Blackhawks

Notre Dame exercising patience under fire with Golson

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Notre Dame exercising patience under fire with Golson

SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- Notre Dame isn't the only top-10 team with an inexperienced starting quarterback. But whereas Oregon has eased freshman Marcus Mariota into its explosive offense at home against the likes of Arkansas State and Tennessee Tech, Everett Golson has had to travel overseas and face a pair of top-20 teams through his first four games.

"First game in Ireland, second game is his first-ever home game, third game he's at Michigan State, a pretty hostile place, fourth game is prime time against Michigan," offensive coordinator Chuck Martin said. "He hasn't really eased into his college career."

Notre Dame has played the 15th-toughest schedule in the country, per Jeff Sagarin, and with upcoming games at Oklahoma and USC and at home against Stanford, Golson will face plenty more menacing defenses and environments this season. Through his first four games, Golson has completed 50 of 89 passes for 641 yards with three touchdowns and three interceptions.

Two of Golson's three picks came against Michigan, and he went turnover-free in Notre Dame's 20-3 win over Michigan State in East Lansing. At this point, Golson probably won't win many games for the Irish, so his goal has to be avoid losing them.

"We've said from day one, you're not going to be a great quarterback as a freshman," Martin said. That's very rare you might be great in spurts or great on plays or great for a period of time or even a whole game, you might have a completely great game.

"There's so many new experiences for him, and we've told him that from day one that hey, there's going to be things every week you see that you've never seen before. There's things that we prepare for every week, but there's always going to be a few wrinkles that they throw at us that weren't in the game plan."

Golson couldn't explain why he struggled so mightily against Michigan, throwing two interceptions in the first quarter and a half. So Notre Dame deployed its safety net and sent in Tommy Rees, just as Martin and coach Brian Kelly did against Purdue. The circumstances on Saturday were different, though -- whereas Rees played the role of closer against Purdue, he was more of a long reliever against Michigan.

"It's more of a feel, and it's also the feel of having a young quarterback and how's he doing within the moment in time," Martin explained. "He can make a mistake and understand immediately, hey, yeah, I saw that and screwed it up, or it could be more of a mistake based on a little bit being confused. And if it's more based on confusion, then you're more apt to get somebody out there who's less confused."

That somebody is Rees, who has plenty of experience but not the ceiling of Golson. It's part of Notre Dame's attempt to develop a young quarterback while pushing for its first BCS bowl in six years. Sometimes, the two strategies don't mix.

"You got experience, you played, you got confidence, you've seen it before 100 times so you don't flinch. Where Everett's at the point where he's understanding it, he's seeing it, he still flinches sometimes," Martin said. "He doesn't flinch all the time, he's made some great run checks this year. Then other times, he kind of hesitated and he'll come out and tell you 'I should've, yeah.'

"The nice thing is you know the knowledge is there and he's getting it, you're just saying hey, it's just about experience, and the kid's going to get his experience, unfortunately or fortunately, whichever way you look at it, he's getting experience under fire right now."

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.