Blackhawks

Northwestern defense avoids dj vu

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Northwestern defense avoids dj vu

It was a tale of two halves for the Northwestern defense Saturday at Ryan Field in the Big Ten opener.

The Wildcats held the Indiana offense in check throughout the first half, allowing just 145 yards and heading into half with the shutout intact.

In the second half, the Hoosiers struck early and often, scoring 29 points and racking up 280 yards. At one point, Indiana got into the endzone on four straight possessions, though one of which was a 96-yard kick return. No scoring drive lasted longer than 2 minutes and 30 seconds, displaying the Hoosiers' complete efficiency.

"In the second half, they caught us in passing coverages as we were transitioning," said linebacker Damien Proby, who led all players with 14 tackles. "It opened up gaps and that's something we just can't have happening. It's little fundamental things that will get corrected in the future."

"Obviously, we've got some holes in the dam," Northwestern head coach Pat Fitzgerald said. "We allowed way too much water to sift through. Credit the Hoosiers. They blocked us, they ran through us and they ran around us. We've gotta fix that starting right now."

The second-half defensive woes neared the point of dj vu for the Wildcats, who gave up 28 points late in the season opener at Syracuse before barely eeking out a last-second win.

But Proby and the defense came up with a big stop midway through the fourth quarter when the Hoosiers were in reach -- down just eight points -- and shut down Indiana the rest of the way.

"This game was a little bit different than Syracuse from the standpoint that we were in position and we gotta make plays," Fitzgerald said. "I don't have a magic pill for that. I don't have a drill for that.

"I have great confidence in the guys. They just have to have confidence in trusting themselves. I'm disappointed for them. But I think we're at a completely different place as a defense as we were then. You know, you also give up a kick return, which really hurts you.

The kick return was a point of emphasis for Fitzgerald after the game.

"You give them a freebie," he said. "When you don't tackle, you lose contain and you have guys out of their lanes. We have to do some figuring on that."

Fitzgerald said he would address some personnel issues on the kick coverage team, which features some players that played a lot of snaps on defense as well as special teams.

As much as the Northwestern defense "let the water sift through" in the second half, as Fitzgerald put it, they still managed to keep a prolific Indiana offense in check.

The Hoosiers entered play Saturday averaging 36 points and 538.3 yards per game. The Wildcats held them to 425 yards and only 22 points, with seven more points coming on that special teams breakdown.

Fitzgerald thinks the defense could have had an even better day, if just another few plays were executed properly.

"They did a terrific job in the second half by making big plays in the passing game," Fitzgerald said. "We had guys in position. If we win on those plays, it's a completely different outcome.

"Six or eight of those plays are gonna go for about 200-300 of the yards. Our guys are gonna watch it on Monday morning and they're going to see a technical, a fundamental or an execution issue.

"They're not going to see that they were out-talented. They're not going to see that we were out-schemed. They're going to see that they can fix those problems. And that's the way we're going to coach these guys. "we've got a lot of good momentum going on, but we're far, far from the finished product in all three phases of the game."

Three Things to Watch: Blackhawks look to bounce back against Panthers

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Three Things to Watch: Blackhawks look to bounce back against Panthers

Here are Three Things to Watch when the Blackhawks take on the Florida Panthers Saturday on NBC Sports Chicago and streaming live on the NBC Sports app. Coverage begins at 5:30 p.m. with Blackhawks Pregame Live.

(Reminder: Use #AskEdzo on social media and your questions may be answered by Eddie Olczyk, who will be in studio along with Adam Burish, Brian Campbell and Pat Boyle).

1. Another fast start coming?

The Blackhawks had one of their best starts of the season Wednesday in Tampa Bay, and the numbers favor Chicago to dictate the pace of play early again.

The Panthers are tied with the Buffalo Sabres for the fewest goals scored in the first period (13), and have taken a lead into the second period only four times (3-1-0) in 21 games. They are 2-7-1 in the 10 games they've trailed after the opening frame.

The Blackhawks, on the other hand, are tied for fourth when it comes to first-period goals (22) — albeit, five of them came on Opening Night against Pittsburgh — but they are just 4-2-2 in eight games when leading after one period. In fact, they took a 2-0 lead into the second in their most recent game against the Lightning and lost in overtime 3-2.

So while a fast start could certainly be in the cards, the finish must also be there.

2. Take advantage on special teams.

The Panthers are one of two teams ranked among the bottom six in both power play percentage (26th at 16.0) and penalty kill percentage (30th at 73.2).

Meanwhile, the Blackhawks are coming in hot in both areas. They're 6-for-17 (35.3 percent) on the man advantage in their last four games, and own the fourth-best penalty kill unit (84.8 percent).

This is the area to exploit for the Blackhawks going into the matchup, and it could decide the game.

3. Feed Lance Bouma!

In his seventh season, Bouma has faced every NHL team at least five times in his career, with the exception of Vegas (pointless in one game this season).

Bouma is not known for his offensive prowess (72 points in 325 career games), but it's a different story when he plays Florida.

In six career games against the Panthers, Bouma has one goal, six assists and a career-high plus-8 rating. That one goal also happens to be one of his six career game winners.

Florida is the only team Bouma is averaging at least a point-per-game against for his career, so you know what that means: Feed No. 17!

Is Steve Kerr trolling the Bulls?

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AP

Is Steve Kerr trolling the Bulls?

With Kevin Durant (ankle) and Draymond Green (rest) out, the Golden State Warriors had two starting forward positions open for Friday's game against the Bulls.

One of the two starters replacing them? Jordan Bell. Does his name ring one, too?

Selected by the Bulls with the 38th pick in the 2017 NBA Draft, Bell was eventually traded to the Warriors in exchange for cash considerations.

The Oregon product hasn't played much this season for the defending champs, averaging just 3.2 points and 8.3 minutes in 12 games, but he will make his first career start against ... his "former" team. Coincidence?

Warriors coach Steve Kerr (jokingly) explains why he's giving the 22-year-old rookie the nod in the lineup.

Prior to the game, Bell also had this to say about his trade:

Buckle up, Bulls fans. Lauri Markkanen vs. Jordan Bell Part II is coming your way too.