Blackhawks

Major milestone falls in New York

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Major milestone falls in New York

From Comcast SportsNet Tuesday, September 20, 2011
NEW YORK (AP) -- Now that save No. 602 is behind him, Mariano Rivera is happy to step back out of the spotlight and work on another big number: six. Despite five World Series championships in 17 seasons with the New York Yankees, Rivera has never come to enjoy individual attention. "You know me, I'm not like that," Rivera said. "I like to be under the radar, do my job." There was no chance of that Monday afternoon, when the smallest crowd in the three-year history of Yankee Stadium nearly drowned out Metallica's "Enter Sandman" as Rivera came in for the ninth inning. They hollered with every pitch -- and there weren't many of them. Rivera retired the Twins' Trevor Plouffe, Michael Cuddyer and Chris Parmelee to end the Yankees' 6-4 win over Minnesota and break Trevor Hoffman's mark. Rivera even broke a bat for good measure -- sawing off Parmelee and sending the rookie back to the dugout for another piece of wood. Parmelee lasted only one more pitch. Plate umpire John Hirschbeck rung him up, and catcher Russell Martin came out to the mound, gently placed the ball in Rivera's glove, then gave him a big hug. Rivera stayed and accepted congratulations -- Alex Rodriguez, Mark Teixeira and finally Derek Jeter came over before the bullpen and bench got there. The Twins watched from their dugout. Rivera tried to walk off the field with the rest of the Yankees, but longtime teammate Jorge Posada pushed him, laughing, onto the mound, where fans cheered him once again. Never comfortable in the spotlight, Rivera didn't know quite what to do. He proved equal to the moment yet again. Rivera smiled, blew a kiss to the crowd, and then doffed his cap as cheers washed over him. "For the first time in my career, I'm on the mound alone," Rivera said. "It was priceless. I didn't know it could be like that." It was the second big moment at home for the Yankees and their fans. In July, Jeter got his 3,000th hit in the Bronx. Rivera's may have been the more remarkable achievement, considering the slender right-hander throws mostly one pitch. Opposing hitters have seen it for years, but still haven't figured it out. "It's amazing," Cuddyer said. "You've got a 99 percent chance of knowing what's coming, and he still is able to go out there and dominate." He nearly did it outside the country. The 41-year-old Rivera tied Hoffman with save No. 601 on Saturday in Toronto. The AL East leaders lost Sunday, putting Rivera in line to get the milestone in the Yankees' last homestand of the season. And who would've thought it, at least back in 1995 when Rivera started out. He began his career as a starter, lasting only 3 1-3 innings and losing 10-0 to the Angels in his debut, before becoming a star in the bullpen. Rivera's 602 saves have come in 674 chances. Hoffman got his 601 in 677 tries. Paid attendance was 40,045, less than the capacity crowd and attendant hullabaloo surrounding Jeter's historic hit. STATS LLC said Monday's makeup game drew the fewest fans since the new Yankee Stadium opened. The Twins lost their ninth straight, tying a run in May as their worst of the season. The Yankees have been struggling, too -- this was just their fifth win in 12 games. Rivera has finished their last three victories, though. He earned his 600th save in Seattle on Sept. 13. Now that the milestone is behind him, Rivera can focus on getting ready for his 16th October in 17 seasons -- the time of year his reputation was made. Those 602 saves don't count any of the 42 he locked down in the playoffs -- in only 47 chances. The Yankees lead Boston by 5 games in the AL East with 10 to play. A.J. Burnett didn't make it past the fifth inning, but Cory Wade (6-1), Boone Logan, Rafael Soriano and David Robertson kept the Twins at bay until Rivera came on in the ninth, and Curtis Granderson hit his 41st homer of the year. Granderson's homer off Scott Diamond (1-5) came in the first after Jeter reached on an infield single, and Robinson Cano hit an RBI triple in the third followed by Nick Swisher's single to make it 5-0. Rodriguez hit a two-out RBI single in the sixth -- right around the time Rivera was realizing he could be called on in the ninth. As he has been since he got his first save on May 17, 1996, Mo was ready in the ninth. Eventually, he will no longer be the Yankees' closer. Rivera said he doesn't know yet when he'll call it a career, saying "it's a decision that we have to make as a family." "I don't know if I can pitch three more years, you guys. It's hard out there. I don't have any hair anymore." Just five pitchers who were primarily relievers are in the Hall of Fame: Hoyt Wilhelm (1985), Rollie Fingers (1992), Dennis Eckersley (2004), Bruce Sutter (2006) and Goose Gossage (2008). Rivera, who turns 42 in November, is set to be the sixth once he does retire. "Baseball will remain without me," Rivera said. "There will be other good guys closing games -- and I will be watching."

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.