denied by Vasilevskiy, who made a remarkable left-pad save. Instead, Panik extended his goal drought to 12 games and didn't get a shift in overtime.

He's certainly better and will get his scoring chances when playing on the top line with Toews and Brandon Saad, but the missed opportunities are magnified in tight losses. It doesn't look like a move down in the lineup is coming given the success of Alex DeBrincat, who gives the Blackhawks an offensive weapon on the third line, but perhaps it should be considered.

Bring your own stuffing: Jazz swat Bulls on Thanksgiving Eve

Bring your own stuffing: Jazz swat Bulls on Thanksgiving Eve

On the second (turkey) leg of a back-to-back, the Bulls didn't bring much energy in a 110-80 loss to the Utah Jazz. 

Instead of diving into the nitty-gritty of the uninspiring effort, though, we decided to just serve you up a Thanksgiving meal of highlights. Here are the top blocks from Wednesday's game: 

5. Derrick Favors is no Rudy Gobert -- that we know -- but imitation is the highest form of flattery. 

4. Are Bobby Portis chase down blocks the new LeBron James chase down blocks? Let's not get carried away... yet. We'll chalk it up to just a real nice hustle play by Bobby. 

3 and 2. Speaking of hustle plays... Jonas Jerebko isn't exactly known as a dominant defender. He sure made it hard for the Bulls on what should of been an easy fast-break bucket in the third quarter, though. First, he silenced Kris Dunn's reverse. Then, he met Lauri Markkanen at the rim and sent the rookie packing. The Baby Bulls 2.0 can blame it on fatigue, but they just handed Jerebko a highlight tape for years to come.   

1. In fairness, Jerian Grant had to get up a shot as the quarter was coming to a close. It is as vicious as it looks, though.